Ok so how did you guys get started on designing?

Discussion in 'Tips, Tutorials & Tools' started by GT5500, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. GT5500

    GT5500 Member

    Ok I have a hard drive full of free models and my conscience is telling me i need to give something back to the world of paper models. As well as that there are a few models that I really want to build that aren't available yet. So really I need to know what is the first step, should I get the program first and learn to use it? and which program should I get?. I am quite computer literate and have experience of CAD planning from when I used to design bathrooms at a furniture store, so I have a bit of a head start. Fire away guys, unleash your fountains of knowledge.
  2. Willja67

    Willja67 Member

    Well that's kind of what I did. I chose the program (Rhino in my case) and just started fiddling with it until I could get it to do what I wanted. My advice is that if there is one model that you really really really want to design don't do it first. I started out doing my Corsair the moment I got Rhino and it was frustrating cause I didn't know enough to do it as well as I wanted so when the idea of Airwolf came up I decided that would be a good project to warm up on. So do something you are interested in not just the one you want to be perfect. That's my two cents.
  3. Bowdenja

    Bowdenja Active Member

    You are going to get a lot of opinions........ if you want to start now give Rob46 an email and he has a tutorial that shows how to get started without using software to design the model.

    The software (Rhino, Meta.... etc ) make great looking models but there is a learning curve. With Rob's technique you can do models now and work on learning the software.

    Ok so this is the first opnion........:grin:

  4. 46rob

    46rob Member

    That turtorial was just released by Fiddlers Green as part of the new FJ-1 Fury model. The article shows how I developed the model, sans computer. Check it out.
  5. sdk2knbk

    sdk2knbk Guest

    My start as a designer

    Where to start? I'm what's known around the Great Lakes area as a "Boatnerd", a fan the the unique vessels used on the lakes. Back in 1996, my family and I were visiting the museum and ship viewing area at Lock 3 on the Welland Canal in St Catherines, Ontario. In the gift shop I bought a cardboard model of a Laker, loosely based on a real ship sailing at the time. Very loosely, and I wanted to create an improved version of my own. I was using a CAD program at work called CADRA at the time, and started sketching my own version. (In the picture, the original purcahed model is the black hulled one at the back. The next one in is an Edmund Fitzgerald bought on another visit to Lock 3. The (large) all white model is my first attempt, the smallest red one in the front is the next, and all of the others followed later. This pic is from 3 years ago, so the fleet has expanded somewhat since then.) Since then, I've been using AutoCad and PSP 6.0 to create my models.

    Do you work with 2d or 3d at work? I don't have any professional 3d experience (yet), so I do everything 2d first. This makes some forms rather difficult to create. If you know 3d, that would help you avoid some of the problems I've had (such as with the sterns of my lakers!). Someone who knows better , correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Rhino have an unfolding capability? From what I've seen, if you can afford it, Rhino looks like a very good program to have for paper model design. If not (like me) use whatever 3d you do have access to, and unfold in Pepakura. I still need to learn how to use the 3d that my ACAD 2000 has. Of course, regardless how you create the patterns, there is still another problem to deal with (again, at least for me). Texturing is the next big thing to learn, If you're well familiar with something like Photoshop, or even know how to use Paint Shop Pro properly (like I don't:) ), then you shouldn't have any trouble.

    So pick something you want a model of that's not already available, and fire away! I look forward to seeing your designs (and we can always use more freebies :) )

    Scott K.

    ps, check out http://www.boatnerd.com for more on Great Lakes ships and the people that love 'em.

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  6. GT5500

    GT5500 Member

    Thanks for the help so far guys, sounds like Rhino is a good program to get started with. And don't worry Will I wouldn't start with something I really wanted, I actually intend on making a good model of Monsters Inc Mikey for my first model. But obviously I will play round with really simple designs first. I know some will disagree with this but I really want to jump straight in to CAD designing, mainly because I really can't get on with lead and rulers!. I have not done any 3D CAD work before, the program I used was 3d but all I did was design the walls in 2d and then add in 3d models. But hopefully it has given me some basics when it comes to using CAD programs.
  7. 46rob

