Modding, Mission Design, and Coding > Modding Tutorials

A complete FS ship tutorial -- EXTREMELY IMAGE HEAVY

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This tutorial should get you started on building ships and getting them into FreeSpace. It will cover the whole process, from starting to model in Blender all the way to converting and testing.   This tutorial doesn’t rely on the one created by FreeSpaceFreak, it is his tutorial with additions and upgrades for a newer blender version.  Further additions include texturing as taught by mjnmixael, and PCS2.  The final addition will be me turning this entire escapade into a walkthrough of modelling a ship, UVing it, texturing it, creating the pof for it, and tabling it.  Basically we are going to go from opening blender, to opening Freespace.

We will model, UV map, texture, convert, table and test a light bomber.  Normally you will work in greater detail than this (which is admittedly ugly), but this isn‘t for releasing, it is for you to learn on, and to encompass what people taught me outside of the original tutorial:

  For this tutorial you will need the following:

Blender (latest version).
Gimp (latest version)
PCS2 (latest version)
pilot model
FreeSpace 2 (you’d better have this)

Table of Contents (links)

To use this Table of Contents, know the following.  Chapter Headings in Green are links to the respective posts, while sub headings in Yellow are specific items found in each chapter.  Red means it hasn't been done yet.

Chapter 1 (This Post)
What you will need
1.  Modelling
1.1 Blender Interface
1.2 Modelling Basics
1.3a  Build a ship then add a pilot model

Chapter 2
1.3b Grow your ship around the pilot  (Walkthrough)

Chapter 3
1.4 Mesh Problems
1.5 Greebling

Chapter 4
1.6 UV
1.6a UV: A word of explanation
1.6b UV Walkthrough
1.7 AO Bake
1.7a AO Bake how to
1.7b AO Bake Walkthrough

Chapter 5
1.8 LOD, Debris, Shield
1.8a LOD, Debris, Shield How to
1.8b LOD, Debris, Shield Walkthrough
2.0 Conversion
2.1a Hierarchy
2.1b Hierarchy Walkthrough
2.2 Texture precautions and convert

Chapter 6
3.0 Texture
3.1 Base texture (Diffuse) Walkthrough
3.2 Glow Map Walkthrough

Chapter 7
3.3 Shine Map Walkthrough
3.4 Normal Map Walkthrough
3.5 -trans map Walkthrough

Chapter 8
4.0 PCS2
4.1a PCS2 How to
4.1b PCS2 Walkthrough
5.0 Tabling

Chapter 9
6.0 Advanced
6.1 Turrets
6.2 Animated modelling
6.3 Visible missiles
6.4 Animated Textures

Chapter 10

1. Modelling

For the modelling, we'll be using Blender, because it's arguably the best free modelling program out there. Yes, the interface may take a while to get used to, but you'll eventually grow to love it. The hands-on-mouse-and-keyboard controls make for a really fluid workflow.
We'll be doing this in Blender 2.66.

1.1 The Blender interface

So, install the latest version of Blender ( and start it up. You should be seeing something like this.

Looks scary? It's not as complicated as it seems. The interface consists of different windows, each with their own use. What you see here is the default layout; you can change a window type by clicking on the window type buttons, marked by the arrows in the following figure. You can also change the window sizes by simply dragging the boundaries.
In case you press a wrong button, and things are suddenly all screwed up, simply press Ctrl-N to reset everything, confirm with Enter (or LMB, left mouse button).

Windows become active when you hover over them; the header of the active window will brighten a little. This is important, because the same keyboard shortcut can have different functions in different windows. So if you press a shortcut, always make sure your mouse is inside the right window.

* 3D View window: This is the window you'll be working in most. The large window shows what you're building: the cube in the centre is the default object, the black-wire thing on the left is the camera and the round thingy on the right is a lamp. The camera and the lamp are only used for rendering, we won't need it for making a ship.
Everything in Blender has x,y,z coordinates, according to the x,y,z axes in the bottom left. The grid lies at z = 0; the red and green gridlines correspond to the X and Y axes, respectively. So yes, the cube's centre (the orange dot) lies at coordinates 0,0,0.
You manoeuver around your scene by MMB (middle mouse button) dragging, shift-MMB-dragging and Ctrl-MMB-dragging (or scrolling). Try it.

The "Object tools" panel on the left of the 3D window has a few of the commonly used controls. To try them out, make sure you still have the cube selected, you can tell by the orange outline. Else, right-click it to select it again.

* Translate, Rotate and Scale do exactly what you think they do, try them out. Their shortcuts are G (for "Grab"), R and S respectively.
* "Origin" will shift the cube's origin, we'll get to that later.
* Duplicate (Shift-D) and Delete (X or Delete keys) will do exactly what you think they do.
* Join (Ctrl-J) will merge two objects (select multiple objects with Shift-RMB (right mouse button)).
* Shading (Smooth/Flat) will change the smoothing of your model, we'll get to that later.
* Keyframes you only need if you're making an animation, leave them alone for now.
* Repeat Last will do again what you last did - useful for placing a row of turrets, for instance. With History you can choose which action to repeat.
* Grease Pencil... I dunno what that's useful for. We won't be using it.
At the bottom of the 3D window, you can see the header - it contains more controls and submenus. I won't cover all of them here, I'll point out the ones you need later.
* Info window: kind of like the menu in Blender. It contains modes, controls, options etcetera. File is the most important menu, it contains Save, Open, Close, Import and Export, etcetera.
* Outliner window: This shows the hierarchy of your ship. For turrets, subobjects etcetera, you'll need to set it up right. But of course, you need a model first, so we'll get to this later.
* Properties window: Shows properties of your model. The different tabs contain different property sets; hover over the buttons to see the different ones. The one that we'll be using most for shipbuilding is Modifiers.
* Timeline window: This is used for making animations, we don't need it for shipbuilding.If you want it out of the way, click the corner thingo at the top-left, drag it over the 3D window, then back over the timeline window and release.
This is about everything you need to know about the interface; we'll now proceed to the actual modelling.

1.2 Modelling basics

There are two distinct ways of viewing a 3D environment; isometric or perspective. Here's an image showing the difference. Isometric is the most convenient for modelling, since there is no distortion; however, perspective is how stuff looks in real life. You can switch between the two modes by pressing Numpad 5; observe the change in how the grid looks. For now, we'll use isometric mode.

Blender can visualize your model in different ways; the two we'll be using most are solid (which you're in now) and wireframe. Switch between them with the Z key, or the menu marked "display mode selector" in the second figure.

Now, axes are important for shipbuilding. For proper conversion, your ship will be pointing along the Y axis, with the top pointing to the Z axis - remember that you can see the axes in the bottom-left of the 3D window. There's a few controls that will make you look directly at one side of the model; numpad 3 should show you the side , num 7 the top and num 1 the back, as shown in the pictures below. Ctrl-numpad 1,3 or 7 will show you the opposite side. Note how the axes in the bottom left are different for each view.

Blender has different modes; in each mode, you can do different things to your model. The two main modes are Object mode and Edit mode; you can quick-switch between them with the Tab key. The current mode is shown in the mode selector, in the header of the 3D window. Object mode lets you play with objects; move, rotate and scale them duplicate and join them, etcetera, like you've already done. Editmode lets you actually change the mesh of the objects (the mesh is the arrangement of vertices (points), edges (lines) and faces (planes) that together make the whole shape of the object.

So, let's try editing the cube. Select it, and press tab to go to Edit mode. Your 3D window should now look similar to the following figure; note that by default, you have the whole mesh selected.

Press A to deselect everything, then right-click one of the corner points to select it. You may have some problems selecting the point you want; this is one of the few things that don't work quite right in Blender. Switch to wireframe mode (Z key) to circumvent the issue.

With a vertex selected, you can now alter the physical shape of the cube. Press G and move the vertex around to position it somewhere else. Select multiple vertices (Shift-RMB) and you can scale (S) or rotate (R) them. If you want to perform an action along a predefined axis (say, moving along the X axis), press the axis key (X, Y or Z) while moving stuff about. If, on the contrary, you want stuff to not move along a certain axis, press Shift-<axis key>. You can use the three buttons marked "Selection modes" (or Ctrl-Tab) to select and transform different kinds of elements. Play around with this a little to get a feel for it.

Now, of course, you're not gonna be able to make a ship with just six vertices; you'll need some more freedom. Select an edge and press W -> Subdivide. Lo and behold - you now have more possibilities to play around with! But it's still kind of limited. This is where extrusion comes in. Select a face and press E; you can now move the face along its normal, making new faces along the bounds. And you can do this again and again and again. Believe it or not; this is how we make ships for FS.

Of course, there are a couple more useful tools, each with their own shortcut:

* F: Make a face between the selected vertices or edges.
* Alt-M: Merge selected vertices together.
* Ctrl-T: Triangulate a quadrangular face.
* Alt-J: Merge two adjacent triangles into a quad.
* Ctrl-E -> Edge loop/ring select: selects edge loops or rings based selected edges.

* O: Proportional editing, useful for smooth-looking (e.g. Vasudan) ships. See here for getting started with it.
* And many more; you'll find out about them as you grow more experienced.
There's one more feature we'll be using a lot: Modifiers. They are a way of altering your model, without actually changing the mesh itself. The changes only become final when you apply the modifier. The Mirror modifier is one of the most useful ones. If you want to make a symmetric model (most FS ships are, so chances are your design is symmetric as well), you only need to make half the model; the Mirror modifier will do the other half of the work.

So how does it work? Let's first clean up a little: go back to Object mode (Tab key) and press Ctrl-N. This will get rid of everything you've done, and you can start again with a clean sheet. Select the cube again, go to editmode. Select the four edges that cross the Y-axis (the green line), parallel to the X-axis (the red line), like in the figure below. Press W -> Subdivide; the four edges are now neatly cut along the YZ-plane, which will also the symmetry plane of your ship.

Select the four vertices on one half and delete them. You'll have half of a hollow cube left.

Now in the Properties window, click the tab with the wrench on it; this is the Modifiers tab. It's currently empty, because there are no modifiers associated with the half-cube. So click Add Modifier, and (under Generate) click Mirror. (Yes, there's all kinds of fun modifiers in there, but we'll only be using two for shipbuilding.) Now, the other half of the cube will magically reappear, but you can't select it. Why not? Because it is simply the mirrored version of the half that you can edit. So, grab a vertex and move it around - the mirrored half will remain symmetric at all times. Neat, huh? This reduces the workload of making a ship by half - if it's a symmetric ship, of course.

