Car Renderings and why you need one before your next build!

Eric Superlite1

Render me asunder! By: Eric

Some time ago while I was building our RCR SLC Project “Grifter”, I went looking for a rendering of my SLC. I have watched in envy as all these killer renderings popup on Facebook, Lateral-G and forums. I never really had a chance to get one done until that is, I ran into Ben Meissner from Street Rod Designs. He also happens to be a pure bred car nut, who has more than one project going on in his garage with him and his kids. Additionally, he works for SpeedTech Performance and we here at Gearhead Daily have first hand knowledge of the speed parts at SpeedTech and how they love going fast. If you want your own rendering done, you can contact Ben through his website or by emailing him directly here to Ben Meissner’s email at

I had some pretty good ideas of where I wanted my SLC design to go, but I really needed a true visual for it before moving forward. God knows that trying to communicate an art vision to a painter or body guy can be like trying to explain Salvador Dali to a blind man, so its always helpful to have reference materials.

Having a rendering may seem like a wasted effort but when you look a the time and energy it takes to create a custom car or truck, its well worth the effort to see if your color combination and body mods will look as good as they do in your noggin. We commissioned Ben to give us 4 paint schemes using a color pallet we chose. You of course can use virtually any parameters you chose, we were just really stuck on dark matte grey and neon orange. Must be a phase we’re going through.

Eric Superlite 12 200 dpi

Ben came up with 3 unique designs on his own and 1 we thought would look good. In the end, the final winner was one Ben himself came up with. The wife said that one of the designed made the SLC look like a HotWheels car, which we thought was a damn good compliment! In the end we were dang pleased that we had it commissioned, but not only is it cool to look at on the wall, but it allowed someone other than ourselves to have a crack at the design. Beyond that, it saved us time and money so we didn’t have to waste either on paint schemes or visual mods that we’d have to change later on in the game.

Think about it this way, if you’re going to be paying someone 50, 60, 70 or 100-thousand of your hard earned dollars, wouldn’t you at least like to see what you’re spending your money on and make sure it’s done to your exacting standards?! We thought so. I sure as hell wouldn’t build a house without knowing the floor plan or if it had enough garage space for all our toys.

We sat down with Ben and asked him what’s so special about getting a rendering and why anyone would want one? (and while you’re at it, check out the killer work Ben has done on a LOT of other projects!)

Sup Ben!

‘Sup Eric! Glad we have an opportunity to chat and help folks become a little more familiar with how renderings can help them build a better project.

Let’s start simple, ok? What exactly is a rendering?

I like to think of a rendering as more than a pretty drawing to hang in the man cave, it’s a blueprint, a look into the crystal ball if you will- a chance to see the future of what a build will look like when it’s done. It’s also a motivator, a decision maker, and a keep the budget realistic enforcer. Again and again clients have expressed that spending the cash on a rendering has actually saved thousands in the long run through being able to work out the design details on paper before a wrench is ever turned. All the successful shops use them, and it shows in the end result of their builds.

33Ford 79 G wagon

Don’t you just scribble some lines on a page?

I wish it were that easy, lol! I use a 2D computer program called Adobe Illustrator for my work. Producing a 3-D appearing rendering is an extensive process of creating and manipulating shapes, colors and blends, and adding in all the details to create an accurate and comprehendible beautiful piece of artwork.

Wire Frame

Before a final drawing can be done though, a lot of time and effort goes into the design portion of a rendering. Based on the ideas clients give me along with some flair of my own I start working out design elements and ideas through preliminary sketches. These preliminary sketches allow me to offer ideas they may not have thought of and helps them see why one concept might work better than another. I think we’ve all seen vehicles with poor design cues that are uncomfortable to look at and these cars get passed by at the shows. Compare that to the top builders out there that consistently build cars that are like a relaxing breath of fresh air. You just stop and study it for 10 minutes or more. It’s all about careful planning and good design, and doesn’t everyone want a well designed car that everyone else will appreciate? 

Blue print

Ok, so it’s clearly more complicated than that, why do I need a rendering? It already looks great in my head!

Maybe so, but how do you get your builder to see that vision too? Not all car builders wear the hat of design specialists or can see the vision in their head no matter how well you try to describe it. If a builder simply does what you ask them to do and there’s a misinterpretation of ideas, well, how does that old adage go? Garbage in, garbage out? Without a visual rendering you’d pretty much have to be there guiding him step by step for most of the build, which would likely drive them nuts and chances are you’ll end up finding your car at another shop and starting all over.

