Boat Design using Blender – Part 1

For my Admiralen Class Destroyer the “Kortenaer” which I am designing and building in 1:100 scale I do need a number of extra parts, like a 27 foot whale-boat. In this Blog-series I will try to explain how to get from a 2D drawing to a 3D printed object using Blender and a 3D resin printer. I am not a professional 3D designer, so this blogs just explains what works for me. And yes, I do learn new Blender tricks every day 🙂

Use it at your own risk and I do hope it gets you on your way in Blender. I would suggest you do some basic tutorials first, just to make sure you know your way around in the Blender interface. Which is rather complex, but remember, you do not need to know all of Blender to do what I explain in this Blog-post. I really liked The beginner’s guide by Allan Brito (An e-book) and also the tutorials by the Blender Guru. And for the rest, keep trying… it will be slow. But very rewarding in the end.

STEP 1 – Drawings

First we need to get a drawing and prepare the views we need to do the design. From the drawing we create 3 views. A frames-view, side-view and a top-view. I use Windows Snip & Sketch to create the 3 views as separate pictures.

STEP 2 – BLENDER SETUP

Now we can move to Blender and prepare the basic setup. I usually work in real measurements, so I set Scene Units to meters. First I create a cube which I set to the outline of the boat, in this case changed the size to; X=8.23, Y=1.82, Z=1 and place this at location; X=4.115, Y=0, Z=0.5. For now we work only in object mode. I always set the object scaling to 1.000 as that will be very useful if you start to add modifiers (more on those later). Just select the object and press CTRL-A click “Scale” and you are done. Finally lock all the object properties to prevent any accidental changes. This box will be our bases for scaling the boat to the correct size, position and orientation.

STEP 3 – Adding the Side-view

With you cursor in the Blender main 3D view-port press Numpad 1 to change to Front view. Set the view to wire-frame / X-ray. Now we only see the out-line of the object created. Next step is to drag and drop the side-view picture in the Blender screen. Try to drop it in the center of the rectangle box. Next step is to resize the picture until it aligns with the rectangle box. Just move the cursor over the picture and move to 1 of the corners. Click, hold and move until you are happy with the size. You will need to move the picture a numbers of times during this resizing process. That can be done by moving the cursor over the yellow central cross in the picture, again click, hold and move. Try to get it is good as possible.

As seen in the Right-side picture above the X-axis alignment is a bit off. That also needs to be corrected. Change from Move to Rotate manipulation for the picture. The Rotate gizmo will appear in your picture. Move over the Green-circle, click, hold and move your mouse until the keel-line and the X-axis are parallel. If you move your cursor further away from the Rotate circle you can rotate more easy. You might need to move the picture a bit up or down to align the keel-line of the picture with the rectangle box (or the X-axis, which in this view are the same anyway)

When all done you should end-up with something like the next picture. I switched to solid view.

STEP 4 – Adding the FRAMES

The frames need to be added perpendicular to the side-view. But we also need to make sure the scaling for both frames pictures are correct in Blender. As it is simple to rotate things in Blender we will stay in the front view for now. Make sure you are in object mode and nothing is selected. Drag and drop the frames picture in Blender next to the side-view picture. Again we need to re-size the picture. Which is simple as both the side-view and frames picture have help lines we can use.

If you want you can change the X-Offset of the frames picture and set it to the center line the frames picture. That will help if you need to do small rotation corrections. Select Object Data properties on the right and change the Offset X until the Gizmo is centered.

Now we are ready to set the frames picture perpendicular to the side-view. We need to rotate the picture around the Z-axis. Change the Z rotation to -90, the reason for the minus will become clear later on.

Make sure you are in front-view (numpad 1). Select the frame picture, which is just a line if viewed from the front. Now move the picture to the frame-line 1 in the side-view picture. Click and hold the red-arrow. This will make sure you can only move it along the X-axis.

Now change the view to side view (Numpad 3). You will probably notice that some rotation and/or movement might be need to align the center of the frame with the Z-axis. Do not resize it anymore. Switch to Rotate, the Rotation gizmo will appear. Click the red-circle, hold and rotate until the center line of the picture is alignment with Z-axis. Switch back to Move and align the Z-axis with the center of the frame-picture center line and also make sure the bottom line is in alignment with the Y-axis. The picture might now be a bit off center, you need to correct that by using the Offset X correction as explained above. Just be aware you might need to move it again after Offset X correction. Do not forget this step.

We now have the first frame placed, scaled etc. Switch back to the front-view (numpad 1). Lets also give first frame picture a logical name. On the top right you will see the picture highlighted (in blue in my setup). Double click it and give it a logical name; frame-01. Make 8 copies of this picture and rename each to frame-02, frame-03 … etc. Just right click the first one, select copy and repeat the paste action 8 times.

Next step is to move each frame-picture to the correct location. This is simple, select the picture in the right overview and move it to the correct location by clicking the red-button, hold and move. Repeat this for each frame-picture.

Basic ready

There is one thing to do. When we are going to draw out the hull we will only do half of hull. In my case the right-side/starboard. When that is ready we will just mirror it to create the complete hull. This way the hull will be 100% symmetrical.

If you check the Frame pictures, you see those numbered from 1 until 9. 1 being at the back and 9 at the front of the boat. And thus we need to make sure the frame-line 1 is on the correct side in the picture. In the picture below you in which we look from he back starboard side, we see the frame-lines 1, 2, 3 and 4 (mirrored). That is correct.

View from the back starboard side. Frame-01 correctly orientated.

If we now hide the frame picture 1, 2, 3 and 4. (Just click the “eye” next to the picture in the Scene Collection window.) You will see the frame-picture 05, does not show the line 5.

View from the back starboard side. Frame-05 not correct orientated.

It is on the other side of the boat, which is not helping if we only want to create the starboard side of the boat. If you followed al the above steps the center of all the frame-pictures is exactly on the Z-axis. You can now simply rotate the whole picture 180 degrees around the Z-axis.

View from the back starboard side, Frame-05 rotated 180 degrees and correctly orientated.

Do this for the frame picture 05, 06, 07, 08 and 09. Your last action should be locking all pictures to prevent accidental movement of the pictures. There is a Blender trick to do that at once… but I forgot and am to lazy to look for it at the moment.

Lock the properties for all pictures.

I did not add the top-view, it is not really needed for creating the hull. But it can be very useful, as it does provide extra support lines. Based on the steps above you should be able to add the top-views. You need to add 8 pictures, called WL.1 to WL.8 as also visible in the side-view picture.

The basics setup and ready for drawing the Hull.
And this is how it should look if you also added the topviewes for extra support lines.

Part 2 will handle he first real 3D work, adding the keel and the hull.

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