GUIDE: Making high quality building instructions in BrickLink Studio

A few people have asked me for advice when it comes to making building instructions for LEGO® models in BrickLink Studio. So in this guide, I wil take you trough all the steps required, like how to set up and prepare your build, how to split you model up into different building steps, and how to make a clear page layout that is easy to read.

I hope that this guide wil help you create great looking and easy to follow building instructions for your own models.

Part 1: Prepare your model

Submodels are a way to group parts together when building in Studio, but they also make life a lot easier when making your building instructions. So before you go into the instruction maker, go over your model, and look for sections of the model that should be built on their own, before being connected to the rest of the model. Think of a removable roof section, the wheel sets of a train, or a window assembly. All of these should be their own submodel.

To create a submodel, select a group of parts, and in the bottom-right corner of the window, click “Create Into Submodel”.

Tip! If you want to use a submodel multiple times (if you want to have 4 of the same chair, for example) only build 1, and turn it into a submodel. Now copy & paste the submodel to create a linked submodel. Linked submodels are automatically grouped together in the building instructions, and any changes you make to on of the submodels wil be applied the other submodels automatically.

Tip! You can create submodels inside other submodels for even more control. When I make my instructions for my own models, I wil often have submodels 3 or 4 layers deep. (“Steam engine” > “Boiler” > “Chimney” for example)

Part 2: Dividing you model into building steps

There are 2 main ways to divide your model into building steps. You can either do it in build mode, or from the instruction maker. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so play around with both and decide what workflow works best for you. I prefer using the instruction maker, but I wil briefly go over how to move parts to different steps from build mode as well.

build mode

While you are in build mode, you should see a “Step List” section in the side bar on the right, listing all of the elements in the model, and what building step they are in. If you select one or more parts and right-click, an option menu wil appear. From there you can click on “MoveTo” > “New Step” (or select any of the existing seps) to more the selection of elements to a different step of the building instructions. You can also click on the “Add Step” button at the bottom, and drag parts from one step to another.

The advantage of using build mode is that it is easy to move parts around, or make changes to the model while making the building instructions. The downside is that it can be hard to keep an overview of what parts go in what steps. That’s why I prefer using the instruction maken.

Instruction Maker

To enter the Instruction Maker, click on the “Instruction” button in the top of the window. This wil switch to a new layout, optimised for making building instructions.

The layout for the instruction maker may take some getting used to, but I find it a lot more useful for making building instructions. All the building steps are shown in the sidebar on the left, with the currently selected step highlighted in a slightly darker color. All the parts in the current step are shown in the drawer at the bottom. The 3D view shows all the parts in the current step, and a transparent wireframe for parts from previous steps. Parts in future steps are hidden.

To get started, find and select the parts you want to use for the first step, (usually part of the frame or another structural base for the model) and click on the “Move to new: Step Before” button. This wil create a new building step with the selected parts, and you should see the parts change from their normal color to a transparent greyish outline in the 3D view. You can select a part either by clicking it in the 3D view, or clicking it in the parts drawer.

Next, select the parts you want to place in step 2, and press the same button again to create another new building step. Repeat this process until all the parts have been assigned to a step.

You can also select parts in the parts drawer, and drag-and-drop them into a specific step in the sidebar if you prefer.

For complex models, it’s sometimes hard to see the parts you want to select next. In this case it can be useful to roughly divide the model into 3 or 4 bigger steps first, before creating the final building steps.

Submodels wil be shown as a single part in the parts drawer, and you can move them into steps like any other part. Just remember to also divide the parts inside the submodel into steps.

To create the building steps for a submodel, select it in the parts drawer, and click on “View Steps”. From here, moving parts into steps is the same as for your main model. To exit the submodel again, click on the “Return to Parent” button in the top-left of the 3D view.

Part 3: Page Layout

Once your model has been divided into steps, we can move over to the “Page Design” section, by clicking the button for it at the top of the window.

Start by setting the size of each page, by clicking on the “Page Setup” button. This wil open a pop-up window where you can select the page size, margins, and color mode. For digital instructions, the default options are fine, but feel free to play around if you like. If you plan on printing your instructions, the options you should use depend on your printer.

Next, take a look at the “Global Style” options in the sidebar on the right. These options will largely determine the look of your building instructions. Again, the default options are fine to use, but feel free to play around.

Once you are happy with your Global Style settings, we can move on to making sure the scale & view are set correctly for each building step.

To change the orientation of the model on the page, click on the page, and in the sidebar, click the “Change Step View” button. The grated-our buttons for “Model Orientation”, “Model Scale” & “Camera Setup” should now be active, and you can use them to change how the model is displayed on the page.

When changing the step view part way trough the build, it’s helpful to insert a “Flip” icon and move it to the edge of the page somewhere. This makes the instructions a lot easier to follow for less experienced builders.

Tip: You can automatically add a flip symbol when changing the orientation of the model, by opening the Studio preferences in the instruction maker, and enabling “Auto flip symbol” under “General”

Studio wil automatically try move the model to an appropriate position, but I usually don’t like where it places the model, so I tend to move the model manually.

To move the model around, move your mouse over the model until you see a blue rectangle appear around the model, and your cursor changes to a 4 way arrow. Now you can click and drag to move the elements around on the page.

If the step view hasn’t changed since the previous step, you will see a slightly transparent version of the previous step appear while you are dragging the model, to help you line it up with the position it was in in the previous step. The model wil also snap to the previous position, as wel as the page center.