We shall now proceed to actually modelling a ship. In case you still feel a bit uncomfortable with modelling, or haven't gotten the hang of it yet, take a look here for a more exhaustive walkthrough; come back here when you feel ready to start working on your first ship.

1.3 Your first ship

We'll start off with something relatively simple, a bomber. Capships require a different (and more complicated setup), I strongly suggest that you start off simple with a bomber. Don't be overambitious, it'll kill your motivation - trust me, I know.

There are two different ways to start.  You can build your ship and then add a pilot, or you can start with the pilot and grown your ship around it.  I am including the first way,  1.3a, in order to show you how, but we will be using the second way, 1.3b, or growing the ship around the pilot model.  Even though we will be going through 1.3b, please perform the exercises in 1.3a, as they lay a solid foundation.  It won’t take but a few minutes, and will stop countless hours of frustration. 

If you choose to go the way of 1.3a, when you are finished, you can skip 1.3b, 1.4, and 1.5 and go directly to 1.6.

In Object mode, press Ctrl-N to clean up (you don't need to do this if you just started Blender). Select the cube and go to editmode; select all vertices and delete them, so you have an empty mesh. Press Num 5 for orthogonal view, then Num 3 to look at the side of what will become your ship. Add a Mirror modifier.

Now, make sure that you're in Vertex select mode, then Ctrl-click to make vertices appear on the working plane. Each successive vertex will be connected to the currently selected one, so just placing a row of Ctrl-clicks will give you something like this:

This will be the start of the cockpit glass. Go to top view (Num 7), select all vertices and start extruding, dragging, rotating them. Like this.

Now, if you go back to shaded view (press Z, remember?) and take a look at what you have so far, it probably looks faceted. Not smooth, like a cockpit should look. So let's take care of that, or it will look the same way in-game. Go back to objectmode and, in the "Object tools" panel on the left of the 3D window, press the "Smooth" button. Hum... chances are it still looks weird. At least this one does. So go back to editmode, select all and press Ctrl-N. This will make sure that all faces are facing the same way. Now it should look okay; still a bit odd, but better nonetheless. It'll look better in-game.

Before I forget it: don't forget to SAVE YOUR WORK OFTEN, with Ctrl-S. Blender hardly does autosaves, and it doesn't ask you if you want to save your changes before closing. It assumes you're competent enough to do that yourself if you want to. There is a File -> Recover last session, but don't count on it too much. Save often.

Now, the cockpit has to end somewhere, with a crisp edge. How are we gonna do that? With another modifier. Extract your cockpit glass to form the edge, set everything smooth again and add an Edge Split modifier. This will automagically "break up" your mesh when it makes an angle sharper than x degrees; you can set the split angle in the modifier panel. For old-school, blocky Terran ships, the default 30 degrees usually works well. Since I'm modelling an Ancient ship for this tutorial, with a lot of smooth lines, I'll be using 50 degrees here.

And well, there you go. From here on, you just extrude, grab, rotate, merge, etc. etc. etc. until you have the design you had in mind. I can't help you with that, it's all yours. I can only give you a few general guidelines on this:

* It's a game, everything needs to be rendered at a high pace. Don't overdo it with polycount. It may be cool to spend hundreds of polies to make something look perfectly flush, but people will only notice the difference by their FPS counter. Take this sphere, for instance; the difference is nearly a factor 10 in polycount, while it won't be noticeable in-game. For capships, which move very slowly and can thus be admired in detail, you could get away with the left one, but don't overdo it on a fighter.

* Try to work with quadrangles and good topology. It will help a lot with the modelling itself, with possible lighting issues and with LODing, which we'll be doing later. For a more complete explanation, see here (thanks to Thaeris for writing it all down), but the image below should give you an idea: the left mesh has good topology - see how all the quads are neatly aligned, like a grid - while the right mesh has a messy topology, with lots of triangles and highly distorted quads.
However, do keep in mind that you're modelling for a game - trade off polycount versus topology. The thingo on the left would be a serious performance hitter if it were ported into FS.

* Your model should preferably consist of a single, connected mesh - what we call a manifold. BUT, you should only do this in as much as this doesn't jeopardize the previous points. You'll need a bit of good judgement on this; don't worry, as you grow more experienced, you'll get a feel for it. I hope the picture below explains it well enough.

* Don't model your entire ship in one go. It's good to take a break every once in a while; you'll then come back to the model with a fresh mind and good ideas.

* Ask for external feedback: show people your WIPs and ask them for their opinions. They might see things that you hadn't even thought of.

Come back here when your mesh is done, and we'll talk about unwrapping. Here's a quick overview of how this mesh evolved from the simple row of vertices above to a full-on fighter/bomber:

1.3b  Growing your ship around the pilot

Ok the first thing we will need to do is open blender.

If you have been screwing around and such, please close blender and reopen it.  Get rid of the splash screen by clicking somewhere other than the splash screen.  You should see the box highlighted orange.

Currently you are in object mode, switch to edit mode and  hit “delete“, then “vertices“.  The box should now be gone.

If you haven’t already done so, download  “Pilot” model from

Open Pilot.blend and you will see an untextured version of the Pilot model.

Before we go any further let’s make sure we are truly seeing the same thing.  I prefer to work in Isometric (ortho) view, so hit numpad 5 and look at the top left of your work window, it will tell you which view you are in, just keep hitting it until it says (view direction) ortho, where view direction may be right, top, front, etc.

We need to go into Edit mode to select some of the vertices.  When you change from Object to Edit, all of the vertices may be selected, if this is the case hit “A”.  Then none will be selected.  “A” is pretty handy no matter what mode you are in.  If you are in Object mode it will select everything in the layer, if in edit mode it will select all vertices, if in UV mode....well you get the picture.  If nothing is selected, hitting “A” will select everything, conversely, if there is anything (or everything) selected, hitting “A” will deselect it.

So lets go ahead and start selecting vertices.  Hit numpad 7 to go to topview, and then use the scroll on your mouse to zoom in a bit.  I generally don’t zoom in this much, but I wanted you to clearly see the vertice that I have selected, select it now by right clicking on it.

We are going to select other vertices as well as this one.  Hold down the shift key while selecting the vertices, and it allows you to select more than one.  Select all of the vertices which go from the middle to the right, and down the right side.  See the following image.

Hit numpad 1 to bring up the rear view, and you should see orange lines heading toward the vertice you want, those lines come from vertices already selected.  The thing you need to remember here, is to hit shift before you right click that vertice.  Do it now, and you should see the following.

Now I am going to show you what would have happened if you had selected that vertice without holding the shift key.  Select that vertice by right clicking. Notice how that vertice is now the only one selected?  That’s not what we want, so simply hit CTRL Z to undo.  You now have all of the vertices selected again.  Trust me, you will become quite well aquainted with CTRL Z.

Moving on...

What we are wanting to achieve is simple.  We need our model to encompass the pilot submodel (it will be a submodel), but not be “attached” to it.  Why, because it already has a UV map and texture. 

So how do we do that?  It is very simple,  SHIFT D.  Hit SHIFT D and then move your mouse, but do not click anywhere.  Notice how our duplicate moves with the mouse, we don’t want that.  Right click.  If you accidentally move something somewhere, you can simply right click and it goes back to where it was.  The best thing to do when you don’t want to move your duplicate is to hit SHIFT D, and then don’t touch the mouse, hit ESC.  Then it won’t move.

Anyway, we now need to separate our duplicate from the pilot, so next to your mode button (currently says edit mode), you will see a menu called “mesh”.  Hit it, and then select vertices, separate, and finally,  selection. 


Our duplicate is no longer attached to pilot, unfortunately, we can’t do anything with it.  We have to select it.  So change from Edit mode to Object mode.  Notice that orange line completely surrounding the pilot model, that means that currently, it is the object selected.

Right click on the right half of the model, and notice how the highlighting (orange outline) changes.  This is because we now have our duplicate selected.  Go back into Edit mode, this is where the fun really starts.

Select the last vertice that you selected before separating things(the vertice is selected in the image below), and delete it. The only reason that we selected it at all was to make things easier when we selected our separated object.

With that vertice deleted, select the vertices that I have selected in the following image.

We want to build a small buffer zone where the ship and the pilot model come together.  To do this, you are going to hit E (extrude).  Then hit ESC.  Because our edges would want to extrude in different directions, things would look funky if we extrude them in the normal manner.  So we extruded, and now have created faces with no area.  So let’s scale it up.hit S, and give it a little height. Use your mouse to adjust the scaling, when finished, left click to lock it. See below.

We have a problem with a specific vertice.  It needs to be on the centerline, and it isn’t.  You’ll run into this a lot.  The vertice is selected in the image below.

So press N to bring up properties, and notice at the top of the new window it says “Transform”, and beneath it is “Vertex” and three coordinate windows.  Change the coordinate for “X” to zero (0) and hit enter.  See below.

The thing about this that you need to remember, is that if you select mroe than one vertice, you are chanigng the median coordinate, which moves each coordinate an amount based on the median of them both, you are not setting both coordinates to zero (0).

Notice that the vertice is now lined back up on our centerline.

Moving on.  Let’s start modelling the body shall we?    90% of what we do will be extruding. The nice thing is, you can extrude to where you want, where the computer wants, or along a specific axis. 

Go ahead and hit N again to close the properties window.  Now we need to add some modifiers.  Let’s go back to Object mode for a moment, all the way to the right is the properties window.  Notice how I have the wrench highlighted?  Click it, then click ADD MODIFER, and select MIRROR.  This creates a mirror image of what we model, which cuts our workload in half.  Nice.  With that done, click ADD MODIFIER again, and this time select EDGE SPLIT.  Then go back to Edit mode.  See below.

ok, let’s go ahead and start extruding our model.  Select the vertices that I have selected below.

Numpad 7 to bring up the top view.  When we extrude this time we want to hit E for extrude, then Y, so that we extrude on the Y axis. See the following image.

Select the three vertices in the front by Right clicking one of them, and then Shift Right clicking  the other two, now those three are selected and the ones in the back are not.  Numpad 3 to bring up the side view, and then extrude on the Z axis by hitting E, then Z.  Then grab the new vertices by hitting G and drag them forward on the Y axis by hitting Y and moving the mouse.  Should look like the image below when done.

