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Ship Building 101 (A SketchUp tutorial)

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Due to popular demand, I am creating a tutorial to show how to create your own ship designs. 


Basics of Sketchup


Sketchup is a free design program by Google. Just search the name "sketchup" and it will normally show up immediately. If not, use this handy dandy little LINK. Select and download "Sketch-up 2013". The installation process is quick and painless. 


The first time you open the program and select the"Start using SketchUp" button from the Welcome menu, you should see something similar to this. 




From left to right the tools are:


  1. Select
  2. Make Component
  3. Paint
  4. Erase
  5. Create Rectangle
  6. Draw Line
  7. Create Circle
  8. Create Curved Line
  9. Create Hexagon
  10. Freehand
  11. Orbit the Camera
  12. Pan the Camera
  13. Zoom 
  14. Zoom Window
  15. Zoom extents
  16. Previous Zoom
  17. Position the Camera
  18. Look Around 
  19. Walk with Camera
  20. Move
  21. Push/Pull
  22. Rotate
  23. Follow Me
  24. Scale
  25. Offset
  26. Measuring Tool
  27. Dimension Points
  28. Protractor
  29. Create Text
  30. Axes
  31. Create 3D Text


The final Six buttons are not included due to being an addon. SketchUp allows a large number of easily downloadable addons. The one shown here is known as "soapskin" and as the name implies, it is used for creating skins. I highly recommend this one for downloading as it greatly helps with ship designs. 



One last area of importance is the bottom right, where "measurements" is listed. This is the area that will list the size of your components. If you draw a line that is 25' long, the measurements box will list it as 25'.


Before you begin creating your awesome ships, I recommend playing around with the program and getting to know the features. SketchUp is easy to use and forgiving for new users. In a relatively short amount of time, your skills will greatly improve.


Once you think you are ready, proceed to the next phase.  


Creating a Ship's Hull


We will start off by learning how to create a ship's hull. This is normally the most difficult part in creating a ship as it often involves a lot of curves or intricate lines. I will show you two methods of creating the hull. In this topic, I will describe Method A, while later on I will describe method B. 


Method A


This method works best for smaller ships or ones that have the V-shaped hulls. These vessels have large transoms that narrow steadily towards the bows. 


To create a ship like this in Sketchup, you must first create the transom, or more specifically HALF THE TRANSOM. The transom is the surface that makes up the rear of the vessel. 


Start by creating the starboard half of the transom. Use the "create rectangle" or "Draw line" tool for this. Remember that the width of this shape will be half of your total beam (Width of the vessel) while the height will be the distance between your keel (bottom of the ship) and the top of the hull. 




Here is a simple design I created for the lesson. 


Once you create your hull type, you need to then create a line from the top of the transom. Place this line where the center of your ship will. The length of this line will dictate the total length of your hull.  




Next, begin creating another line along the keel. This will be the bottom of the hull. Create it any length you wish, but remember it will be connected to your top line and this connecting line will create the bow shape. A keel line shorter than the upper line will create the standard clipper bow, one the same length will create an ax bow, while a longer keel line will create an inverted bow. Feel free to place around until you pick a style you like. 




I opted for a traditional bow and a length of 60'. 


Now that you have your hull profile created. It is time to being creating the other lines and start filling out your hull. The shape of your transom will determine the number of hull lines needed. Every point in the transom shape requires its own line. 


For my hull, I would need 4 additional lines. 


I recommend starting at the lowest point and working your way up. Start by creating a line from one transom point and creating it parallel to the direction that the hull goes in too. Make the lines the same lengths as the hull. 




Once you have created your lines, you product should look something like that above. These lines will serve as guides for curved lines that will outline the hull. At this point, you will now begin creating the shape of the hull. 


Start by using the "curved line" tool. From each transom point, create a line from there to the very tip of the hull. Then once the line is created, you can begin curving the line along the straight guide lines you just drew in the last step. Remember you need one curved line for every point in the transom. This carries the changes in the transom's shape throughout the entire hull. 




