Join William Everhart for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding highlights and shadows, part of Creating Aircraft Profiles with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
- We are well on our way to adding more realism and depth to our aircraft profile. Let's take a look at some other things that might help us out here. How about some highlights and some shadows? So, I'm gonna try and tackle the highlights first. I have another image here on top of my profile. And this is an image of an actual model kit, and I really like using this method. I'm a model builder, so I've got plenty of them sitting on the shelf. Snap a couple pieces together here and put it under a nice, bright light so I can see where a natural highlight and shadow will fall.
And so I can see that right across the nose here. I'm gonna go ahead and make sure that I'm working in my profile document here. And then I'll just add a new layer above all the rest. I'm gonna call this Highlight. And then I wanna use a fairly large brush and that brush is kind of a off-white color to it. And so, I'm just gonna paint, and it looks like it starts maybe right here in front of the, well, Exhaust Stacks. We'll start there and just kind of paint my way back. Now this looks terrible but don't worry, I'm gonna fix that. I'm gonna blast all of it out and then I'm gonna bring some of it back.
Now, the way I'm gonna bring this back is first by changing the blend mode. So, I'll come over here to the layers panel and let me change that blend mode. If I go to something like a Soft Light, you can see it's really, really soft. Perhaps even a little too soft. So, maybe I'll try the next one here. Let's try a hard light. Eh, that's maybe a little too much. So, you can experiment with the different blend modes here and maybe come up with one that'll work. Now, it really depends on what the background colors are and that'll give you different results here. So, let me try something like an Overlay.
Eh, it's still not working out. I think that Soft Light is gonna be the best bet for me here. All right, so that gives me kind of a nice general softening of that black color there. Still really doesn't look like a highlight. I'm gonna back off of the opacity of that just a little bit, trying to bring back some of that original black color here. Now, let's just add another layer and we'll just add to this. We'll just add another layer of highlight. So, once again, I'll just use the paintbrush here, drop the size of the brush down this time, and just try to paint over that same area.
And this time, well, it's once again, really, really strong. Now, I do have a really sharp highlight right here but this is just way too big. I could try to play around with the brush size a little bit and you might get something that would work for you. What I want to do though is maybe use another technique. I'm gonna come over here to the layers panel, and here's my new layer here, this Layer 1, and so what I'm going to do is I'm gonna add a layer mask to it. I love using layer mask because I could just fill this whole thing with color and then start masking off the different areas.
Here's what I can do with the layer mask. Now that it's in place, I'll use the same brush tool but I'll just switch up the colors here. I'm gonna paint with black. I'm gonna make sure that I'm working on the mask itself. And then I can start masking this back. So, I'm gonna increase the size of my brush. I'll probably also drop the flow rate of this brush. Just slow it down a little bit. If you have a Wacom tablet, this is an awesome time to use it because now you can get in here and just paint freehand with this. And so, I'm just gonna paint some of this out, and you see some of it's disappearing, revealing some of that underneath.
Awesome. I'll come up here across the top. Make the brush a little bit larger, also make the brush really, really soft and so that I have a much subtler effect here. And so now I can just kinda keep working this, keep working this, until I get the look that I'm after. Ain't that nice? So, I'm just gonna work the underside here, kind of form it up a little bit, get a little more of that curvature going on here, and there we have it: a nice little highlight there on the nose of our aircraft. So, I would continue on with this process, maybe go across the back and across some of the other upper surfaces.
But what about the shadows? Well, a very similar process. Once again, I'll just create a new layer. Gonna rename this layer Shadows. Now, with the new shadows layer, I'm wanna do something a little bit different. In this case, what I want to do is I want to fill this entire layer with a neutral gray. Now, the way I'm gonna go about this is to simply double click out here on the edge of the layer here in the layers panel. This is gonna bring up the layer style dialogue. And so, I'll just change the blend mode here and I wanna change it to an overlay mode, let's say.
And I'll tell that OK. And now I'm gonna fill it with a neutral gray. So, I'll come over here to my toolbox down here at the bottom, double click on my foreground color, it's gonna bring up the color dialogue box, and so what I wanna do is I wanna reset the hue, saturation, and brightness to zero, zero, and fifty percent. This is gonna give me a true neutral gray. I'll tell that OK. And then I'm simply going to fill this entire layer. Now, because that layer is in an overlay mode, it doesn't affect anything that I've actually painted so far.
Now, it is filing in the background, so I'll have to deal with that in a bit with a mask, but you can see that my plane is pretty much untouched. So, here's how I'm gonna use this. I'm gonna go back over to my brush tool and I'm gonna go down here to the bottom. I'mma reset my foreground and background colors to black and white. Then I wanna come up here to the top and I wanna reset my brush. I'm gonna really lower the flow rate on this brush. In fact, I may go ahead and lower some of the opacity on it as well. All right, so I've got black paint that I'm about to paint with but I'm gonna paint really, really slow.
Watch what happens here as I paint along the bottom of this aircraft. You see that, I'm starting to darken it up, and the more I paint in a particular area the darker it gets. So now I can just dive in here and get into all these little crevices and really start painting those up and making them darker. Come over here on the wing, maybe make that a little darker. The entire thing, make that all darker. Notice that I don't get all the way to the edge here at the bottom? You will have a little bit of a reflected sunlight or something like that on the bottom so always leave just a little bit of a white edge there if you can.
And so, there you have it. Now, I have a little more work to do ahead of me. I have to mask out the layer there that I used to create my shadows but other than that, this thing's coming along really, really nicely. So, be sure to go ahead and experiment with some of the different blend modes and layering techniques I've shown you here to create your own shadows and highlights for your profiles.
- Finding source imagery
- Preparing the Illustrator document
- Drawing aircraft sections
- Adding base colors
- Adding camouflage patterns
- Illustrating bare metal
- Adding highlights and shadows
- Adding depth to panel lines
- Exporting for print and web use