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

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

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  1. sjsquirrel

    sjsquirrel Member

    Have you been spying on me?

    Jaybats, have you been reading my mind? You are taking much the same approach I was going to use for my tutorials, which I was going to start in a month or so after wrapping up a few projects. Beatin to the punch again! Rats!

    I guess I'll just sit back and relax now sign1. (as if I didn't have anything else to work on).

    Thanks for tackling this. Hope you don't mind if I chime in now and then with suggestions from my own experience, or alternate points of view (let me know if you do and I'll be quiet - really!).

  2. SAustin16

    SAustin16 Member


    I have to echo everyone here ... YOU ARE AWESOME. Your Introduction is an excellent start. You will be saving many people much frustration. Nothing and SJSquirrel have helped me with one of my projects noted below, and I'm still slow as a snail.

    Thank you VERY MUCH. And I hope SJ does put in his two cents, as he's been very helpful to me.
  3. JackFrost

    JackFrost Member

    thanks Jay

    thanks Jay, this is going to be a big help. kinda frustrating trying to guess and learn wall1 with doing everything else , this is truly appreciated . :thumb:
  4. Jaybats

    Jaybats Member

    Better Modeling with Meta/Pepa/P.N

    Tutorial 2, Part 1

    In this tutorial the following specific skills and functions will be learned:

    1. Basic commands in Metasequioa LE, Pepakura, and PaintDotNet
    2. Making a single-part 3D object from a schematic drawing
    3. Applying a flat texture to a 3D object
    4. Applying a cylindrical texture to a 3D object
    5. Making a multi-part 3D object from a schematic drawing
    6. Making textures from schematic drawings
    7. Unfolding in Pepakura

    To begin, open up Metasequioa LE and ensure that the recommended configuration and settings (See Tutorial 0) are in place. Meta opens up by default into a 3-quarters isometric view, i.e. it is as if you are looking at a corner of 2 walls and the floor of your room from an elevated viewpoint (like your chair). The lower left direction corresponds to the “front”, while the lower right direction corresponds to the ‘left” side, of any object that is created. For now, close the Object and Materials Panel on the right side.


    A. Basic Commands

    To begin, you first create a Primitive. A Primitive is a fundamental 3D object which can be manipulated to build up whatever it is you want to make. Press Primitive on the Command Panel. This brings up a Primitive Options Window superimposed on the Drawing Area, as well as Arrow Handles with buttons and an outline of a Primitive form. Ignore what is in the Drawing Area for now. There are 9 primitives in the top 9 buttons (a flat sheet [which is also the default primitive], a box, a sphere, a solid cylinder, a donut, a hollow cylinder, a cone, a rounded box, and a rounded cylinder). Under those buttons, just check to make sure that the box next to the word “Preview” is checked. This allows you to see the outline of the Primitive on the Drawing Area before it is created.


    Now, press the Cone. In the Drawing Area, the outline of a Cone is shown. You’ll notice that there are Arrow-shaped handles within/around the Cone, and several buttons with words beside it. Ignore those for now. Bring your attention back to the Options Window that opened up, and press the “Create” button at the bottom.


    A 3D Cone has now been created. But the Arrow Handles and buttons are still there, which means that Meta is waiting for you to create another Primitive. Put the cursor “on neutral,” so to speak, by pressing “Select” on the Command Panel.


    If you look at the upper left corner of the Drawing Area, there are buttons through which you can choose whether the Drawing Area shows only the Points, the Lines, or the Faces that comprise the Cone. This can help you in selecting any one of them using the cursor. Try pressing and un-pressing the Pt, Ln, and Fc buttons now in different combinations. You’ll notice that depending on which buttons are pressed, the object is shown either as a solid, wireframe, points-only, or other combination. Leave the remaining buttons (Sim & Fr) for later.

    Turn you attention back to the Drawing Area. Each wall/floor corresponds to a plane in 3D, so one is aligned with the red X axis, another with green Y axis, and the last with the blue Z axis. What looks like a tiled floor on which the Cone stands is actually a grid/plane along the Z and X axis. You can turn this grid on and off by pushing the “ZX” button in the View Panel on the left side. Similarly, you can turn the other grids on and off by pushing the corresponding YZ and XY buttons, including the axes themselves by pushing the “Ax” button.

