20 Steps To Draw a Car

Jason White, a contract car designer at Ford and an instructor in the Transportation Design department at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, must be a wonderful teacher. His first book, the self-published and obliquely titled Old School Viscom: 20 Renderings in 20 Steps, is fascinating from the first page to anyone who has ever wanted to draw cars.

Although it’s more of a textbook for first- and second-year transportation-design students, Old School Viscom so carefully lays out the tools, materials, and tips for drawing fifteen cars, two motorcycles, one racing helmet, a forklift, and a power drill in twenty careful steps that even a neophyte who likes doodling will want to take a stab at the most interesting occupation in the automotive universe.

Let’s start with the name Old School Viscom. “Old school” was how White’s designer friends would describe his hobby of practicing old design techniques he’d learned. “They would say, ‘Wow, that’s so old school,’ ” he says. “At first, I thought that I didn’t want them to be labeled like that. But then when they’d add that they hadn’t used these techniques in ages, I realized that I didn’t want them to die. I wanted to preserve them in some fashion.”

“Viscom” is shorthand in the design world for “visual communication.” He adds, “If designers know how to communicate ideas, they are far more likely to be successful. The more visual communication tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you’ll be to get your designs noticed.”

Old School Viscom isn’t about the subjects within. Amusingly, White didn’t label any of the fifteen cars (including the stylized Porsche 907 shown here) because it never occurred to him to do so. The twenty subjects were carefully chosen to illustrate twenty different viscom tools. “I selected cars with forms that lent themselves to a technique, or to graphics such as on Formula 1 cars, or to shapes like the rudimentary spherical shape of François Cevert’s helmet.” That would be rendering #1.

Among his favorites:
#8 A vintage Mercedes-Benz 300SL: “It shows how critical reflections are in describing the shape of the subject. Here they are not random marker strokes. They help illustrate the bold shapes in the hood.”

#13 Richie Ginther’s Honda F1 car: “It drives home the importance of detail. That car, the shell of it, has almost no color. The rendering relies on the details.”

#15 A blue Ligier F1 car: “It helps you think about the way you organize a rendering and organize the hierarchy of the elements like decals, tires, and metal.”

In addition to teaching at the College for Creative Studies and working at Ford, White contributes to cardesignfetish.com and is also a radio voice-over artist in Hamtramck, Michigan.

You can order Old School Viscom: 20 Renderings in 20 Steps (258 pages, $44.95) directly from oldschoolviscom.com.

The First Five Steps

Seal it Off
This is actually step two, after you’ve already made a simple line drawing of the racing car on high-quality marker paper. Now begin fixing blue painter’s tape to the inside edge of the car’s profile. It’s important for the tape to be smooth, with no kinks or crimps.

Trace It
Trace the profile onto a piece of drafting Mylar and cut it out with a pair of scissors. Don’t worry about capturing the lower portion of the car.

Create Overlay
Now attach the drafting Mylar to the profile edge you’ve already taped off, leaving the lower portion of the Mylar loose. This step will preserve the car’s crisp upper line, while allowing application of an abstract color wash above the car.

Pastel color
Long, rectangular Nupastels are used for soft, subtle color gradations “behind” the car. In this case, you will use indigo blue and erin green. Using an X-acto knife, carefully scrape a generous amount of green and blue pastel onto a scrap piece of paper.

Just Add Alcohol
To create your color wash, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the pastels and sop up the mixture with a clean Webril pad. These pads provide a soft, refined texture for applying powdered pastel to paper.