How to Draw Cars – Photoshop Painting Techniques and Tips

November 14, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

This tutorial assumes that you have some background knowledge on perspectives and are looking for new techniques to expand your expertise and approach.


1.  WACOM TABLET or CINTIQ – Without the Wacom tablet, it would be difficult to get the variation in line weight and value.  So frankly, it’s a must.  Plust Photoshop will not allow you to adjust certain brush options unless you have an input signal of pressure sensitivity.

2.  A decent PC or Mac.  I work with a Dell XPS 630i clocked at 3 ghz with 4GB of RAM.  Plus I have a 28 inch LCD monitor by Hanns G.  It’s totally awesome!

3.  Open mind and a positive attitude :)

4.  Drive, Determination, Discipline, Draw! (haven’t you seen our motto?  I HAD to put this in there ;) )


Drawing or creating  paintings of sports cars, muscle cars, and classic cars can be a  blast but frustrating as well.   Sometimes after all that effort, you may feel you ended up with something …..that….quite frankly….SUCKS! But hey don’t worry, it happens to all of us.

Often times, I would sit down, have all my materials ready and think I was going to create this beautiful illustration.  I had it all in my head…until I laid down the first few paint strokes and then …I knew it was RUINED!  Not sure about you but preparing for a nice piece of art work can cause some anxiety and putting that amount of pressure on yourself to create your next masterpiece, actually ends up hurting your process.  This always happens when you are starting out.


So wouldn’t it be cool if you could find a way to help remove the intimidation and pressure of completing a final rendering or painting and having it look close to what you want?  I’m here to tell you there is a way!

When it comes down to it, it’s all about process.  Setting up your process and nailing it down is extremely important. It gets you into the routine of executing consistently all the time.  The more consistent you are with you process, the more comfortable you will be with drawing.  Above all, be patient with your results.  Don’t rush things.  If you need more time to complete the painting, take more time and get back to it later.  A fresh eyes look in the morning will do you some good.  If digital still scares you, just warm up with some post it notes exercises.  You can check out some videos here and read an article I wrote about it here.

To help you all out, I am going to  take you through my process of creating a digital painting.  I used to spend a lot of time just starting to paint after completing my line drawing.  I would always find myself reworking the painting, in fact major parts of it.  When working on such a large scale as I do(300dpi at 16X24) the file sizes are extremely large and it takes a long time to work through the entire scene.

So let’s go through the steps shall we?


1.  Whatever view you decide to choose, make sure you have your perspective construction lines.  It will lay the foundation for your work.

2.  Assuming that you have some background knowledge on drawing cars, you will need to make sure that your line drawing you intend to paint over is perfect to some extent.  The perspective should definitely be believable.  If the line drawing isn’t good, then your painting will suffer due to the very fact that your foundation line drawing was incorrect.  If you want to overlay a picture, you can do that from the beginning.

3.  Shown above is PLATE 1.  I started out with a background color using the gradient tool.   I am biased to “warm” colors.

4.  PLATE 2.  Here I choose my brush.  I actually use just the ordinary photoshop brush.  Nothing more.  The idea however, is for me to modify the brush as to give me a gouache type look to the painting.  To do this, I then select “OTHER DYNAMICS” within the brush tip options.  Check the box for “OTHER DYNAMICS.”    When highlighting “other dynamics” and make sure the “Opacity Jitter” is set to “0″ and that the Control is set to “Pen Pressure.”  Then select “Dual Brush.”  My secondary brush happens to be “sampled tip.” Which does not help you much.  I’ll publish my brushes so all of you can download them at some point.

5.  The Sports Car will be red.  So I use a base “foundation” color and start blocking in this value throughout the car.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just start blocking in the color quickly until you cover the entire car.

6.  Now that you have filled the sports car in its entirety of a red hue (Plate 4).  You can start to add a little more value to start defining the areas of contrast.  Start to add a little darker red to the bottom of the vehicle which we can call the shadow side.  Then start to fill in the windshield with a darker bluer hue.  The center of the windshied can have a darker value as it will be a reflection.  Add some blacks to the outboard vents.

7.  Start defining the details around the headlamps with a dark brownish red color. (Plate 5) Use this color for the center air intake.  Start adding a violet color to the top surface of the hood and around the shoulders of the headlamps.  This violet color represents the cooler sky tones.  I choose violet only because the blue sky mixed in with a red shiny surface, will yield somewhat of a combination of these two colors.  Light blue + Deep red = approx violet.

8.  So now that a portion of the reflections are done, I decided to add some highlights around the car (Plate 6).  This would be around the windshield area and shoulders of the car.  Already you see this car taking some form. ;)

9.  Start adding and indicating more detail (Plate 7).  The inside of the windshield should show or indicate some translucency due to the face that the windshield is actually clear. Indicate some details of the interior.  Use a slightly less darker blue hue.   Start adding some more nomenclature or indicate names of sponsors etc.  Move on to adding a grayish purple road texture and start blocking in this value throughout.

10.  So in Plate 8, most of it’s complete. The road and direction of the car is well defined with respect to the road.  I have added some darker value grays to create some dynamic skid marks around the car.  Begin to layout some grassy areas quickly.

11.  The last Plate 9, adds the finishing touches with a little more touchups to highlights and adding the road boundary on the IB side of the vehicle.

12.  The speed painting is then used as the foundation for the final digital painting executed in much more detail.  (If you like this painting and would like to purchase a metallic print, go here!  Prints help support this site and bring more value to those who are learning ;) + the metallic format is just plain too cool!)

Hope you enjoyed this.  As always…tell your friends or any family members that are interested in learning more about automotive art to join!  Peace. ;)

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