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How to draw a realistic airplane (part 1)

1. Research subject
In this article, we will be creating an image of a plane 94 of the US Air Force Fighter Squadron. The simplest studies give us information that during the Second World War the 94th squadron was located at the base of the Air Defense in the Great Lakes region. Therefore, I decided to depict a plane in flight over water.

2. Create a working canvas
To ensure the most accurate display of small details, I chose the largest possible canvas that a computer can process without serious problems – 5000 by 3337 pixels:
3. References
Before we get started, we need to collect all the necessary information. I found on the net an image of a pilot’s flight suit of that time, an airplane coloring scheme, and also an image of a fighter:
4. Create another work canvas
Step 1
After we have collected all the working materials, we will place them on one canvas so that it is convenient to view them during work. Create a new canvas stretched in height and place working materials on it:
Working materials located on one canvas
Step 2
To make the materials easy to view, we need to duplicate this canvas and arrange objects around the workspace. Go to Window> Arrange> New Window. Create a copy of the canvas, resize the original and the copy, and place them on the left side of the screen. Now with the help of the “Scale” tool, we can simultaneously look at different parts of the canvas with working materials:
Duplicate canvas

Place your canvases around your work area
5. Creating a composition
Activate the Brush tool, set the size to 4 pixels and sketch a simple sketch of the plane. It does not have to be accurate, it will be enough for us to ensure that the proportions of the aircraft and its location in the composition are observed in the sketch.

To do this, use working materials and software measurement tools. For example, you can measure the width of the engine compartment, and then proportionally calculate how long the fuselage should be. In this example, the fuselage is approximately four lengths of the engine compartment.

In the process, you may need to resize the canvas:
Preliminary sketch

The length of the fuselage is four lengths of the engine compartment

The canvas was resized to fit elements in original proportions.

Detailed sketch
6. P-26 coloring page
Having finished the preliminary sketch, we can proceed to the coloring. Select the Line Art layer and reduce its opacity to 10%, making it virtually invisible. Below it we will create new layers for each of the main parts of the aircraft.

At this stage, special attention should be paid to obtaining the correct shape of the coloring elements, use the Scale tool to clearly draw the edges:
Sketchy sketch, ready for coloring.

Reduce the opacity of the sketch to 10%
7. Adding sky
Having finished with coloring the plane, we move on to adding sky for preliminary visualization of the entire scene. Having set the horizon above the water, add simple shadows for the airplane coloring elements. Then install the Cloud brush and use it to draw cumulus clouds above the surface of the water.

Focus on working materials, and pay attention to the fact that with the chosen lighting, the clouds are darker at the outer edges and lighter closer to the center:
Adding a background and cloud clusters

Adding small details to the clouds
8. Adding the main parts of the aircraft
Step 1
When you’ve finished with the main background, go back to the layers of the plane and for each in turn click on the “Save pixel transparency” icon. Thus, the layers will retain their current color. Use alternately large and medium soft brushes to color all elements in natural shades. Use working materials as a guide:
Release the fixation of the transparent pixels and start adding natural tones.
Step 2
We are starting to add the edges of the sheathing and rivet sheets. With a thin brush of 3 pixels, draw several lines of the edges of the casing and rivets, and then copy, move and change them according to the image of the working materials. Pay attention to small details, as accuracy and identity are especially appreciated in aircraft images.

After you are finished with the skin, completely disable the visibility of the Line Art preliminary sketch layer:
Adding edges to trim sheets and rivets
9. Finalization of the chassis element
Now we are moving on to finalizing the various components of the aircraft. And we will start with the wheels to which the metal assemblies are mounted, covering them when the plane retracts the landing gear. Turn off the fixation of transparent pixels for the chassis element and add a few simple color transitions at the bottom of the fairing, and then use the Free Shape tool to create a gray wheel circle to fit the fairing.

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