Once you have created all of the needed hull lines, your product should look like the top model in the picture above. Now, you need to delete the straight lines you created to serve as guides. You should be left with something like in the bottom photo. Your hull's general shape should now be easily seen. 


The next step involves skinning the hull. For this step I highly recommend using the "soapskin" download and addon. Without it you would have to do a very tedious process of creating small triangles to fill in the hull shape. This could take upwards of an hour and even more for larger ships. With soapskin, you can do it within a minute for each section. The picture below shows the difference with the top section being created using handmade triangles and the lower section having been made with soapskin. The lower hull was finished in less time than it took to create those triangles. Once again, I cannot stress enough using soapskin. Download and install it now.  




Once you install soapskin and having it placed into your sketchup toolbar, you can now proceed on to skinning your hull. 


This is the easiest part of the entire process for smaller ships. 


Simply uses your select tool and use the right mouse button to select a line. The line will then be highlighted in blue. Select further lines by holding down the shift key as you use the mouse to select more lines. You need to highlight the lines making up each hull section. The soakskinning tool needs a closed loop in order to function properly. 


The process for using soap skin is as follows:

  1. Highlight a section of hull (Only one section at a time) 
  2. Press the "Skin" button on the soapskin toolbar. 
  3. Your measurements bar will be replaced with one that states "Division" this represents the number of sgements your skin will have in it. Each segment will be different based on size and complexity. But between 5 and 25 normally works for a majority of sections. Punch in the number of segments you want.
  4. Press enter
  5. The addon should then automatically begin skinning the hull section on its own. Sometimes it takes awhile to start, make sure to be patient.
  6. Once one section is complete, click your select tool and begin on the next section. 
  7. Rinse and Repeat as necessary.  




The process should transform your hull from a nightmare of lines into a sleek form that should not be able to float. The picture above shows the process from start to finish.


To make your hull even more sleek, you can select each hull section and then right click them to bring up a menu. In the menu you will find a section labeled "Soften/Smooth edges". Click this and a window will be brought up that allows you to smooth out your hull and remove the segment lines. You should be left with a nice, smooth surface for your hull. Repeat this for each one of your sections of hull. 


Finally, the last step is creating the other half of your hull. This part is the most simple of all. Drag your select tool over the entire model to highlight the entire thing. The select your "move" tool. Press "ctrl" on your keypad while using the move tool on your hull. As you move the hull, you should notice a complete replica of the hull sitting where the original was!


Now once you have two identical copies of the hull. Select one of the copies and right click to bring up the menu. You should see an option for "Flip along" and then either the red, blue, or green axis. You will need to flip your design according to the direction in which you originally built it. If you mess up, fret not. Just keep flipping until you get it right. You should eventually have two halves of the same hull. 


Now all that is left is to select one half and move it until it joins the other symmetrically. 




Now, if everything was done right, you should have a complete hull all fresh and ready to go!


You can now do anything you like with it have fun and experiment. Get more complicated as you go. Add some smokestacks, engines, weapons, windows, superstructure, stripper pole, lights, horn, mast, sails, a rising sun flag cause WG wont let you have one, whatever you like. 


Be sure to try out the paint feature to give some color to your design.




Hopefully you have created your first design. Perhaps you have already made your second or third design, or even on your final design, a super battleship that shoots saw blades and runs on napalm and your are imagining it tearing through hordes of Nazi warships. 


Either way, I hope that this first part of my ship building tutorial has helped you out. If it has, be sure to leave a comment or better yet a picture of your own design!


Look forward to my next tutorial in the near future. 


Until then, have fun creating! :honoring:


** If you need an actual model to help you, I put the steps to creating a model into a design and uploaded it to the SketchUp 3D warehouse. You can find it and download it here.  >>CLICKY CLICKY<<


Hope that helps!




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Long awaited for and much appreciated!

Many thanks.