    Looking head-on at an axis and perpendicular to the remaining two corresponds to a direct view from only one side in 3D space. So when you press F1, this activates a view from X axis, which corresponds to looking at the left side of an object. Press it now and you will see the Left-side view of the Cone.


    In case your object is not centered, or you want to change the position of the screen to see the entire object, click on the Crossed-Arrows Icon on the upper right side of the Drawing Area, and drag it until you re-position the object.

    Press F2 to see the Top-side, and F3 to see the Front-side (though of course it looks like the Left side; but notice where the green, blue, and red Axis lines are).



    You can use the Right mouse button to move your point of view around the object. With the cursor in any part of the Drawing Area, press the Right mouse button and drag it in any direction. You will see that the point of view shifts around the Cone, so you can see it from many different angles and sides.


    You can also Zoom in and out of the Drawing Area, either by using your button’s middle scroll wheel (if it has one), or the scroll function on a touchpad, or by moving your cursor to the Magnifying Glass icon on the upper right corner of the Drawing Area, left-clicking on it, and dragging the mouse up or down. Doing the same click-drag movements on the two icons beside it allow you to move either the entire screen or just the point of view.


    Now check to make sure that the “Rc” button in the Edit Option Panel on the left side is depressed. Move the cursor to a point to the upper-left side outside the Cone. Press the Left mouse button and drag it diagonally across the Cone; while doing so you should see a rectangle being formed by the diagonal movement of the cursor. Encompass the whole Cone within that rectangle.

    This action selects the Points, Lines, or Faces within the Cone. One, some, or all of them can be selected by pressing and un-pressing the Pt, Ln, and Fc buttons on the Edit Option Panel, right next to the “Rc” button. These buttons are different from the Pt, Ln, and Fc buttons on the upper left corner of the Drawing Area. While the buttons in the Edit Option Panel are for activating what can be selected with the cursor, the buttons in the upper left corner of the Drawing Area are only for choosing what is to be made visible.


    Generally, selection works in a hierarchical manner, Selecting a Face also selects the lines that comprise the face; selecting a Line also selects the 2 points that comprise the line, selecting a Point selects nothing else. It doesn’t work the other way around. Try it now with different combinations pressed/activated in the Edit Options Panel.

    By Selecting a Point, Line, or Face, you subject that item to the manipulation through the other functions/buttons. Try selecting any one face on the Cone (the color of the face’s outlines will change) and then press “Move” on the Command Panel. You will notice that 3 Arrow Handles appear more or less in the middle of the selection.


    Move the cursor to one of the Arrows’ heads (in standard Meta it changes color when you do this, while in MetaLE it doesn’t). Press on the Left mouse button and move the mouse in either direction. This moves the vertex along with it. Each arrow corresponds to one axis, and moves in a straight line only along that axis. If you move the cursor to the square between the 3 Arrow Handles and then press the Left mouse button, however, you can move along all 3 axes simultaneously. But, because there is no depth-of-field effect to tell the eye how far back or how closer to the front the object is, it is very hard to control the position of the selection predictably, so try to avoid it. Stick to only one Arrow Handle at a time, and just move your view around the object if you need to go in move direction.



    Try the same pattern with a line and then a vertex point, and you see you to move them. In doing so, you are manipulating the shape of the Cone in various ways.

    The same happens to other major functions like Scale and Rotate. Handles appear which are aligned along the 3 main axes, and you activate those handles by moving the cursor over them until they change color and then left-clicking and dragging the handles in the appropriate direction. You will be using these functions a lot in the succeeding parts of these tutorials. Try moving all the handles to get used to them.



    If you make a mistake or change your mind, press Control-Z to undo your last command. You can also click on Edit, then Undo in the Main Menu.

    Now, select the entire Cone (or whatever shape it is by now). At minimum, the Pt button on the Edit Option Panel should be depressed; if none of the Pt, Ln, or Fc buttons are depressed, then nothing will be selectable. With the entire Cone’s vertices, lines, and/or faces selected, press the Del key on your keyboard. This deletes the entire Cone/whatever, and cleans up the Drawing Area for the next part of this tutorial.

    B. Making a single-part 3D object from a schematic drawing.

    First, download this attached multi-view schematic of the Orbital Inspection Pod from Star Trek: Enterprise. The original of this schematic was drawn by Raul Quiles and is available from Ex Astris Scientia - Bernd Schneider's Star Trek Site. (Just Right-click on the image and Save As... to your computer) For now, download the schematic to the Texture folder in the main folder you uncompressed MetaLE into.


