Aircraft technology has a deep and outstanding history, dating back to the very beginning of the first manned flight. Although aviation technology encompasses many styles and intermediate forms, historical and technical accuracy remains the main task for the successful implementation of the project. In this lesson we will describe the basic steps for creating a Boeing P-26A fighter aircraft pursuing another aircraft that was developed during the interwar period.
Despite the initial state of development of the aviation industry, which developed very rapidly, aviation technology was rapidly becoming obsolete in a given period of time, and this was the last fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force of its kind. Nevertheless, it took a unique place in the history of aviation, like an airplane that first began to be produced on an industrial scale, as well as for its colorful design, which made the P-26A fighter aircraft an intriguing object to illustrate.
1. Object Search
Aviation technology associated with the history of aviation requires close attention to detail, which is often used to illustrate important historical objects. At the same time, books remain the most authoritative source of information, and also on the Internet you can find basic data that can help in the reconstruction of aircraft.
In this lesson we will depict the aircraft of the USAF 94th Fighter Squadron. From the information received, studies show that during the war, the 94th Fighter Squadron made departures from a military airfield, which was located at the Selfridge Air Force Base of the US National Guard Air Force. The base was located at a distance of flight from the Great Lakes. Therefore, I decided to portray the plane in flight over the lakes.
2. Create a working paper
To depict fine details with high accuracy, set the highest values of the working document, at which the computer can process the image. In this case, 5000 px x 3337 px will suffice.
3. Reference material
Before we begin, you need to collect reference material. In the case of the aircraft P-26A, I found an example of the flight equipment of that period in the museum, the desired aircraft with a design pattern and the best overview of the entire aircraft design.
4. Create a working paper
When all the reference material is collected, it is necessary to arrange all the original image in one document so that it is easy to refer to the source during the work. Create a new document, the height should exceed the width. Place all images in this document.
All images are located on one canvas of the working paper.
In order to easily refer to the reference material, you need to duplicate the working canvas (Note of translator: open the working document in a new window), and then place all the windows around the workspace. Let’s go Window – Arrange – New window for (Window> Arrange> New Window for) image links to create a copy of the working canvas in a new window, then apply scaling to the original document, as well as to its duplicate, placing the duplicate window on the left side of the screen. Now using the tool Scale (Zoom Tool), you can simultaneously conduct an overview of different parts of the image.
Duplicate the work canvas.
Place all windows around the workspace.
5. Create a sketch
Paying attention to the reference material, using a round brush, brush size 4px., Draw simple shapes of the aircraft. The initial sketch should not look fantastic, the main thing is to observe the proportions of the aircraft and its compositional arrangement.
As you create a sketch, constantly use the original images to refine the proportions of the P-26A. This process is facilitated by the already known dimensions of the parts of the aircraft, for example, the engine cowling, and then, using these dimensions, to judge how long the fuselage should be; in this example, the fuselage is approximately four engine fairing heights.
Note that during the workflow, you may need to resize the canvas. In this case, I increased the width to make the tail longer.
The body is approximately four heights of the engine cowling.
Resized canvas and contour drawing created.
Detailed outline drawing.
6. Paint the plane P-26
Outline drawing is complete, we come to the stage of coloring. Being on a layer with a contour pattern, reduce the layer opacity to about 10%, this will make the pattern almost invisible. Start creating layers below the outline pattern as needed for each individual element of the plane, painting over base colors with a medium sized round brush.
At this stage, the color used for coloring is not so important, therefore, the best solution is to use bright shades, with which you can easily select each element of the picture. At this stage, also take special care to get the coloring of the correct form, use the tool for this Scale (Zoom Tool) to refine the edges.
Outline drawing is ready for coloring.
Reduce the opacity of the layer with the contour pattern to 10% and continue coloring.
7. Create a base for the sky
Once you have finished coloring the aircraft, then we will add a background for the final visualization of the aircraft.
As soon as the horizon between the sky and the water surface is set, add simple shadows to large fragments of the aircraft to make it easier to select color shades. Next, using the Clouds brush, draw cumulus clouds over the surface of the lake.
At this stage, carefully study the source material to find the right lighting on the clouds, where they are thick there they should be white, and, conversely, where they are more diffuse there should be darker at the edges.
