Drawing in 3D – Cars

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This is another in a series of posts about creating “3D” (isometric) vehicles in PowerPoint. The previous posts are here and here; you may want to review them.

I have shown you how to draw some “boxy” vehicles. But, creating accurate versions of contemporary automobiles with their sculptural features and curved lines is simply not practical in PowerPoint. So, if the examples here don’t work for you, you may find acceptable clipart on the web. Or you use different graphics software.

Here’s a “crossover” vehicle that will give you an idea of  my approach:

car1

Here’s an exploded version:

car2

I made flat drawings of most of the surfaces using groups of standard shapes (Triangles, Rectangles, etc.). Then I applied 3D rotations and carefully positioned them to form the car. Surfaces that are not parallel to one of the three axes are drawn as Freeform shapes (outlined in yellow above). Some of the elements are used for alignment purposes and not part of the final drawing (red outlined elements). I used 3D Format/Depth to add, well, depth to the wheels, wheel wells, and the outer “style” element on the side.

One of the more challenging aspects of this technique is getting the colors right. For example, I would like the top surfaces to be lighter in color than the sides (as if the car were lit from the top) but not a different shade of blue.

Here’s why this is so complicated; there are four different factors that interact to determine the color of a rotated 3D object:

  • Fill (and outline) color – obviously, if your object is red, it should remain red when rotated. However, the precise shade of red will be different.
  • Lighting angle – The color will vary when you change this value; presumably this represents a the effect of a light source from different angles but I have not been able to deconstruct the algorithm here. I recommend trial and error.
  • Material – this choice affects the result of the light on the surface. Since you can’t turn the damned light off, you have to make a choice here. I recommend Matte (not the default); it seems to be the simplest.
  • Depth color – If  you use Depth, a default color will be applied; I usually change the color.

Here’s how I started the crossover vehicle:

car3

This “3-view” (side, front, top) was inspired by a couple of photos on the web; one of the photos was a profile. You can also find complete 3-view drawings of automobiles.

Trace the elements of the profile using Rectangles,Triangles and other standard shapes. Don’t try to capture all the detail. Then, using Drawing Guides to align the parts, create the front and top views. I have used Merge Shapes operations (like Union) to eliminate some of the lines. I used different outline colors to distinguish the major parts.

The Merge Shapes operations are very unforgiving; you will often get unwanted bits of outlines in a Union, for example. This is not a big problem here since the outlines will be eliminated.  In other cases, you may have to resort to Edit Points to simplify the resulting shapes.

Here are the parts of the crossover with details and color added:

car4

The red rectangle and the green line on the body are used to align the mirrors in the assembled view.

Here’s how I started the assembly for the crossover vehicle:

car5

A part of the top view (“plan”) is used for alignment (I used the Parallel/Off-Axis 1 preset rotations for this example). The gray rectangles are rotated and aligned to form the back of the two visible wheel wells.

Here’s the next step:

car6

The rotated side view is aligned with the appropriate line (blue) and the wheel well outline (red) on the plan.  Next, I added Depth to the body and the wheels; the depth color for the body is gray, not the default blue:

car7

Notice that the depth for the body appears at the top as well as the wheel openings; fret not – this will be covered by other elements.

The next step adds the side detail (abbreviated fenders/wings) aligned with the outer line on the plan. I also added Depth to the side detail:

car8

Next, I added the front and top (with the cargo rails):

car9

I added a couple of rectangles to the top to help align the cargo rails.

Finally, I drew the missing surfaces as Freeforms (the two surfaces of the hood/bonnet and the gray surface under the grill). I also added, aligned and added a Bevel to the visible mirror:

car10I temporarily added a profile to the hidden side of the car to help provide reference points for the hand-drawn Freeforms. Here are some additional notes:

  • In actual vehicles, the sides of the top (where the side windows are) are slanted inwards. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I choose not to reproduce that feature since it makes it more difficult to add windows and other details in this area.
  • You can create a variety of acceptable wheels using Ovals, Donuts and various Stars; here’s how the wheels for the crossover are constructed:

car11

  • The cargo rails are made from two Rounded Rectangles using Merge Shape/Subtract functions; here’s the process:

car12

  • I did not detail the steps I used to adjust the colors in this example; see above for the considerations involved.
  • I usually have to go through the construction process a few times to get the alignments and layering right. It’s a good idea to do this before you add color and details.

The next example is a more traditional sedan; this one is inspired by a Cadillac:

car13

Here’s the exploded view:

car14

I used Isometric rotations for this example.

The wheel openings on this kind of vehicle are smaller than on the crossover; the back of the wheel well isn’t needed.

The Cadillac is constructed like the crossover except that the side includes three layers: the outer trim that surrounds the wheel openings, the side of the body, and the inner surface representing the top of the passenger compartment. The side of the body is in two parts so that two different Edges can be used; the lower part’s Edge is the wheel well surface and the upper part provides the lighter “shoulder.” Here’s a simplified picture with red Edges that may make this clearer:

car15

The final example is a “five door” automobile (inspired by a drawing of a Kia):

car16Here’s the explosion – basically the same as the Cadillac construction:

car17

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy – cars

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

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