    Open the schematic up with PaintDotNet. Study the schematic, particularly the side, top, and front views. Using the schematics as reference, decide on what is the basic shape that makes up the object, i.e. its “Primitive” form (remember the list of primitives in the previous section?). In this case, notice that the Pod is made up of a conical-cylindrical shape, with a bar that wraps around its front and side, as well as a rectangular bar attached to the bottom . For the this first part of the tutorial, we will disregard the bars, and model only the main capsule.


    Given the Primitives available, you see that what you need is a cylinder that narrows into a cone shape. Since MetaLE comes only with a standard cylinder, you will have to mold it into a cone yourself. This can be done by dividing a cylinder into sections that get smaller and smaller. The curvature of the cylinder will be defined by the number of sections that the cylinder is divided into; for now, let’s say that you will need to divide the cylinder into at least 6 sections.


    Identify a fixed center-point in at least the Top and Left side views to represent the middle-point at which the axes converge. If you have at least those two points, the remaining one (the Front) should be easy to determine later. This means that whether you look at the thing from the side, front, or top, you can keep the object’s center in the same place so that it is always properly aligned at the ends. This is important for manipulating the object from different views, and is especially important for texturing later. Note that I have pre-marked the center-points in the schematic with a small red dot; in the future when you work with schematics you may not need this as long as you remember what point on the drawing to use, or you may use other methods such as drawing lines.

    To begin, set the schematic up as a background image in Metasequioa. To make it easier to see, turn off the XZ grid (or whatever grid you’ve left visible). Press View on the Main Menu, then click on “Set background images”. This brings up a window which allows you to identify a background image for the Perspective view. (In the shareware version of Meta, you can also simultaneously set images for Left, Front, and Top views.). Click on “Load”, which brings up your standard file selection window. Point it toward where you put the inspection pod’s schematic, and click on the filename, so that you are able to place the full directory and filename of the drawing in the Pers box. When that’s done, click Okay.


    Meta will automatically align the center of the background image with the center of the XYZ axes. Zoom out if the image is larger than your viewing area. If nothing seems to have happened, make sure that the “Img” button on the upper left corner of the Drawing Area is depressed. If it is, the schematic then shows up as a fixed background image in the Drawing Area. The “Img” button turns the background image on and off. Regardless of how you move your view with the Right mouse button, the background image remains fixed. You can turn the background image on or off anytime if you need to in order to clearly or better see the 3D object you are making.

    You first need to align the center of one side of the schematic with the center of the Drawing Area. Press the “BkImg” button in the last row in the Command Panel. If you can see the entire background image (use the Zoom function) you will notice the edge is enclosed in a box, with points on each corner. Do not touch these with the cursor yet; doing so will change the size and proportions of the image. For now, just move the image by placing the cursor anywhere within the image, pressing the Left mouse button, and dragging the entire image around the screen. Move the center of the XYZ axes to the center-point to center the Left-side view of the schematic.


    When you’re done centering, click on Select to unpress the “BkImg” button. Don’t forget to unpress the “BkImg” button to prevent accidental movement of the background image; for some reason the Undo button doesn’t undo whatever you do with the background image, so you’d have to realign it all over again if accidentally move it.

    Now you’re ready to create the main capsule of the Orbital Inspection Pod. We’ll make a very simple, no-frills version first. Turn off the background image by u-pressing “Img” to clear the screen temporarily. Press “Primitive” on the Command Panel, and then press the cylinder. When the first Primitive Options Window comes up, press the “Property” button. Now move the Window to one side so that you can see the outline of the cylinder to be created (you can also turn off the background image for now). Another Primitive Options Panel pops up, showing the cylinder and boxes/buttons that allow you to change the number of radial and height sections that divide the cylinder.


    Highlight the number next to “U” and change the number of “pie” sections by increasing the number from the default 8 to at least 14 (this creates reasonably rounded shape; the higher the number the more rounded it will be) and the “V” to divide the cylinder into 6 segments. Compare each button press with what happens to the outline of the cylinder as you’re doing this, to see which buttons control what.


    When you’re done changing the numbers, close that second Options Window, and click the Create button on the first Options Window. This creates a 14-sided, 6-segment cylinder.


