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in a scale of 1 : 160


DIY Buildings from the printer

Use the tools on your desk to enhance the visual appearance of your model buildings.

"What You See Is What You Get" were keywords on every other page now some 15 years ago advertising word processing packages. At that time it was quite an advancement but since then there seems to have been very little progress, but that makes a different subject. The subject here is the WYSIWYG production of brick walls for buildings. Three major approaches for production of brick walls spring to mind:

  • moulded plastic
  • scribed card
  • printed paper

The moulded plastic is described in the section on my station building. For N this generally means first making your own form and then make your own castings because the products on the market don't have the right bonds nor the right size of bricks. The main problem to tackle in this approach is to get the right brick colours by painting.

Scribing card is a possibility to circumvent this casting but it is an awful lot of work and producing the correct sizes for our small bricks is difficult. Using card the colouring can be by first airbrushing the entire wall in mortar colour and then finish the bricks with aquarel pencils. Fine buildings can be made this way but oversize mortar courses may not give the visual appearance sought and folding the corners into sharp edges is fraught with difficulties. Using laser cutting for engraving and cutting openings is a step forward but still leaves the colouring problem. Combining this with printed paper looks to be the ideal solution and is in queue for future experiments.

Printing your building in dedicated colours with dead on scale bricks is made easy with the current generation desk printers given suitable software to produce a drawing with photographic accuracy. This solves the colouring and size problems in one step and only leaves you with the task of producing nice sharp corners and cutting straight openings in the designed postions.

Building Toolkit V2

My approach into paper buildings is using Corel Draw (12) for designing the entire building, but other vector based programs can probably used for obtaining equivalent results. You need a layered structure so that you can switch off and on parts of the drawing for clarity while you work. The second requirement is that it is fully programmable by a script, Corel Draw uses VBA. My toolkit is based on this, bringing automated functions for drawing bricks in the required size and bonds. This includes patterns for corners and lintels. The new version also works with palettes besides the earlier random chosen colours in various shades. This is a great step forward because mixing certain shades turned out to be too much of a guess and miss affair. The extension also contains a new option for more or less regular stone walls. However you will probably find it not entirely appropiate for large size stones such as in viaducts as these are often only a sorts of rectangle with lots more 3-D structure on the surface than a simple printed pattern can represent on flat paper. The following image gives an overview of the current possibilites but it really depends on your creative ways with the package to enhance your drawings into top quality buildings. It is just a helpful tool taking out the pain of repetitive tasks.

Below you see an overview of the output options of the toolkit
example of bonds and patterns

To facilitate the generation of new palettes the toolkit includes a colourpicker for use with Corel Photo-paint. This lets you select a host of colors from an original photo and save them as palette. These palettes can be edited in both programs and picked and pruned. The palette editor facilitates renaming of the standard name 'StoneShades.cpl' and give it a new description that is made visible in the toolkit.


The toolkit comes as a set of files that can be saved into the Global Macro Storage directories named \GMS\ of Corel Draw and Photo-paint. Reported is that they work from version 10 and higher but I do not have any options to check that myself. They certainly do not work in version 9 or earlier. The program uses a file 'building.ini' to remember your settings and that is not compatible with that of the earlier version. The palette files '*.cpl' can be located anywhere such as the drawing directory but also in the corel palette directory. Using the files is by invoking the VBA macro via the tools menu and select the toolkit via the text box 'macros in'. Alternatively you can press Alt F11 and start the visual basic editor and then start via the run menu. You need this if you want to make additions and changes. The program is unprotected and guaranteed not to be fit for anything. Notice that it concerns an organically grown program and Corel has lots of undescribed features locking it up entirely. Drawing large areas with 10,000's of bricks is slow, even on very fast pc's, the time required looks to be a power function of the number of bricks. Thus dividing your brickwork into reasonable sections that you fit together by hand is a faster method. Once individual bricks are grouped I haven't found any limit in handling and they can be easily copied and re-painted. Redrawing from in-built colours to paletted colours is currently only possible via the main form. The palettes need to be read into Corel Draw using the palette editor functions from the tools menu or the palette open (via right clicking on the palette top). Only RGB palettes can be used in this version. Local versions of the program can be created from the VBA project editor by pulling the forms and module into the open project and saving it as part of the drawing. When you have trouble with accessing VBA please refer to the readme files for installation that came with Corel.

An example built with version 1 of the toolkit
signalbox photo