Page Layout

If you are building a smaller submodel, it sometimes makes sense to change the page layout to show multiple steps on the same page. You can do this by clicking on the “Change Layout” button at the top of the screen, and selecting an appropriate layout to use. Clicking on “Apply” wil only effect the current page, “Apply to followings” wil update the layout for the current page and any page after it. (or until the next layout change).

Callouts

The default behaviour for submodels is to show the building steps for the submodel in the same way as the rest of the model. Usually this is what I prefer, but for smaller submodels you sometimes just want to see all steps on one page, along with where the submodel is placed on the model. To do this, select any of the pages showing the submodel, and click on the “Convert to Callout” button. This wil move all of the steps for that submodel into a callout box, that you can place anywhere on the page.

Buffer Exchange

It is possible to move a part in the instruction maker, this can be useful to show how to place a particular part. You can only move parts in the step that they are placed.

To move a part, move your mouse over the part until a turquoise box appears, now click on the part. In the sidebar, there should now be a button to “Activate Buffer Exchange”.

Once you click the button, some arrows wil appear next to the part, and the greyed-out “Offset” and “Arrow” options wil become active. You should be able to move the part by dragging on the arrows, but (in my version of Studio at least) this is not working, so I just enter a number into the X, Y, or Z offset fields.

Once you have moved the part to a new position, an arrow wil appear pointing to where the part should be placed. If this arrow is not quite correct, you can click on it and move it to a better position.

Part List & Cover Image

As a final touch, I like to add a parts list and a cover image to my instructions.

To add a parts list, first create a new empty page at the end of your instructions. Then, click on “Insert” > “Bill of Materials”. This wil automatically generate a list of all the parts used in the model, and place it on the empty page. (and create a few extra pages after it, if all the parts don’t fit on a single page)

To add a cover image, add a new empty page to the start of your instructions, and click “Insert” > “Image…”. If you are making instructions for Open L-Gauge, you can generate a cover image by uploading an image of your model here. The page wil automatically add your name, Icons & a link for the CC licence, and the Open L-Gauge logo to the image you uploaded.

And now your instructions are done! To export the instructions, click on the green “Export” button in the top-right, select what pages you want to export (All or a range), the format (PDF or PNG image sequence), and the image quality (1x, 2x, 4x).

I hope this guide has been helpful. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at ties@open-l-gauge.eu.

Cover Image Generator

This page wil help you too easily create a cover page for your building instructions.

** The generated cover image should not be used as the featured image on your model’s post. This cover image is only intended for the cover image of building instructions. For the post’s featured image, please just use a clean render of photo of your model **

to get started, simply upload an image of your model. The page wil automatically generate a cover image for you. For the best result, make sure the image you upload is the same size as your building instructions.

This image can be inserted into an empty page at the start of your building instructions, by following these simple steps:

In Studio, enter the “instruction” mode, then go to “Page Design”.

In the sidebar on the left, click on the 3 dots next to your first page. then click “Insert page before” to create an empty page at the start.

Click on this new new page, and then click the “+ Insert” button at the top. In the dropdown, chose “Image”

Navigate to where you downloaded your cover image, and select it to add it to your page.

Upload your image:


GUIDE: Setting up your account, and uploading models

Part 1: Setting up your account

To prevent spam and make sure all models on Open L-Gauge are of high quality, new users need to contact us via email in order to create an account.

To get started, please send us an email at contribute@open-l-gauge.eu and include a link to some of your models. We will have a look at your work, and if we think your models would be a valuable contribution to the site, we will create an account for you and send you a link to setup your password.

After you have created an account and logged in, a dark grey bar will be shown at the top of the site. On the right of this bar, hover over your username, and click on “Edit Profile”.

Here you should enter your PayPal email address (this is optional, but if you don’t enter a PayPal email, you won’t be able to receive any donations for the models you upload) and select how you want your name to be displayed on the site (either enter your full name, or select a nickname).

You can also set a profile picture, add some information about yourself, or link to a website. This info is shown on your author page.

Part 2: Uploading a model

To upload a new model, click on the “+ New” button in the WordPress bar at the top of the page.

You will be shown a pop-up explaining some important info on licensing and copyright, please read it carefully before proceeding.

To start, set the “Featured image”. This is the image that will be shown in the thumbnail view of your model, and at the top of your model page. This image should be in a 16:9 aspect ratio. To set the Featured image, expand the “Featured image” section in the sidebar on the right of the page, and upload an image.

Secondly, add some specifications for your model. These are also set in the sidebar, under the “Specifications” section.

Next, upload your stud.io file and/or PDF building instructions.* These are also uploaded from the sidebar, under their respective headings. The files should be smaller than 256MB.

You can use our tool to generate cover pages for your building instructions if you want

If you want to include multiple stud.io files, or add a separate part list file (a good idea if your model uses custom parts), create a .zip archive with all the files you want to share, and upload the .zip archive instead of the stud.io file.

Finally, add a title and write a description for your model. You can add text, additional images, or embed a YouTube video here if you want.

When you are done, click on the blue “Publish” button in the top-right, and your model will be uploaded and published.

** NOTE: **
Due to a technical issue, do not close the page or click any links immediately after publishing your post. WordPress will tel you your post was created and ask if you want to view it, but the model specifications are stil being saved. Leaving the page immediately will cause the upload specifications to not save properly.
It seems to be an issue in an external plugin, but I’m looking into fixing it.
– Ties

* If you don’t want to upload your files directly, you can keep the stud.io file and PDF instructions field empty, and link to files on an external site in your post. Do keep in mind however, that the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence will not apply to any externally linked files, only to the PDF instructions or stud.io file uploaded to Open L-Gauge.
You are only allowed to link to external files available for free. Do not link to instructions or stud.io files that are for sale on another platform.