Better Modeling with Meta/Pep/P.N – Tutorial 1: Introduction

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by Jaybats, Jan 21, 2008.

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  1. Jaybats

    Jaybats Member

    Better Modeling with Meta/Pep/P.N

    Tutorial 1: Introduction

    It has been observed that it is a bit disappointing for a forum devoted to advancing card-modeling to have very few dedicated tutorials on the subject, which would allow the hobby to spread to a much wider audience. Apart from a few excellent pieces like those of Paragon and Nobi, a systematic treatment has not been posted. A number of tutorial pages have been referenced in several threads prior to this, but most have actually been incidentally relevant to card-modeling since they were made for other purposes, such as making 3D models for flight simulator programs. While recognizing their value for card-modelers who have had either the patience, perseverance, or the experience to apply them to the hobby, absolute beginners may find them slightly too advanced or bewildering, or at least confounding enough to decide not to pursue the more fundamental challenge of this hobby: designing one’s own card-model.

    Throughout the rest of January and into March, I will be writing a series of tutorials on computer-assisted 3D card-model design written with the absolute beginner in mind. The objective of this series is to provide the necessary tools and skills that would allow one who has had no prior experience to become a relatively proficient designer who can make his own card-models and share them with this community. These tutorials will be composed of 5 threads containing the following:

    . Tutorial 1: Introduction – Description and objective, basic card-modeling software, recommended settings and configurations

    . Tutorial 2: Basic 3-D Sculpting and Texturing from Schematics – Making a simple model and texture out of schematic drawings, then making and applying a flat texture to the model (NX Orbital Inspection Pod), unfolding

    . Tutorial 3: Intermediate Modeling with Multiple Objects – Making models (Andorian Kumari-class Cruiser) comprised of multiple objects, making textures from lo-res and hi-res orthographic drawings, and simple texturing strategies for multiple-angled faces

    . Tutorial 4: Intermediate Modeling and Texturing – Making a model with multiple complex shapes and UV mapping

    . Tutorial 5: Special Techniques – Working with imported meshes, manually fusing/combining objects, making a 3D model from a single isometric image, increasing the resolution of patterns, 'freestyle' modeling, etc.

    The necessary files to start and follow the tutorials will be attached to each thread. These tutorials will essentially replicate my learning curve in the task of card-model design; note that they do not include an “Advanced” level because I do not consider myself that “advanced” in skills and usage of the software. I have not even unlocked all of the secrets of Meta/Pep/P.N at this point. I also think that to be at that stage, I should be using more complex and integrated packages such as Rhino and Blender.

    Recommended Software

    These tutorials will make use of the most easily accessible, easy-to-learn, and inexpensive software available, namely Metasequioa (both freeware and shareware versions), Pepakura Designer 2.0 (both freeware and shareware versions), and PaintDotNet (freeware). Together, these are very powerful and versatile tools that should satisfy the needs of both the casual designer and serious hobbyist, with budgets from $0.00 to $100.00.

    Metasequoia 3D


    Metasequioa (Meta) is a compact but powerful 3D modeling tool written by Osamu Mizno, and can be downloaded from Meta comes in both freeware (MetasequioaLE) and shareware (Metasequioa 2.4.7) versions, with the main difference between the two being the Multiple Views, UV Mapping, File Export, and Plug-in functions available in the shareware version. Otherwise they are essentially the same, and it is possible for one to create a wide variety of models with just MetaLE. The shareware version costs only US$45.00, a very affordable price. Though written in Japanese, there is an option for English-language menus on installation, and English help files can be downloaded and installed separately.

    The main advantage of Meta over all other 3D programs (aside from price) is size and simplicity; it does not have high hardware requirements and takes up only about 15MB of hard disk space. It can easily run off older computer systems, and even out of a flash drive. The interface is designed for efficiency and ease of use (though the actual functions of some of the more arcane buttons may not be easily understood). Yet even the LE version has the capability to make and process 3D models as complex as other, more expensive packages.

    The only major drawback seems to be that Meta is only a Windows program, there are no Mac or Linux versions. However, I have been informed that Metasequioa runs well enough under Linux through the Wine compatibility layer (More on this is a subsequent post).