After adding the base for the clouds and creating the base shading.
After adding details to the clouds.
8. Add details
So, we have created the basis for the background, go back to the layers with the plane and selecting each layer in turn, click Preserve pixel transparency (Lock Transparent Pixels) to keep the color shades within the coloring area. Now use a soft brush of large and medium sizes to add colors and details corresponding to the original image.
Press the button Preserve pixel transparency (Lock Transparent Pixels), and then proceed to the coloring.
So, we have added simple shadows, now we turn our attention to the lines and rivets on the case. Choose a small brush, 3 px, now, carefully repeat the arrangement of lines and rivets (on separate layers, respectively), using the original image. Pay attention to the details, because Aviation technology is a discipline that values accuracy of compliance. Once you have drawn all the lines on the hull, you can turn off the layer with the outline pattern that was used as a guide.
After adding lines and rivets
9. Draw wheel hubs
Fragment by fragment, we turn to the detail.
The wheels represent a detailed fragment of the aircraft, therefore, we begin with the detail of the wheels. Press the button Save transparency pixels(Lock Transparent Pixels) for a layer with a wheel. Add a simple color detail to the bottom of the wheel, and then use the tool. Arbitrary shape (Shape Tool), create a circle of gray in the center of the wheel.
Next, duplicate the gray circle layer, repaint the duplicate layer to almost black, and then reduce its size so that the duplicate fits the first outer rim of the hub. Then again duplicate the layer with this circle, then, slightly reduce the size of the duplicate, until it exactly sits inside the previous dark circle.
Hold down (Ctrl) + click on the thumbnail of the circle layer in the layers panel to create an active selection, then go to the layer with a duplicate circle, press the ‘Delete’ key, so we only get the circle outline. Repeat the whole process until you create several circles, as shown in the screenshot below.
Once you have drawn the rings, fasten the layers that make up the wheel hub (dark rings in the screenshot below), then use a soft round brush to add a little wear and shadow in the transition between the hub and the wheel guard.
Use the tool Arbitrary shape (Shape Tool) to create the first element of the wheel hub.
Create a duplicate, apply scaling, and perform a sequential deletion to create a series of concentric circles.
Continue to create small circles until you have completely created the wheel hub.
On each layer in turn, add shadows and a simple wear effect.
10. Add support mounts
The next part of the aircraft is the support mounts, consisting of steel cables that fasten the fuselage of the aircraft, the wheels and wings together.
Create a new layer. Use white brush to draw the cables and fixing holes, using the original image as a guide. Next, on a new layer on top of the layer with cables, draw a guide device for steel cables. Draw the holes where the cables are fastened.
Translator’s Note: A steel cable guide is a device for attaching cables that is located next to the wheel.
Once you have drawn the cable, click Preserve pixel transparency (Lock Transparent Pixels) for layers with cables, and then add shadows to the bottom edges of the cables.
Add attachments to the cables, as well as a slight chrome sheen to the rivets.
Draw steel cables on a new layer, as well as a device for fastening cables, on the same device, draw holes where the cable is attached.
Press the button Preserve pixel transparency (Lock Transparent Pixels). Add chrome sheen to the upper edges of the steel cables.
11. Add a propeller
Next, we turn our attention to the propeller, a complex propeller pitch control mechanism that requires special attention when working with reference material.
First, draw a dark disk on top of the white engine block, then add a few fixing bolts. Draw only one bolt, then simply duplicate the layer with the painted bolt, getting the right amount of bolts.
Next, draw a mechanism that holds the propeller. Because of its complex geometry, it is best to draw with an enlarged scale of the image. On top of this mechanism, draw another cylindrical device. Add a highlight to the top of this device.
The mechanism is completed with a small metal cylinder, which is part of the propellers pitch control system.
Draw a flat mounting disk and bolts in the center of the engine.
Draw the mechanism on which the propeller is mounted, including the bolts that hold both halves.
Next, draw a cylindrical device.
Finally, draw a round small cylindrical device on a new layer on top of the other two mechanisms. This circular cylindrical device will be located between the two main mechanisms.
