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Basic Shapes & Reflections on Car Sketches

This post is for all Transportation Design students struggling with reflections on their car sketches, we know that often we start applying reflections using a ball point pen or black markers without really knowing why and what we are drawing.

Reflections come from the Basic Shapes form and shadow study, in the quick illustration I made you can see 4 basic shapes ( Cube – Sphere – Cylinder – Cone ) on a flat white surface with a light source coming from left upper corner and a chrome surface type on all of them.

The objective is to show how reflecting surfaces interact with: light, shadows and horizon line (building , nature,…), naturally there is also the sky reflecting in them.

In the next illustration you have indicated what corresponds to what so that you can understand better the origin of reflections on surfaces.


The HORIZON black area shaded to a lighter gray corresponds to all objects, nature, buildings, mountains,…present in front of our object. If the surface is curved all those objects will be reflected in a flatter way because of curved surface distorting the image (like a mirror when is distorting our faces because it is curved). Applying pencil or markers we will start very dark on top of our reflection to gently shade lighter coming down to ground line. The reason is simple the shading effect (dark on top to light down) gives the 3D realistic effect to the object and its reflection, you have to learn how to judge this aspect according to the level of curved surface (less curve less distorted objects).

The SKY area is only a shaded area going to dark to light and it represents the sky concentration on the curved surface, its darkest spot should be as dark as the darkest part of our HORIZON reflection (top part of it), this is the way to make it look shiny and flashy.

Contrast is very important to make you reflections very shiny, remember always from dark to light.


In this sketch you can see how I am using the basic shapes reflections rules applied very quickly on a side view car sketch thinking about how the surfaces are (in my head).

I hope that this quick explanation is useful to you!

To learn how to sketch cars click here: Car Design Sketching Tips 2




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