Like any other creative pursuit, building with Lego is about being creative, designing and tapping your ingenuity. Nonetheless, there are also skills involved, strategies and processes that can make designing and building a Lego creation easier. Everyone has their own style, so the advice and tips I provide are designed to help you develop your own building style, but not to instruct you on what it is. If you like an idea I have, use it. What I am providing is a resource that you can use parts of in whatever way advantages you. The key to Lego building is ingenuity, creativity and out of the box thinking. But don’t worry, you can build without them and as you build you will develop those traits. As such your creations will continue to improve.
Above is a picture of my first ship. This image is my motivation to you. This was my first Lego ship, based on a sci-fi design. Bottom line – it sucks. It’s embarrassing, as are images of the early models below! That’s how I started out! The important thing is that i tried, though the first models weren’t very good, i improved on them. I had to start somewhere.
The photos below show the latest version of a Daedalus-class Battlecruiser (a newer version of my first creation), and a Battlestar (the creation pictured directly above). See the difference? The point of this is to show you how much your creations can improve over a very short time – to prove to you what simply ‘having a go’ can lead to!
Let’s get started!
The first thing you need to do is find something to build! Its just like writing – it needs to be something you’re interested in. It needs to be something that you want to make. Pick a design or an object you love! Almost every creation I have made has been a ship or object I love the design of. Whenever I have made something for practicality rather than passion, I have quickly lost interest and never completed it. So, build models you are passionate about! It doesn’t matter how hard it seems, remember nothing is impossible. Anything can be made out of Lego, Anything!! If something seems impossible, prove that it isn’t!
Next you need to do a little research, for accuracy get some good pictures of the model – know all elements of it and what it looks like from every angle. Know whatever you are basing your lego creation on in detail. Its good to have a mental picture of what you are constructing (from all angles) – if its abstract this doesn’t matter, but if you are making a model of an actual ‘thing’, it is important. That’s pretty much it, I don’t like to spend too long on the preparation stages.
On a side note, before building it can be really useful to have all of your pieces sorted. The way you sort is up to you and it takes a while to develop an efficient system. I have all of my colours separated, but only grey sorted into different types of pieces. This is because I use grey pieces the most. With the other colours such extensive separation isn’t necessary. I also keep my favourite pieces separate. These are the pieces I use the most. I keep them in a hardware separator for easy access.
Back to the building process, we’re now up to actually putting the pieces together! The best way to do this is to go step by step. Break the model up into sections and work on each section as if it was an individual creation, that means breaking it down again. The building process is simply a lot of steps. Just make sure everything can connect together! Its important to see each section as a whole, and make it perfect. This applies to anything you make, whether it is a spaceship, a diorama, a robot, etc. For example you would do each limb of a robot, its torso and its head separately or you would divide the USS Enterprise into the Saucer, Warp Nacelles and Stardrive. Start with whatever component seems most logical.
If you just can’t get it right, just leave it alone and come back to it later with a fresh mind – sometimes that can be hours, days or even weeks later! When I built the Battlestar Pegasus (the largest creation I have ever built) there were periods of up to a month when I didn’t work on it and that’s okay. I came back with a fresh mind and made it work. When you get inspiration make sure you remember it! If you think you might forget, write it down. Even better, when you get inspired, just build! (If you can).
Another side note, keep an open mind! You’ll find that unlikely parts can be extremely useful. For example: I made the perfect minifigure-scale machine gun by simply clipping a black hand from a Clone-Trooper onto a Star wars gun. Another example is the big Star Wars Death Star set. It is secured at the top and bottom with steering wheels from the old Pirates sets. Notice the unusual or ingenious ways other Lego builders and Lego sets have used individual pieces.
If it doesn’t look good at the end, keep on improving it over and over again. Strive for perfection, but know when to stop and come back to it later. Remember! NEVER GIVE UP! A creation can always be improved and it’s not a bad thing to start again. Don’t be lazy. It can be daunting to redo the whole model, or even a large part of it, but if you feel you have to do it – just do it. If you don’t you’ll regret it later.
As I said before, never give up!!
Once you’re done, make a stand, display it somewhere, give it a name tag. Then, if you want, take some photos and post them on the net.
Remember, what I have said is a guide – it isn’t a set of rules. Develop your own building style and take from this page whatever you like. If you’ve got any questions or are having trouble, I’ll be happy to help. Just leave a comment and I’ll answer as soon as possible.