Rotate your model slightly, by holding your Middle mouse button (or scroll wheel), and simply moving the mouse until you can see the four vertices running down the side, then select them. See below.

Bring up the top view.  We are going to extrude the selection along the x axis.  Hit E for extrude, and X to make it axis particular.  See below for my extrusion.

Hit numpad1 (even though the view says front, I think of it as rear, because it is what I am seeing), and we are going to drag the selection down by hitting G to grab the selection, and Z to lock in the axis,  See below.

Swing the model around again to what I call the ¾ view, and select the vertices that I have selected, notice in the image below that I have a face there and you don’t.  Create one by hitting F.

Select the vertices that I have selected below.

Bring up the side view and the we will extrude down and drag forward.  So extrude along Z, then grab and hit Y to drag them forward.  See below.

Ok this is important, select the vertices that you see below, and make a face out of them by hitting F. 

When you created your face did you notice how it is twisting?  We are asking that face to do too many things all at once.  It will stretch the texture and look horrid.  So how do we defeat this?  Open the Mesh Menu, then Faces, then Triangulate Faces.  For the most part you want to stick with quadrangles instead of triangles, but every once in a while, it’s ok.
See below.

Before we go any further, let’s smooth things out a bit.  Go back into Object mode and see the image below for where to look  (look to the left).  You will see a subsection called “Shading” with two options, “Smooth”, and “Flat”.  Choose smooth, then go back into edit mode.  You won’t see much of a difference in the half that we work on, but rotate the model around to look at the other side, it should look much smoother now.

ok back to 3/4 view.  While you were rotating the model around did you notice how the edge in the front was very hard?  I don’t like it so we are going to fix that.  Select the vertices that I have selected below.

On the left side menu, as you scroll through, up above where you found the subsection called “Shading”, you will find a subsection called “Add.”  Under that heading you will find an option called “Subdivide.”  Once you hit it you’ll see what it does, it is self explanatory.  It is also useful for dividing a single edge into two equal parts.  Anyway, once you have subdivided, start manipulating your vertices by grabbing them and moving them along the x axis and/or the y axis until you get something like what you see below.  It will be sort of domed sort of not, you’ll get the feel.  It will take a bunch of ratoting of the model to see the views you want, as well as hitting numpad7 and numpad3.  NOTE:  DO NOT TOUCH THE VERTICES THAT ARE HIGHLIGHTED BELOW.  IF YOU DO YOU RUIN THE JOINT WHERE THE PILOT MODEL MEETS THE SUBMODEL THAT WE ARE CURRENTLY WORKING IN.

Before we go any further, I am not sure how others check to see if their normals are right, but the way I do it is to go into Texture mode.  Think of normals as “the direction each face is facing.”  We need to make sure that they are all facing outward, otherwise when we go into PCS2, they will be invisible.  So....go into Texture mode, and you will see that we have some faces “missing” which means that some normals are reversed.  See below.

Once again we go into Edit mode and highlight those faces.  Look to the left, and while scrolling you will find a subsection called “Normals” that has two options: “Recalculate” and “Flip Normals”.  Select “Recalculate”, and then go back into Texture mode and take a look.  They should be cleared up.  Sometimes Recalculate doesn’t handle it, so we then need to flip the normals, but I will show you an example of that later.  Before continuing on, rotate your model around while in Texture mode and take care of any normals that need help. You may want to switch into “Face select”.  You basically have 3 options, Vertice, Edge or Face.  You can switch between them by going to the section shown below.

Now we can continue with the model itself.  Go back to Vertice Select, and select all of the vertices shown below.

Extrude them along the Z axis, and then select the vertices shown below so that we can take care of that hard edge.

Drag them outward along the X axis until the harsh horizontal line is smooth.With that done, we will work with the two vertices shown below.  Grab the top most one and drag it along the X axis toward the center of the model until the harsh verticle line is smooth, then Grab the bottom vertice and drag it over as well, if you pay attention to the face that these vertices attach to, the one that runs down the side, you will see it slightly discolor as you move the top vertice in.  Near as I can figure, that discoloration means that you are twisting the face, so by bringing the lower vertice inward as well, you will see that discoloration go away, at that point you have gone far enough.

Grab the vertices shown below, and go to your side view, Extrude them on the Z axis about the same distance as the section above them, then rotate the model until you are looking pretty much at the front.  With this done I want you to Grab them and drag inwards along the X axis.

I wanted that angle to be harsh for the shape of our nose, so now it is.  Select the three vertices that you see below and create a face out of them by hitting F.  Then select the very bottom vertice of the new face.  See below.

Remember when we we used a coordinate to move that one vertice?  We are going to perform a similar operation in a few moments.  Select the vertice that I have selected below.  Hit N to bring up properties, and highlight the Z coordinate.

CTRL C to copy that coordinate, and then select the three vertices highlighted below.

Extrude these vertices along the Z axis, to about the same hieght as the one whose Z coordinate you copied.   Then select any of the three vertices and use CTRL V to paste the coordinate that you copied into that Vertice’s Z coordinate.  Then do the same thing for each of the other two vertices.  You need to do these one at a time, if you do them all at once, it won’t work right.

When you are done, select the four vertices that I have selected below and create a face out of them.

Next we need to select the three vertices in the bottom front, as shown below.

Now we need the side view and then Grab and drag back along the Y axis.  See below.

Nearly done with the nose section.  With those same 3 vertices selected, you are now going to Extrude 3 times on Y axis, moving your way toward the back each time. Your stopping point each time will be a reasonably close aproximation of the ends of each side panel.  See below.

Now you get to learn how to selct things the easy way.  Hitting CTRL + will expand your selection to adjacent vertices, or edges, or faces, whichever you have selected at the moment.  CTRL - will shrink the selection.  Hold CTRL down and hit + twice, you’ll see what I mean.

What you extruded should now be selected.  All we are going to do is Grab and drag up along the Z axis until our forward most selection is slightly beneath the corresponding vertice on the side panel.  See below.

HIt CTRL - so that only the back two sections are selected, then Grab and drag again, then CTRL - one more time and again Grab and drag.  Make sure you are dragging only on the Z axis.  See below.

This is where we finish the nose section for now.  Rotate it slightly so that you can see the underside in about a ¾ view, like the image below.

That big open space needs to be filled with faces. Be sure to use 3 separate faces, as oposed to one big face.  See the image below.

Let’s start working on the body shall we?  Select the vertices that I have selected below.

Now bring up side view and then Extrude twice along the Y axis, moving toward the back and stopping at the corresponding vertices, as shown below.

And now fill in the blanks with faces.  As always, see below.

The image below shows you which three vertices we need selected for the next part.

ok now rear view (even though it says front)  and then Extrude along the X axis to the outside.  See below.

With that done, top view, and Grab and drag along the Y axis to sweep it it back a little.  Then, select the vertice furthest to the right and copy the X coordinate.  Guess what?  See below.

ok now select either of the two vertices that we we extruded, then Shift select the other.  So that the two of them are selected but the one furthest right is not.  Then Extrude a bit along the X axis as below.

Now select one of them, and paste the X coordinate to it, then do the same with the other.  See below (which makes 50 times I have told you that).

If you guessed that next we would fill in the spaces with faces then you guessed right.  Do so now, and in case you forgot.....see below.

Select the top and bottom vertices, then go to top view and Extrude along the X axis, then Grab and drag along the Y axis to sweep them forward a bit..  Then add faces.  Hey ...that is me telling you to do three things before saying those inevitable words....See below.

Bring up the rear view again and select the three vertices that I have selected, and then Extrude them on the X axis a little bit.  See below.

Top view, zoom out a little and then Grab and drag along the Y axis.  Should look something like what you........see below.

Select the vertice that I have selected, and copy the X coordinate.

Now select the vertice in front of that one and paste the X coordinate. See below.

Now do the same thing for the other sets of vertices in our missile launcher.  See below for the middle pair, then do the bottom pair.

Select the two vertices that I have selected.  Look you thought I was gunna say See below.

Bring up our rear view and do a series of small Extrusions to make a rounded corner like the one that I have below.

Continue Extruding until you have the Missile launcher wrapped all the way around.  If you make a mistake in where you end an etrusion, don’t worry, you can either CTRL Z to undo, or you can Grab and drag the vertices of the extrusion into proper placement.  Make it like the image below, but notice the open space I have at the bottom where the missile launcher joins our body.

HIt CTRL + until your last corner’s worth of vertices are selcted, so that we can drag them over.  If your model already looks closer to the following image, skip this step, but if it looks like mine, once you have selected the vertices Grab and drag them along the X axis.  See below to determine if you need to do this.

Next we need to close it off.  Rotate your model and select the vertices that I have selected below and create a Face out of them.

Go to rear view and select the four vertices that I have selected.

Top view and Extrude along the Y axis about as much as in the image below.

Rear view.  Now Scale it up about as much as you see below, and when you are finished, don’t forget to set the X axis of the centerline vertice to Zero.  Then Grab all of them and drag on the Z axis.

Side view and create the two faces that I have created below.

Now select only the Vertice in the back and go to rear view, then make a series of Extrusions.

Now go to a front ¾ view and create the Faces that you see highlighted below.  Understand that we are using triangles here simply to keep from twisting our faces.  Had we used quadrangles, we would be asking them to do too much.

Top view and select the three vertices at the top rear of the model and Extrude them back along the Y axis.  See below.

Rear view, select the vertice that you see selected below, and make the extrusions that you see below.

¾ front view and create the faces that you see below.

¾ rear view, and select the vertices that I have selected below.

Top view and make 2 extrusions like in the image below.

Select the two vertices that I have selected below.

Rear view and Grab and drag along the Z axis until things smooth out a bit.  See below.

Rear view again, and select the four vertices that I have selected below.

Side view, Extrude down along the Z axis.  See below.

Drag them forward along the Y axis.  If the “Green” Y axis line (appears when you hit Y after G) is going under the model then you are fine, if not, then you need to Grab and drag along the Z axis as well.  Just make sure that the uppermost vertice of our selection ends up lower than the nose of the model.  See below.

Go to a front view, and select the two vertices that I have selected below.

Extrude them downward on the Z axis, and then go to side view and Grab and drag them back along the Y axis.  See below.

Select the vertice that I have selected below.

Grab and drag along the Z axis,  then along the Y axis. See below.