    46rob Member

    If you're no good with pencils and rulers--don't fool yourself into thinking CAD will be easier. Both require a basic knowledge of drafting, measuring and critical thinking. Rhino is a big investment and you might try this instead: Most figures are a series of cones and cylinders. There's a shareware program out there called "Cone Layout", which will allow you to lay out cones of differnet sizes, conical sections at different angles, etc. These can be imported into most drawing programs, attached into complex figures, etc. It was originally designed to aid in laying out exhast headers for motorcyles and cars. All you need to get the data for your sections is a pencil, ruler and protractor to measure the centerline angles of each section..
  8. GT5500

    GT5500 Member

    Don't get me wrong I don't think it will be easier using CAD but I really just don't like drawing. The way I see it is that if I intend to start designing using CAD then learning the old fashioned way is not really worth it. I suppose its because I am a 'digital child' I have all the time in the world for computers. A good example of this is photography, before I used a digi cam I hated photography, but after the first digi cam pic I took I was hooked and now I can't stop taking photos. And this may sound a bit ignorant but surely drawing models is going to be a lot harder then CAD because every mistake you make needs to be arduosly re-drawn, using CAD things can be tweaked more easily.
  9. 46rob

    46rob Member

    I too am a "digtal child" having built my first computer in 1979, from plans in Popular Electronics. I merely have a bit more experience than most of the offspring of the computer age. I wish you well in your endueavors--just remember, there are no "Easy Buttons". Anything you endeavor will require serious patience and concentration to do properly. Models were designed long before computers, and many of the computer generated models I am asked to check over are poor representations of the prototype.
  10. Ashrunner

    Ashrunner Member

    Gee Rob...I built my first computer from plans in Popular Electronics back in 1979 myself. 8v) Went to a Heathkit computer, then being the "rich" barracks-rat I was back then, went through every computer released looking for the "perfect" one...all because I wanted to fly flight sims.

    As for designing, back in 2001 when I got started in card modeling, I was looking at the plans of planes and things and thought, "I can do this." I searched around for something which I thought would be an easy first model and settled on the Flintstone Family Car. Around the same time, I had purchased TurboCAD and had been playing around with it. I knew nothing of drafting (still don't) but figured out what most of the commands and icons were for and decided I would develop my first model from it. I began by breaking down the parts needed to make the model...front seats, back seats, front roller, back roller and so on, and from there, just started drawing with TurboCAD. A week or two later, I my first model. A few tweaks from notes from my beta builder and I released it. I basically did it just to see if I could do it. Having release four Flintstone models now, I still enjoy it and still do it with 3D modeling help. One other thing I do it without...building the model. I am sort of a dumbass and if I had tried building the family car to test it and it didn't work, it would have torqued me off and I have probably given up on the project. I figure if I ain't smarter than the paper, then I ain't worth crap...hehehe.

    Rob46...I liked your tutorial on your design process. I am looking at ways of incorporating them in one way or another into my TurboCAD designing process. But I have a question. Do you plan to do one on wings? I have the fuselages of several models designed but just can't for the life of me visualize a wing in a good enough way to "draw" it out. I would assume (yeah...I know) you do the wings similar to the fuselage, or do you?

  11. Rick Thomson

    Rick Thomson Member

    I found this site a while back for calculating the 2d layout of a cone.


    I've just restarted my attempt at the CF-100 using Robs method as explained in his tutorial. Hopefully the fairing between the fuselage and the engines won't give me quite as much grief on this try.

  12. 46rob

    46rob Member

    Ash--Wings are kind of a zen thing for me. I copy and paste the planform off a three view, and then redraw it on a separate layer. I do a bit of mental calculation as to the amount of extra material is needed to compensate for the curvature at the root and tip. Then I use the Photoshop's perspective tool to stretch out the root and tip accordingly....it's like horseshoes or hand grenades--close is usually good enough. If the bottom planform is going to be flat--then I just draw it to the original planform. The last step is to determine whether the wing will be one piece, two, or more, depending on the complexity of the leading and trailing edges. Sometimes, intakes and such will require extra pieces. The whole process is mostly draw, try and fit. Sometimes I draw with Photoshop, but most of the time, I use good ol' paper and pencil, cutting and fitting each piece. This is really important to get good fuselage intakes, canopies and other ancilliaries. Once I've got a good part--I scan it back in--clean it up with photoshop........and so on.
  13. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I have a BFA in sculpture so much of my thinking comes from working with a variety of materials including an extensive amount of ceramic work. So here as some basic thoughts coming from sculpture.

