Tutorial: how to create a basic fuselage with some nice structural detail

Dutcheeseblend

Resource contributor
Hi everybody,

Inspired with my experiences with the fuselage of my Fokker T.5, I decided to create a tutorial for you on how to create something like this:

We'll create a straight fuselage section (so no cockpit) with:
- Outer skin
- Window cavities and rims
- Inner skin
- Longitudinal stringers with I-profile
- Floor

What we do:
- Use a basic shape to setup the basic shape
- Perform some modelling tricks
- Use modifiers in a smart way
- Edit some mesh
- Unwrap the whole thing

For who is this meant? Well, for anyone I hope! I'll be using my own tricks and sometimes I'll do things 'the difficult way' just to show a particular, often-used trick. Feel free to comment!

The steps:
1: Create a basic exterior skin with window cavities
2: Create an interior with basic structure
3: Detail the structure
4: Clean-up the mesh and apply the nice shading (smooth/flat)
5: Unwrap the complete thing
6: You know what? I'll let you guys do the stringers! I'm curious what your approaches might be

There we go! The resulting Blender file can be found in the zip below. Now stay tuned

Attachments

• DCB_FullFuselageTut.zip
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Part 1: The basic exterior.

We start with an empty Blender scene, remove all default objects if present. Set the scene to Metric units also.

A fuselage basically consists of a cylindrical shape. So, we start with adding a Cylinder. In order to do this, press Shift+A, Mesh, Cylinder.

For this tutorial, the default values are fine (32 vertices, 1 m radius, 2 m depth).

Rotate the thing 90 degrees around the X-axis (press R, press X, type 90, hit Enter). We want our fuselage to be 2 m high, 2 m wide but 10 m long, so type 10m in the Z-dimension (we rotated the cylinder, so it's local Z-dimension is now facing forward to positive global Y). Important, very important: reset the Scale (and preferably in this case also the Rotation) transformations by pressing Ctrl+A.

Now, enter Edit mode (press Tab and click Edit). We divide our fuselage in 10 sections of 1 m, so we add a few circular loops (9 precisely, for 10 sections). Press Ctrl+R, type 9 and hit Enter. The result should be this:

I always use the Mirror Modifier! It's very convenient. Somehow, I prefer to have the editable part of the object at the left hand side, so select all vertices on the right side and delete them (by pressing Delete or X, Vertices). Add the Mirror Modifier as shown below, and don't forget to check Clipping, since this makes sure the vertices at the center will merge after the modifier is applied. See below:

Basic fuselage done, now get to the windows. Add a circle with 12 vertices, rotate it 90 degrees around the Y-axis and make sure the width is 0.5 m and the height is 0.75 m. The width is carefully chosen because I'll use another modifier next. The window:

Back to the fuselage. Afterwards you'll understand why I'm doing this, now just follow the steps.
Select the front section vertices, press Shift+S and click Cursor to Selected.

Now get out of fuselage Edit mode and select the window. Press Shift+S again to move the window to the cursor.

Now, we use an Array modifier to create an array of windows. Add 10 windows (so set the Count to 10). The windows have to be spaced 1 m from each other, which is 2x0.5 (0.5 m is the width of one window, remember?), in a rearward direction, so put -2 in the Y field of the Relative Offset. Apply the modifier.

We now start cutting the windows. Thanks to F747fly who got us in this direction! First, select the windows object, then Shift+select the fuselage object and then enter fuselage Edit mode. Next, find the Tools tab on the T-panel (left of the viewport), Mesh Tools section, and click Knife Project.

Now, remove the faces that are filling the window cavities, move the windows object to another layer (I always use either Layer 10 or Layer 20 for this), just in case you should redo something. This will be resulting:

End of the first part. Save your file.
On to the next: adding a basic interior with structure.

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Part 2: The basic interior with structure

We continue where we left in Part 1, so use your file.