Rear view, and make a series of extrusions like you see below.

Make  a Face out of the two vertices that you see selected below.

Select the four vertices that you see selected below.  When you go to side view (do it now), you will see that our line got a little funky.  So with those selected, hit R for Rotate, and then rotate the vertices around to straighten things out.

OK now pick up that last vertice and make the extrusion that you see below.

Make the faces that you see below.  They enclose the sides of the main bomb bay.

Select the vertices that you see selected below.

Make the extrusions along the Y axis that you see below.

To create the small walls that you see in the following image, simply select all of the vertices that form the front of the bomb bay, then Extrude BUT DO NOT TOUCH YOUR MOUSE, hit ESC.  Now Scale, and downscale it a bit.  It’s that easy.

Go into Texture paint mode, and rotate the ship around.  You can see that we have some problems in our bomb bay.  Actually we only have one problem in our bomb bay, and it is a simple one.  Remember when you made  the side walls of the bomb bay a few steps back?  We shouldn’t have made the inner wall running down our center line.  If for no other reason than it is a waste of polies.  We can fix the problem by selectng the offending faces and flipping the normals, or we can just remove them.  The faces in question run the length of the red line in the image below.

Back in edit mode, let’s select the faces in the image below and then hit Delete > Faces.

With those faces deleted, we are halfway to solving the problem.  Select the faces that you see selected below, and then on the left, find the button for Flip normals.  Going into texture paint mode will help you find the ones that need flipped.  But I’ve already done that for you.

Select any two adjacent vertices from what you see selected below, and then go to your Select menu at the bottom of your work window, and hit Select > Edge Loop.  This will select all of the vertices in our current loop.

Side view, then hit Z to change to wire frame mode.  Now Extrude along the Y axis as shown below.  Then hit Z again to go back to solid view mode, then create a Face out of the vertices.  In other words just hit F.

Rotate it around a bit in Texture Paint mode, looks good. 

Something that we can do, since there is no sense keeping them, is to delete some more faces.  Select and delete the faces that I have selected below.

ok go to rear view and slect the vertices that you see selected below.

You need to zoom in on the area above where you see the selected vertices, and then create the faces that you see below.

In a rear ¾ view, select the vertices that you see selected below.

Side view, make the series of extrusions along the Y axis that you see below.

Now create the faces that you see highlighted below (that‘s 100 times you‘ve “seen below“).

You need to roll the model slightly and be looking at the underside, then create the faces that you see highlighted below.

Select any two adjacent vertices from those you see selected below, and then edge loop to select the rest.

Side view and make the two extrusions that I just made below.

Roll the model slightly and create the faces that you see highlighted below.

ok Select the vertices that you see selected below.  By now you should know to use edge loop.

Next we need to Extrude those vertices on the Y axis, and then Scale them down on the Z axis.  Much like extruding, scaling can also be on a specific axis. See below.

Extrude along the Y axis again.  See below.

In a rear ¾ view, select the vertices that you see selected below.

Side view and Grab and drag along the Z axis.  See below.

Now Scale down.  No particular axis.  See below.

Top view, Grab and drag along the X axis.  See below.

Remember to set the X coordinate of the two vertices that are selected in the image below to Zero.  Also remember that you need to do them one at a time.

Select the Vertice that is selected below.

Extrude it up along the Z axis.  Then copy the Z coordinate from the vertice that is selected below.

Now paste that coordinate into the Z coordinate of the vertice that is selected below.

Create a Face out of the vertices that are selected below.

Once again select two adjacent vertices and edge loop to select the vertices seen below.

Extrude, do not move the mouse, hit ESC, and then Scale it down a little.  See below.

Create the Face that is selected below.

Now Edge Loop to select the vertices that we want to work with.  Side View, then hit Z to bring up wire view, then Extrude along the Y axis as seen below.

Hit Z for solid view, then bring up rear view.  Extrude, ESC, and scale down a bit.
See below.

Side view, wire view, Extrude along the Y axis, see below.

Rear View, Solid View, Extrude, ESC, and Scale down a bit.  See below.

Side view, Wire view, Extrude along the Y axis, then create a Face from those vertices.  See below.

¾ front view, Select two vertices and then Edge Loop to select the vertices that are selected below.

Extrude, Esc, and Scale down a bit.  See below.

Side view, wire view, extrude along the Y axis, and create a face. See below.

Congratulations on completing the first step of your first model.  We need to add the guns, the cockpit canopy, and greebling, then the model will be done.  Don’t worry, the worst is over. 

Let’s work on guns.

We are going to do two different gun models, one small regular gun, and a larger gun, again, I am not going to get detailed with them, this is just to show you how.

Smaller one first.

Go to Object Mode.  At the very top, next to “File”, you will see “Add”.  Select Add > Mesh > Cylinder.  We need to Rotate the cylinder so that it is level with our ship.  We can hit R to rotate it, or we can look in the properties window, where we have been changing coordinates, and change the X rotation to 90 degrees.  Do that now.  See below.

Back in Edit mode, Scale on the Y axis to lengthen the tube.  See below.

Select the vertices toward the back by using Edge Loop, and then extrude along the Y axis.  See below.

Hit A until everything is selected, Extrude, ESC, and Scale down, but when you Scale, hit X, then Shift Z (you may have to tap the Z key twice to get the Z line to highlight with the X line).  Then Duplicate by hitting Shift D, then hit ESC, and Scale down on the X and Shift Z axes.  Then Extrude, ESC, and Scale down on the X and Shift Z axes. It helps to be in rear view, wire view for this.  See below.

Side view, Grab and drag along the Y axis.  See below.

Hit A until you have the entirety of the gun selected, then Scale it down until you see something like the view below.  Then switch to Face select, and select the front face of the cylinder.  Delete it.  Repeat this process several times, each time rotating around to see if you are at the last face of the Inner Cylinder (wire view helps).  Stop when you have it selected.  See below.

Use the following two images to Scale and place the gun.

Now, I want you to go to your Object Menu, it replaces “Mesh” when in Object mode, and select Apply, then Location. If we don’t do that, our mirror will be screwed up when we do that.

Remember how we hit smooth on the left hand side of the screen?  Remember how we added the mirror modifier?  Do both of them now.

Now, Shift Right Mouse Button and select the main body of our ship.  The guns and the ship should be outlined in orange.  Then select Object > Join.

Go back into edit mode and select all of the vertices that comprise the gun.  CTRL + helps a great deal here, as does wire frame view.

Then hit Shift D, and move your mouse to move the duplicate gun away from the model a bit.  See below.

Scale the gun up a little.  See below.

Placement of the guns is very important, do not cross any face edges while you do it.  Use scaling down to help.  See below for proper placement.

Optional but  not recommended.  Switch to Face select, and grab the face that the gun is sitting in.  See below.

Delete the face.  While yours doesn’t have to be an exact copy of what I have done below, try to make it close.  Create the faces that you see replacing the one that we deleted.

Let’s do the other gun.  Select and delete the face that is missing in the image below.

You already know you are going to make the faces....see below.

Guns are done.

Let’s move to the cockpit canopy.

Edge select and select the two edges that I have selected below.

Now subivide them (on the left of the work window, remember?).  Vertice select, select the centerline vertice and make two Extrusions on the Y axis.  See below.

Make the extrusion seen below along the X axis.

Select the two vertices that I have selected below.

On the left you will find “Merge”  You want to bring the vertice that you created when you subdivided and merge it with the vertice created in the extrusion. When you select Merge, you will see 3 options that currently concern you:  At First, At Last, At center.  Depending which vertice you selected first, you will want to choose either At First or At Last.  Choose one now.If you make a mistake hit CTRL Z once, and then Merge them again with the other option.  See below.

Select the vertice that you see below and Grab and drag along the Y axis.

Make the Extrusion along the X axis as seen below, then Grab the vertice that is selected below and drag it along the X axis.

Select both vertices that were created in the last extrusion, rotate to a front view, and make the extrusion that you see below.

Go to side view, and drag the selected vertices along the Y axis until one vertice is directly above a vertice that we are going to merge it with.   See below.

Select the vertice that is selected below.  You will need to be switching between top view and dragging on the X axis, and side view dragging on the Z axis to position it properly.  When the vertice is barely the touching the edge we want, it is positioned.  Be sure that it is touching the edge in both top view and side view.  See below.

Keeping that vertice selected, you are wanting to also select the vertice that You see selected below, and Merge At First.

Select the two vertices seen below, select the top one first, and the bottom second, and then Merge At Last.

Make the extrusion that you see below along the Y axis.

Create the faces that are highlighted below.

Select the two edges that are higlighted below, and subdivide them.

Create the Faces that you see highlighted below.

Create the faces that you see highlighted below.

See how things are funky at the bottom of our canopy?  We are going to handle that.  Select the edges that you see highlighted below, and subdivide them.

Select the vertices that I have selected below.

Grab and drag them along the Z axis, then drag them along the Y axis until that funky stuff is gone.  See below.

Normally, especially since this will be glass, you would be using many many vertices to really smooth and round things out.  But this walk through is just to teach you the movements and commands.  So we will leave our glass alone as it stands.

Select the faces that you see highlighted below, and then Separate them by hitting Mesh > Vertices > Separate > Selection.

Once they are separated, the shading will be flat, and we need it to be smooth. Remember the Subsection on the left called "Shading"?  Find it and select Smooth.

Switch to Object Mode, and find the icon referred to in the image below.

Hitting this icon brings up all of the panels that you can change to.  Currently we are in the 3d panel.  Switch this to Outliner.  Once in the Outliner Panel, find where it says Detail0, not detail0.001, or anything else.  Left click it and come back into the 3D Panel.  Notice that our Pilot is currently outlined, even though most of it is hidden by the cockpit canopy, you can still see that it is outlined.  This is one way of selecting a submodel that currently can’t be seen.  Now, on the right, bring up the properties window by hitting N, if you don’t currently have it open.  If you do, scroll down it, until you see where it says “Detail0”,  and change this to read “Pilot”.  See below.

Right click on our canopy glass and change its name to “Glass“, and then right click on our body and change it to “detail0”.  Deatil0 is what PCS2 is going to look for when we finally open this in it.  We’ll get into that a bit more later.

