Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple Blueprinting

Since I'm still getting my garage set up as a work space I've been illustrating a lot recently. I drew up a new logo for Matrix Armory because I was tired of the old one. All my friends call me a dragon because I horde money, I can  be a little... grumpy, and, as my wife puts it, I like to "hole up in a mountain by myself." I like being called a dragon so I ran with it.

I also started drawing up some blueprints so I can start building them when my garage is all set up. I decided to write up a tutorial on it. You might wonder why you would need to draw blueprints when you have the reference image.

Well, it's really helpful for a couple of reasons:

     -It familiarizes you with the prop you are about to build. This is really important because you won't be blindly cutting pieces not really knowing what they are for.

     -It gives you patterns that you can use to make your pieces. This is especially helpful if you need to make more than one of something or two pieces need to line up.

     -Doing this creates a vector file. What that means is that your computer uses math instead of pixels to create your lines and shapes. In laymen's terms, it makes it so you can scale this image to any size and maintain quality of your drawing (obviously there is a point where making it too small would result in a low quality image, but that's really too small to worry about). This means you don't have to worry about how big the image is when you are drawing it. You can scale it up or down to the size you need when you are ready to print out the blueprint and it won't get pixel-y and need a CSI team to figure out what it is you printed out.

     -Blueprints look really cool when you print them out on nice paper. They make really good wall pieces... And that's why you should make blueprints when you can.

This week I'll be going over some basic methods for drawing using software like Illustrator or Inkscape. I'll be using Inkscape because it's free. Normally I'm all about using the free alternative rather than paying the big bucks for the software, but Adobe did Illustrator right. It's much easier and intuitive to use than Inkscape. That being said, the whole Inkscape being free thing is a really big incentive for me to use it, so until I can afford to buy Illustrator I'll make due.

First thing's first, find reference images of what you want to model. This is probably the most important step. The better your reference images the easier this process will be. Try to get the best shots from all of the sides (front, side, back, top, bottom). The more of these you get, the less guesswork you'll have to do later. These are the images I'll be using.

I'll be doing Sokka's boomerang from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Next week we'll go with a more complex shape in the form of the De-Gun from Megamind, but I'm starting off with something simple so it doesn't get too complicated right away. Since it is relatively flat, I won't be needing any shots other than the side view to get this one drawn up.

If you are having a hard time, I suggest you just try to draw things. Play around and get familiar with the software. I learned to use Illustrator by teaching myself. Start simple, Google problems, and practice. That's the best way to get better at using this software.

Before we get started, I'll explain some basic tools that you'll be using

 This is the Selector tool. This is how you do basic transformations like move, rotate, and scale.

 This is the Node tool. This allows you to move individual and alter individual points along the paths we will be creating.

 This is the Pen tool.This is how we'll be drawing our lines and curves.

 This is the circle tool. It's used to make.... circles.
And this is the square tool used to make, you guessed it, squares and rectangles.

Lastly these are the snapping tools. These will be useful to enable and disable as you are trying to match up your lines.

Some handy tricks to keep in mind:
-Ctrl+Scrolling: Zoom in/out
-Shift+Scrolling: Scroll left/right
-Ctrl+Scale: Maintain ratio of height to width during scale
-Shift Scale: Scale around the center point
-Ctrl+G: Group objects

Now that you have your pictures, open your first image in Inkscape. I like to start with a side view because I feel like I'm making the most progress that way. If you don't have a good side view I suggest starting with whichever image is your best reference.

Select your pen tool and start tracing around your image. Click where you want to start and every spot you want to draw a line to. This will show as a green line until you complete the path.

You'll see a common problem that will occur when blueprinting. Since the image I used wasn't super high quality there is a lot of pixelation. You'll have to make some judgement calls to get the pattern right, which is fine. Just try to figure out from your references what the image should look like. If it's to difficult to tell, you might have to find alternate reference images. Usually pulling directly from the source is your best option.

Just keep drawing around until you get back to your first point.

Don't worry about following curves for now. We'll fix that later. Just try to get the basic shape. We can add or remove points later. Do try to stick to straight lines as much as you can. It'll save you time in the long run.

When you connect the original point to your end point you should  have something like this. Notice the tip is buried in the snow in this image. I have a plan to fix this later. The good thing about computers is that they are super flexible and forgiving.

If you hide the image you should have something like this.

Next I added the circles just to get them on there. If you hold control while you are drawing or scaling a circle, shape, or path it will maintain it's current dimensions. In the case of a circle it lets you draw a circle instead of an oval. Then I copied a second circle and lined them up.

As you can see the points don't line up quite right. This is where we use the Node tool. 

If you click a node with the node tool it lets you move, delete, or curve that node individually. This is how we'll reshape our path. There should be two little handles coming out of a selected node. If there isn't, in the top tool bar select smooth node and it should bring these up and make a likely unwanted curve appear. These handles are Bezier handles and control the curve. The handle to the left mostly controls the depth and angle of curve left of the node and the handle to the right controls the depth and angle of curve on the right of the node. Sometimes changing the left means the right side of the curve changes and that's when you fiddle until it looks right. The distance from the node determines the depth of the curve's bend and the angle of the handle determines the angle of the curve. Inkscape will automatically try to match a node's location with a curve if you delete the node. If you want to match a curve just draw a point on either side of the curve with one at the depth of the curve and delete the middle curve. That usually gets a pretty good approximation of the curve that you can tweak to match.

A lot of adjustments later and you have a simple first pass.

Now I need to flesh out that pesky bottom. I did that by importing the other, less helpful reference image. I lowered the opacity and lined them up to get an idea of how long the tip extended and what it looked like.

