Making a medieval town and castle in Sketchup (part V)

I’ve been progressing slowly through the modeling of the town but the scale of the work is getting its toll on my dedication. I need to take a break and do something quick and easy that would stir up the motivation with an instant (or almost) gratification. All right, not instant, but within a few hours range of work. The kind of fairly quick work that makes you feel good about your own progress.

So, I set out to model a small part of the city defenses that stands out on its own, a fortress that is attached to the outer wall of the city, near the river. It’s a fortification that is supposed to be able to work independently of the rest of the wall fortifications so it should be easier to model it separately.

Once I have the overall floor plan established based on the drawing, I start building the shape of the walls and towers with the width of the walls as this helps me scale the buildings more realistically, leaving enough interior space while respecting the necessary thickness of the walls especially on the exposed outside walls. I then export the base shape in a new file that will be lighter and easier to manipulate.

Then, I start to create part of the roofing and supporting walls. Again, as usual, I make heavy use of guides.

Here, the wall follows the roof’s slope in steps, very much like what can be seen in Northern Europe like the Flanders. This give a very distinct medieval look, although a relatively late medieval flavor.

Once I’m done with one side of the roof, I can replicate the same steps on the other side and finish by creating the planes that will cover the actual roof.

I now turn everything on xray view to cleanup all the inside geometry that won’t be used using the eraser tool. I just thought now’s a good time to do it before I becomes to crowded with details that will only make this work harder.

Once the model consists only of a nice clean outside shell, it’s time to raise some more roofs and also the parapets of the towers and walls. At this stage, I also decide to isolate the round tower and simply take it out of the whole model to avoid conflict with adjacent geometry as angled surface prevents me from pulling and pushing surfaces effectively. I nevertheless leave the tower’s base shape in place as it doesn’t affect my modeling but provides me with a perfect reference for later repositioning the tower in it’s right place.

Once all the areas around the round tower are done, it can then be re-inserted into the model with precision using the base as a guide. Because all the curved surfaces won’t glue to the geometry of the surrounding walls and roofs, I need to use the Intersect With Model command from the edit menu with the round tower still selected.

At that stage, all the surfaces of the tower in contact with other surfaces will split and glue to the outside surfaces they are touching. I can then clean up all of the extra edges and surfaces inside the tower by deleting them without screwing the model.

Now is the time to adjust the height of the round tower and model its top, battlements and roof. Then I proceed to do the same on the rest of the model, making sure the battlements will not have ridiculous proportions and position. For this matter, I use a bit of calculations to split the parapets evenly with a reasonable size of crenellation (within acceptable historical values) that is why you can see three guides for each crenel, the middle one being generated by splitting evenly the space between two guides, one on each extreme side of the parapet section. I then place an other guide on each side at the distance of half the size of the crenel thus creating the space for the crenel.

I now decide that the front entry (on the town side) need a bit more protection and add a wall extension in front of it to create a small barbican. Again, crenellation is added and an access through the parapet is created to allow a passage on the barbican’s wall where there is not space to add stairs.

A machicoulis is added over the door passage and a few steps are carved as I lower slightly the barbican’s wall top. By the way, to avoid funky looking stairs, try an actual real height value for the steps instead of a guess by sight, this is Sketchup after all and using real value couldn’t be easier. In castles, steps are rarely as low as in common contemporary houses, however they almost never exceed 30 centimeters, at which point they become difficult to use, even dangerous for encumbered armed soldiers.

Finally, after checking the structure within the town’s environment, I realize that the small surveillance tower on top of the big square tower should be best placed on the other tower where the outside ground will be higher, so I simply copy it, paste it on the ground to rotate it and then copy and paste it again on the other tower. More crenellation is done.

After all battlements are finished and all towers and roof completed, time to have fun: textures. Remember, the all point of the exercise was to get a bit of quick fun. So here we are, I first fired up Photoshop to adjust and fine tune some of the textures I’ve created before for the main castle (see previous episodes). Again, a good practice with textures is to try to evaluate the size of the space they would cover in the real world and then use this measure as a starting point within Sketchup knowing that in a model, it is almost always better to oversize textures a bit as they tend to become a muddy pack of pixels when set too small, but not that much oversized that it becomes clearly cartoonish of WoWesque (World of Warcraft makes heavy use of over-sizing textures and model proportions, which gives its distinct look) unless of course that is your intent.

An other way to avoid the murky pack of pixels is to carefully decide what level of detail you are planing on using. If you need to be sticking your nose, or your camera for this matter, at just a few inches of the wall, you better have a nicely detailed texture of those bricks. However, in my situation, because I am mostly concerned with the overall look of the model, and because of its size (a whole town) I’d rather keep my textures fairly on the small side. Having smaller textures also make your model look sharper from far away because there is less blending of pixels going on with fewer pixels to start with.

To avoid having a very boring and uniform looking model I choose to put a different stone texture on the round tower and adjacent wall structure. It could have been built at a different time than the rest of the fortress, maybe before hence the more rough walls built with a much cheaper technique. To alleviates for too much tone difference between all the different textures that are created with bits and pieces of different photos, I apply a photo filter to warm them up just a little and unify the overall color tone. This is still a work in progress so it’s not yet optimum, but it is fairly satisfying for the time being until I decide to take it a step further.

Because of the ground elevation at the area where the structure will be inserted, I raised the whole model seven meters from the ground. All right, we’re still missing most windows, doors, arrow slits, and minor details but I am a step closer to completion of the overall project and I have had some fun building and applying texture to this model: that was the goal so mission accomplished!

That’s all for today, happy modeling 🙂

2 thoughts on “Making a medieval town and castle in Sketchup (part V)”

  1. Just wanted to say (rather late in the day) how much I enjoyed your series on making a medieval castle and village. I have set myself the task – as part of a wider project on The Wars of the Roses – of creating a 3D image of medieval St. Albans. I am a complete beginner in Sketchup and found your articles absolutely inspiring. Many thanks for sharing it.

    Michael Payne

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