Automotive Illustration

9 mins read

When we think about rendering, we often think about one of these two things: Animated movies, and architectural rendering. And that’s okay, because those are probably the two most popular types of rendering in the world… but they are not the only ones.

Rendering itself can be used for many different purposes: For creating an architectural visualization of a building that hasn’t even been built yet, for creating an image of how the interior of a house is going to look like, or to even design animated characters that, well, aren’t alive or don’t really exist at all. However, rendering can also be used in the automotive world.

Today, we’re going to talk about automotive illustration, what it is, what it’s focused on, and how is rendering related to this type of illustrations just as much as it is used in architectural projects. Let’s begin.

What is automotive illustration

Before we talk about rendering in the automotive field, let’s talk a bit about what is automotive illustration in the first place. You see, much like it happens in architecture, automotive designers need a way to visualize the brand-new car they are going to build, just like architects need to see and visualize the building they’re going to create.

Of course, automotive illustration wasn’t always centered or done completely through rendering, and it started with simple drawings. These drawings, however, were extremely detailed and would often explain what each part of the car was, what it would do, and the overall function of said part.

These automotive drawings weren’t necessarily made with the purpose of being pretty and catching people’s eyes, but rather as a way to accurately explain to others the different parts of the car, how it was going to be built, and basically figure out basically engineer factors that would go into the making of the automobile.

Amusingly enough, in the past before computer software and still today, architects built physical massing study models and actual models of their designs. Automotive designers have long used clay models to design a vehicle’s styling, molding the clay into an aesthetically pleasing form. The advantage of clay modeling is actually something many software programs have tried to imitate.

At the beginning, these illustrations could be done with graffiti pencils and even colors to add some fun into the design, however, just like it happened in the architectural field, the moment rendering computer programs appeared; automotive designers needed to step up their work and give their audience something else, and that’s when automotive illustration as we know it today actually started.

That being said, automotive illustration refers to the process of creating computer made images that accurately represent the car that’s going to be built up. These images, of course, are often hyper realistic visualizations made with very complex software.

The main point of automotive visualization, just like architectural visualization, is to represent and bring to life the idea of the designer so everyone (including their team, public, and even the designer themselves) could see how the car is going to look like once it has been assembled.

However, we must say that automotive illustration has another goal in mind that regular architectural visualization usually doesn’t. You see, meanwhile these two things have a pretty similar history; automotive illustration is much more than just creating a pretty, realistic image, is about functionality as well.

Automotive illustration: What is it used for?

As you might have already surmised, automotive illustrations, just like architectural visualizations, have a goal in common, which is to show the general public how an object that hasn’t been built yet will look like when it is done.

The thing is, architectural visualization focuses on houses, buildings, rooms and offices, meaning places that people just have to see superficially and aren’t really interested in what materials are they built with. But when it comes to cars, people DO care about these particular factors, which brings us to our second point.

Automotive illustration doesn’t just focus on illustrating a fancy brand-new car, but in illustrating each part of the car as well. These parts could be anything from the car’s engine, the drive train, the body options, literally anything that allows the public to understand and see the little details that go behind such a complex machine.

And you might be wondering why does that happen? Well, because a vehicle is so much more than just the fancy exterior. Yes, you might buy a car because it looks nice, but what is inside the car, and the engine that powers it is just as important as the exterior!

That’s why automotive illustration can’t just visualize and illustrate the exterior of the car from different angles and call it a day, but they have to illustrate the engine and go deep into the details that compose it, they have to detail the interior and the important factors the client should see… It’s a very complex, important process that designers have to do.

In short, automotive illustration has two main goals in mind: One, to catch people’s attention and draw their eyes directly into the car, make them interested in what’s happening in front of them; and two, illustrating the little details that go behind the machinery and engines that power up the car.

Automotive illustration and rendering

Luckily for automotive designers, they don’t have to draw these things by hand anymore. Now that computer rendering exists, designers can simply use computer programs and special software to bring these ideas to life and visualize them as accurate as humanly possible.

Thanks to computer rendering, people are able to construct images from scratch and use these programs to go deep into every little detail, managing to come up with an original, three-dimensional, realistic image that can be used for many different purposes.

Basically, computers have transformed the way people illustrate cars and their different parts, and have made this particular job significantly easier for everyone involved. Now, not only the public can see realistic images of the car they might be interested in, but designers, engineers and the whole team involved in the creation process will also be able to actually see their work realistically before it is actually built, and make any necessary changes in a much faster and efficient way than ever before.

Russell Thomas is the Founder and Creative Director at 3DAllusions Studio a subsidiary of 3DAllusions LLC which includes sites such as 3DAllusions and MrMaterials which are resources for the CG artist, helping them hone their craft.