Ikea-style Instructions





Introduction: Ikea-style Instructions

How to make your own Ikea-like assembly manual for anything. In my case, I chose a baby; the instructions were for friends of mine who are expecting their first child in June.

Full .pdf of the finished result is here: http://www.summerblock.com/Ikea_Baby_Book.pdf

Step 1: Gather Necessary Software, Etc.

You will need the following, or equivalent:

--3D modelling software; I used Google Sketchup Pro and 3dsmax
--Adobe Illustrator
--Adobe Photoshop
--Adobe InDesign
--A handful of Ikea instruction manuals in .pdf, available here: http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/customer_service/assembly_instructions.html. Pick ones with similar layouts to the manual you want to make.
--Fonts; I had good success with Twentieth Century Modern throughout (bold-faced for the title page). Oddly enough, the Ikea Sans font that comes in the online manuals doesn't look quite right to me. I was using an actual manual that came with my bookcase for comparison, and the capital A on the cover, in particular, was hard to match.
--A 3D model of the object you want to assemble. Either construct it yourself or Google "free 3d model _" and fill in the blank. I was only able to find a baby model in Sketchup format, but then I exported it as a .3ds and used 3dsmax.
--A liberal interpretation of copyright/trademark law. Hey, it's satire!

Step 2: Sketch Out Manual

Using some old manuals as a guide, draw out on paper a rough storyboard of what you want your manual to be. Think in particular about what kinds of fasteners to use, what the steps should be, and what kinds of possible "warnings" you could have.

After you have a rough idea, think in particular about what kind of images you'd like to use--which parts of the model from which angles, etc., and make a list of all of these.

Step 3: Cut Up Model and Capture

In your modelling software, create a series of "slice planes" to cut up the model into the various parts you want, and create cameras to view the model from the angles you need for the manual. In my case, this required 16 planes and 2 cameras.

Now, by turning the slice planes on or off, you can isolate the pieces of the model and render images.

If necessary, open the images in Photoshop and adjust contrast and brightness settings until you have something that looks decent. Remember, it's supposed to look like an Ikea line-drawing in the end.

It's possible that by using something like the Illustrate plugin for 3dsmax, you could make a more convincing line-drawing, but I wasn't able to get it to work. Instead, I just turned the contrast all the way up and the brightness down a bit in each image; I was satisfied with the end result.

For help with 3dsmax and other modelling software, check out this website, with lots of helpful tips and video tutorials: http://designreform.net/

Step 4: Make Layout

In Illustrator, import your images and Ikea instruction manual files. Now, according to your storyboard, copy and paste the various components into place. Pay special attention to the perspective on things like tiny fasteners--you want to be seeing everything from a consistent angle. You may have to hunt around a little to find manuals with the right kind of fasteners you like, but with some combination of rotation and reflection, you can get pretty much everything you need.

Since Illustrator can only export what's in the "art board" as a .pdf, I made one large Illustrator file and several rectangles the same size as the art board. Then, with guides, I could make all the pages look consistent. Once you're done with all of your pages, you can drag the whole thing around until each page is on the art board, then save that as a .pdf.

Optional: customize the "preamble" pages at the beginning. I used one with written instructions translated into 18 languages, and I changed the word "wall" to the word "baby" in each, with the help of a polyglot friend. Also, I remade the cartoon characters to look more like my friends.

Step 5: Finalize Layout and Print

Open each page .pdf in InDesign and format them as a booklet. When you print, make sure to print front-and-back 11x17, four pages per sheet, and flip on the short edge. You'll need to adjust these settings for your printer, probably with some trial and error until you get it right. InDesign is actually pretty user-friendly about laying out the pages, though--you don't need to worry about which sheet has which pages on it. Just make sure they're not upside down in the finished product. Because that would look weird.

Fold the pages, staple, and enjoy!



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    How do I find a company that works with manufactures to create ikea-like installation manuals?

    1 reply

    Hello Michelle. Are you looking for some kind of technical illustrator?

    How do I find a company that works with manufactures to create ikea-like installation manuals?

    Dude what's with the premium software!? 3Ds Max -> Blender 3D Photoshop -> Gimp Design -> Open Office writer Support open source ;-)

    6 replies

    blender has a bad interface and takes too long to do the same thing. Gimp is nothing more than a transvestite MS paint. and the open office, while good, still isn't up there with the professional print software. I'm all for open source, but it should be good open source, not "this can almost do kind of the same thing!" open source. there's a reason one is paid for and one isn't, and it isn't corporate greed.

