How to Draw Cars – Anatomy of the Wheel

May 20, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Click here to view the embedded video.

By far…one of the biggest challenges to drawing cars is making sure your wheels and tires are spot on. If you have a perfectly executed body sketch in perspective and your wheels are off….It’s ruined! Most people who draw cars have a difficult time trying to understand the anatomy of the tire and wheel. So this post will introduce to you the fundamentals associated with the wheel and tire.

Bear in mind that what is being shown here is a proper discussion on wheels as you see them in real life. When sketching and drawing cars, this particular version is then interpreted to capture the essence. The sketch you see in the picture was created using ellipse templates. The templates allow you to be more precise and exact with the geometry of the tire and wheel. When using free hand, it is difficult to create so many ellipses that are offset perfectly each time (sketching quickly that is). I still struggle with it.(maybe I need more practice :) )

Such precision also takes away some of the dynamics and “fun” factor of the sketch as the whole idea of sketching is to stay loose. So the main intent of this article will be to focus only on the technical construction of a proper tire to wheel interface. Without understanding this concept, it will be difficult to render an image that is believable and makes sense to the human eye, even if you are removing some detail for the sake of style.

Now why even use a photo reference when your main drive is to imagine something new? Well…understanding and replicating reality now, will enable you to visualizing the fantastic for the future! Being creative means understanding the basics first. Once those are nailed down, you will acquire the confidence to explore new ways of artistic expression based on reality.

So let’s start to break down the anatomy of the wheel. Reference the section picture here. This section is comprised of the following:

1. Tire
2. Wheel
3. Center Cap

For simplicity, no spokes were added to this particular example. Let’s just focus on the core basics for now (remember the brain learns best using a layered approach article? If you don’t, reference the article and video here). We use sections here because it helps to understand how the components interface with one another. That doesn’t mean you need to create a section for every drawing or illustration. You should understand how they fit. It just depends how familiar you want to be with the subject matter. However, if you ARE ultimately serious about “designing” something, then it does help you to create a story that is believable to your audience. Doing this helps you draw things from memory.
Let’s start off with the side view. The side view is the easiest view to comprehend without having to worry about perspectives. When looking at the section, it is necessary to capture each surface transition with a geometric representation. This representation is just a circle (obviously). So for this example you will have 3-4 circles that represent the shape of the tire (depending on how thick the sidewall of your tire is).  The next circle will capture the top of the rim(4 or 5).    If you add a chamfered surface before the dome shape, that will be circle number 5 or 6.  Lastly you can finish off with the center cap at 6 or 7.

Now that is  A LOT of circles.  On top of that you have to translate those circles into ellipses when drawing the wheel and tire in perspective.  My first suggestion is to invest in some nice circle and ellipse templates.  The circle templates are cheap and are available in most art stores.  Get both small and large sizes.  Then look online for ellipse templates. They get pricey when you get the full set as you will need a full range from 10deg – 80deg ellipse guides.  I purchased the larger 4″ ellipses, then bought a small single template ellipse guide($8-$10 at Michaels). If you just want to experiment and get used to using the guides, then just buy the small ones for now.

Now if you want a digital example of how I use pictures to create wheels check out part 1 and part 2 of how to draw wheels video! For a breakdown of the wheel in perspective in freehand, see the video I released a few months ago below!

Freehand drawing of Wheels in Perspective

It’s coolness!

Now as a BONUS!  Below are the links to download your template files.  There are three different files in high rez (to download be sure to “right click and save link as”):

1.  The original sketch of the wheel  - Tires and Wheels Sketch

2.  A vector based Wheel and Tire Template with callouts – Tire and Wheel Template 1

3.  A vector based Wheel and Tire Template for overlays – Tire and Wheel Template 2

Enjoy and have fun practicing and see you here next time at www.drivenmavens.com!

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