In a nut shell, if they don’t have those design skills in house smart builders have professional renderings done to ensure what they produce is what the client wanted, and also ensures it will be something they can feel proud of as much as the client wants to feel proud of his new ride.

For the garage build guys who might be doing the wrenching themselves a rendering can put you in touch with a designer that has specific design training and experience and can guide your ideas to make sure the project follows the “rules of good design”. There’s nothing worse than finishing the project and you find it something looks wrong or too overdone, or the colors don’t work together in real life, or it didn’t quite turn out as warm and fuzzy as you thought that vision was. It’s relatively easy to change a rendering, but it really hurts the wallet to do things twice and change the car. A good designer can also add those small details that elevate the project to something great that stands out in a crowd of cookie cutter builds.

Do I want multiple angles? What does that do for me?

The most common main view is a front ¾. It shows all the detail in the front and side of the car where the majority of the overall design elements are found. I draw the view angle accordingly so that it shows off where the major mods are located. An example would be my Cutlass wagon rendering. There isn’t much physically changed in the front so I drew the car on an angle that emphasizes the color elements and body mods on the hood and side a little more.

63Nova Wadon Sisson 67 Camaro SRD

If you’re not making any changes to the rear view of the car, it’s probably not necessary to have a rear view rendering done unless you really want that as part of the overall layout of the artwork itself. Along with a ¾ view I do side views for some clients’ projects which helps them see stripes, trim, wheel and tire sizes, etc. in direct proportion and scale. For other projects that might be kind of redundant.

One thing I would suggest for everyone to consider is an interior view. The interior all too often is left for the last part of the build and becomes an afterthought. Since there was no real plan for it up front, by then the budget’s mostly spent and the only thing to do is skimp, and that becomes painfully obvious when the car is finished. Every winning build has an interior that ties into and compliments the exterior. Designing the interior up front helps budget the entire project better, helps ensure your interior flows with the exterior and you’ll end up with a dynamic overall design. This isn’t just for the guys that dream about Ridler awards on their mantle, it’s for the bit-by-bit garage build guy too. I really get disappointed when I see a killer pro-touring muscle car build that looks totally wicked on the outside with a stock restored original style interior, what a let down! In many cases I think the front ¾ plus an interior view would be the most important and would cover most all of the build details. From there let’s add more views as needed and as the budget allows.  

Why does it take so damn long! Can’t you just whip this up?

Only Chip Foose can whip these things up fast, lol! I mean he draws the car in 10 minutes between commercials and builds the entire car in a week right? Yeah, not really. Watching Chip do his thing on TV is a bit deceiving. Chip’s all old school and draws by hand. Although coloring a picture by hand seems like it should be fast, even the old school guys take a while to complete a rendering as they do several “overlays” (tracing over the version before it) as they work out getting proportions correct and popping out design ideas. TV land can then edit the process to look like it doesn’t take much time. The consensus amongst most digital artists- those working with 2D computer programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, is that an average actual draw time is about 20-25 hours. I once did a ’58 Buick that I spent 15 hours on just the chrome on the car! 3D artists spend the time up front to create a “model” library that they can then quickly add color and specific details to like hood scoops and wheels. That makes for a little quicker drawing but personally I don’t like to use the same view for more than one client. Each of my drawings is a one-off original and remains personal to that particular project. 

68 Conv Camaro

Whoa, pricing seems like a lot. I’m in the wrong business!

Most artists charge by the project rather than by the hour, and a decent artist is usually about $350 and up for one view. Based on the time invested, we really don’t get paid a great hourly wage so don’t quit your current job for a rendering career just yet, lol! Remember it’s not just drawing time you’re paying for, it’s also time invested in phone conversations, research, preparing sketches and proofs to send, emailing back and forth, revisions after proofs, creating beautiful final artwork, preparing invoices, recording and filing paperwork, etc. Consider what you’re getting if you pay $500 or so for something like that, have confidence in knowing the client is usually getting the better end of the deal. If we charged by the hour no one would be able to afford a rendering, but we artists love what we do so it works out for everyone.

