Design Class: How To Sketch Airplane Ideas

by FliteTest | May 9, 2018 | (23) Posted in How To

For as long as I can remember, I've loved creating things. Be it making box forts with my sister aged 5, building huge cardboard ocean liners aged 10 or getting into RC aged 15 - whatever it was, I loved putting it together. Along with making physical objects, though, I developed my draws skills through sketching whatever came into my head. Turns out, it's actually quite easy to do when it comes to airplanes.

Learning the 3 View

The three view is a type of technical drawing used to show each an object from each side. It's especially helpful for airplanes. Wingspan, length of fuselage and size of tail feathers can be shown in relation to each other. As you're drawing in two dimensions, it's not that difficult to focus on one side at a time. 

Sometimes you don't have to draw all three, a top and side view can suffice to get an idea down. It's pretty easy to draw a few lines starting with the fuselage and then moving to the top view. Drawing these 2D views is a great way to get your idea on paper quickly. 

Sometimes you might want to draw multiple mini images of only the fuselage sides, or maybe the wings, simply to evolve your idea into a shape you like. 

3D Sketches

Another great way to get your idea down on paper is to draw a simple minimalist 3D sketch of the entire airframe. This might be a little harder for those with less drawing experience, but you can still pick it up with some practice. 

As you only have to draw one image, it's sometimes a lot quicker to draw like this. Choose a perspective you think will best show off the features of the aircraft and start making some light marks on the paper to represent the major shapes of the wings and fuselage. Once you're happy, start defining those lines and adding details. 

Sometimes it's fun just to play around and draw several designs in one go to see which one you like the most. 

Feel free to add as many notes and comments as you like, it helps you to think more about your idea in practical ways. 


You should keep a sketchbook. The reason why? It's great to keep all of your ideas in one place. It doesn't have to be for just for planes, but you can keep a collection of your ideas contained ready to be revisited if you leave them for the time being. 

This collection of sketches (above) in this particular sketchbook went on to become a mini design released into the FT community a few months ago, the Mighty Mini Vampire

It's great seeing your concepts progress from a spark of inspiration to a few sketches all the way to a flying aircraft sharing sky with the birds.  

If you found this article helpful, do give it a thumbs up! Look out for the next in this series of articles on making plans coming soon!

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of

Instagram @jameswhomsley


Abouttime67 on July 6, 2018
In Design Class, I would encourage you to link to your aerodynamics pages. I especially appreciated:
Extremely Rough and Ready Guide to Stable Airframe Dimensions
> Wingspan should usually be greater than fuselage length
> Increase wing area if you increase weight to keep wing loading the same
> Dihedral/polyhedral is useful for keeping you flying level
> Thinner wings create less drag (think about what a traditional glider looks like)
> Longer tails have better longitudinal and directional stability
> Longer wings have better lateral stability
> Smaller stubbier planes are generally less stable than longer thinner planes.
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tench745 on May 11, 2018
I've got a thread over on the forums for folks to share their doodles.
Feel free to head over that way and add your own, or just look through for inspiration.
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thenated0g on May 10, 2018
Loving all the articles lately man, Nice job. Tell bixler to get a FT branded sketchbook in the store.
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Jackson T on May 9, 2018
I wish I could draw like that!
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Ran D. St. Clair on May 10, 2018
Most people don't have the artistic talent to do perspective drawings, or they take too long to draw. They also don't easily translate into something you can make. 3-views are much easier to draw, or better yet "draft". A pencil and a ruler can make a huge difference for those with unsteady hands. I don't recommend sketch books because you can't easily lay them flat and use a ruler or other basic drafting tools on them. It is also helpful to draw to a particular scale, such as 1/8 inch to the inch. Using ruled paper with a light blue 1/4" grids is a great way to keep things square and in the proper proportion without having to measure every detail. Of course the young generation does their "drafting" on a computer, but a pencil and ruler can work out lots of issues very quickly and give you a sense of proportion, center of gravity, moment arms, as well as shape and style. For many projects that is all you really need.
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Design Class: How To Sketch Airplane Ideas