How to Draw Planes From World War II

By Buffy Naillon
Pay attention to the markings on the World War II-era plane as you draw.

Planes from World War II hold a nostalgic appeal for artists who like to draw military themes. Planes from both the Allied and the Axis, with their distinctive markings, offer artists a fascinating and challenging subject to draw. Because of the precise proportions required to draw a plane accurately, the simplest method is also one of the first tools an artist acquires for his skills toolbox. If you can draw a straight line with a ruler, you can use this technique to draw a World War II plane.

Look through pictures of World War II planes. Find planes whose markings appeal to you, that have interesting wing shapes or are in interesting positions in the sky. Your drawing will be more appealing.

Draw a grid on the picture; if you're concerned about marking it up, make a photocopy. Use a picture that measures at least eight inches by 10 inches. Make the squares one inch by one inch.

Mark your drawing paper with a grid using light pencil marks. Make the grid the same dimensions as the one you drew on the picture of your airplane.

Count the number of grid squares until you get to the tip of the plane's wing on your picture. For example, the wing could be located five squares from the bottom of the page and 10 squares from one of the sides.

Find the corresponding grid square on your drawing paper. Start your illustration by drawing the part of the wing that you see in the grid square. For example, if the lines forming the tip of the wing curve so that it intersects two corners of the grid square, draw a line that looks like that in the square on your paper. Replicate the angle of the lines and how they intersect with other lines. This includes the lines forming the wing of the plane as well as the grid square lines. If you don't get the curve of the line quite right, erase it. Draw it again until you do.

Continue to draw until you have completed the body of the plane, filling in the grid squares as you go. Pay attention to the markings on the wings, tail, nose and other areas of the plane. These along with the shape of the body will make your plane identifiable to a World War II enthusiast. British planes have stripes and circles on the wings. Some planes have shark's faces. German planes carry the Third Reich's insignia. Pay attention to these elements.

Erase the grid on your drawing. Remove the lines by going over them softly with your eraser, always being careful not to erase the lines of your drawing.

Lay your pencil on its side and shade the World War II plane. Use steady, even strokes, building up layers of shading. Notice where the light falls and where the dark shadows lie. Start with light strokes, adding darker strokes to the darker areas, building up the shading gradually. Work slowly; check your reference drawing often to ensure that the light and dark areas look like those on the photograph. Add extra drama by darkening features like the wing stripes or by coloring in the whites of the shark's eyes with white colored pencil.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.