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Building LEGO models – tips from the pros

by admin on August 31, 2012

in Community Articles

(Written by Carlo Pandian)

How does a professional LEGO builder goes about designing and building LEGO models? This is the question I asked from LEGO designers, and I thought to share some of their responses with you. :)

As you know, LEGO comes in various kits and sets to create pre-designed structures, buildings, cars, airplanes, but you can also create your own! Whether it’s to encourage kids in some hands on creativity, or you’ve developed an interest in the idea of LEGO model-building yourself, some basic tips from professional LEGO builders should help you to design and build your first masterpiece. Below is a fun video of a LEGO Master Builder at work – first tip; don’t be this messy! :roll:

:idea: Inspiration is essential. Deciding on what you want to build is the first step in the creative process. The Empire State Building may not be the easiest building to re-create in LEGO, but your own home may provide the perfect subject to get the imagination going. In fact, a lot of LEGO fans start out with free-building by recreating their own home from LEGO. Generally, buildings are easier to make as they have a relatively simple form (unless of course you live in a stately home or palace) and make a good starting point for first-time LEGO model builders.

:idea: Drawing the building or object you’re planning to make out of LEGO can be very useful. You don’t need to be a Van Gogh, but a sketch of each side of the structure will help. If you are good at drawing-to-scale this can be a real benefit. If you are working with kids they should be involved in this process; giving you an opportunity to drop in a bit of sneaky education of math and angles!

:idea: Self-building in LEGO will need a little research as to the types of LEGO elements available for your project – windows, doors, etc. if you are building a structure, or wheels, windshields, engine-elements if you are building a vehicle of some sort. In fact, you might find it useful to start from a window or door available to work out the scale of your LEGO model. You can check BrickLink for all LEGO elements ever made, organized by category for a convenient search. You can buy LEGO elements by the piece at BrickLink, at the Online LEGO Shop Pick-A-Brick section (only currently produced elements) or at your local LEGO store. Garage-sales and flea-markets can prove surprisingly good sources for basic buckets of LEGO bricks, which will be useful (and inexpensive) for bigger projects.

:idea: A big part of the design-process is trial and error – even for professional builders. Even if you draw out the model you are planning to build, and get all the parts you think you will need, you may still run into design issues. Or you may decide to change your mind on a particular section. Things that can help is to try to build at least a section of the project from your current LEGO collection (even if the parts and colors are not ideal), and/or use LEGO Digital Designer (a free downloadable software from LEGO) before you commit to buy a whole bunch of new LEGO elements. You can also ask questions on LEGO forums and blogs to get some inspiration or to solve a particular design problem.

:idea: When it comes to the final LEGO model, one aspect that it’s easy to overlook is space. Even before a LEGO model is fully constructed it will usually take up quite a bit of space - usually in the form of a clutter of LEGO bricks all over the place. Ideally you could dedicate a whole room to your LEGO project, but if that’s not possible you may have to clear out some space in another room or the garage. If you can dedicate at least a large table to your LEGO project with some plastic drawers or bins to keep the pieces in, you can keep the clutter to a minimum and also keep the project out of the reach of interfering little hands and paws.

:idea: Be warned; LEGO model building is addictive and will certainly keep you occupied for some considerable time. You may also find that you’re more than hooked, and once completed you’ll be on the lookout for further inspiration. The next LEGO model you build could be on a grander scale, more detailed, and more complex. Whatever you choose, the first model will likely be joined by something bigger and better and may develop into a life-long passion of LEGO model building.

So what do you think? Have you tried LEGO free-building before? What was the first LEGO model that you designed and built on your own? What were your biggest challenges in the process? Share your thoughts and comments below! ;)

My name is Carlo, and this is my first post here at theBrickBlogger. I hope you found it helpful. I’m a freelance writer and I blog about LEGO, art and design covering everything from LEGOLAND Discovery Center activities in Manchester to cool gadgets found in Brooklyn second-hand shops. When I’m not online, I like building LEGO models and volunteering at my local community center. Your comments and feedback are appreciated! :D

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

LegoLotr August 31, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Great post!

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gid617 August 31, 2012 at 12:43 PM

I love that lazt picture! I agree, building is addictive! (And a lot of fun!) I don’t draw my models first, but it’s probably a good idea. The only probem with that would be if you didn’t have a piece (or not as many) as you had orriginally thought. Especially if (like me) you haven’t sorted them (yet. . . ) :D

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Shade Snake August 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Great post. I just don’t have the money.

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legostuff71 August 31, 2012 at 1:21 PM

When I build LEGO sets of my own, I just use what spare pieces I have. Sometimes, I go to pick a brick and get some pieces that I need on there. But, pick a brick doesn’t always have what I need. I rarely take apart other LEGO sets. I keep things as they are.

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NRG PYTHOR August 31, 2012 at 1:46 PM

me too!

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J.C. August 31, 2012 at 2:35 PM

This post wasn’t really about tips like the title implies.

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yodaman5556 August 31, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Awesome post!
I am the admin for BrickExtra -that LEGO news site that you [Carlo] wanted to be a guest blogger for. At the moment, BrickExtra isn’t looking for guest bloggers, so I am very sorry, but your proposal was turned down.

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yodaman5556 September 4, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Admin, could you please pass that comment (above) on to Carlo. :)

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yodaman5556 September 26, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Admin????

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admin September 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

Yes? I haven’t heard from Carlo for a while, but if you still want me to give him the message let me know. ;)

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yodaman5556 September 26, 2012 at 8:24 PM

Do you have Carlo’s email address? Because I think it would be better if I could email him the full message… :)

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SKOUTLAW FOR LIFE ( THAT MEANS I AM A FAN OF SKYLAR LAINE ) August 31, 2012 at 7:20 PM

im using lego digital designer right now making a baloon pop carnival game and a drop ride

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studless September 1, 2012 at 3:01 AM

I hardly ever not free build, the times that I don’t are when I am following instructions or looking at a picture and trying to figure out the inner workings. And I am the least organized lego person you might ever meet.

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gid617 September 1, 2012 at 2:15 PM

My brother is pretty un-organized. Yeah, he divides his LEGOs into several different buckets (and a pile on the floor), but the division isn’t particularly thorough. ;)

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studless September 1, 2012 at 3:05 AM

And I use LDD A lot. (LDD=Lego Digital Designer) There are a couple problems with LDD, the most common one is that you can’t use non-official part usage. :$

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bejeken September 1, 2012 at 1:02 PM

That was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WhenI grow up im going to be a lego designer.

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Strider December 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Great post. I was feeling extremely enviius of whoever owns that wonderful Lego room in the picture :)

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admin December 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Yeah, a real LEGO room is my dream also! Right now I just have LEGO corners. :roll:

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Fingolfin August 19, 2013 at 3:39 AM

Ive been freebuilding since i was seven.. i like it MUCH better than following instructions.

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Darthmogul September 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM

My first self-designed model was a small hovercraft made from the extra pieces of the 2013 Republic attack gunship and the pieces of the clone troopers vs droidekas set

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Stella Donoghue October 26, 2013 at 2:54 PM

My young son is looking for ideas to build a Lego ships from the spare bricks he has at home.

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