I got halfway through writing this tutorial using Auriel’s Bow as an example but gave up due to it being too complicated/detailed and just couldn’t be bothered finishing it. But a week later I decided to try again this time using the Nightingale Bow as an example. This was perfect as I’m planing a particular remake that will benefit from this blueprint, hint hint!
This tutorial will go though step by step showing how to use a MacBooks built in function and a free app to make blueprints for props. I’m not that great when it comes to using photoshop programs and I didn’t really want to spend money on buying one to then learn how to use. So when I stumbled upon these functions through some online forums I was more than excited to test their worthiness for making blueprints.
The first thing you want to do is download a free app called “Paint X Lite” from the App Store. You won’t need the full version for this.
Then you want to find a reference photo that show what you want to make at a flat angle. Its better your reference photo is flat as this makes drawing it out easier because you have a full view the prop.
Below I have included what is a good reference image looks like vs a bad one.
Notice how the second picture isn’t quite flat which obscures the outside lines, while the first picture is completely flat showing the overall shape as well as the fine details. I think its also important to note that if you can its best to get a reference image that has a transparent or white background. This will mean you use less ink when printing and don’t have to spend time whiting the background out yourself.
I got my reference image from the Skyrim Wiki which I linked earlier. The background is transparent which is a great bonus.
Then you want to save that image, I saved mine to a folder containing all of my reference images and progress pictures keeping things together.
You then want to open your image up and it will look like this.
Next you want to click on the little briefcase icon at the top of the page. This is called the “Markup Toolbar” and its what you’ll be using to draw the blueprint.
Now because the Nightingale bow is mostly black using a black outline is going to be difficult. So for this I decided to use red as a base outline colour but any contrasting colour will work. You can change the colour of the pen by selecting the two boxes (circled) at the top of the page and changing them to a contrasting colour.
To begin drawing your outline you have two options. You can use ‘shapes’ which is similar to Vector drawing. Or you can select ‘sketch’ which is just as it sounds but cleaning up lines is easier. Sketch is highlighted in blue which shapes is highlighted in red. For the first part of this tutorial I’ll be showing how to use the shapes option but I’ll switch to sketch later on. Use which ever suits you!
When using shapes once you click the diagonal line in the drop down box a line will appear with three dots on it, one on either end and in the centre. I’m going to refer to these as ‘side nodes’ and ‘centre node’, because I actually remember information from Year 12 maths!
Mastering how these lines work takes a little bit of time but here are a few basic rules to get you going.
You can make the line smaller by clicking and dragging a side node closer to the centre node. This also works in reverse by dragging a side node away from a centre node making the line larger.
You can pick up and move the lines anywhere by moving your cursor over the line until it becomes a hand indicating that you can pick it up, you can then move the whole line anywhere. Alternatively you can just drag one side node to the spot you want it and then move the other side node into the position you want it as well.
The centre node it key for making curves. By clicking and dragging the centre node in any direction to create a curve. You can create tight curves by moving the centre node closer to one of the side nodes or gradual curves by keeping an Evan distance between the centre node and the side nodes.
Its all about experimenting! The lines are movable (within the same session) once you’ve placed them if you make any mistakes.
For example above I have stretched the two side nodes to the outside of the bow over a curve. By clicking and dragging the centre node to the curve and moving it around until it lines up with the outline of the bow it forms a curve exactly like that on the prop.
By continuing to do this all the way around your prop it’ll be outlined in no time.
TIP, sometimes using smaller consecutive lines will make going around tight corners or sharp angels that much easier.
Here I have finished outlining the outside of one half of the bow and can start on the details inside the bow.
Before I start that though I’m going to change the line thickness to something smaller which will make the details that little bit more accurate. It also means that there won’t be any thick lines to overlap or get too close to one another.
You can change the line thickness by clicking on the icon that is just three lines in different sizes on top of each other. Self explanatory really!
Once you’ve finished with the inside details take a step back and appreciate your hard work. Or in my case prepare yourself to start on the OTHER half of the bow.
All done! It looks almost done but theres still one major thing to do. And thats get rid of the original colour on the interior of the blueprint. In order for this to print well it really needs to be white but if your happy with it at this stage then thats okay too!
Close out of the image, it will save on it own don’t worry! Then right click on it and click on ‘Open with Paint X Lite’
Paint X Lite (I’m just going to refer to it as PXL from now on) will open up you image like it has done below.
PXL is essentially Microsoft Paint for MacBooks. You’ll find most of MSPaints tools available on this version. By the way if you want to zoom you can’t manually zoom by using the touch pad but instead got to ‘View’ next to ‘Home’ and then click on zoom or unzoom. It took me far too long to work that out on my own…
Unfortunately as there isn’t a layering system (at leat with the free version I’m unsure about the full one), the next task is to use the eraser tool and start erasing all of the original image but being carful not to erase the lines you have drawn. These lines can be touched up later so you don’t have to be overly carful, just as long as you know the general shape.
As I had to use a contrasting colour for the first outline I wanted to change the red lines to black as I find it reads better on a blue print. I also didn’t want to unnecessarily use up coloured ink. You can try and use the paint bucket tool to select sections of the outline to colour black but the method is time consuming and you’re better off using the next technique.
Here I opened up the image in mark up again and this time started using the sketch tool to draw over the red lines (I ended up drawing over all of the lines again).
The great thing about the sketch function is that you can draw the lines in any length and when you finish a line the side and centre nodes will appear meaning you can change the shapes it if you didn’t do something they way you wanted the first time.
Another awesome thing is being able to draw curves more easily. Like when a drew the spiral pattern above it didn’t flex into a straight line instead maintaining the spiral design. Its also important to not the top left corner, sometimes if the line you draw is similar to a straight line it will flex into a straight line to undo this from happening just click on top box (the blue one) which will be the shape you originally drew and it will flex back into that shape. This also happens with drawing curvy designs and they may flex into circles, again just select the box that has a picture of your draw design and it will change back.
Then just keep drawing over the lines until your finished!
Take a step back and marvel at your awesome new blueprint!
Making this blueprint took me around 3 hours, remember the level of detail and the size of the prop you’re working on will impact on how long it takes to draw it up. Once I had some music playing the process was kind of relaxing and not as bad as you might think. Its fun to do once you get the hang of using all the different tools.
But now you have your blueprint, how should you print it?
Well I have a tutorial for that too! Scaling/Printing Blueprints (Posterazor). It really easy and simple to use and doesn’t require any fancy maths or photoshop. Which is perfect for people like me who are terrible at that stuff.
And thats how I draw all of my blueprints up! I hope this tutorial helps with your own projects and if you use this tutorial I’d love to see the outcome!
If theres anything you think I can add or explain better please tell me, I’m always looking to improve my work and make documenting my work beneficial for others.
Thank you for reading