View Full Version : Drawing ship deckplans, SG-style

06-22-2010, 06:01 PM
Some people have asked me now how to build these, and I thought I would comply. Please note, this tutorial is for GIMP primarily, though I have such a basic knowledge of the system I imagine it would work with any rastor editor.

I build my ships in layers; first the outer skin, then the interior partitions, followed by built-in features such as computer consoles, bars, and plumbing. Finally, I do interior design and add the exterior information.

First thing's first, you need to build the outer 'walls' of your ship; its skin. Firstly, you want to make a transparent layer for these walls to sit on. Name it something simple, like 'exterior bulkheads.' There are two ways to draw the actual lines. You can use paths to build the lines of the ship, then give it a 25px stroke, or you can use the selection tool to build shapes by selecting an area you want, filling the selection, shrinking the selection by 25px, and then deleting the interior. Both methods work, but they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Stroking tends to produce very flowing, very pretty ships. This is useful if you want to build, say, a Mon Calamari battlecruiser or a more aesthetic vessel, like later star trek ships. The select and cut method is more precise, takes longer, but has the advantage of being able to look far more regular and straight. I tend to prefer the latter method, but like I said either one works.

Some considerations for this step:
-I use a 25px width for the walls, at a scale of 1px=1in. . You might want to toy with that, but I usually find that makes it look plenty thick.
-If you want a symmetrical ship, build half the ship, select the entire thing, copy, paste, and then flip the selection vertically. This is especially useful when building via the path stroke method.
-It is important to think during this step where the stuff you're going to need to put in the ship goes, and how big that stuff is. Engines are usually big and are often in the back, the bridge will be somewhere up in the front, you don't want an extruding bulkhead to block your weapons, etcetera.
-If you've got curves, give some thought to the vertical curve of the ship as well. You my need to draw in where the roof starts sloping down, or the floor starts sloping up.
-No matter what type of ship you have, you need to figure out the number of decks she has at this point. If it's more than two or three, or will need to move lots of stuff from deck to deck, consider putting in elevators. Either way, you will need stairs. Both of these go on this layer.

I'm going to be building a ship along with this tutorial, and here is what her main deck is going to look like:

Each color represents a different shape that I used to build her (I used the select and cut method, because I wanted her to look a little blocky). You may need to make several layers with this method to erase certain parts. For example, the front of the ship where the curved bow slims down was made in two layers, which allowed me to precisely erase the portion of the oval I didn't want, while still being able to keep the angled straight section. Either way, the layers used should be merged into one when this is finished.

Next, you'll want to make your guides; useful marks for keeping things straight and in order, especially between decks. For now, you'll want to make a horizontal line marking the ship's centerline, as well as horizontal and vertical lines which center on the center of your elevators and stairs, useful for making sure they maintain their relative positions when going from deck to deck.

Next time: Interior partitioning, what goes where and why, and the power core.

06-23-2010, 01:49 AM
good start, very easy to follow - you might wanna mention what program you use so people know what to look for where in the menus. And concidering the guides, if its photoshop you work in - it got guides you can "pull out" from the rulers CTRL+R to get rulers. Looking forward to next step :)

06-23-2010, 06:48 AM
Looking forward to seeing the rest of this tutorial. Thanks for posting, Stargate!

Steel General
06-23-2010, 04:18 PM
I saw this thread and said to myself... "When did I ever do a space-ship deck plan? :D

06-27-2010, 07:49 PM
Thanks guys. Tilt, I didn't know about those guides; GIMP has ones like that too. Consider it stolen, and the first section updated.

New Section coming tonight or tomorrow.

06-28-2010, 06:13 PM
You are not fast enough :) I probably could have used more of your tutorialisms while I was working on my space ship in this month's Challenge entry.

No hard feelings :) I do look forward to seeing more.

06-28-2010, 10:57 PM
Well, it's not as done as I would like, but I promised an update today, so I can't disappoint.

Right then. This section shows you how to turn this:
Into, well, twice of this:
Lovely, right? Right. The first step of this is actually the most important in the whole process. Think. Use your brain that God gave you. It is absolutely critical that your deckplans make sense in some fashion. If the ship is designed to be a transport, the majority of the ship should not be taken up by weapon emplacements or science bays. Using the text button, compile a list of the things your ship definitely needs, and keep it as its own layer. In general, your ship will definitely need the following: environmental controls, a galley, a head, and some sort of sleeping arrangement. As odd as it sounds, everything else is optional.

Highly recommended, but optional. Usually you can safely add a bridge, engine room, airlocks, power core, and storage areas to that list. Since I've decided the ship I'm building will be a medical vessel (as is evidenced by the clever naming of the file), my ship will also need several surgical bays, patient rooms, a lab, a pharmacy, a triage unit, and some sort of method for quickly getting patients in and out, among other things. Since it's medical, it will be lacking weapons, long-range sensors, more specific scientific bays, and similar superfluous areas.

Now that you've got a list, consider where you're going to put these things in relation to each other. People want to get from one area to another quickly, especially if you do it often. In space, you also need to keep in mind partitioning for loss of pressure, and that windows are not auxiliary means of egress from the vessel. Since mine needs to remain as sterile and clean as possible, I also need to keep in mind contamination vectors. Since it will be handling large numbers of patients in its role as a battlefield medic, it also needs a quick method to distribute incoming patients to where they need to go.