    This is my MetaLE screen: (We will move on to regular Meta later on)


    Recommended Settings

    - Uncheck “Basic mode” in the “File” menu to expose all function buttons
    - Open the “Object” and “Material” Panels by checking them in the Panel Menu. If they appear as separate windows, drag the windows all the way to the right side of the screen to make them appear as shown.
    - Open all main Command Menus; but if your screen is not as large (I am using a 17" screen at 1280x1024 resolution), close some panels by click on the blue titles. You may begin with just the Command and Edit Option panels (these are the ones you will use most often), and open the others only when needed.
    - In the Edit Option panel, leave just the “Pt”, “Rc”, and “CObj” buttons depressed. Note that in MetaLE, the top row of buttons are locked.
    - In the upper left corner of the main screen, just make sure that the “Fr” is NOT depressed. You only use this when needed.
    - In the View menu, check the “Show precisely” and “Show textures” items.
    - You may change the color configuration in the drawing area later by clicking on “File”, “Configuration”, and then “View”. For now though, just leave it at the default settings.

    Pepakura Designer


    Pepakura Designer is another compact and excellent program specifically written for card-modeling, and distributed by Tama Software Ltd. It can be downloaded from Pepakura Designer. Pepakura reads 3D model files and unfolds the model into a 2-dimensional plane for printing on paper. It works especially with Meta, though it can also read files from a few other software packages. Pepakura also has a very efficient interface, and is designed for ease of use. The unregistered version can already unfold and print 3D models, but you cannot save the pattern development files, which can be a drag if you want to take your time in developing the pattern. The save function is enabled upon registration, which only costs US$38, which is again well worth the expense.

    The only weakness of Pepakura is the limit to the resolution of the textures it can print out, currently set at 1024 x 1024 pixels. Regardless of how high the original texture resolution is, Pepakura will reduce it to 1024 x 1024 upon print-out. This means that the print out may sometimes not be as sharp as one wants, depending on the design and the textures used. In most cases though, this should not be a problem. Tamasoft offers a separate high-resolution printing program, but this costs US$150, and is not necessary for the usual hobbyist (in fact it is offered for industrial use). Like Meta, Pepakura is available only for Windows. It's possible to run on Linux through Wine, but not with the current release. (More on this in a subsequent post)


    Recommended Settings

    - There is no need to change the default settings on Pepakura as they work very well in normal circumstances. You will only need to change them when you encounter specific issues.



    PaintDotNet is like a super-charged MS Paint program. It is a free image painting and photo editing program with versatile functions that one finds in advanced graphics programs like Photoshop. The interface is likewise clean and easy to use.

    User-made free plug-ins are available and regularly posted online, which continuously expand the program’s capabilities, particularly the number and kind of special effects filters that one can apply to an image. PaintDotNet can be downloaded from Paint.NET - Free Software for Digital Photo Editing.

    As with all bitmaps, PaintDotNet's disadvantage is that the textures can produce "jaggies" when printed out, i.e. the images may not be as sharp or as refined as intended. But again, this depends on the model's design and the size of the textures used.


    Recommended Settings

    - Open the “Tools”, “Layers”, and “Colors” windows. If you have a smaller-size/resolution screen, you can close the "Layers" window; anyway you won't need it until much later in the tutorials. Often When I am just drawing black lines and do not need colors, I also close the "Colors" window.

    (c) 2008 Jay B /

    OK, that's it for this week, folks! See you on the next post!

    Please note, the tutorials will be written and spread over the course of the next several weeks. I will try to keep the output regular by writing on the weekends, but due to other commitments the amount of time I can devote to this may change.

    In the meantime, you are free to post your inquiries about the usage of these programs so that I can cover them in the tutorials to be written, at appropriate stages.
  2. rmks2000

    rmks2000 Member


    This is well appreciated. May I suggest that they be consolidated into a downloadable PDF when all the tutorials are completed?
  3. Jaybats

    Jaybats Member

    Sure, I write offfline anyway, so it should be simple to print them out to PDF later on.
  4. jaffro

    jaffro Long term member

    Awesome work, it's nice to see someone taking on a challenge like this.

    I tried looking for tutorials on this kind of stuff a while ago but due to forum moves, changes in techniques, new applications and plugins etc, it can all get quite overwhelming and daunting at times when trying to get a little pointer in the right direction.

    Speaking as a novice card modeler who is about to take on a rather large scratch build based on a set of accurate plans, I have to say I welcome these tutorials with open arms...

    Speaking as a moderator of a forum that serves to "spread the word" and make life easier for budding designers and modelers alike, I not only welcome your efforts, but offer any assistance i might be able to give you in regards to getting this stuff out "to the masses".

    I am currently (slooowly) working on a new forum layout, and my main area of concern right now is both the designers section and the tutorials.

    We also have a wiki which just doesn't get used as often as it should, due to a lack of contributors (anyone can add stuff to it, it just seems not many people choose to) so I'd like to try and build a bit of interest in that too.