When you are finished, go back into your Outliner Panel.  This is very simple.  Everything we’ve done to this point has been destined to become a submodel of detail0.  This is called your heirarchy.  See those orange triangles before each submodel?  Left click the triangle for Pilot and drag it until it is over the orange triangle for detail0.  Notice when you get there, a message tells you to “drop to set parent.”  This means that dropping it there will make detail0 our main model, or parent, and Pilot will be a submodel of it, or child.  Drop it there, and then do the same with Glass.  When finished, your hierarchy should look like the one below.

Notice that under detail0, as well as each submodel, we have a material and a texture?  For detail0 and Glass you need to right click Material and select unlink.

Back in 3d view, go to Obect mode and Select your main body (detail0).  Now switch to edit mode. 

1.4 Mesh Problems

Before we start Greebling, we need make sure that there is nothing funky in the model; if you need to fix something, it's way easier to do it now. So, in editmode, select all (A) and press W -> Remove doubles. This will merge all overlapping vertices in the mesh.
Then, Ctrl-tab to edge select mode and press Ctrl-Shift-Alt-M. This will select all non-manifold edges - all places where the model is broken up. Make sure that you know why each edge is non-manifold; if there is one that you can't really figure out, that means your mesh is broken there. In that case, try grabbing a vertex of the selected edge(s) and move it around; you should be able to see what the problem is. Take a look here for some common mesh errors.
In my case, the non-manifold selection looks like this:

The Red Arrow points to our centerline, this should clear up when the Mirror modifier is applied.  The Blue Arrow is where our model meets the Pilot submodel, the White Arrow is where our model meets the Glass submodel, and the Black Arrow is the ends of the gun rings.  All is as it should be.

1.5  Greebling

Greebling is all of those wonderful details.  They really make a huge difference in a ship.

There are many variations the first two basics that we will use here, and there is one special thing you can do.  To be honest, I don’t much see a need to do other forms, but there may well be ways I don’t know about.  You can read that as “there are probably ways that I don’t know about,” as my experience in modelling is limitted at best.

Anyway, the 3 basics are simple.

1.  Extrude then Scale.  This gives slanted walls on our Greebled section, in fact, by scaling we can cause the walls to slant beyond the threshold of our edgesplit, thus smoothing that edge. 

2.  Extrude, ESC, Scale, Extrude.  This gives nice 90 degree walls.

3.  Knife select.  Where the first twooptions use existing faces and vertices,  you can think of  Knife Select as “freehand” greebling.

All three have a place, and really, this part to me is the most fun.  While it is fun watching the model grow before my eyes, when greebling one gets to “mentally meander” as I call it.  You get to really make the model fun and your own here.

Anyway, let’s finish tihs model.

Select the Faces that I have selected below, then Extrude them, and Scale them a bit.  This is Manouver 1 from the explanation above.  Below the image, you will see another.  The images below this paragraph are a before and after thing.

Notice in the image below that because we scaled, the Extrusion is no longer on the centerline?

Select each vertex seen below, one at a time, and bring the coordinate of X back to Zero.

Now do the same with the faces selected below.  Select your faces, Extrude, and Scale.  Before and after images are below.

Notice that again we need to reset some vertices to Zero on the X axis.  See below.

Select the faces that you see selected below.  Then we will use Manouver 2 on them, which is to say, Extrude, ESC, Scale, Extrude.  Below you see the before and after images.

Look at the mirrored half and see how crisp my edges are.  If yours aren’t, then somehow or other your edgesplit modifier is turned off.  Simply go to Object Mode, and add modifier > edgesplit.

With that done, Select the faces that you see selected below and the Extrude and Scale.  Before and after images are below.

Select the faces that you see selected below.

And select the faces selected below as well.

Now simply Extrude, ESC, Scale, Extrude, and Scale.  After images are below.  A word of caution though, go to top view for this, to ensure that your extrusion doesn’t interfere with the missile launcher.

Select the faces that you see selected below, and then Extrude and Scale.  Before and after images are below.

Select the faces that you see selected below, and Extrude them. Then repair the cneterline by putting X to Zero where needed.  When you fix your X coordinate this time, you can do all three vertices at once.  The reason is that all 3 currently have the exact same position on the X axis.  CLick each one in turn and check the X coordinate, as long as the X coordinate does not change, you can do all three at the same time. Before and after images are below.

Select the faces that are selected below.  Then Extrude and Scale as usual, but this time while Scaling, pay attention to your mirrorred half.  When the edges of your extrusion are smooth, stop scaling, and Zero out your X coordinates as needed.  Before and after are below.

Rotate the ship and look at the mirrorred side.  Some really cool crap just happened over there.  It was not the intended effect, but it works out much cooler this way, so I am leaving it.  Because of our odd shaped selection, we couldn’t smooth all of the edges.  Some got smoothed, some didn’t.  Looks cool though.  Most times when Greebling, I will rotate the model after selecting the faces.  I tend to watch the mirrorred side more, because the representations there are more accurate, or at least...easier to see.  Anyway, see below for our accidental coolness.

Select the faces selected below, Extrude, ESC, Scale.  See below for before and after images.

now go to more of a side view, and Extrude along the Z axis.  See below.

Here we had a choice, we could have Extruded along Z, done  Grab and Drag along Z.  The only thing that would have been different would have been the wall along the centerline.  Instead of a flat top, it would have come to a point.  Anyway, Leave your selection the same, and Scale, Extrude, Scale.  See below for the after image.

By this stage of the game, you should pretty much know what your doing.  So I’ll just tell you what I want you to do, and you do it.  Make the Extrusion that you see below.

Grab and drag the three edges necessary to bring the back end in a good bit.

Now, to do the next image, Extrude, ESC, Scale, Side View, Wire frame, Extrude.

And we have a new missile launcher.  This was done to show you that sometimes when you are greebling, a new idea may strike you for the model itself, and that it isn’t too late.

By now you realize that my greebles are just Extruding and Scaling, and that when Extrude and ESC, there is an Extrusion at the end.  Every now again throw in a Grab and Drag after Scaling.  Remember though, Greebling is a lot of fun, because of the possibilities. 

In the next segment, we will Extrude, ESC and Scale as normal, but then Extrude downward.  Extrude, ESC, Scale, then Scale along the X axis, and Extrude. Grab and drag along Y to sweep it back a back a bit, then Grab and drag along X.  Grab the front egde of your extrusion and drag it back along Y a little bit to finish.  Top view and swinging to front view will help.  See below.

Select the faces that you see selected below, and then extrude inward to create a nice canyon down each side of the ship.

Two vertices merged into one at the top vertex.  See below.

Now do the same thing to other side.

Notice how just by merging those, we have created a “ramp”.  That’s how you do it.  Extrude, then merge one end of it back into the origin.  Simple.

Extrude and Scale.

Extrude, ESC, Scale, Extrude, Scale.  Not too deep though, or you’ll interfere with the missile bay.

Same thing, Extrude, ESC, Scale, Extrude, Scale.  Not too deep though, or you’ll interfere with the missile bay.

Extrude and Scale as below.

On the left, as you scroll around you’ve probably noticed Knife.  Select it now. See below.

The thing you need to know about the Knife tool is that it will automatically place a vertex on any edge that you go over.  See below.

Simple left clicking Gives you the capability to draw new vertices  Draw what you see below, and hit enter.

Select the faces that are selected below, and Extrude then Scale.  Before and After images are below.

I am personally not very good with the Knife tool, although I can truly see the merit of using it.  I won’t use it much in this tutorial, but you needed to see how.

Select the face that is selected below.  Extrude,.Scale, Extrude inward.

Same thing with the side, and then the bottom. See below for after image.  Do them one at a time.

Same thing with the side and bottom sections of the back end of the missile launcher.  Do the two faces on the side, then the two faces on the bottom.  Extrude, Scale, Extrude inward.  See below.

We will do the main bomb bay in four sections, two on the side, two on the bottom, but the same way, Extrude Scale, Extrude.  Just staying in the theme of the ship with our bomb / missile bays.  See below for the side and bottom of the main bomb bay after image.

Extrude and Scale as in the image below.

Normally we would continue to greeble on top of our greebles, and create layers of greebles, two sometimes three layers thick.  But we aren’t going to.  We are going to call it done there, because again, this is just for you to learn on, not for release.  There are three things I always do at this stage.  First, I check to make sure that all of the vertices which should be on the centerline, are in fact at X axis coordinate Zero.  Do this now.  Easiest way I have found is to go to top view, and select each vertice in turn and check to make sure that it is Zeroed.  Just keep rolling the ship along the centerline.  Easy stuff.  The other thing I do is zoom out a bit, and look at it from different angles.  Is there anything I want to change?  Because this is the last chance for change without it being a real pain in the a.....neck.

In the case of this model, there something that I want to change.  I don’t like the V-ridge running down the bottom of our main bomb bay.  So I want to Zero out the offending vertices, one at a time.  See below to see the vertices that I mean.

I am going to Zero those out.  See below for the after image.

Finally, I go into Texture Paint just to make sure that all of my normals are still set correctly and none need to be flipped.  We are good.  So, the model is now finished.
See below.

1.6  UV

Now that our mesh is good, let's talk about unwrapping. It is one of the skills that the FS community is in dire need of; when you master unwrapping, you'll be able to make many a project happy. And really, it's not that hard

1.6a  UV --  A word of explanation

Unwrapping will tell every face of your model which part of the texture it should use. You can think of it as constructing your model from a sheet of paper (the texture). Let's start off simple, with a cube. You remember that from high school, right? It's easy. If you cut the shape on the left out of a piece of paper, you could fold a cube with it.

Now hopefully, our model is a little more complicated than this one. And we're not doing origami here, so we're just gonna assemble our model from different parts, which are unwrapped individually. Those parts, we call "UV islands".

Still following? Now, many ships (depending on the species, of course) have some double-curved planes in them. What is double-curved? Well, a sphere, for instance, is double-curved, while a cylinder is single-curved. Curves are curves? Not quite. Single-curved surfaces are easy to unwrap, as if you roll up the sheet of paper; but have you ever tried making a sphere out of paper? There, that's the difference. Hence, double-curved surfaces will always be a little skewed; it's the job of the unwrapper to make sure that the distortion remains small, so that the player doesn't notice it in the end. For instance, like this; note that the texture on the model is distorted, but not too badly.

Think you're ready for it? Good. We'll first set up the workspace;

Press Ctrl-right arrow 5 times or until you encounter something that looks similar to the screens above, with a UV window and a 3D window.