As for the actual method of building the rooms, it's much like the exterior bulkheads. create a new transparent layer, label it 'interior bulkheads' or similar, and place it above the exterior bulkheads in your stack (your stack of layers should read roughly from bottom to top as background-exterior bulkheads-interior bulkheads-slope lines [if you have them and they're not their own layer, give them one now. It'll be important coming up]). I generally make interior walls seven pixels in width, with areas needing more security at thirteen. I occasionally use 25 width on the inside of the ship, but only to separate critical areas from one another, and for the power core.

Speaking of... The Power Core: My first set of real directions in this tutorial.

-Choose a location and overall size for your core. Generally, I make mine anywhere from 180px (15ft.) to 600px (50ft.) in diameter. Use guides to plot the center of the core.
-Use the circle select to make the desired size, and center it on the core.
-Fill the selection.
-shrink the selection by 25px (I find that GIMP has a hard time extrapolating circles up and down properly, so you may want to give the selection a 'shake.' Simply move it around and center it again before moving on, and that sorts it).
-delete everything inside of it.

You should have something looking like this:
Nice, isn't it? Now:
-Select a small area at the center of the core, from 45-90 pixels, to be the basis for your core's... core.
-Now go to filters->render->Lava.
-Call on help from the Germans. For the gradient, we want 'German Flag Smooth' It might already be there, I'm not sure. Make it so.
-Select a circular area inside the center of the circle of lava, anywhere from 24-60 pixels, and invert the selection.
-Erase all the lava outside of it.
-Go to Colors->Desaturate, and choose the option that looks best to your eye.

For the following, on large images, you may want to make a new, smaller image and perform these there, then port it across. Gimp has a hard time with distorts on large images. If not, create a new layer, don't worry about the name and put it above your interior bulkheads.

-Select about 60 pixels larger than your core core (the small lava thing), and distort the selection, any values you like the result of.
-Fill the selection, shrink it by 1 pixel, then delete the interior.
-Repeat the above two steps, but at a size about 30 larger than your core.
-Merge the layer down, or import it into the main image.

You should now have something vaguely like this:

-Now, create a new layer (above the bulkheads), and draw a line with a width of 2 pixels straight down the center of the core, all the way to the outside. Make sure the center of this line is in the center of the core, else this will not work.
-Use the magic wand to select the line.
-CTRL+X, CTRL+V, while you can see the whole selected line. If you did it right, the line should be a floating selection right where it used to be.
-Rotate that 10 degrees.
-CTRL+V, you should have a new line where the old one started.
-repeat the above two steps,at rotations of +-10, 20, 40, 50, 70, and 80, for a total of twelve lines. You should end up with something that looks like a starburst.

-Go to the original bulkhead layer, the one with the core walls. Select the inside of it, and use the circle select on it to make it round.
-Go to your starburst layer.
-Shrink the selection by 24 pixels.
-Fill the selection.
-Shrink it by a further 2, and delete the interior. You should have something that looks like a circular sidewalk.

-Now, carefully erase the inside line in the areas where the lines are closer together (there should be 20 and 10 degree chunks made by those lines. you want it so that the circle is only still between the ones 20 degrees apart.
-Once that's complete, merge the layer down.

-Make a new layer.
-Using the paintbrush, run a line with a width of 5 pixels from the center of the jutty block things you've just created to the center of the core. Make sure they all meet in the middle.
-Select the whole thing, and shrink by one pixel. Delete what you've got selected.
-Shrink by one more pixel, and fill the whole selection.
-Run the blur tool along the lines, once each.
-Carefully erase the lines so that they end at the wall of the jutting blocks, and the outside edge of the first distorted circle.
-Merge the layer down.

Once that's done, you should have something close to this:

And that's the power core.

07-27-2010, 12:59 AM

There's actually not a whole lot more to this tutorial. What happens next is that I add two additional layers: Equipment, and Furniture. Equipment is for the items that are theoretically built into the ship, such as computer panels, toilets, sinks, and similar. Furniture is for the stuff that can move around. You can make them one layer if you wish, but I find that this method helps keep things from accidentally merging when you're placing, say, computer chairs. It also allows you to make empty ships easily enough by simply hiding the furniture layer. You can figure out your own ways of representing these; typically, when I need a new thing, I search the 'net for an above view, shrink it to my scale, and trace over it. When that's done, I save it into a template file for later use.

When you're doing this step, you may wish that you set up your rooms differently. That's fine; go back and change them. In a lot of ways, the placing of the walls and the equipment is often intermingled for me; putting in items as you go helps establish and maintain a sense of scale to avoid things like ballroom-sized bathrooms or rooms that are too small.

It's at this point we want to mess with those slope lines we made. Select that layer (you DId make them its own layer, right?) and go to Filters -> Light and Shadow -> Drop Shadow. Select the color and make it white, then set the offsets to 0, and the blur radius to 5. Make it so. Duplicate the layer that's created, then merge the three layers together. Move this layer to the top of your image. This makes the slope lines stand out on top of any furniture, equipment, or walls you put underneath them.

After that is the text and the lines. The text is Agency FB Bold Condensed, at 15px size. Typically, I keep them in narrow columns, because I think it looks better. The lines are three pixels wide, done by hand using the paintbrush tool. Do these on a new layer entitled 'Text.' Before you actually merge the text into that layer, perform the white drop shadow trick on the layer; this lets the line be easily followed to where it's pointing, even through walls. the text should be the uppermost layer of the image.

The border is trial and error; find something you like, and run with it. That's pretty much it.