    Make the Background Image visible again. Since the Left-side view has the capsule oriented horizontally, the cylinder also has to be oriented in the same way before you mold it into the pod’s shape. With the entire cylinder selected, press ‘Rot” on the Command Panel. (If you happened to click on anything else in the Drawing Area before doing this, you may have de-selected the newly created cylinder. Just select the whole thing again using the Select button.) You will see the Circular Rotating Handles appear around the cylinder; they indicate to you the 3 directions in which you can rotate the selected object. Leave these alone for now because the rotations you can do with these handles are relatively imprecise and rely only on visual estimation. You need to rotate the cylinder precisely.


    When you press the “Rot” button with the cylinder selected, the Rotation Options Window pops up. These control the rotations of the object by axes and by specific degrees. Click on the red X-axis button, then highlight the number window just above the OK button. Enter the number “90” in that window, which tells Meta to rotate the object by 90 degrees along the X axis. Click “OK” and you will see the cylinder rotate exactly 90 degrees to lie on its side. (For future reference, note how the 3 rotation axes affect the movement of the object being rotated. Try entering different degrees of rotation like 30, 45, 180, etc. also. This will show you how to orient the object.)


    Now press F1 to change your view to the Left-side view. In the upper left corner of the Drawing Area, depress the Pt and Ln buttons, and unpress the Fc button. This allows you to see through the cylinder, because the faces are turned off. Though invisible, they may still be selected if the Fc button on the Edit Options Panel is depressed; Meta will highlight the faces your cursor can select. Unpress that Fc button to prevent accidental selection and manipulation of any of the faces.


    If you find the colors of the points and lines difficult to see in front of the background image, you can change the colors of the points and lines by clicking on the following in the main menu File, Configuration, View. Then press the color box named Object; this will bring up a Color Palette window, which allows you to choose the color of the object’s points and lines. Pick the visible color of your choice (you need a dark color of lines and points against the light background of the image) and press “Okay” to set the new color. Do the same with the color box named Selected. Here I have adjusted the colors of the points and lines to dark purple so that it is visible against both black and white background colors.

    Note that the object may be in shown in either Orthogonal or Perspective view. This is controlled by the “Ortho” and “Pers” buttons in the upper left corner of the Drawing Area. When working with schematics, make sure that the view is always in “Ortho” view.

    Select the entire cylinder and then press Move on the Command Panel. Arrow-handles will show up. Move your cursor to the arrow head that points in the direction where you intend to move the selection; when it changes color press the Left mouse button and drag the arrow. Move the cylinder so that the ends are close to the ends of the capsule in the background.


    Then select each column of points representing the ends of the cylinder to align with both ends of the capsule. Then distribute the dividing lines/points between segments within the cylinder to the positions along the capsule where you wish the capsule to curve inward. These can usually be identified by sight as the points at which there is a discernible change in the angle of curvature.


    Now you’re ready to sculpt the capsule. For this you will use the Select and Scale buttons. Start with the front end; select the points of the front end of the capsule. What you need to do is to shrink this end of the capsule to the size indicated by the schematic. With the front end selected, press the Scale button. This brings up a dialog box and makes Scale Handles appear in the Drawing Area centered around the object to be scaled. Ignore all those handles for now; you need precise control over the shrinking process.


    Note that in the dialog box, the “Proportional” button is checked, and no other buttons are pressed. Highlight the number 1.00 and change it to 0.99. What this means is that you want the object to be scale down to 99% of its current size (1.00=100%). Press “OK” and you will notice the set of points has slightly shrunk (by 1%) proportionally. Keep pressing “OK” down (or jump press down on the Enter key on the keyboard) and the points will continue to shrink at a discernible rate. Shrink it until it reaches the size indicated in the schematic. Do not use any of the Handles, because that affects only 1 out of 3 axes; you need to shrink at all 3 axes at the same time.


    If you make a mistake, you can press Ctrl-Z to undo each increment, or if the amount you need to undo is beyond the Undo limit, change the number to 1.01. This tells Meta to scale the size of the current selection by 1% at a time.

    Repeat the same process for each dividing line per segment, until you have aligned the outer edges of the cylinder with the drawing.



    When finished, turn off the background image, turn on the Faces, and viola! You now have a profile of capsule of the Orbital Inspection Pod!


