Working on a steampunk design for a helicopter, I have struggled the last few days to get a look that will translate to plywood. The devil really is in the detail. My plywood laser-cut toys are plain and unadorned but steampunk is not about clean lines.
I spent a while this morning drawing this window in the style of an old diving helmet, here as a .png file (WordPress won’t allow vector files, if anyone wants a copy let me know and I will send).
Affinity Designer is perfectly adequate for 2D drawing like this.
I have been using Affinity Designer (AD) to make instruction sheets for my plywood construction toys – a process which often seems more painstaking than designing the things themselves.
These are vector files – raster files become huge and slow – and were originally created in Illustrator using the 3D function. But they original won’t open in AD because it wasn’t saved with an associated .pdf, AD can’t make sense of it.
So I took the 3D raster (.jpeg) and traced it using Inkscape then had a vector file I could edit in AD. Whew.
The lack of a trace function in AD is a serious oversight on the part of Serif Eu.
My files are laser cut, currently by Basically Wooden in east Devon and to be accepted by the cutter software they should be in .dxf – drawing exchange format, the most commonly used in Computer Aided Design (CAD), in AutoCad and AutoDesk. These file types are used for CNC routers, plasma cutting, laser cutting, engraving and waterjet cutting, &c. So for a vector drawing program to be useful it should be able to save in this form, unfortunately Affinity Designer cannot do so. Once again Inkscape comes to the rescue, it can accept vectors from AD and save them in .dxf.
But this comes at a cost: file sizes are changed, checks and adjustments must be made and all this adds time and complexity. So I feel Serif Eu. need to get .dxf format added asap if they want to take on the big players. I’m looking forward to an upgrade.
This model is one of four laser-cut boats which I will soon be cutting a batch of, ready to sell. Having recently tidied up the .svg file of this boat – a trawler – using Affinity Designer I thought it would be fun to see if I could add a livery of sorts. I have printed peel-off stickers before and used them for a helicopter, so I revised this set in Affinity Photo ready to print.
But why bother to do this then re-photograph the model when I can just add them virtually? And as I am learning this software this is a good opportunity to try a little perspective distortion. The livery is for my son’s lovely organic food shop, Field Fayre in Ross-on-Wye, England. I actually prefer the models without stickers but they are a selling point, I hope.
No difficulty at all using the distortion/perspective tool in Affinity Photo, accessed through the Filters and I felt it was easier than Photoshop. Now to check and tidy the three other boats .svg files, remove overlapping lines, unnecessary points and so on. If you use a vector drawing app you will know what I mean. No problems at all so far with Affinity Designer, just the usual learning curve but on the whole I find it well structured and logical. I did struggle to change line dimensions from points to millimetres – change the Document – but that’s all.
I have been using Affinity Designer to draw the re-modeled plywood ‘copter, no problems at all although I am still finding my way around. One tool it does not have is 3D view or the ability to move objects around all three planes. This is a useful feature of Illustrator although it can be frustratingly difficult to use. Still, as I don’t subscribe to Adobe products any longer I must find another way.
There are some pretty good 3D apps around, Tinkercad is an on-line one that uses ‘primitives’, basic shapes which you can use to build up complex models; Mesh Mixer and Autodesk 123D are both free and powerful. But sometimes it is just quicker and easier to sketch by hand and colour with watercolours.
So having completed the 2D drawing and checked until my eyes were sore for errors, I sent it to Cut & Burn, laser cutters in East Devon.
I love using foamboard, cheap of course but it’s main attraction for me is the speed at which I can work – I am an impatient person, at times.
One of the laser-cut plywood construction models I make is a helicopter and as a flat pack it fits on a 30cm square. But this is too big for letter boxes and the rest of my model/toys fit on three or four A5 sheets. So a bit of remodeling is called for.
I started with a new blade in the Stanley knife but the tip was quickly blunted on the cutting board. I was using 5mm foamboard but the actual model is 3mm ply so some of the dimensions are a little off. Luckily foamboard is very forgiving and can be trimmed easily or just squeezed into the space. The small pieces are not really needed to prove the changes but it is nice to see the thing as it will look. Now to get to work in Inkscape, a free vector drawing app, and make the changes to the .svg file. Once that is done I will print out the revised file on thick card, cut out the pieces and check for fit, then, if all seems good send the file to Cut & Burn in Exmouth and get the prototype in a day or two, hopefully without any mistakes on my part.