Let's start plain and simple: select all, and press U -> Unwrap. Ack! Either the projection looks grossly distorted, or nothing even happened, because Blender just couldn't find a way to fold your entire model out of a single piece.

As you can see, we will need to subdivide the model into unwrappable chunks. You do this by marking seams; they are basically the shores of the UV islands. Select an edge, and press Ctrl-E -> Mark Seam. The edge will now show up in bold and coloured, indicating that it's a seam. If you accidentally marked a seam that shouldn't be one, use Ctrl-E -> Clear Seam.

Go over the entire model like this. Use U regularly, and see if the island that you just defined is recognizable in UV space. If you did your topology right, you'll be able to make extensive use of Ctrl-E -> Edge loop select; another control you may find useful in this stage is Ctrl-Num + , which enlarges the current selection by one row of vertices (useful for selecting protruding armour plating, for instance - select the top surface, Ctrl-Num + and you have the sides of it selected as well).
In the end, you should end up with something like this - still quite messy, but at least all the islands are neatly unwrapped, not distorted too much, and there's no overlap anywhere (this is important). I generated a white background image for added clarity, do this in the Image menu (bottom of the UV window) -> New..., set your parameters and go. I recommend using a square texture, Blender's unwrapper doesn't handle rectangular textures too well.

Now, in principle, it is ready for texturing - but there's a lot of room for improvement. Actually, we're only halfway through the unwrapping process.

As it is now, the texture is quite non-uniformly sized over the ship. Some pieces will appear detailed, while the texture is a little stretched in other areas. To remedy this, select all UV islands and press Ctrl-A. This scales all islands to make texture stretching uniform over the model. But it's not perfect yet - Blender has a feature to show you. In the UV-window, go to the View menu and click View Properties. This will bring up a window with view options. The one we're interested in is the bottom-left button, "UV Stretch". Switch it on. It's currently set to "Angle", and the islands should be mostly blue (if not, you'll need to add more seams). This is because the Blender unwrapper focuses mainly on getting the angles right - deep blue means minimum stretching. Grab a vertex in the UV space and drag it around - you'll see that the colour changes as the angles deviate more and more from the orginal ones.
The button next to it is "Area" - switch to that view mode. Now it's probably not all-blue anymore - we'll need to remedy that. Also, as you can probably see, there's quite a few overlap now. But that doesn't matter: we're gonna piece the islands together by hand, and try to fix the stretching as much as possible in the process. In ordening the pieces, there's two things to keep in mind: firstly, you should use as much of the texture as possible, and secondly, the texturer should be able to tell which part of the texture corresponds to which part of the model.

So, move all the pieces to one side of the texture. Then start to puzzle the pieces together - think of it as a jigsaw puzzle for men. While at it, try to minimize distortion of the texture as much as possible, both for area and angle. You may find that you need to triangulate some faces in order to unwrap them properly. Generate a UV test grid by choosing the Image menu in the UV window, then "New..." and select "UV Test Grid" in the window. Also, with the image painter (the button in the UV window with the pencil on it) you can paint your placeholder texture. I usually do something like in the picture below - the white I still gotta do, the grid I already did.

You may notice that the cockpit window isn't on there. I separated it from my mesh (with P), because I want to unwrap it as a whole, unmirrored. That's just a choice, but it makes life easier for the texturer in this case.

Some good unwrapping guidelines can be found here. About overlapping: don't have any overlaps at all during this phase, we shall be using "radiosity baking" (aka AO bake, see next chapter). In the end, my UV space looks like this, ready for texturing. And hey, congratulations, you have now unwrapped your first ship!

1.6b  UV walkthrough

Let me be honest with you.  I am horrid at this.  I have discovered a way that works for me, although it is probably wrong.  Walk through it with me, but really work on the the above when you are on your own.  I’ll lay odds that if you can grasp it, and “see” what you are doing, it will make things easier.  Remember, what I am going to do should be done only as a last resort, and only if you will texture it yourself.  Do NOT subject anyone to texturing a model UV’d in this manner.  Doing it this way may make things easier to UV, but it is much more time consuming to texture.

Two things before we start:

1.  If you haven’t read the above section written by FreeSpaceFreak, do so.  It contains information that you need to do the following walkthrough.

2.  Do not underestimate the importance of this step.  If you underestimate the importance of your UV, you will end up in Texture Hell.  Trust me, I know.  In fact I know it so deeply, that the point of this will be to show you Texture Hell.  So, let’s go to work.

CTRL Left Arrow (not numpad) 5 times.  It should bring you to the screen that you see below.

On the ship side, go to Edit Mode and hit A to select everything.  See below. 

Select Image, on the lower left, then New Image.  I called mine Bomber01, and made sure it has a white background.  I am doing this in 2048.  See below.

Then hit OK.  Notice that now you have a UV projection?   Still looks like crap.  On the left hand side menu, locate the submenu for “UV”.  You should just be able to scroll all the way to the bottom and find it there.  Make sure that “Stretch” is selected, and then select “Area”.  On the UV side (meaning move your mouse to the UV side), hit A to select all.  Then Grab and drag it above our UV work area.  See below.

Go to the front of the front gun and select any two adjacent vertices.  See below.

Now zoom in to the back of the front gun.  There you will find three rings.  Select adjacent vertices from each ring.  Selection is made in addition to the two selected in the last step.  See below.

Now we switch to the other gun, and repeat the selections there, keeping in mind that these are in addition to what we selected in the last two steps.  See below.

Now under the  model, Select > Edge Loop.

Now we need to zoom in on the gun mount for our rear gun, we need to deselect the vertices that are selected and not part of the gun.  Right click selects, and if an item is already selected, right clicking it will deselect it.  Shift Right click works the same way.  Deselect the vertices that are selelcted but not part of the gun itself.  See below for an after image.

Notice how on the UV side, the only things “on” are the gun parts?Drag them back down into the UV work area now.  See below.

Zoom in on the top left corner, and then Grab and drag everything until your top left corner looks like mine.  See below.

Now select any vertex in the island that you see selected below, and then on the UV side, hit Select > Select Linked.  See below.

Grab and drag it so that it is positioned as below.

Do the same thing with all of the barrel pieces, but not the end caps.  Put the barrell pieces down the left side of the UV map as below.  That’s really all that we are doing, putting pieces that go together, together.  Because we didn’t bother creating seams and unwrapping, we need to do it this way.  True texture hell is when you use Smart UV Project, and then don’t bother grouping things together.  Imagine trying to find each piece of the guns to texture it while they were strewn about.  Is it doable?  Yes.  Is it fun?  No.

Move your end caps in, try to fit them into blank areas along the left side of the UV.  When you are done, the left side should be pretty titght, but most of the UV should be clear.  See below.

Select the faces that are selected below on the model side of things, and notice that they light up on the UV side.

Select any Vertex on the UV for the faces that you just selected.  Then on the lower left, Select > Select Linked, and Grab and drag it down into the UV work area.  See below.

You can see that we have one area that could be touched up, and we have some funkiness going on.  Selected the vertices that you see selected below, and then on the UV side, Select > Unlink Selection, then move it to the side a bit.

Play with the vertices until we have a nice dark blue as below.

Move to the main section and start playing with vertices and notice the color changes.  The idea is to get them all as blue as possible, the darker the better, but not at the expense of the whole.  See below.

Add the Following faces of the canyon wall to your selection.

In the UV side, Select a vertex, Select > Select Linked, and then Grab and drag it into the workspace as below.  Once you get it there, Rotate it to position shown by hitting R and moving your mouse.  We are rotating it so that the “back” face points toward the bottom of our UV map, which is how our top faces are aligned.  The back of the ship is toward the bottom. 

Select the canyon floor and then Make the needed selections to move the UV into the UV workspace as below.  While you are at it, grab a vertex in the triangle at the top and make it blue.  Images are of the canyon floor selected, and the UV workspace after moving the selection.

Roll your model enough to select the other canyon wall, and then make the selections needed to get things to the workspace.  Images below are of the model with new faces selected, and the UV workspace after dragging the canyon wall UV in.  Be careful not to select the gun mount in this.  Be sure to make any needed stretch fixes.

OK select the first row of faces between the canyon and the missile bay.  Then move the needed stuff to the workspace.  Be sure to make any needed stretch fixes. See below for images.

Select the top Ridge and the floor of the missile bay, and then select a vertex for each section, inner and outter, before you Select Link.  Move into the UV workspace as below.  Be sure to make any needed stretch fixes.  The two images are just like we’ve been doing.

Select the interior bevels that forms a ring around the floor, then make the move into the UV space.  Be sure to make any needed stretch fixes. See below images.

Select ALL of the interior bevels for both missile launchers and the bomb bay.  Then move them into the UV workspace.  Be sure to fix any strecth issues. See images below.

Select and move the following faces that are not currently selected.  See below for images.

Select and move the following faces that are not currently selected.  See below for images.  I will give you three, one of the ship images will be zoomed in.

Select and move the following faces that are not currently selected.  See below for images.  Once again, Rotate them so the “back” is pointing “down”.  Then move them into position.

Select and move the following faces that are not currently selected.  See below for images.

Select and move the following faces that are not currently selected.  See below for images

You already know the drill.  Keep rolling, images below.

Select and move, images below.  Don’t forget to be fixing any stretching issues.

Select and move, images below.

Seclect and Move, Images below.

Select and Move.  Images below.

Select and move, Images below.  Don’t forget...stretching issues.

Still selecting and moving.  Images below.

Select and move, Images nelow.

Select and move.  Still selecting and moving and fixing stretches.

Select and move, Images below.

Select and Move, check for stretch.  Images below.

Select and move all of the interior faces of our main bomb bay.  Images are below.

Select and move all of the interior faces of the small missile bay.  Images below.

Select and move all of the interior faces of the larger missile bay,  Images below.

Zoom in on the bottom middle of the UV map, and make the changes highlighted in the image below.

Select all of the faces in the rounded corners of the small missile launcher.  The first image below shows that the small triangles in the back are also selected.  The second image shows that the rounded corner on the outside bottom of the launcher runs under the larger missile bay as well.  While selecting these faces take care not to select the bevel of the larger missile launcher.  Remember in the second image, that there are four faces in each section.  Be careful to select them all.  Rotating the model slightly while zoomed in will show you the fourth face, so that you don’t mistakenly select the bevel of the large launcher.  The third image is of the UV set up.