Now that I have an idea of what shape and size it needs to be I can extend out the tip.


 Next we'll want to trace out the white area on the image that makes up the beveled edge of the boomerang.

I'm not a big fan of those thick inner lines so I like to thin out lines that are blade edges or sides that might be in the background, but that's all up to you.

We're almost done.

Once everything is the way we want it, we can set the fill of the drawing, remove the reference image and straighten the image up.

Press Ctrl+G to group everything together.

I added a side view (which I'll get into next time, mostly because this one is pretty simple) and a label. Bing, bang, boom we have a blueprint.

Next time I'll be going over the more complex form of the De-Gun from Megamind.

Until next time,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New Logo

I've been on an illustrator kick recently and decided to make a new logo. I decided to update the color scheme too.

I will be writing up a post on how to make blueprints for your props later.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reddit Plug

So I was on reddit the other day and someone totally linked to my mold-making tutorial.

That's awesome!

I recently moved to Vegas and once I get my garage up and running I'm gonna start working on projects again, which brings me to my next point. I've recently decided to put costuming on hiatus and focus on making props. It's what I like and I don't like abandoning projects or not being able to work on something because I don't have a costume to go with it. So, for the foreseeable future, I will be making props with the occasional costume thrown in.

That's all I've got for now.

Until next time,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Post DragonCon Update (Phantom Ganon Build)

I went to DragonCon!

We were going to be a Zelda Group, but everyone kinda got a case of the lazies, so it ended up being a Link, Dark Link, Navi (who's wings I did not spend enough time on and died shortly after we got to the con in costume) and I was Phantom Ganon from WindWaker. I think it came out pretty darn good considering I made it in about a week and a half. I was originally going to do Skull Kid, but I didn't think I could do it justice in such a short amount of time. Some of you might be asking, "Why didn't you start earlier Matrix?" Well I was devoting most of my free time to my Hiccup costume from How To Train Your Dragon 2. I realized that it wasn't going to be done so I switched gears.

Hiccup will come in a future post, this one is about my Phantom Ganon Build.

Here is a reference for those who have never seen him before.

I started with the mask, which all in all is a terrible idea. I always recommend to save the mask/helmet until later in the build.

I was wracking my brain as to how I was going to build this (remember at the time I had under two weeks to start and finish everything). I was playing around with some foam when my wife needed to run to target so I took this as an opportunity to procrastinate further. But alas, inspiration struck while I was trying to sip my Starbucks. I bought a $10 IronMan child's mask. I told my wife I was going to turn it into Ganon and she was like "Okay...."

I started by drawing the facial features that I was going to be adding.

Then I drilled holes all over the mask to help give the Apoxie Sculpt something to stick to.

That little bit of Apoxie Sculpt was to test and make sure it would still work. It had this thick skin on it, but it wasn't anything a little bit of elbow grease couldn't fix.

I stupidly didn't take a picture of this part, but in order to save on weight and Apoxie Sculpt I used pink insulation foam to make a little nose that I then covered in Apoxie Sculpt.

And more sculpting....

This part was really fun. I used EVA foam for the beard and hit the surface with my cutoff disk on my dremel to make it look like hair.

Now it's time to start working on the horns!

First thing's first, I need to make a template. I doodled one out and cut out a cardboard mockup.

Then I cut it out of foam. Unfortunately I didn't have any foam big enough to make it a single piece so there was a seam... :/

It's also two layers of EVA foam to help hold the shape.

I then trimmed the horns at an angle. Gave it a nice little effect...

And make sure it's the right size...

Now I attached both. Something went... I'm not gonna say wrong because I like that the horns are different, but they are obviously not the same...

I screwed them in through the inside and then added Apoxie Scuplt to the outside as a transition and to hold it in place. This is exactly how I attached my Professor Pyg ears to my mask

Some sanding.

Now for black paint.

Two bottles of glow in the dark paint later and EL wire attached around the horns and we're all done.

Next up we make a sword. The sword and mask took up the entire weekend. There are definitely refinements I want to make and things I would do differently if I had more time. The sword is made of pink insulation foam from Home Depot that I had laying around.

First I glued the two pieces of foam together to give it the right thickness. I did it wrong at first, but that's why there are two sides right?

The cut, cut, cut out the sword.

Hmmmm.... needs a cross guard....
That bit where the gap is is where the blade will fit in and there is a fourth piece that locks the blade in place. Think foam sandwich.

Now we add a hole for the handle and measure the length of pvc we need to put in.

Bam! now it has a handle. My wife told me not to do this and to go to sleep, but the stubborn man I am decided who needs sleep. This sword needs a bevel. Here I've marked off where the bevel will be cut.

 I used a file at first and let me tell you was that slow. Then I realized I had a coping saw. More tools is always the answer.

Like butter.

Bevel done, now just to sand and add the letters.

I drew out the letters and used this as a guide.

 Then, since these are rectangular I just poked a hole with a pen and used those marks to carve out the letters.

Now we add a lot of paint and boom sword is done.

Well almost... I don't like that handle so I added foam to give it a more tapered look. Then I covered it in duct tape (shhhhh, don't tell....)

I didn't think to photograph the rest of the process, but I made EVA foam shoulder pads and arm guard. I cut up an old scream costume for the cape and hood and used a bunch of glow in the dark paint on the suit for the glowy blue bits.

 I am fairly satisfied for this speed build. Here is a pretty bad picture of me with Fierce Deity Link. I have more that I will add to this post when my wife finishes uploading them from the camera.

Until Next Time,