Although there are thousands of different race car decals out there they all have certain things in common. At least the better ones do. There are some basic guidelines to design that go into any graphic and decals are no exception. Those five guidelines are: lines, shapes, mass, texture and color. Once you get an understanding of how these work you can more critically examine your own work and that of others.
Lines are the first thing to look at. Lines are the starting point of almost any graphic and they offer enormous flexibility and opportunity. They can be the entire subject of a piece or they may be used in the background to create borders. The lines themselves can entirely straight or etirely curvy or a variation between the two. When they are straight, this straightness can produce a feeling of tradition and stability if the lines are at right angles to each other. If they are at offbeat angles to each other they will immediately grab our attention, they are unsettling and can simulate movement. – One reason why diagonals pop up so often in race car graphic design.
Shapes are the next level up. Shapes are made by lines and there are millions of them. That being said there are three shapes familiar to everybody and they are often the building blocks to more complex arrangements. A circle, square, and triangle can be manipulated to produce all kinds of different compositions.
Mass is the property that has to do with the size of the different element. Like shape, mass comes in a multitude of variations. Mass can be manipulated to create an overpowering effect or the opposite in which the mass can seem small. Texture has to do with the way a surface looks. There are smooth and rough surfaces. Everybody is familiar with the decal that looks like the torn edges of paper. Graphics have evolved to the point where the texture of a billiard ball can be reproduced as well as bullet holes in sheet metal.
Color is a component that is exercised wildly on race cars. Each color has its own personality and this is used by race car owners to create their own effect. The more brash tend to go for the warm end of the color spectrum and have cars that are bright red and can be seen a mile away. The other end of the color spectrum has cool tones like blue.