Next, we will add a propeller, giving it the effect of movement, it will add dynamics that will liven up our image. To achieve this effect, we use a filter Radial blur (Radial Blur).
First, combine all the layers that make up the mechanism that secures the propeller, with the exception of static components and parts, such as, for example, a mounting disk with bolts. Next, create a vertical rectangular selection around the core of the mechanism to apply the filter. Radial blur (Radial Blur). Install Blur method (Blur Method) on Linear (Zoom) and then apply a relatively low blur value to get a gentle effect.
Create a vertical rectangular selection around the core of the mechanism.
Apply filter Radial blur (Radial Blur). Apply a relatively low blur value to the selected area.
Apply filter Radial blur (Radial Blur) to give the nodal mechanism a sense of movement.
To complete the propeller mechanism, we need to add propellers, and since the movement of the screws is much higher than the movement of the mechanism core, the blur effect will be much increased.
First draw the approximate shape of the screws using a soft brush, the color of the brush is light gray. Next, create a vertical rectangular selection around the drawn screws. Next, apply the filter Radial blur (Radial Blur), repeat the previous steps, only this time, increase the settings to enhance the blur effect. Once you have applied the radial blur to the screws, then hide the part of the propeller that is applied to the engine core, and also treat the screws with a soft brush.
Use a relatively soft brush and, without paying special attention to the details, draw the shape of the rotating propeller screws.
Create an active selection around the painted screws, then apply a filter. Radial blur (Radial Blur). Apply the same blur method. Linear (Zoom), just increase the blur settings.
Hide the part of the screws where the screws are connected to the fastening assembly of the mechanism, and also use a 100% soft brush to process the edges of the propellers.
12. Add small parts
Next, we will add small details to other areas of the P-26. First, add the white and red stripes on the tail fin of the aircraft, be careful, save the same number of stripes. Now, combine the layers with the wheel, fairing, and hub in one layer. Next, duplicate the merged layer to get a second wheel. Shift the duplicate layer so that the second wheel is located a little further from the first. Dim the chassis fairing (Note of translator: duplicate of the second wheel) so that it can be distinguished from the chassis nearest to the observer. Finally, using the same technique you used to create the front chassis, draw the tail wheel with the bracket.
Create a duplicate of the front landing gear, darken the duplicate landing gear by adding shadows from the aircraft. At this stage, also draw white-red stripes on the tail keel of the aircraft, as well as the tail wheel.
At this stage, you can see that the upper surface of the fuselage is too dark and blue, so choose a soft brush and with a low opacity brush, paint over the upper part of the fuselage using a light greenish-blue tint. The clouds at the bottom of the image will also reflect enough light on the bottom of the aircraft, so apply here brightening accordingly.
To show saturated sunlight, we will lighten the upper part of the fuselage, and also weaken the shadows at the bottom of the fuselage.
After correcting the lighting effects, we can add additional details, such as a radio mast, as well as a cable connecting the upper part of the tail of the aircraft with the head rest of the cockpit.
Add a radio mast to the front of the fuselage, as well as a wire between the tail and the cockpit.
13. Additional stickers
When you depict a certain aircraft, it is very important that the exterior design of the aircraft matches the original. Look for reference material other than the one mentioned in this lesson. Look for the markings of the numbers, as well as the design of the Indian head, these design elements will be applied to the back of the aircraft fuselage. When applying these elements, it is worth noting that these were simple design elements. We have to portray them so that our picture conveys an absolute match with the original.
Add the basic contours of the design elements, paying attention to the fuselage curve.
Add an image of the head of an Indian, keeping the style and quality of the picture.
On the new layer below the patterned layer, apply the base colors on the logo in accordance with the original image.
14. Detailing on Fuselage Surfaces
So, all the main elements are placed, now turn to the detail on the surface of the fuselage. Using a variety of soft brushes, add light highlights on the metal surface from the side of sunlight.
Add light highlights to the front edge of the headrest of the cockpit, as well as dents on the metal surface of the fuselage.
Next, on a new layer, below the layer with the fuselage of the aircraft and above the layer with wings, draw a series of soft recesses on the fuselage. This strut on the body of the aircraft. Also at this stage, add marking under the wings, including small parts on the fuselage. Since the markings on the wings are applied at the maximum angle, be patient when you draw these markings, observing also the perspective.