    The medium is the message. Each material does different things well and a good artist makes use of the qualities of the material. Because of this I think it best to start with paper not with a computer program. My first attempts at card building and often my first attempt at making a new idea are with paper, tape, and scissors. I need to know what the material can do. Somethings that are easy on a computer may be difficult in paper and vice versa.

    Material has memory. A work of sculpture is not just a representation but a record of the artist's process. How you work will subtily change the end effect. I notice in consummer products that there is often a subtle indication of the type of material of the prototype. Sometimes I can tell that although the product is out of plastic or metal tha the original must have been made of wood or plaster. More products are designed now by computer without the prototypes which sometimes you can tell as well. My point is that if you use Rhino the result will look like it was designed with Rhino.

    I've noticed that most cardmodels look very blocky, like cones stuck together which must be a result of how the designer thought and designed the shapes.
    Often the detail of the models are impecable but the overall shape is awkward with the sweep of a wing on the curve of a nosecone broken by the joints of the "cones" and "blocks". Sorry I hope I haven't insulted anyone with this. It just demonstrates that the process shows up in the end product.

    The most realistic representation of something is the thing itself. It's more convincing to use the actual process then to immitate the results of a process. If you want weathering then the most realistic result are to put the thing out in the weather. This isn't always workable since the models are smaller than the original and in a different material, so we have to do some immitation. On a pratical level the model will be the most convincing if you imitate the process by which the original was made. This means only build the craft as a series of cones stuck together if the original was built this way. You want to do some research into the manufacturing methods used for your chosen subject. the wonderful thing about paper is that it is such a good mimic of other materials and can be worked with methods from those materials.

    I start by considering material, work method, and basic shape. I spent several years working with the problem of material with some unhappy misteps and dead ends. Praise be that I'm not working with cast polyurethan resin. I had to wear and resperator mask and it still stunk.

    With basic shapes I keep thing simple and focus on bigger issues before getting bogged down with detail. Here are versions of the same model. On the left is an early version on the right is the latest. In the early version I indicated the wings with a single piece of paper and I used as few bulkhead formers as possible. It has three. The one on the right has eleven. The early model has no skin. I was focusing on basic shape and structure. This simplification gives faster build turnaround. Designing is as much design of process as it is of shape. Simplification of early prototypes allows me to go through the process more often. I don't have to do the details of the cockpit or landing gear every time I build a prototype. With the prototype on the right, I focused on some issues with the cockpit and the wings. It still lacks landing gear.

    This little model is the most complicated piece of sculpture that I've ever done.

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  14. FredZ KSAC

    FredZ KSAC Member

    Old Draftsman speaking..........

    O.K., I started as a mechanical draftsman about 1969 - paper and pencil, of course. Worked with ink on Mylar [very satisfying] and graduated to CAD with Autocad about 1986. Mostly 2D work but enough 3D to make it interesting. Get a good book on drafting and read the chapters on 'Developemnts and Intersections', also anything on sheetmetal duct work -you draw it flat and then fold it to the final shape. It always seemed funny in drafting school to spend all that time drawing something and then have the instructor hand you a pair of scissors and be told to cut your drawing up to see if it really did look like what you wanted! There is no easy way to learn this skill - either with paper and pencil or CAD. Practice does make perfect, it just takes a while. I have yet to try model design, I feel that I will leave that to those who have the natural ability. May try repainting as I have done some of that for the MS Flight Sim with reasonable results. Computers - my first was an Apple IIPlus, which is still in the garage overhead!
    Fred Z
  15. shrike

    shrike Guest

    Re: Wings
    A Clark Y airfoil (what everyone thinks of as an "airfoil" shape) is approx. 7% longer over the top curve than the bottom. Using a resize or skew function to stretch your plan form to 107% chordwise is a pretty good guestimate.
    Otoh, a symetrical airfol is even easier <G> top and bottom surfaces are the same.

    Lizzie: The cone and blocks are a nearly inherent factor of using paper. Compund curves, beyond a certain point, are rather difficult, but then with many aircraft that is also 100% prototypical as well. Aluminium CAN be formed into compound shapes, but even the most sinuous airplane is often formed of many simple shapes.

    As you pointed out, even when the prototype is developed in a different material, the process shows through. Case in point, the woodgrain in most cast concrete forms
  16. Stev0

    Stev0 Active Member

    Part of my career is working in Digital 3D design.