    Blender's interface, once learned, is more intuitive and faster then those of commercial softwares. it's people's refusal to use hotkeys and just sit down and learn how to use the software properly that gets it it's bad rep. Gimp is nothing like MS Paint. Where did you get this impression. And I find Open Office a lot easier to use since it has the classic menu interface unlike MS Office's overhauled interface. I can't do a thing in the new software but I get all my college work done in it. Gimp doesn't have all the features of Photoshop it's true but the other two are just as good as the major competitors for most people. In fact Blender in many respects is better than Max or Maya

    the Gimp is appropriately named. I've worked with graphics studios for years. all the graphics guys, everywhere, that I've ever come into contact with, consider it a joke, myself included. the best anyone has to say about it is "maybe, in a few years, it will be worth playing around with." blender3d has it's interface against it to start with, and the fact that it's based on java means you have artificially long rendering times, as opposed to a lower-level language from something programmed in C or C++. granted, this means it's portable. however, I'm not interested in porting something slow which can, after a great deal of work, accomplish something that I can have done in 20 minutes in maya or 3ds. so it's great... for a free piece of software. open office is nice. I'm not going to rip on it. it's well done. it's well thought out. it's well implemented. I like it, I use it, and indeed, a lot of open source stuff- the N++ editor is my personal favorite. but professional print software has to be good, or it won't be professional. if you want to compare, say, indesign to open office and tell me open office is better, I'm sorry, thats wrong, there is nothing that will support that. even if you point out all these nice features in open office, adobe's got the ace of interchangeability up it's sleeve, and so I can do a good picture in photoshop, get the effects I want, add elements from illustrator, make a clipping path in photoshop again to mask off certain areas for text, and transfer that to indesign. and since I'm not gimped, all my image editing is done in a real program- and this is a real time saver for me.

    Well you are entitled to your opinions of course. I get all the quality I need from the gimp and have never had any trouble following any photoshop tutorial using it. It isn't quite a match for features but since I don't work in a design office I just don't need the features it doesn't have. I'm curious as to where you managed to get a version of blender that was coded in java. Since every version I've ever used (and I've been using if for years) has been coded in C. Straight up C and you can script in Python to augment it. That said all the internals are pure C. While it's true software like indesign is better at what it does I still have no problems with interchangeability in Open Source software. I can drag images from gimp to Writer, edit any vector detailing in inkscape and so on. Again it's not as full featured a work flow but for the home use and for people who are in smaller business it's a more viable alternative to the thousands of dollars they could be spending on the premium software. Then again since you use real software you probably use every feature all the time.

    my mistake on blender, I guess I mis-remembered that, thanks for pointing that out. and I guess the best comparison I can give is the difference in software is like the difference in tools. if you've got a drill press, why use a hand-powered crank drill to do the same thing? or if you've got a belt sander, why use a 2" square of sandpaper?

    I can see we are not going to change either person's mind on this, and it's a fruitless debate, you are happy buying your software and I feel that I get just as good results in the same timeframe with my free software. Either way we both get our work done to a quality and at a speed that is satisfactory to our own needs. That is the most important detail. My main reason for posting is that many people who may wish to follow this tutorial may not have all the premium software to complete it and not wish to invest. I was only offering a free alternative.

    "Bud Light presents, real men of genius. Today we salute you, Mr. Furniture assembly manual writer. Insert peg A into hole B. Tab C into slot D. Then curse, cry and smash with hammer..." -BL Real men of genius. I head that once and belive it goes something like that, but longer, and sung, and done, and having witty song bits in between the verses. Sorry, just made me think of that.

    3 replies

    hey bartender can I have a bottle of southern comfort with that BL . I will make baby's the old fashion way after she gets drunk and in her car .

    ROFL! Very witty!

    Like that? Here's more of it. "Thanks to you, people eveywhere can purchase furniture Drive it home, open a box, and go completely insane. Knowing we can't read Chinese, dutch or german, you thoughfully provide pictures... Pictures that look nothing like the items purchasd"

    Wait, so this is how babies are made? I'm so disillusioned.

    2 replies

    This is a LOT better than the stork story.

    But... how is babby formed?

    Incredible,!!!! 12 points!!, thank you, i hate IKEA's instructables!! lol

    omg i justwatched the finished product this is great

    Umm... OK... The Ikea-manual part was good but the baby...

    Backs away slowly, then runs for life