Blender has a nice modifier that solidifies things. It's called, surprisingly, the Solidify Modifier. Add it in the modifier stack, BELOW the Mirror (essential for proper working of this modifier in our case). We choose for a 2 cm thickness, so type that in, and also check Fill Rim. Result:

Applying this modifier will result into this:

I've been sloppy, the window vertices don't exactly match the fuselage edges. Select the verts that are close to an edge and Slide the vertices to the edge. This is done by Shift+V. Do this for every window, upper and lower vertices. Hint: select all of them at once from Front View in Wireframe mode...
You should see this while sliding a pair of verts:

After having slid all these vertices, remove the double vertices. This is done by selecting the entire mesh, press W and click Remove Doubles.

Now, the mesh is clean again.
Next on, we remove all rims (windows and endcaps) from the fuselage and put them in another object. This process is called Separating. Select the appropriate faces (use Alt+select when selecting a loop of verts, edges or faces), press P and click Selection. Now, these faces are put in a separate object.

We now also remove the inner wall from the fuselage. Select the corresponding faces and do the same as we did with the rims.

I now have hidden all objects exept the interior walls. I also hid the Mirro Modifier in the viewport, see below, to make my job somewhat easier.

Now, I skipped a few steps. Select from the interior wall all vertices between the windows. Separate them. Go into Edit mode of the separated vertices and extrude them 3 cm into positive Y-direction. This is done by selecting all these verts, pressing E, pressing Y and type 0.03. Hit Enter to apply the extrusion.

That's what we get, the beginning of the bulkheads (only this object shown):

We now choose a Solidify modifier to create basic bulkheads. But!
As you can see, the normals of the faces are pointing inwards, so the mesh will be solidified outwards!

Normals are the positive, rendered direction of a face (bad explanation, I know). To see how FSX renders these, switch on Backface Culling in the Shading section of the N-panel of the Viewport.

We invert the normals to get our bulkheads into the right direction. Press either Ctrl+N or Ctrl+Shift+N to invert them (so eventually, the normals should be outward pointing). Result:

Finally, this is the basic interior with a basic structure:

End of the second part. Save your file.
On to the next part: adding detail to the structure and interior.

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Part 3: Adding detail to the structure and interior

We continue our work on the bulkheads we made in the previous part. Apply the Solidify Modifier for 10 cm thickness.

Like I said, I want an L-shaped profile on the bulkheads. In order to achieve that, remove the forward and outward facing faces.

We now already have an L-shape, but with infinitely small thickness.

To this shape, we add a Solidify modifier of 3 mm (sounds reasonable for a sheet metal bulkhead IMHO). See which direction the solidification is done. And again, add it below the Mirror! Apply it (so first apply Mirror, then apply Solidify, then Remove Doubles, then remove the right hand vertices and add again a Mirror).

We now have nice L-shaped bulkheads. But, we want a floor in our interior as well. So, go back into the interior walls, make sure the Mirror Modifier has the clipping set to On, remove the lower two/three edges and extrude the edge which is now the lowest one, to the center.

End of third part. Save your file.
On to cleaning up the mesh somewhat.

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Part 4: Cleaning up the mesh and shade it nicely.

Because we won't be able to see through the floor, we remove the unnecessary vertices there. Remove these:

And Slide these vertices upward (Shift+V).

Finally, remove the lower faces. You might have observed that I applied my Mirror here already. If you do so (and you haven't split edges on purpose already), make sure that there are no double vertices anymore by Remove Doubles.

Now select the exterior skin object and the rims object and set them to Smooth Shading. In order to do this, press Z and click Smooth. Ah, and you can remove the end caps in the rims object.
For the experience modellers around here: I won't be covering things like mesh flow and topology.

Do the same for the interior wall object.

We have a minor visual problem here: the floor is displayed as if it were round, but in fact it's flat. Just shading the floor faces flat won't give a nice result, so we pretend as if we had massive vertices budgets and Split the edges at the sides of the floor. This can be done by selecting these edges. Now press Spacebar, click Search and type Edge Split. Click on it to apply the operation.

Next to do (I don't have screenshots here, I forgot), is removing unnecessary faces from the bulkheads. The outward facing faces should be removed, only the visible ones should be left over. Separate the inward facing faces from the bulkheads and joing the two object again (this is a dirty way of splitting the edges). Make sure the inward facing faces are smooth shaded.

