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What is the easiest way to make professional looking instuctions?

DaddyDeuceDaddyDeuce Member Posts: 272
edited October 2012 in Building and Techniques
I need to put together some step-by-step instructions for a simple MOC kit. I've used LDRAW before but it has been a number of years and I don't know what is state-of-the-art these days (and I never used LDRAW to make instructions).

What are the easiest ways to get up and running and print some instructions? Is it still LDRAW or are there alternatives?


  • beegeedeebeegeedee Galway, IrelandMember Posts: 380
    You could use MLCad/ldraw. It has a great tool called lpub which is very configurable. The issue with it is since the newest LDD it doesn't have such a good part selection. What you could do is publish to HTML from LDD and then use word or something to lay the images out yourself.
  • leemcgleemcg Member Posts: 607
    I've been making my own instructions recently so have been going through a lot of experiments. LPub is perfect for the instructions, although there are downsides, not least of which is that it's no longer being developed or maintained.

    My work flow is

    Create file in LDD - I find LDD a lot easier, as it attaches blocks together as in real life.

    Export as LDRAW file. I seem to recall you have to replace a file inside LDD to allow the export to work well. I got this information off eurobricks. Without this replacement file, I seem to remember cheese slopes being the wrong way round and 1x1 bricks with a stud on the side get left out.

    Adjust the file in MLCAD. In MLCAD I change the element order and add 'steps', and copy some parts as sub-models.

    Then I work in LPub to create the instructions. LPub just works from native LDRAW files - it just adds its own control entries - so you can still open the file in MLCAD if you need to.

    You also need to remember to open LView to change display settings because LPub uses that.

    There is a combined installer which installs the latest versions of MLCAD, LView, LDRAW, LPub etc.

    Whilst LDD can create instructions I have found there is no alternative to manual work - essentially you have to make choices about the order the build should occur in and which sub models will be built before connecting to the main model.

    I went through a lot of interations trying to find good settings for margins, colours, dpi, font sizes in LPub and have ended up copying the settings (as a text file) into each new instructions I create. I have also found that there are bugs in the PDF export (page sizes don't work) so I only use png export.

    Hope that helps

  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO USMember Posts: 8,372
    OR literally take pics of each stage of building which I think some people do.. although that could wind up as a huge collection of pics
  • Bludchylde1Bludchylde1 Member Posts: 22
    I've got an ldraw related question that someone may help with and I figured might as well ask here instead of starting a new topic. Running MLCad 3.3, LPub and POV Ray 3.6 on an HP with 3.2 GHz CPU and 4GB RAM running Win 7 Home Premium. Every time I try to render instructions both LPub and POV Ray lock up. I have run older versions without any problem. Any one know of a solution other than track down the older MLCad suite installer and install it instead? I have a backlog of instructions I want done so I can get them off the computer.
  • leemcgleemcg Member Posts: 607
    @Bludchylde1 I can't help with your particular crashing problem, but isn't using POV-Ray overkill for instructions? LEGO's own instructions (which would be regarded as pretty professional) don't even have the name on the studs. You can get pretty good renders by fiddling with settings in LView.

  • Bludchylde1Bludchylde1 Member Posts: 22
    never thought of that. LPub just defaults to using pov-ray on me, I'll have to find a tutorial on how to change that. thanks for the tip.
  • collect_thatcollect_that Kidderminster, EnglandMember Posts: 1,312
    I have just started working with MLCAD and LPub to create instructions. When exporting files from LDD into MLCAD as an LDRAW file some of my work/elements are not carried over, so when my model appears in MLCAD it is incomplete. I believe the reason for this is the parts directories, or though being new to this I could be wrong.

    Can anybody help me remedy this so I can continue my work, or am I doing something wrong?
  • leemcgleemcg Member Posts: 607
    I can't claim to undertstand the technical details, but there is a file inside LDD, called ldraw.xml which details the mapping from LDD to LDraw. The one which comes with LDD doesn't include relevant details for many parts.

    This guy builds one with more parts in:

    You just need to download it and put it in the right place. Hope that helps.
  • jwsmartjwsmart Member Posts: 298
    edited November 2012
    @collect_that - Exporting from LDD to LDraw is a crap-shoot. For the older, well known parts, it works like a charm. For newer parts (like the cheese slopes) it will have the rotation wrong, and others will simply be missing.

    The file that @leemcg is describing goes a long way to fixing that, I haven't used it in a while.

    It just so happens that I did a simple project for an ILUGNY event in Stamford CT (It's not my design, I just made the instructions), so I've got all the source files handy...

    I started in LDD, then exported to LDraw.

    Once in .ldr format, I cleaned up the drawing by fixing the position & rotation of any misplaced parts: .LDR

    Once it was exported to LDraw, I had to go through the rather tedious process of creating sub-models for callouts. One thing to remember if you want lpub to give you good instructions, is that your model (and any su-models) needs to be near the origin of the X, Y, and Z axes. I usually pick a part that's near the center of the bottom face of the model. I also add !STEP directives to the file at this point. (I highly recommend turning on the "Draw to selection" option in MLCad - that hides any parts that come after the one you've got selected, so it's easy to know if your part & step order is logical.

    After that's done, I typically have lpub4 and MLCad open at the same time, as some things are much quicker to do in MLCad than lpub, and vice versa.

    I should add that I use LDRaw as my rendered in lpub4...

    For example, adding the callouts and other !LPUB directives is easier in lpub, but I prefer to use MLCad to work Steps and Rotation Steps.

    Here's the finished product in .mpd (That's an LDraw file with sub-models).

    The end result is here:

    I've been meaning to do a better write-up on this. Mostly because the documentation for lpub is on the sketchy side. I know there's a book, but it wasn't terribly helpful for me, especially not with lpub4..

    Throughout the whole thing, you can have LDView open (I use it as my default viewer for .ldr and .mpd), There's a nice feature that will cause LDView to re-load every time you make a change to your .mpd or .ldr, so you can keep that open, and always be able to check out your model in a really nice viewer.

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