Monday, 20 February 2012

Modeling a car using blueprints

In this massive tutorial you will learn how to model a car using blueprints, points and the bridge tool.
Basic Cinema 4D knowledge is required for this tutorial!

Please note I will be working in Cinema 4D Release 10. If you wish to use this method please just try and adapt it for your package, be it in a previous version of C4D or an alternate package.
This tutorial does assume you have some basic 3D modeling knowledge as well as some basic knowledge of C4D.

OK let’s get started, first a bit of terminology, C4D uses Points, Edge & Polygons
These are the different modes that you can edit an object in and these are the modes we will use to adjust and edit & create our model.

Step 1: Finding Blueprints

First things first, What do we want to model, I am going to choose a car It’s a really awesome site that has blueprints for ships, cars, bikes etc…
I am going to choose the new VW Beetle

When you download these blueprints look on the site for prints that have the all views Top, Front, Rear & Sides, having all these views makes your life a lot easier, also the larger the file size the better
Bring your blueprint into your favorite Image editor, I will be using Paint Shop Pro.
Now separate all the different views into new images (save as .jpeg) , if you decrease the size of your pictures make sure you keep the aspect ratio between the different pictures the same, else things wont fit when we start the modeling process!

Step 2: Setting up the view ports

Once you have broken your image up, we set it up in C4D as backgrounds for the viewports (the place where you view and edit your models)
In a New Cinema 4D file, Press F5, This will open up all view ports for you to see.
Click Edit > Configure this function can be found on top of any of the view ports. This will open up a configuration box in the attributes manager (#2) on the bottom right. You will see here I already have the tab BACK selected (highlighted in blue)
For each viewport, Top + Right + Front, select the browsing button to the right of the IMAGE property (#3) and select the appropriate image from our dissected blueprints.
If you click on the viewport to select it, this will change the attributes manager so you can edit the viewport settings.
It should look something like this:

BUT!!! We have 2 problems we need to address before we can start modeling
• Are our blueprints aligned?
• Is the top view facing the right way?

Step 3: Facing and Aligning

First we will make sure that our 3 images face in the right direction together.
In our attributes manager we have a few options we can set, in this step use Rotation (#2) to rotate your blueprints. In the top view, I rotated my image -90 degrees.
It depends on your blueprints how you need to rotate them, refer to the next screen shot to see what it should look like.

Now our blueprints are facing in the same direction, now we only need to make sure the are aligned correctly.
For this we will use the Offset of the picture (#1) where we move it up and down (we will use this for the alignment)
In order to align the images first add a null object to the scene.
Set the position of the null object to the very front of the vehicle/object (You can see in the above screenshot where I have placed mine). The idea is to get the location of the object pointing at the same spot on all 3 views, so make sure you place the null object somewhere that is easily recognizable in all view ports.
Now adjust the offset of the background images in each view (or just the ones needed) in order to align the images with the null object you placed in there.
Do the same for the sides of the vehicle or object too, you may need to adjust the X&Y size of the image too, but uncheck the keep aspect ratio button first to make sure that while changing one size it does not throw the other alignments out. Play around…you’ll get it.

Step 4: Time to start modeling

When modeling anything like a vehicle we can use a few tools in C4D to help us cheat a bit
We are going to use SYMMETRY to model this, this allows us to model one half of the car (the right hand side when look at it from the front) and C4D mirrors/copies it to the other side for us. Not only does this save time but also helps keep things equal e.g. making one headlight bigger than the other
SO…delete the null object you have (we don’t need it anymore) and add thesymmetry object (#1) and add a polygon object (#2) as a child of the symmetry. Drag and drop the polygon object onto the symmetry object (#3) , refer to the next few screen shots for help.

Now remember the points mode from earlier, click on the polygon object itself to select it.
On the left hand side now select Point Mode, Click Structure > Add Point
Now we are ready to add our first point, pick something on the car you want to start modeling, I am going to do the bonnet.
Hold down the CTRL key and click with the mouse (left click) to add a point, Select the point and position your point down in the middle of the bonnet, close to the front of the vehicle
IMPORTANT!!! You need to make sure your X position of your point is at Zero (so on the Z axis). Anything in the negative X range will be part of the symmetry, the part that C4D does for you, anything in the positive range will be what you do.
In the next screenshot you will see how I have done it, you can space your points out in what ever way suits you and how ever many you need, read through the next few pieces to get an idea of what’s happening then you can see what will be best for you. NOTE all my starting points below are X=0
As you add your points (I was adding mine to the TOP view), you can move them around to follow to shape of the vehicle as you can see here.

What we do now is clone this line of points and move them to the right, so with all your points selected (CTRL-A) right click somewhere in one of the views and select Clone.
I am going to select 1 clone, APPLY it and then move this line of points to the right (In the TOP view). Now adjust individual points on this line to match the blueprints.
Keep cloning and adjusting your points in all views to make a rough outline of the bonnet.

