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Performance Car Illustration

An Interview with Illustrator Alex Sheers

Learn how engineer and artist Alex Sheers infuses speed and sleek design into his car illustrations.

Alex Sheers - I’m a mechanical engineering student specialising in automotive engineering. I’m finishing off my bachelors in engineering and about to start my masters. It was while undertaking a design project that I first discovered Concepts, but not in the way that I use it now. I was using it to create concept art for a 3d printer project.

Once I had the app, however, I began to play and experiment with illustrating my main passion — racing. For anyone who is familiar with my artwork, illustrations of performance cars comprise most my work.

Lotus Elise

McLaren MP4/8

Ford GT

Inspiration and Tools

Normally what causes me to pick up a pen and draw is watching a race on TV, seeing performance cars at motorsport events, or watching a film or playing games. My artwork is very rarely planned, unless someone commissions something in particular.

Typically, I start with my own collection of photos (if the inspiration came from an event I attended), my dad’s photography (check it out, it’s intense) or the internet. From there, I relax on the sofa with a glass of wine and my iPad, drawing away in the evenings. I usually spend between four and ten hours per piece.

My prime tools are a digital camera (Cannon Eos 6D) and an iPad Pro running Concepts, using an Apple Pencil as a stylus. I use Concepts from the point at which I have some source images onwards.

Illustration Process

I start by producing a simplified sketch of the major edges, using the main colours I’m going to use in the drawing. For the more specific colors, I use HEX codes. For example, Ferrari red is #FF2800. I then begin to fill the major areas, exclusively using the Marker tool on 100% opacity.

Marker in the edges at 100% opacity.

Once this is done there are typically small gaps in the colour, so using another layer underneath the first marker layer, and using a large marker or the fill tool, I fill in all the gaps.

In a new layer beneath, fill in the gaps.

Adding in more areas.

Once this process is complete for the major areas of the car, I then add another layer below both marker layers which I call blacks. This is exactly as it sounds — using the fill or marker tool, I fill in all the area of the car in black.

Fill in the blacks.

Using layers above everything so far, I continue to use the marker to add in the alloys and headlights. I follow this by a layer or more of airbrushing to smooth the divisions in colour, add shadows, and pick out highlights.

Add airbrush to smooth colours, add shadows and highlights.

Thus, the main tools I use within Concepts are the layers, marker, fill, eraser and airbrush. Occasionally I use the pen for very fine detail on logos and headlights — or I just make the drawing bigger and use the smallest marker instead. Here is the final result of this drawing.

Final Ferrari illustration.

In terms of exporting from the app, I nearly always use PNG format and save to my Google Drive.

My artwork is almost exclusively shown digitally, both on my Instagram and on my website. For those of you in the UK, I am going to start printing my work and showing it at local art exhibitions.

Illustration Tips

When drawing, don’t be afraid of using more layers. It helps when you want to come back at a later stage and change things, and is a key difference between drawing on an iPad and on paper. Take advantage!

Also, try using full opacity with the marker, this was the major difference between my early works and current pieces.


Alex Sheers is a mechanical engineering masters student with an artistic flair. He loves drawing anything fast or fluffy.

Interview by Erica Christensen


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