Select and move the following faces from the side of the large missile launcher.  See images below.

Select all of the faces for the Canopy bars.  Top and side, and don’t forget the end caps,  and move, see below.

Select the faces that join the missile launcher to the fuselage.  Don’t forget to rotate the ship to get them all.  Then move.  See images below.

Select and move all of the faces of the gun mounts.  Yes get both gun mounts, and see the UV image below for placement.

Select all of the faces of the greebles and move them.  Don’t do anything with the greeble walls.  Images below.

With that much done, go to the model Half and hit “A” to deselect everything, then hit “A” again to select everything.  Everything not in the UV workspace needs to be brought in.  Use zoom a lot.  Use rotate.  Just do whatever you need to do to each piece to get it in the workspace.  My workspace is below.

Save the file at this point.  On the bottom of the UV side, you see the menu “UV.”  Open this menu and select “Export UV.”  I exported mine as “bomberUV” and it may help if you do the same.

Switch to Object Mode and select the glass of our canopy.  Go back into edit mode, and press “A” until all of our glass faces are selected.  Create a  new image called Glass, 1024 is fine for this.  Then Unwrap > Smart UV Project.  Then make sure that everything is in the work area.  Export as BomberGlass.  Then switch back to Object Mode, select our ship, and make sure that all faces are selected.

Now on to AO baking.

1.7 AO baking

What is an AO bake? Well, is an image, that you use in texturing, which contains precomputed diffuse lighting on your model. Hum. A picture probably explains this best. See how the parts that are partially obscured from ambient light (around the engines, mainly) are actually darker?

So how to make something like that?

1.7a AO Bake How To

Go to the World panel (the button with the globe on it) and check Ambient Occlusion and Environment Lighting. Under this last one, set Energy to 2; further down under Gather, set Samples to something like 15.

Now in editmode, select all of your model; then in the UV window, generate a new image to use by all faces, make it 4096x4096 - this is too large for direct use, but it will allow the texturer to work in high resolution, which is more convenient. Then go to the Render panel, it's a camera. Look for the Bake tab, and set the bake mode to Ambient Occlusion. Then press the Bake button. WARNING: Even on high-end machines, this may take a few hours. It mainly depends on your processor power. When it's done baking, Image -> Save As... and there's a start for a texture!

1.7b AO Bake Walkthrough

I generally don’t work in 4096, because I am on my laptop, 3 years old and decidedly low end.  4096 is better though.  So if you can work in it, you should.

Remember whne we went into the Outliner panel during modelling?   Remember what you hit?  We are going to go into properties, select the icon as below (cube with up and down arrows) to get your panel menu, then select “Properties.”

In the Image below, notice the Black arrow at the top.  This shows you where your Panels menu is for the return trip, notice also that I am in “World” which means that the globe is selected. 

The White arrows are things that you need to pay attention to, and make sure that they are turned on.

The Red arrows point to the settings that need to be changed.  Make it like the picture.

The Black arrow in the Image below shows you that we have selected the Camera.  The White shows you that there is a drop menu called “Bake.”  Scroll down to find it, and then scroll down again once it is open.  The Red arrow points to the “Bake” button.  Push it.

Now go back to 3D view and wait for the bake to finish.  It’ll be a while.

In Texture paint notice how the back part of our gun is Black, and some of the faces are missing from the mount?  The normals need flipped.  Select the black part of the gun that is ouside the ship itself, and whichever faces need to be flipped, and flip them.  See below.

Once you flip them, go to the UV side, and where it says the name of the image, hit the X to unlink it.  Then create a new image named Bomber02. Hit A until everything is selected, and then gpo into properties and bake it again.  Check everything again after the bake, and if anything is still messed, repeat the process.  Repeat until all of your normals are correct.  Sometimes, it isn’t in your normals, but is in your UV map.  Make sure that nothing is overlapping anything else.

Once your AO is done and things are right go into your Properties panel and Select Materials > New.  See below.

Right next to the Materials  selector you see the red and white checkerboard for Textures.  Select it and New.  See below.

Now go back to your 3D view, and Select Image > Pack Image.  If it says that it can’t pack the image, it will also be asking if you want to pack it as an internal png.  Just click the line with all of the writing on it.

Then select Image > Save Image.  Save as bomberAO.png

Now go into Object mode and select the cockpit glass, add a material and texture to it.

Now select our pilot model in Object mode.  This may be easier by selecting Pilot in Outliner.  Right click on Materials and select Unlink.  Make sure that the Pilot is selected.  Go back to 3D view, Edit mode.  In the UV window you should see a texture.  On the model side, press A until the pieces of the UV map are showing.  Then hit the “X” under the UV image.  The image should go away.

Now select Image > Open.  Navigate your way to wherever you extracted the files from Pilot.rar, and select

Then Image > Pack.  Once you have it packed, bring up Propeties panel again and add a material and a texture.

That’s it.  You are done with this step.  Save the model at this stage if you haven’t done so.

1.8a LOD, Debris, Shield

Before we start on these, let's make sure the model is scaled and centered properly. Your model likely does need to be recentred, and it's a helluva lot easier if you do it now - else you'll have to manually fix the position for every LOD and debris chunk.

1.8a LOD, Debris, Shield -- How to

Choose Origin to Geometry.
Then in the 3D view window, the Transform Properties window (press N if you don't have it open), change the location X, Y and Z coordinates to 0. Now, check that the size of the model is about what you have in mind (one blender unit will be one FS metre), else scale it up or down as you wish. Also check that the three rotations are 0, and all Scale values are 1 exactly. If not, press Ctrl-A (in Objectmode) and choose "Apply > rotation and Scale" .

I assume you have an idea of what these are, so let's get straight down to business. LOD0 (detail0) is the one you just made; next up is detail1. This is the one that gets shown in the target view box - keep this in mind when stripping off detail.
So, duplicate your detail0 object with Shift-D (NOT Alt-D!), then Escape to duplicate it without moving. For convenience, move the duplicate to layer 2 (M, 2). Go to layer 2 yourself by pressing 2 (not on the numeric keypad). You can see what layer you're in at the bottom of the View panel, the 20 empty buttons. Go to editmode again, delete one half of the model and add a mirror modifier again; move it above the edgesplit.
Now start collapsing edges, simple as that. Switch to textured view mode with Alt-Z, make sure that the texture doesn't get distorted too much during the process. If you have taken care with your topology, this is when it will pay off - especially Ctrl-E -> Edge Ring select is useful here. How much detail to remove? I usually try to roughly halve the polycount between successive LOD - you can see your polycount in the top bar, Fa:####. Keep in mind that this is the untriangulated polycount, in-game the polycount will be between this value and twice this, depending on how much you triangulated yet.

When you're done with detail1, duplicate this to get detail2, move it to layer 3 and collapse more edges as you see fit. When you run out of inspiration, there's an automatic poly reducer in Blender; be warned, though, it's not quite friendly to your unwrapping efforts. I suggest you only use it for LOD2 and above. Apply the Mirror modifier, then in editmode, Mesh menu -> Scripts -> Poly Reducer. You will have to clean the mesh up a little now, it has a tendency to leave the mesh non-manifold.
When you're done with detail1, duplicate this to get detail2, move it to layer 3 and collapse more edges as you see fit. When you run out of inspiration, there's an automatic poly reducer in Blender; be warned, though, it's not quite friendly to your unwrapping efforts. I suggest you only use it for LOD2 and above. Apply the Mirror modifier, then in editmode, Mesh menu -> Scripts -> Poly Reducer, you can leave the default options on. You will probably have to clean the mesh up a little now, the script has a tendency to leave the mesh non-manifold, with free edges etc.
And how many LODs? It's customary to have 4, detail0 -> detail3. For low-poly models, you can get away with less. Here's the set of LODs I made for this one - note that on the lower LODs, the texturing is quite messed up due to the poly reducer. But the player shouldn't really notice it from that distance.

Then, debris. Duplicate your detail1 (in layer 2), move the copy to layer 5. Since the pieces will be flying off at high speed, there's no need to make hi-poly debris. Apply the mirror modifier. Then just start separating pieces that you think could break off (P -> Selected). Then close the gaps on the pieces where there used to be model attached. Assign a damage texture to the broken pieces (there's a texture named "damage" in the mediavps, I usually just use that). In order to assign an existing texture to a face, use Image -> Open in the UV window. If the texture you want to use is already open, you can select it in the drop-down menu to the right of the UVs menu.
When you're done making the debris pieces, select them all and recenter them, the way we did before; however, this time you don't need to set the coordinates to 0.

Oh, right, the shield. I always forget that. Press Spacebar, add an icosphere with the default settings. Make sure its location is 0,0,0. In editmode, scale it and skew it (proportional editing can help you here) until it comfortably fits around your model. Make sure that there's no pieces sticking out!
You don't have to use this icosphere per say, but it is recommended because it has a clean topology (as clean as it gets with tris). If you would use a UVsphere for this, the shield impact effects might look funny around the poles. And while 80 polies is not much, it's generally enough for shields.

And well, that's that. We're now pretty much ready for conversion.

1.8b LOD, Debris, Shield walkthrough

First, we need to get everything centered and scaled.

In Object mode, select the main part of our ship.

On the left we see our Object tools, and at the top we see “Transform“, and in that heading we see “Origin.”  Click Origin and choose Origin to Geometry.  ACK!  Well that won’t work for us today.  CTRL Z to undo.  Numpad 7 for top view.  Then Left click in the center of our ship, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  See below for my 3D cursor placement.

Numpad 1 to bring up our rear view and again Left click in the middle.  See below.

Looks pretty good so far.  But we need to make sure we are cenetered on the X axis.  Easiest way to do this is to open our Properties window by pressing “N” if you don’t already have it open.  Scroll down until you see the heading called “3D Cursor”. Change the X coordinate to Zero.  See below. 

Now on Object Tools on the right, select Origin > Origin to 3D Cursor.  There we go, model is cenetered.

We still have work to do.  In the Properties window, make sure that all of our Rotations are Zero.  See below.

Hit “A” to select all, so that all 3 of our objects are selected, and then normally you would use the scale tool (S) to scale it until the dimensions shown in the properties window are about what you want.  I’ve taken the liberty of doing this for you, so simply make your dimensions equal to mine.  See below.