I'm afraid my own designs would be rather laughable compared to all the good work that you've shown.


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Here's 1 I'm currently building, might take me a couple or more days since I'm away from sketchup..




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Nice, a new program and the info to use it, Thanks!! (+1)


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Nice, a new program and the info to use it, Thanks!! (+1)


Its kinda simple & easy to learn, though it may take time to really master.. Well atleast its easier than some other 3d modelling programs.. :)


Btw, I'll help Jracule here by posting how to make your own ship propellers.. That is if he don't mind me doing, :)


Finished making a tutorial on how to make your own propeller, waiting for Jracule's reply though. :)


Propeller tutorial posted below, got Jracule's approval, :)

Edited by Scryer117


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1. 1st step in making your own propeller is by making a circle, a flat one of course.
2. Next is to make a square within that circle,though that depends on you on how many blades your propeller should have. We give a propeller 3 blades using a triangle, etc. but for now, lets use 4. :)
3. Next step, push the square outwards like in the image, the length of the push determines the angle of the blade of the propeller, this is done by connecting 1 corner opposite to it as shown in the image, continue this to the other faces in the cube.



4. Now that all faces of the cube has a line w/c determines the angle of the blade, now we will make the base of the blade itself, I do this by making an offset on "ONLY ONE" half of each face, as shown in the image, the degree of offset you make determines the thickness of the blade.
5. Next, we cut the base of the blade by connecting the base corners of the triangle to the main line in the cube to make a long rectangle,as shown.
6. Next is we erase the line on each face of the cube, leaving only the rectangle itself, aka the base of the propeller blade.



7. The step in here is to erase the lines of the cube, hereby leaving only the rectangles for the base of the propeller, & the circle, w/c we will be using later on.
8. Now the fun part, the blade itself, we pull the base outwards, how much you pull determines the size of the blade. You can also make the surface of the blade wider by pulling also its side.
9. How to curve the blade, We can do this by using the curving line, connect the top to the bottom by the middle & connect it to the side of the blade, as shown in the image.



20. Now that we have set the curve of the blade, now we push off the unwanted edges to make the curve of the blade.
21. To make the blades smooth, fast click each blade multiple times till each blade is fully selected then smoothen out its edges. You can do this easier also by selecting all the objects then press shift+double click on the circle to deselect it. After smoothing out the blades, make them as a group so they won't interfere w. the propeller hub or the make them as separate entity.
22. Now that we are done with the propeller blades, we will now make the propeller hub. Push off the circle outwards till the base of the blades are covered in the cylinder, push the circle into the length that you desire.


23. Once we have the cyclinder done, we make multiple concentric circles within the face. we will be using these to make the conical nose of the propeller hub.
24. With that done, pull each circle, with the innermost circle being the longest, as shown in the image.
25. Next, we use the move button, hover the move button on the base of each smaller circle until you locate the point where a small yellow circle appears, if a blue line appears, do not move it. Once you locate the small yellow circle, click on it & move it til you connect to the bigger circle. as shown above. Repeat it until you have it like in the image above.
26. Final step is to smooth out the lines of your propeller hub, careful not to include the propeller hub's base. Group them all together & apply finishing color touches of your choice. I applied gold in this sample.

Now there we go, this is how I make my design's propellers, Hope this helps you all guys.Remember guys, there is no challenge if there is no adversity. As learning is a process in the making. Have a good day all. :honoring:



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If anyone needs help in making certain ship components, like the guns & radar,etc.. Just tell us here guys, :honoring:


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Are you guys using Sketchup 2013 Pro or Sketchup Make?


Is 2013 free? because I downloaded Make which is free but is limited in the tools available to use


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I'm using Sketchup 8, not sure about "Make" though, It may just be S8 being renamed..& btw, if you need more tools to use, go to "View", then "Toolbars".. You can fiddle around with the tools in the toolbars menu till you know w/c one you need the most. 


Tools I use that might come in handy for you.




Edited by Scryer117


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