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Making Blue Prints

1: something intended as a guide for making something else
2: photographic print of plans or technical drawings etc.
3: A detailed plan of action.
4: A model or prototype.

Blueprinting is essential for making costumes and props quickly. You need to layout the item in exacting detail so that you do not have to cut and assemble an item twice. "Measure twice, cut once" has never been as true as it is with props and costumes.

Whether you are making a custom item for an original project, or recreating something from a movie, your first step in blueprinting is to gather as many reference images as possible of what you are creating. Reference is key in making sure that the object you are creating comes out like you want it. Doubly so with replicating existing movie items.

Front, Side and Top-or-Bottom images are pretty much essential to have when blueprinting an item. You can get away with using 2 of the three essential views, but having all three makes it alot easier to create a blueprint.


Blueprinting Tools

Drawing on graph paper is the "old school" way of making blueprints, but even today it's still a good way to do blueprints cheaply. They used this method for centuries before the advent of the computer, so do not dismiss the idea of using a "paper and pencil" blueprint.

I like to use the computer program Adobe Illustrator to do my blueprinting. Once I have IMPORTED the jpgs into the program I can trace over them with the LINE tool. These lines are easily scaled up to the 1:1 scale I need the final blueprints in. I can also find measurements of various items in the photo while I have the image scaled 1:1. This came in very handy when doing my "Jack Sparrow" costume in 2003.

Adobe Illustrator is not 100% needed to do blueprints. Enlarging photos on a copy machine works too. You just have to figure out what the final size of the item will be and copy/scale the image from there.

Drawing a grid pattern in photoshop is a way to make blue prints also. If you make a grid pattern on one layer, then drop your reference image on the layer below it, you can scale the photo layer till you have the image sized exactly like you want it to be on the grid pattern. Print out the image via the printers scaling ability to print out a 1:1 blueprint of the item.

If you are doing a costume, not a small prop, a good way to do the blueprint fast is to have a transperancy of the costume and blow that up with a standard projector, or an opaque projector, against the wall. Then get some 36 inch wide brown craftpaper and trace off the artwork onto the paper. Instant 1:1 blueprints for costuming!!!


Scaling Photos

A lot of times you'll need a point of reference to do the scaling. If a thumb is visible in the photo, holding the item, then you can guestimate how big that thumb is and go from there. Other times you need to use ergonomics to figure out the size of an item. A pistol grip is usually 3.5 inches from the trigger guard to the bottom of the handle, make calculations based on that measurement.

To Calculate the scale of your print out you need to take the length from your photo reference and divide it by the actual length of the finished piece.

Example - 7 foot tall cartoon character

93mm on the photo should equal 7 feet (84 inches) in realife


1mm = (7*12) / 93 = 0.9

1 millimeter on my photo will be drawn as 0.9 of an inch on my blueprint.


Problems with Photo Reference

You may notice while working with Photo references that the image is a bit askew. This is due to the curvature of the lens and the fact that PERSPECTIVE comes into play with photographs. Things closer to the camera are bigger than things farther way from the camera.

One way to combat these problems is to have multiple views of the object you are recreating, shot from different angles. You can then compare the scaling of an object between the different photos and make an informed guess how large that object is.


Let's show you an example of blueprinting a prop from a movie.... Click Here to see the example.

Thanks to the REPLICA PROP FORUM for discussion blueprinting in detail and giving me tips on how to present the ideas of blueprinting to the fans

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