In my last blog post, I mentioned my obsession with identifying cars. And, if you have read some of my earlier blog posts, you will see that I am also a little obsessed with Adobe Illustrator. As a way to keep my Illustrator skills sharp and experiment with different techniques, I have been illustrating cars.
Last year, I did a series of Porsches. This year, I have been doing a series of funky hatchbacks. In all of these, I have given myself a limited palette of 5 colors and have imagined these files being suitable for screen printing. That means no gradients or blending modes but it also gives me an extra color if I imagine it being printed on a colored paper.
To draw these cars, I have been using a technique I learned back in one of my early Illustrator classes. It is simple but effective. Basically, you just draw the main overall shape and then logically cut it into smaller and smaller pieces. To “cut” the overall shape, I use an unfilled path that extends beyond the main shape at least two points.
Let’s use a 1991 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon (barf) as a subject for this technique. I first trace the contour of the body (I do the wheels separately). This gives me my main shape shown here in magenta.
I then begin cutting this main shape with paths that extend beyond the shape at two points. My first cutting path, shown here in cyan, is a path with no fill. It will separate the dark underneath of the car from the rest of the body.
I then select the path and the shape at the same time and click Divide on the pathfinder palette. Then Ungroup.
Now, I have two separate shapes that line up exactly next to each other.
Here is what it looks like in Outline Mode.
Continue whittling down the larger shapes into smaller and smaller shapes working from large to small. Here is the larger shape being cut into about 20 smaller shapes using the same technique.
Here is what the outline looks like so far:
Keep breaking the larger shapes into smaller shapes. You can get as detailed as you want. It helps to work off of a high resolution image. Here is how I divided the car including the wheels and a shadow. (The pieces like the door handles and badges were not made using the cutting technique. They are on their own layer.)
These are just the main shapes. I then break down these shapes based on reflections and how the light is hitting the car.
Now you can fill each piece with color. Here are the colors I chose. (I imagine the yellow is the color of the paper it would be printed on.)
For this piece, I also created my own vector woodgrain for the door panels. Below is the finished project.
I also experimented with using a plug-in called Phantasm CS from Astute Graphics. This gave me the ability to turn a gradient into a vector halftone. I then colored each halftone with a color from my color palette. See the detail below.