    I enjoy scratch building.

    The rest pretty much leads on from there.
  17. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    It happend when I was very young. Why do you ask? -Gil

  18. Hi GT,

    My advise, as a designer, for you is this: don't start with ANY 3D or CAD program. If you're really serious in designing papermodels, then first learn the basics. Make a bunch of sketches of a simple model (don't start with ships or airplanes). Try to figure out how to break down the model in smaller, 'standard' parts like cubes, cylinders, cones. Then try to 'unfold' the different pieces 'manually' by drawing them in 2D. Start with a relatively easy cube. Then work your way up towards more difficult shapes and compound shapes.

    I have been designing papermodels for almost a year now, and am still not using 3D or CAD software. I think my models speak for themselves. :wink:

    Good luck!
  19. 46rob

    46rob Member

    Since I do both paper and aluminum (restoration work at our local avaition museum)--I'll vouch that many aircraft shapes are merely LOTS of flat or simply curved bits, but, the English Wheel gets an awful lot of use. There a lot of compound curved panels on planes, specially those from the thirties through the sixties. Paper can take on a bit of a compound curve as well. Burnishing a piece with a spherical tool on a pliant surface will gently add a bit of contour. Dampening the paper does even more. One of my "techniques" for applying panel detail, is to build an unmarked version, pencil in my detail, cut it back apart and scan in the parts. When I cut the sections apart, I find that from the absortion and drying of the glue, along with the hand shaping of the section, that the parts have subtly changed, and no longer lay perfectly flat. This is only true with water based glues--solvent based, such as Duco, don't have the same effect. That's why a good builder can come up with smoothly curved parts--but the other half of the equation is a properly desinged model.
  20. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I've noticed people building the cones as a unit and then assembling the units. The seam for the cone then goes all the way through the design, and any problem in the fit between the units shows up as a blockyness. Printed line at the edge of every block and cone the thinking becomes even more obvious. A sturdy plane will not have the seam on the surface alined directly over a seam in the structure or there will be a weakness going all the way through the plane. Yep I accidently broke off some parts that got built this way.
    Paper is very much like leather or felt in terms of characteristics and structure. Felt, leather, and paper are all made of fibers matted together. Felt and leather have protene fibers. Paper has cellulose fibers. If you moisten these materials to soften the bonds between the fibers and then work them slowly the fibers will pull appart.

    Take a look at how shoes are made to see how these sorts of materials can follow compound curves. Notice that they are made not of cones but of overlapping pieces with curved edges.
    Part of the trick is that a shoe is built on a last. Traditionally they are stitched over a foot shaped piece of wood and then the last is removed. Wasn't someone building the domes to buildings this way? It's difficult to get the paper to stretch in the desired way if you don't' have a supporting structure.
    Design programs treats the paper as if it were an imaginary surface without any structure of it's own. Which is why I think it's best to start designing with paper rather than with a program.
    Recognizing what paper is leads me to think of other possible methods that I'd like to explore. Embossing and casting come to mind.

    Here is the first cardmodels that I made as an adult. At the time I was unaware of the traditions and culture of cardmodeling. I used paper because I really wanted to make the shape and paper was readily available.

    This is made out of illustration board and strips of tracing paper dipped in cornstarch paste. I worked the paper wet to get the compound curves. The basic shapes are all tetrahedrons, but if I put together tetrahedrons as drawn on a "3-d" program it wouldn't hold together. There isn't enough surface on theoretical points. Initially, I tried making the shape out of clay with simple tetrahedrons. The joints weren't strong enough--back to the drawing board, er clay-rolling table. I changed the design so that the edges are curved to distribute the stress better and I dovetailed the points of the tetrahedrons.

    It still didn't work; clay isn't strong enough for this kind of structure. This led me to making it out of paper. I could not have discovered how to build this structure without actually trying to build it. People get too enamored with "3-d" programs. They are not actually three-dimensional but only an illusion created by a succession of flat images.

    I still really like this shape. It's based on the molecular structure of quartz, and it's so geometrically elegant. You can't get any simplier than a tetrahedron as a geometric solid and all it takes for the layout is a compass. Okay, I'm weird; I like geometric shapes. A computer would make building this shape more difficult since computers programs seem to have a rectangle bias.


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