    Before i get too sidetracked, all I am trying to say is if there's anything I can do to make your life easier as you work on these tutorials, please let me know and I'll see what I can do to help... this includes conversion to PDF etc.
  5. Gixergs

    Gixergs Well-Known Member

    Thank you so very much for taking the time for this I know that there are a lot of people on the forum, myself included that have been waiting for something like this.
  6. Elliott

    Elliott Senior Member

    Indeed this is something often requested. Tickled pink describes my reaction. Jaffro beat me to the punch in asking about perhaps being able to add this in the wiki. We sure do appreciate your taking the time and effort to write this up; it's certainly no easy task.

    Thanking you now AND in advance,

  7. Lex

    Lex Dollmaker

    Awesome!! A tutorial to get more people involved!! Thanks a lot for taking this challenge and writing this, looking foward to more...
  8. bob neill

    bob neill New Member

    thankyou, will stay tuned

    bob neill
  9. outersketcher

    outersketcher Illustrator, Tinker

    Thank you for taking the time to help some of us newbies get up onto the saddle of the designing horse.

    It looks like we're finally going to get some real information as to the HOW, the WHY and the WHATSITFOR of 3d designing. I look forward to reading more.

    As a Mac user, I wanted to let you know that any info you have will be greatly appreciated anyway, so please don't worry about us not being able to follow along. We'll simply apply the information you supply and apply it to the programs we have access to. Besides, we Mac users can run windows on our machines as well.

    Have you taken a look at the free program Blender? It's a cross-platform program. I've been trying to teach myself how to use it, and there are unfolding scripts for it too.

  10. edi

    edi Member

    Thanks a lot Jaybats, on this way it might be possible to do own designs; would be a dream for me.....
  11. silentbrain

    silentbrain New Member

    Awesome, I am looking forward to this, thanks!
  12. Jaybats

    Jaybats Member

    Running in Linux

    Thanks to Dan Kegel for the following email:

    "An update for your article;

    "meta works well on wine according to
    Wine Application DB - Viewing App: Metasequoia Metasequoia 2.4
    "pepakura designer kind of works according to
    Wine Application DB - Viewing App: Pepakura Designer 2 2.1.5
    but not usefully as of a couple months ago.

    "anyway, including the links to the appdb will let people see the
    current status.
    - Dan

    "Wine for Windows ISVs: Shipping Your Windows Application for Linux using Wine"
  13. rlwhitt

    rlwhitt Active Member

    Jay, another thanks for doing this. It will be a big job to do all of the great tutorials you've outlined! I've been wanting to learn to do this, but find the tools to be a bit, err.... unapproachable... And this from a person pretty handy around a PC. I'm looking forward to seeing stepwise info that could help a newbie get over those first few big humps!

  14. Hot4Darmat

    Hot4Darmat Member


    Thanks again for doing this. It will definitely take me to the next level or two, and make my work flow way more efficient. The paper models I've created to date had each part individually painted after the unfolding...a tedious and time consuming process that was preventing me from making all the models I wanted. This will definitely help.

    Thanks again.
  15. dr_hemlock2

    dr_hemlock2 New Member

    thank you so much

    i want to take the time out to say this is great this idea of tutorial. for those of us who love to make our own models and do not have all the time in the world to read the manuals this is ideal. I am just getting into paper modeling and want to explore so much more not for commercial use but for personal use as i am disabled and cannot afford major software purchases the software mentioned is a god send. i enjoy all aspects of modeling and of art and i figure this will be a work of art in itself.
  16. ekuth

    ekuth Active Member

    Jay, you're filling a much needed area with this project. Can't thank you enough for doing this. I had to learn Meta the hard way, and I know there's got to be about 1000 things I still don't know.

    YOU ROCK! :inw:
  17. rlc321

    rlc321 Gundam designer wannabe

    jay i echo the sentiments made by ekuth keep going with this i will learn a lot more thank you
  18. cgutzmer

    cgutzmer Guest

    This is simply awesome! Can't believe I didnt see this two days ago.... I must have been sleeping or something. After its in PDF I will get it into the downloads area for you - we can chat about that later :) Also I would like to see it put into the WIKI. We have lots of stuff that really should be in the WIKI but isn't....

    If you need anything from me, just give a shout!
  19. Rebostar

    Rebostar I do try

    Can't wait till you get to tutorial 4 :thumb:
  20. Rick Thomson

    Rick Thomson Member

    I for one will be watching this thread with great interest.
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