Getting started modelling useful stuff

So, Ive been using blender and moddeling for a while now, but I’ve mainly been extruding very straight, not curved shapes. However, to make models that could eventually be useful Ive got to learn how to make more complex curved shapes. So Im thinking of trying to model a bell 206 helicopter (might be too ambitious though). Could any one here just give me tips of how to go around doing it? thanks

I would try to go find some references for what you want to model. Use google, or search around here and Cgtalk for blueprint sites. You should eventually be able to find enough to start some work.

Once you find them, load them up into blender and start modelling. I would suggest at the start using vert by vert modelling, and as you add more detail add a subsurf modifier and continue shaping and refining with optimal subsurf (edit the subsurf directly). From there its just a matter of modelling efficiently: different parts (rotors, body pieces, cockpit pieces, etc.) should likely be in different objects to allow easier texturing as well as easier modelling since you can move certain parts to different layers to hide them.

If you can’t find perfect references, you may want to use box modelling instead. This way will be in principle the same, however you will shape out the body using a premade shape, and then continue to refine that to your final mesh (still following the eventual move to subsurf and the advice on objects).

Those are general tips about how I’d go about it, but if you want more details on specific methods/ways to model certain parts/etc., then please let us know.

Modeling a helicopter is going to be much like modeling a car. There are several tutorials around that you have probably found, including those in BlenderArts magazine. It would definitely help to find blueprints or technical drawings since I’m guessing you don’t have one in your garage.

I definitely would recommend competing in some of the weekday or weekend challenges. They put you up against a deadline and in competition with other blender artists and that is extremely useful. I recently entered my first one and something as simple as a stapler became an involved model. I took it seriously but what makes it easier than a helicopter is that I had one in my desk drawer, I could take a ruler to it, and have it sitting right next to the keyboard while I modeled it.

Interesting things happen when models grow in detail and you will learn how to manage complexity. Go for it but be prepared to do several restarts as you learn some blender magic on the way.

Thanks to both of you :D, I’ll start piling up references.
Also, ForTe, you said that I should load the references into blender, this might be a noobish question but what exactly do you mean by that and how is it useful? Thanks.

You need to load them as background images in the 3d view. To do that, go to the view menu at the bottom and choose ‘Background Image’. Click the ‘Use Background Image’ button and continue to load it in and it should be there.

Background reference images like these are useful because when you have an axis-aligned orthogonal view (numpad 1 3 7 or ctrl 1 3 7 for axis-aligned views, numpad 5 for orthogonal vs. perspective view) you can model directly over the blueprint, so you don’t have to estimate with shape, form, and some details. You can just model and line it up from multiple perspectives with the blueprint.

Also, if you want more than a single reference image (so you can model easily from say front and side), split the 3D window and load a new image in the split off window. Each 3D window stores its own background image for you to use.

Thanks! I can see why that would be useful now.