Step 5: Create Polygons

You’ll see I have tried to follow the contours and as I placed my points (or cloned them) in the top view I made sure the where pointing to the same spot in all views (just like we did in the alignment)
NOW…Time for the bridge tool, the bridge tool creates bridges or polygons between points
Click Structure > Bridge
Bridge works by click and dragging the mouse (left click) from one point to another.

Click and drag point #1 towards #2, then click and drag point #3 towards #4
Bravo, you made your first Polygon, see how C4D filled in the other side for you
When working in C4D if you press the spacebar it flips from what ever tool you have currently active to the Live selection pointer for you to select things, by pressing space again to flips you back to the tool you were working with
Kind of a quick change, now while bridging, after you have made a poly, tap the space bar twice, this will reset the bridge tool so you can make another poly, this will help it so that you don’t create some really odd shapes, try it. You’ll see what I mean.
Keep moving up and through you points bridging them together and you will see our bonnet start to take shape. I have used fewer points in the sample below so you can get an idea of what it should start to look like.
In your objects manager, right click on the polygon object, select the Cinema 4D tags and in the menu select the Phong Tag, this will make you bonnet look nice and smooth.

This method is what I have used to construct many objects, from here you use things like the extrude tools, size & scale, move points around etc, so that you can fine tune your mesh to get it looking the way you want or need, this method helps you to get the basic shape of what you are after.
Now this part of our car is done, so repeat these steps for the next part of the car:

Above you can see I have added points around the front fender and grill, it’s not quite to the blueprint but I want a slightly different look, wider nose, slightly angled headlights etc..
Bridge the points, and you will have another basic mesh for playing with.
If you haven’t already noticed you may come across a small problem, the normals(faces of the polys) might look a bit strange, some different colours.
Select the Polygon Object, then select Polygon mode (remember that??)
With the live selection tool active, click in your perspective view and then press CTRL-A
You might see how some polys are blue and others yellow/orange, this means we have a problem with our normals. This is easy to fix. Click Functions > Align Normals and you’re done.
Again use the bridge tool to finish this part of our car, here is my result so far (I quickly rendered it with some basic materials in a basic scene):

Step 6: Finishing the outer body

From here I am going to do the rest of the main body or the outer shell of the vehicle
You can start adding some detail if you want to, but I want to leave that till last.
On the roof I have left space between the main roof section and the rest of the body shell for some beading to go around it later.
Move around your vehicle piecing it all together like a great big puzzle, and you get to make the pieces. Practice and you will get the hang of it and it will start to go quicker and quicker. You will also find methods for bridging that work for you, the amount of points to add and such.
Remember the better the blueprints, the easier it will be for you to add detail to your model and to perfect it.
Let’s render what we have so far and see how it looks:

Admit it, it looks good, basic…but good. If you look carefully on the roof you will see the gap I left for the beading. Don’t stop now…still got lots to do.

Step 7: Finishing our model

Now its time to add lights, wheels, the interior and other minor parts to our model.
Lets start by adding some Wheel Arches
This is nothing more than tracing the outline with a spline and extruding it.
The lip in front is to fit underneath the main shell

 OK, moving onto the door, again I am just going tracing it with a few points and bridging them together.

The Interior

As the interior is not easily seen it does not have to be that detailed, it can just be a basic representation of it, have fun, make it your own, design it as you would like to see it.
Problem is, we don’t have it in our blueprints so you have to guess what’s happening.
Start with some basics that all cars have, Backboard (where your speakers usually are), the foot wells, centre column, firewall (the piece that separates the main cabin from the engine), dashboard etc.
For the seats you can find blueprints on the site described in the first steps, repeat the modeling process like explained in the first few steps to create your own seats, this is what I got:

The Weels

The creation of the wheels was quit a massive job, expect a new tutorial soon explaining how I made my rims and tires.
Trace the outline of the various bits like the bonnet, doors, roof etc… Extrude this, sweep nurb it, whatever tickles your fancy to make your beading this will help fill in a few blanks
Something else I have added here is a small strip around the window areas for framing.
The inner front grill was also added. Most of this additions/modifications are small and easy to implement if you have managed to come this far.
A quick tip for you, see the connect object button below:

This allows you to take multiple object and make them into one, just set all the polygons you want to compact into child objects of a Connect Object, once done, select the Connect Object in the Object Manager, and press ‘C’. This makes it editable and will merge everything into 1 polygon for you.

Step 8: Materials and rendering

Now its time for you to add materials to your model, i’m not going to help you with this step because you can find plenty of other tutorials on this step. Just create a new material for different parts of the car and apply it to the object by dragging it into the object browser.
If you don’t want to create materials yourself (like for example glass), check out
Once you have added your materials you can add your model in a scene and add light sources to your scene.
Here is my final render:

 This tutorial is written by Tony Ekron aka Omnieus and published on with his permission.


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