Before we actually begin working on the model, let’s make clear the difference between a regular spacecraft and a steampunk spacecraft. Although both of them are based on science fiction, the steampunk spacecraft has a few important characteristics that differ from a regular hi-tech spacecraft.
Imagine a world where the advances of science and machinery were actually developed centuries ago. For example, imagine medieval knights using hi-tech armor and destroying castles with rockets. It may sound strange, as the rockets have been made only for the army in the last century. What would a fighter jet look like in the Middle Ages? It would be a mix of steel, glass, and wood.
The steampunk environment is made out of these kinds of things, modern objects and vehicles produced and developed in a parallel universe, where those discoveries were made long ago.
The secret of designing a good steampunk vehicle or object is to mix the recent technology with the materials and methods available in past times, such as wood and bronze to make a space suit. If you need some inspiration to design objects like those, watch some recent movies that use a steampunk environment to create some interesting machines. But, to really get to the source, I do recommend that you read some books written by Jules Verne, who wrote about incredible environments and machines that dive deep into the ocean or travel to outer space.
The following image is an example of a steampunk weapon (Image credits: Halogen Gallery, licensed under Creative Commons):
Next is a steampunk historical character (Image credits: Sparr0, licensed under Creative Commons):
Here are a few resources to find out more about Steam Punk:
- Steampunk at Wikipedia, with lots of resources:
- Guide to drawing and creating steampunk machinery:
- Showcase of steampunk technology:
Now that we know how to design a good steampunk machine, let’s discuss the concept of this spacecraft. For this project, we will design a machine that mixes some elements of steel, but not those fancy industrial plates and welded parts. Instead, our machine will have the look and feel of a machine built by a blacksmith. As it would be really strange to have wooden parts for a spacecraft, we will skip or use this material only for the interior.
Other aspects of the machine that will help give the impression of a steampunk spacecraft are as follows:
- Riveted sheets of metal
- Metal with the look of bronze
- Valves and pipes
With that in mind, we can start with this concept image to create our spacecraft:
It’s not a complete project, but we’re off to a great start with Blender and our use of polygons to create the basis for this Incredible Machine.
This project will improve our modeling and creating skills with Blender to a great extent! So, to make the process more efficient, the workflow will be planned as this would be done by a professional studio. This is the best way to optimize the time and quality of the project. It will also guarantee that future projects will be finished in the shortest timeframe.
The first step for all projects is to find some reference images or photos for the pre-visualization stage. At this point, we should make all important decisions about a project based only on your concept studies. The biggest amount of time spent on this type of project is with artistic decisions like the framing of the camera, type and color of materials, shape of the object, and environment setup.
All of those decisions should be made before we open Blender and start modeling because a simple detour on the main concept could result in a partial or total loss of all work.
When all of the decisions are made, the next step is to start modeling with the reference images we found on the Internet, or we can draw the references ourselves. The modeling stage involves the spacecraft and the related environment, which of course will be outer space. For this environment, Blender will help us design a space with nebulas, star fields, and even a glazing star. Right after the environment is finished, we can begin working with some materials and textures.
As the object has a complex set of parts, and in some cases an organic topology, we will have to pay extra attention to the UV mapping process to add textures. We’ll use a few tips when working with those complex shapes and topology to simplify the process.
What would a spacecraft be without special effects? Special effects make the project more realistic. The addition of a particle system enables the spacecraft’s engines to work and simulates the shooting of a plasma gun. With those two effects, we will be able to give dynamism to the scene, showing some working parts of the object. And, to finish things up, there is the light setup for the scene.
A light setup for a space scene is rather easy to accomplish because we will only have a strong light source for the scene, and not so much bouncing for the light rays. The goal for this project is to end up with a great space scene. If you already know how to use Blender, get ready to put your knowledge to the test!