* x = 21.087cm
* y = 32.152cm
* z = 9.292cm
Check your dimensions and make sure that they haven’t changed.  The number may or may not have changed, but also check to make sure that all end in “cm”.  Remember one “cm” equals about 1 meter in Freespace.

With that done, go to “Object > Apply > Location”.  Notice that our location in properties is now all zero?  Then “Object > Apply > Rotation & Scale”. 

With our model scaled up we may be experiencing “clipping”.  As you turn your model does part of it disappear?  If so then you are experiencing “clipping”.  We can’t have that because we need to see the entire model.  Press “N” to bring up properties while in Object Mode.  As you scroll down through your properties, you will see a subheading called “Clip”.  Simply set “End” to 5000.  Now you can see your entire model.

Now, in Object Mode select everything by pressing “A” until all subobjects are selected.  Once this is done Shift D to duplicate.  DO NOT MOVE YOUR MOUSE.  Hit ESC.  Now let’s move this to Layer 2 by hitting “M”, and then 2 aboved the keyboard, not on the keypad.  Then hit enter.  You should now have a second dot as seen below.

Now right click on our ship.  Bring up Properties if they aren’t up, and name this “detail1”.  Generally in this level I get rid of greebles and that’s about it.  Select the edges that I have selected below in the side of the small missile launcher.  Also, don’t forget the front two edges .  Basically select all four bevel edges.

Now hit the delete key, or “X”.  Notice that you have many delete options.  The one we want, is “Edge Collapse”.  Hit it now.  Rotate the model a bit and you’ll see that instead of that face down the side of the small missile launcher dipping “inward”, it is just flat.  Select the bevel edges that you see selected below, and collapse them.  Remember to get all four corners.

Not completely flat but poly reduction is always a good thing.

Do that to all of the greebles that we did in this manner.  Ie, the Missile launchers and bomb bay.  You can leave the side of the larger missile bay. See below.

Let’s move to the nose.  Select as below, then collapse.

Now finish that greeble off.  See below.

Pretty simple, boring stuff.  But stay with me, because there is one thing that we will need to do to our model before moving on to the next LOD.  Finishing the top section of the nose will be interesting.  We can‘t collapse edges along the line where we meet our cockpit and glass.  If we do we destroy that line.  So instead we will need to merge vertices to destroy the greebles there.  Always merge to the one one the line that we want to keep.  Select the vertex shown below.

Now hit “Z” to bring up wire frame, and select the other vertex that you see selected below.

Merge “At Last”.

Do this for the other vertices that are in this greebling section and along the cockpit, remember to merge to the cockpit line.  See below.

Now you can collapse the rest of the edges for this greeble.  See below for which edges.

Go ahead and kill the greeble on the lower part of the nose.  See below.

Select the following vertices by selecting two adjacent vertices and using Edge Loop.

Use “Z” to go to wire frame, and then CTRL + to finish selecting the tube.  Then delete vertices.

Select the ring that you see selected below, then go to wire frame to CTRL + until the tube is selected, and then delete the vertices.

Start by selecting one edge on the front of the gun barrel.  Then trace the face back to the second ring of the barrel, and select the corresponding edge.  Then trace it back to the third ring and again select the corresponding edge.  Finally, go around each ring and select every other edge, until all three rings are done, and then collapse them.  Below you will see the front of the gun barrel with the proper selections.

Now do the same thing to the gun mount.  Remember to trace your faces back.  Below is the front of the mount properly selected.  If you added this part while modelling.

Do the other gun the same way, delete the two tubes, and then collapse corresponding edges on all three rings of the barrel and mount.

Let’s collapse the greeble on the side, but remember that we can’t collapse on the cockpit line.  Select the vertces that are selected below, and collapse them.

Now make your merges along the cockpit line.  See below for finished.

Get rid of the greebles on the side and bottom of the nose.  See finished image below.

Go over the top and get rid of the greebles there.  See below.

Get rid of the greeble on the side of our large missile launcher.  See below.

That’s it.  Other than going odwn our centerline and Zeroing the vertices along it, we are done.  Notice that our centerline did get a bit screwy, so go ahead and fix it.  This time, hit Numpad7 to bring up the top view, and then “Z” for wire frame.  Then simply start at the front and work your way back Zeroing out everything that you think needs it.  When finished, hit “Z” to bring up our solid view, and make sure things are as they should be.   See below.

Detail1 is now finished.  I won’t bore you with walkthroughs of each lod.  But make yours as close to the images below as possible.  Remember that when working near the cockpit you need to merge to the line, and remember to check your centerline when finished.

Go to Object mode, Duplicate, ESC, M, 3.  Make sure that layer3 is selected and name it detail2.  Then have it.  Remember that when you are done with detail2 (layer3), you need to Duplicate, ESC, and move the duplicate to layer4, named detail3.  Then work it.



With our LOD’s done it is time for debris.  Go back to Object mode and select layer 1.  We are simply going to start breaking things. 

Select everything by hitting “A”.  Duplicate, ESC and movie it to layer 5.  Name it debris01.

Go into Edit mode.

Select all of the faces on the large missile bay.  All of them including the interior.  See below.

Hit Mesh > Vertices > Separate > Selection.  Go to Object mode and make sure that our duplicate is selected, and then move it to layer 6.  Name it debris02.

See below for layer 6.

Go back to layer5

Select the entirety of our smaller missile bay, Separate, Object mode, move to layer 7 and name it debris03.  (no image, you know how)

Select all of the Bomb Bay.  Separate, Object mode, move to layer 8 and name debris04. 

Then select the rear half of the bomb bay while in layer 8.  See below.

Notice that I didn’t select any of the interior faces.  This is by design.  Don’t duplicate, just Separate and go to Object mode and move it to layer9, named debris05.
Back to layer 5.  Kind of cool how we are just taking the ship apart.

Select the back part of the ship, but not the engine, and Separate it.  Move it layer 10 by clicking the box for layer 10 after hitting M.  Name it debris06.  See below.

 Back to layer5.

Select the rest of the fusleage but not the gun mounts.  See below.  Separate and move to layer11 by clicking the layer 11 box after hitting M.  Name debris07.

Select the rest of the nose, but not the canopy bars.  See below.  Separate and move to layer 12 by clicking the box for layer12 after hitting M.  Name debris08.

Back in layer 5.  Select all of the faces in the front gun.  Separate and move to layer13.  Name debris09.

Not going to bother with pictures at the moment.

Then other gun goes to layer 14 and gets named debris10.

Engine goes to layer15 and gets named debris11.

Finally select the pilot submodel and move to layer16, named debris12.

Before we do the shield, let me make a note about something with our debris.  It is far too symetric.  Once we duplicated our initial model and moved it to layer5, we would normally apply the mirror modifier in layer5, and then be able to break things off in a non symetric manner.

Now the shield.

In Layer 1 Object mode, select our fuselage.  Then go to the drop menu “Add” at the top left of Blender.  Then select Mesh  > Icosphere.

Scale the icosphere up so that our entire model is encompassed.  Then hit “N” to bring up properties if they aren’t up.  Under “Rotation”, change the Y axis to 90.  Now you should have a solid line separating the hemispheres of icosphere.  This line should run right on our center line for the model.

Select Object > Apply > Rotation.  The icosphere shouldn’t change, but the rotation now reads “0” again.

Delete the half of the icosphere that is covering the mirror part of our model.  Once this is done, just start moving vertices one at a time until you have something like what you see in the following images.

Notice how no part of the ship extends beyond the shielded side of the model.  Simple stuff.  Now in Object mode again, select Object > Apply > Location.  Then select Object > Apply > Rotation and Scale.

Finally move the shield to layer 17 and name it shield.  The last touch is to “Add Modifier > Mirror”.

Congratulations, we are ready to work the Heirarchy and then convert our model for texturing.

2.0 Conversion

Alright, so our ship is modelled and unwrapped, it has LODs and debris - it's almost ready for conversion. If you'd like a video tutorial on this, Rga_Noris made one, see here - I'll continue with the normal text + pics version.

2.1a Hierarchy

Your model hierarchy is important: it tells PCS2, and hence FS, which piece is supposed to be an LOD, debris chunk, turret, barrel, shield etc. Bring up Outliner. It should look about like this: for a simple fighter, there's only one level needed (this becomes more complicated with turrets). Note the object names: they will tell PCS2 what an object is supposed to be. detail0 to detail3 are the LODs of your ship, debrisxx are debris chunks, and shield, well, you can figure that one out. You can rename objects in the Transform Properties window in the 3D view (the N box, you remember that) - it's the text box starting with OB.

2.1b Hierarchy walkthrough

Step 1, Read the above if you haven’t. 

This is going to be very short, sweet and simple.  Go into Outliner.  Delete all extra cameras and lamps.  In the image below, you will see that all detail levels, debris, and the shield are separate.  Our detail levels have Pilot and Glass as subobjects, and one of our debris pieces has Glass as a subobject.  Pretty self explanatory.  Notice however that I have debris12 highlighted.  If you go to debris01, you will see that debris12 is a subobject of it.  We don’t want that.  Simply grab the orange triangle and drag it a bit and you will get the “drop” message.  The reason it is a submodel, is that Pilot was a submodel. 

2.2 Texture precautions and convert

FSO performance quite depends on texture count, so let's make sure there's no surprises in that department. In the UV-window, take a look at your texture list.

silenus2.png is the main texture here; damage.tga I used on the debris pieces. There's no doubles or useless textures in the list, which is the way it should be (it can get pretty messy when you start importing stuff). Caution: the texture names and thumbnails here don't always match the real name of the texture. Which is indeed kind of inconvenient. If you think you're suffering from this, export the model first, then check the texture list in PCS2.
If you have textures listed of which you're sure that they shouldn't be there:
Delete all materials you might have - textures used by those will stay in the model, even if they aren't used.
Use Object -> Scripts -> "Find by data use" in the 3D window; next to Image (not texture!), insert the name of the texture. Then press OK, and Blender will select the first object it finds which uses that texture.
If the texture has an O in front of it in the list, this means it's unused. Save your model, close it and open it again. The texture should now be purged from the file - save again to make sure it remains like this.

When your model is all clean and ready to go, go to File -> Export -> COLLADA. A dialog will appear looking like the picture below; make sure you have the same options selected, and make sure you know where you're saving the DAE.

The options selected on the left should be, Apply Modifiers, Inlcude UV Textures, Include Material Textures.


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