Creating Lego models with LDraw, Part 1: Getting Started


Were you ever fond of Lego? Remember those days when you were young, spending endless hours building and tweaking that new model you had just created? How long had you been searching for that one part amongst the hundreds or thousands of unsorted bricks and figures lying all around you?

I was and still am one of those who enjoys building Lego creations on a weekly, even daily basis when I have time, and I still really do enjoy it as much as I used to when I was still a child.

Before I got back to building physical models, there was a time when my expenses were counted, and where Lego did not have any part in my budget. Looking around online, I was dumbstruck when I found out about the LDraw community and the magnificent project the late James Jessiman had put together. He had literally awoken the child in me itching to build once more: that was back in 2003.

I have made countless virtual and now physical models ever since, thanks to the ever so growing community effort that is LDraw.

For those of you unaware of what LDraw is all about, simply put, it is a means to build virtual/digital Lego models, using a community maintained parts database and the appropriate editor (because there are many to choose from >_< ).

You can then use the finished product to generate renders, instructions and even have them showcased in 3D!

Yes, in 3D, the same way you would go about in viewing your creation, on your computer, using one of the LDraw rendering utilities (such as LDView), you can take advantage of the various 3D format cross-compatibilities and export your model to be easily uploaded online and showcased in full WebGL 3D!

Along the way, I have extensively experimented and used various techniques and applications to achieve an efficient result. By efficient, I mean an easy, satisfactory way to have the models exported and uploaded, whether it be 1, 10 or 100 models at a time.

What I am about to share with you are the basic steps in getting started with Lego model LDraw-based editing, rendering, and finally their exportation into compatible formats.

Having previous knowledge in 3D editing and content creation can be very useful as most editors can be a handful to get acquainted with, but are by no means impossible to use as daily drivers.

Heck, I’ve just switched to a new one myself after almost 11 years of using MLCAD, one of the most complete and feature rich editors, but for which unfortunately development seems to have ceased a few years ago now. So, to properly set up your LDraw model editing experience and for more detailed information on how to gear up for LDraw file exportation, choices of editors and viewers/renders, please visit the LDraw - Getting Started page.

Get started!

If you are a Linux-based OS user (such as Ubuntu or Fedora), you’re in luck! The Linux ‘Getting Started’ page was written and is mainly maintained by me. Its contents include several bonuses, as I also take part in testing and reporting bugs for several of those applications to help with the overall user experience and ease out all the severe kinks that might push away inexperienced users.

Have your system set up and see you next time for Part 2: Model creation and MPD file structure.