Suby 56 P STSample

Unfortunately some people think a rendering is akin to buying a spatula and hire artists based on price alone. I don’t mind saying that’s either really naive or just plain being cheap. Renderings are not much different than having the actual car built- you wouldn’t take a car to the local auto repair shop and ask them to build you a hot rod. More than likely it wouldn’t be even close to the quality had you brought it to a reputable hot rod builder. In the same respect all the best (and usually more expensive) artists have done design school, have spent years developing their skill set and style, and are involved in and up to speed with current trends within the industry. They understand the do’s and don’ts of good design and will create the foundation for something that you can really be proud of, and others will appreciate as they see it.

The really good artists can not only design something great but can often tell you how to build what they come up with and even suggest what parts will work better than others. To help become a better designer for my clients I went to car design school, a few years later went back to school and completed a street rod fabrication program, did an internship with a high quality upholstery shop, and spent some time as a fabricator in a couple different shops. That education was priceless and although I might charge twice as much as a guy that can simply run a computer program, my rendering will have a much greater value than your cousins’ boyfriend’s graphic designer uncle that can only illustrate your car for you based on what you tell him. An old proverb states most often than not value is more important than price alone.

66 race C10

How did you get into doing car renderings?

As long as I can remember I’ve played with cars and loved to draw. My dad’s side of the family has a lot of automotive history; my grandpa worked at a GM plant his entire life and most of the men on that side can repair cars. On my mom’s side my grandpa was a commercial artist / architect and there are several family members involved with art and design on that side. Around 10 or 12 years old I discovered CARtoons magazine and I found my artsy niche. For the next few years I drew tons of Ratfink style cars, smoky burnout wheelie type deals. In high school one of my art class teachers chewed me out one day and told me to quit drawing cars because, “there’s no way to make money doing that!” Although that was frustrating to hear I was dumb enough to listen and I got more into building real cars and drag racing instead. Well, looking back there was no money in that either, lol! Over about the next 8 years I did a few car drawings here and there for friends but not much more. At age 25 I was ready to grow up a little and enrolled at Brigham Young University to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. Once I got there, much to my surprise I found out they had a car design program in their Industrial Design department, and learned several BYU alumni worked for GM and Ford. After changing majors I realized that although I was learning and developing skills, drawing new cars just wasn’t my passion, my heart and head were too much into the old stuff. After graduating I got into graphic design anyway and started applying the principles and skills I learned in school to running a side business doing project renderings. I’ve been doing them for rod shops and individuals ever since.

This seems pretty easy, how do I get myself something like this?

It’s actually pretty easy to get a rendering project rolling. I like to do a free consultation up front to get a feel for the project and what the client is looking for. A down payment gets the project on the schedule and we get rolling from there. I would imagine it’s a similar process for other artists as well.

What advice would you give to a guy who wants a rendering done?

Time is money so be prepared and have some insight ahead of time about the direction you want to head, and be open with the artist and honest about what you like and don’t like as the design process unfolds. You’ll get a better end result if you and your artist are on the same page. If you have a specific time frame for completion, disclose that info up front too. Anticipate that most artists can be booked up to a few weeks out. On average 6-8 weeks + is a reasonable time frame to get a rendering done.
These are pretty bitchin’ dude, can I get it framed for my wall?

Absolutely. When I do a rendering I email copies of the artwork for posting on the web as well as the option to ship out a 16×20” photo poster perfect for framing. In closing I just wanted to reiterate a couple things when searching for a project rendering so that you can get what you anticipated and have a happy experience.

  • Be realistic about your budget, good work aint cheap and cheap work aint good.
  • Be realistic about your time frame. To do it right it just takes a little time.
  • Be open and communicate well. Know up front what you want to see or on the other side be honest and let the artist know you have no idea what you want and need their help. Openly share your likes and dislikes about your artist’s direction along the way.
  • Be understanding. If you’ve hired a decent designer and they suggest a certain design idea you had may not work so well, don’t get offended. Chances are they know what they’re talking about. They can also share ideas you may not have thought of so allow them some freedom there.

Keep these things in mind and you’ll end up with a rendering and eventually a completed car project you can be proud to show off.

There you have it folks, its much more complicated than we dare give anyone credit for and it takes lots of solid time to make one of these look good, that is unless your name is Chip Foose, and then of course… You’d already be famous.

Make sure to contact Ben to get yours started ASAP!

There is 1 comment

Add yours

Share your two cents.