Fuselage interior looks a bit better now:

This is how the structural details look like:

End of the fourth part. Save your file.
On to the next part: unwrapping...!

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Part 5: Unwrapping the entire fuselage.

I found Vertex Groups to be very useful when unwrapping some objects. So, that's the approach we use for this one too.

Select all vertices in the bulkheads object, press Ctrl+G and click Assign to New Group. In the Vertex Groups section, you can rename this group (to Bulkheads for instance).

Do this with every object. So, add the left side faces/vertices of the exterior fuselage object to the Ext_wall_L group, the rims to a vertex group, and so on. After you've completed this, all objects can be joined. This is how that looks like, with the vertex groups listed on the right. You can see that I removed the center edges from the floor after applying the Mirror modifier there. I could even have reduced the floor to one single face (I didn't, rather sloppy...).

Now, split your 3D viewport with the small triangle in the right upper corner (indicated with the red arrow below) and open the UV/Image editor window in the other window. Also create a new 1024x1024 pix, transparent image by clicking on New, below.

Simply unwrapping clearly doesn't do the job. Repainters won't like it.

It could be convenient to switch this thing on:

The most intuïtive way of unwrapping, is Projecting from View. Here, I did it with the floor from Top View. Press U and select Project from View.

I did this also with the inner and outer fuselage walls. It's not very safe, since only the faces between the window cavities are correctly projected, the others will appear stretched when textured. That's left as an exercise for the reader*.
Shifting a bit with the unwraps (make sure you stay in Face select mode, otherwise things will get messed up), results in this. I again separated the window rims and bulkheads from the fuselage.

Now, we want to unwrap the window rims only one time, but we also want to apply this unwrap for all 20 windows. I show you my approach.
I separated the window rims already from the fuselage. Now, I split this new object into multiple pairs of window rims, so eventually I'll have 10 new objects.

I choose one of these rim objects (I call this Rims_1 for clarity in the text here) to unwrap. By selecting the fuselage object as well while unwrapping the rims, I can display the other unwrapped objects on this map. We only need to check the box Draw Other Objects for this:

I now projected the Rims_1 object from the right view side. Then I selected the inner vertex loops and scaled them down on the map.
To apply this mapping to the other rims, I selected all other rims. As active object (the last one I select), I select the Rims_1 object (the unwrapped one), then I transfer the UV Maps from the active object to the selected (other) objects. Press Ctrl+L for this:

Now I join all rims objects by pressing Ctrl+J. Reviewing the map in Edit mode shows this. My approach works!

The same is done with the bulkheads. I didn't need to unwrap them from any view, just basic Unwrapping did the job fine.

I only had to shift the faces a bit.

Apply this UV Map to the other bulkheads (the same way we did with the rims) and joining all objects, gets us here:

That's it! Now, I'm curious to see how you guys tackle the longitudinal stringers

Cheers, have luck!

*Regard this as my revenge to the writers of my math book; the most difficult things are explained this way...

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Excellent Tutorial Mr. Daan!

I did not know about "transfer uv map". Awesome!!!!!!!

Good job, Daan. This should be very useful!

My brain exploded half way through part 1.

So much to learn from this, thanks Daan, great tutorial.

You're welcome guys

As a request from a forum user, I relocated all images in this tutorial. It should be readable again now.

Good luck!

Thank you...this is awesome.

Way to go Daan! You are showing from very educative stuff for a Blender Noob like myself. Keep 'm coming those tutorials!
I'm loving them, especially since you use "supporting visuals of parts" and "the used Blender_menu_options"

Hi there!

Brilliant and tidy tutorial. I hope you don't mind my intrusion here... however, may I suggest this as a "sticky" thread or maybe within the Resource section? Would be a shame to see this fade away into lots of pages across the website.

Keep up the good work and thank you.
Sergio.

Thanks guys!

Yeah, Sergio, it might be possible to Sticky this thread. Probably the admins know how to?

I possibly might extend the tutorial a bit more. There's still a lot left.

Hi Dutch