    Now try looking at the capsule from different angles using the F1, F2, F3 keys and the Right mouse button.


    This procedure is applicable for all conventional rockets and other cylindrical objects with irregular widths. Simply take a cylinder, divide it into sections, put it against a schematic and adjust the widths of the various segments. Modeling any rocket should be very little trouble and very fast. It can also be applied to submarine hulls, aircraft fuselages, saucers, and other objects which are basically deformed cylinders.

    (c) 2008 Jay B
  5. ekuth

    ekuth Active Member

    Frakking AWESOME! Learning new stuff already. :thumb::thumb::thumb:
  6. cgutzmer

    cgutzmer Guest

    Super! Making my head spin :)
  7. SAustin16

    SAustin16 Member

    Well Jay,

    Looks like your second installment is a hit with your fans!!!

    One note, your images didn't load in Section C.

    Your instructions are concise, but provide precise steps. Take as long as you need if it means this kind of quality. Great job.

    I for one am learning quickly by opening Meta and following along step by step.
  8. Elliott

    Elliott Senior Member

    Owww...I've got a headache. :confused:

    Seriously though, great tutorial Jay. And as SAustin16 has said, take your time and don't cut it short just because it seems long. We can handle it. :smile:


    Elliott :thumb::thumb::thumb:
  9. Hot4Darmat

    Hot4Darmat Member

    This is awesome. I thought I knew metasequoia well, but just learned a whole buncha new stuff. Thanks.
  10. rlwhitt

    rlwhitt Active Member

    Thanks for continuing Jay!

    For anyone reading that has used Blender, how easily would these instructions transfer, or do the programs work so differently that it would not apply at all?

  11. Gixergs

    Gixergs Well-Known Member

    That explains everything, Its all done with magicsign1
    Thank you for doing this, Is there anyway to down load and print this so that I can read and do at the same time?, As a bear of little brain I find that I need to do it this way to get things to stickwall1
    Thanks to you I might get my Dan Dare Anastasia after all.
    Thank you again for taking the trouble to explain the magic used!.
    All the best Gixer
  12. rlwhitt

    rlwhitt Active Member

    I think Chris has offered to archive the thread to PDF once it's done.

  13. jparenti

    jparenti Member

    I have all of these programs downloaded, and can't use a single one. :) I may actually be able to do that Huygens model I've been wanting now. Great work!
  14. JT Fox

    JT Fox Member

    Hi all.
    I,m new to card models and when I've developed my build skills I like to have a go at designing. This thread will go a long way to getting me started.

    Cheers JTF
  15. Gixergs

    Gixergs Well-Known Member

    We little brained bears of the World Thank you.
  16. Ron Caudillo

    Ron Caudillo Creative Advisory Consultant Moderator

    You will accomplish in this one thread answers to years of trial and error, reinventing the wheel, and the "I wonder if I can do that?" questions. Excellent tutorial and I commend you for not only showing, but explaining.

    As a Technical Support Specialist, I can tell you that many of the people I help are simply overwhelmed by traditional menu-driven manuals or frustrated by inadequate or the lack of documentation. All they want to know is "how do I...". I have written many step-by-step procedures using screen shots for my customers that I now e-mail almost on a daily basis.

    Keep up the good work. Even an old dog like me can understand and use your tutorials. I know that we will soon see an explosion of new designers that can now confidently develop designs that will only make the hobby better. I for one, can't wait to see what great models and designers will come out of this.

    Thank you very much!
    Best Regards,
  17. Gixergs

    Gixergs Well-Known Member

    So Say We All!
  18. Jaybats

    Jaybats Member

    Thanks folks, I certainly aim to make cardmodel design as accessible and widespread as possible. Just have patience as this will come in fits and starts from here on in!
  19. JanoNath

    JanoNath New Member

    Thanks alot, can't wait for the next one.
  20. JT Fox

    JT Fox Member

    Thanks to your tutorial I have just completed the fuselage on my first design. I created the initial shape by following the tutorial. However as fuselage is more egg shaped so it needed some modifying.

    I had some cross sections which I had on the img so I used them as a guide. I ended up moving the points one at a time. You can imagine how long this took.:violin1:

    Is there a quick method for this kind of issue?

    [FONT=&quot]Cheers JTF[/FONT]
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