Add dents in the back of the fuselage.
15. We carry out background correction
The plane is mostly completed, now we will pay attention to the unfinished clouds, as well as to the lake, over which the plane flies. First, the clouds contrast too much with the brightly colored plane. To fix this, we will hide some of the clouds so that we can see the surface of the lake over which the plane is flying. At this stage, I also increased the width of the working paper to further improve the composition.
The effect of lower clouds strongly affects the basic colors of the composition.
We have hidden some of the clouds.
Select the Brush Sea Ripple, paint ripples on the surface of the lake, as well as the reflection of clouds on the most remote parts of the lake.
Using a brush called Sea Ripple, we created ripples on the surface of the lake.
16. Draw the Pilot
The final main detail is the pilot. Carefully study the clothes of the pilots of that time, and do not forget to take into account the size of the pilot relative to the scale of the entire aircraft. On separate layers, draw separate parts of the pilot’s image, such as a leather helmet, collar and pilot’s face. Do not forget that the small size of the pilot in the final image does not require high detail.
On separate layers paint separate parts of the image of the pilot.
Take turns rendering each item in turn, starting with the worn skin of the flight jacket.
Render a face using simple shades, and add goggles with white lenses. At this level of detail, the eye will not be visible on the final image.
17. Add a second plane
Two planes are visible on the original sketch, so we need to add another plane at a distance to give our composition more depth. To do this, simply duplicate the entire aircraft, placing the duplicate aircraft slightly behind the first P-26. Next, make a slight correction to distinguish the second aircraft, invert the blurred propeller line, and also remove the markings ‘13’ from the aircraft fuselage.
Add a duplicate aircraft. Please note that there is no ’13’ marking on board.
Next, using corrective layers Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast), carry out the correction of the aircraft, so that it appears at a distance of removal in accordance with the atmospheric perspective.
You can customize the settings of the adjustment layers Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast) to create an atmospheric perspective to the second plane.
18. Adjust the details!
The next step reveals the value of additional research that you can do during the period of the painting. When adding the final details to the tail, I later discovered that this plane had additional markings that could not be seen on the plane in other directories. I also added the label ’45’ where indicated. I also took the opportunity to correct the outlook error on the ’13’ marking.
The outlook error on the ’13’ marking has been fixed, and the ’45’ marking has been added.
19. Light Effects
To add life and unite all the elements of the composition, we will add light effects to the parts of the plane where the sunlight mostly falls. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, select a soft round brush, and also using the layer style External glow (Outer Glow), the settings for this layer style are shown in the screenshot below, add light highlights to areas of the aircraft, such as the front windshield, engine fairing and chassis fairing.
Layer style settings, which are shown in the screenshot above, will give a soft glow to areas where light effects will be added.
20. Final correction
As a final touch, we will add adjustment layers to enhance the contrast, color and mood of the whole picture. In this case, we will muffle too saturated colors to combine all color shades into a single palette.
Correction layer Colour (Solid Color) can be created through the bottom toolbar. This adjustment layer will be added on top of all other layers. Next, add another adjustment layer. Colour(Solid Color). Change the blending mode for both adjustment layers to Overlap (Overlay) and select the color shades that are shown in the screenshot below.
Translator’s Note: Unfortunately, the author did not indicate which color shades he used, therefore, select the desired color shade yourself.
Please note that at this stage we also made a slight tail correction, slightly darkening the stripes on the tail to reduce their distracting appearance.
21. Preparing an image for publication.
When everything is ready to export the image, merge all the layers, then go Layer- Run down (Layer> Flatten Image), and then resize the image to the most suitable for publication. In this case, to post an image on the Internet, the dimensions are 900 x 541 px. will be perfect. Now the image can be saved in any desired format.
Congratulations! We have completed the lesson!
In this tutorial, you learned how to create a picture of a fighter aircraft. You tested your skills in creating perspectives, in creating elements of the scene, and, perhaps most importantly, this is attention to detail. Using the skills learned in this lesson, as well as the willingness to research, will help you to create almost any copy of this aircraft.