Introduction: Learn SelfCAD- an Online 3D Modeling Software: Designing the Grand Central Station Information Center

About: I'm a graphic designer who loves animating, advertising and 3D modeling! Let me know if you have any ideas for tutorials and check out my website! Looking for a job if you need anything ;)

I decided to model the information center at grand central station because it’s iconic, a daily sight for many and beautiful. Although this may seem complicated, I'm going to show you how using some key tools for this project can be easy!

Step 1: Take Measurements

For this project I’m going to try to get some measurement accurate, I brought in a reference image that looked like it was a straight shot. I realize this model won’t be exactly in proportion because the image surely has some skewing and it’s hard to take measurements from an image but I think it’ll be close. (you can learn how to do the reference image in this tutorial: ) If you check Utilities, you’ll find measurements and if you click on that you can measure an object, profile, surface, or image. To measure you click on one end of where you want to measure and then click on the other end, I recommend doing it along a line so you can try to be straight and as accurate as possible. I have already done the measurements I’m going to use for this but feel free to make your own measurements.

In the picture you can see where I started and ended by the red dots. Once you have all your measurements you can keep the reference image if you like it but I will remove it so it doesn’t distract me. Please note I used multiple reference images to try to get accurate proportions.

Step 2: Start Building Your Window Unit

From what I can see based on the pictures I’ve been looking at there’s a circular part on bottom with a bit of a counter on top. Then there are all the window parts which aren’t circular, they’re each own window and parts that are pivoted around a center to be octagonal but with 18 not 8. Then there is the ceiling structure and of course the clock.

I’m going to start with the window parts and instead of exactly walking you through verbally, I’ll just post the pictures of the single window unit. Please note I changed colors as I went to make it easier to see what I was doing for the pictures, this is not necessary.

Step 3: Straighten Up Your Cubes

Here I'm starting to straighten out the pieces so they'll all line up nicely.

Step 4: Finish Building Your Window Unit

Build and merge your window unit

Step 5: Move the Window Unit

Then I moved it out 70 on the Z axes so I have room to make it into a circle.

Step 6: Copy Offset

Then I opened up “copy offset”, made sure it was copy by pivot, and made 17 copies because I counted 18 windows, my original + 17 = 18.

This tool works by making copies as it rotates (because I set it to pivot) and it will rotate automatically around the origin unless specified otherwise. By default if you rotate around an outside pivot the farther you get from the pivot point the wider the rotation will be, meaning if I were to move my window unit closer than the 70 that I set it to, it would need less units to close up the narrower circle. Ok now we’ll merge all the windows together.

Step 7: Raise

And raise them up so we can put the circle parts underneath.

Step 8: Build

Let’s make the part of the circle that is the counter and the base of our information center.

Let’s merge the 2 circle parts together the same that we did before.

Step 9: Create Walking Space

Now create an inside cylinder which we’ll cut out of the circle’s so the workers have room to stand.

Step 10: Bouillon: Difference

Using bouillon’s difference we’ll cut out the inner circle.

Step 11: Edge Mode

Merge the base of our circle and our windows together.

Now select edge mode.

Step 12: Copy Profile

Select the edges of the top of our window circle.

Click copy to make a new profile out of the selected edges, there’s a copy button next to the undo and redo buttons.

Step 13: Create Roof

Now add thickness to the profile, 2 should do it and then fill polygon and bouillon, union it.

Step 14: Create the Spiderweb

If you look closely at a picture of Grand Central Station’s Information Center you will see that it has almost a spider web of poles sticking out of the top, that’s what we’re about to work on.
Start by making a cylinder using these dimensions.

If the corner of your windows and the cylinder don’t match up, rotate one on the Y axes until it does.

After that let’s use copy offsets, pivot and make 8 copies to complete the spiderweb.

Select the original cylinder because that will have become unselected after you copied and use bouillon's union to put them together.

Then we will merge the spider web and information center.

Step 15: Use Shape Generator to Build Your Clock

Go into shape generator (this tool will be familiar for you if you followed the bishop tutorial)

For this tool I opened up a close up image on one side of my desktop and SelfCAD on the other to keep referencing the real image. I found this easier than opening up a reference image in the file for this part.

Because I’m hoping you have watched the bishop tutorial I am assuming you know how to use this tool and I should just post the measurements I used. Don't worry I'm still going to teach you a lot of cool tools in this tutorial.

Please note I scaled up the clock tower so I can work on the details within the shape generator and then after I will scale down so yes it will seem too big for the current information center.

Step 16: Scale and Move

Let’s scale it! This took a few scales and moves till I felt it looked right so bare with me and feel free to try it on your own that’s the right look for you!

It’s important to remember to first scale and then move.

Step 17: Cut Out the Clock Faces

Now we should put some faces on the clock. Make a cylinder so that it’s sticking out of both sides of the clock. I did this again later and it looked much better if the radius of your cylinder is 58. All the following steps can still be done as shown.

Then using bouillon’s difference cut the cylinder out.

Do that again but with the cylinder rotated 90 degrees.

Step 18: Put in the Clock Faces

The point of that was so now when we put in another cylinder to fit the holes the faces will be completely flat. So let’s do that and put the new cylinders in.

Step 19: Select a Circle Profile

Using edge mode now, we’re going to copy the profile of the edge of the cylinder to get a circle perfectly. We will use this to make an edge around the clock to help it stand out more.

Going into mesh and wireframe mode will help you do this.

Once you have the circle edge selected, click copy.

Step 20: Draw a Small Circle Profile

Now using the 3D drawing we will draw another mini circle, in this picture I made it 10 but later I scaled it to be 5 so you can just make it 5.

Step 21: Follow Path

Now with both circle profiles selected click follow path.

A cool aside about this tool is if you use it with 2 profiles it will outline one using the shape of the other depending which you selected first, while if you use a profile and a mesh then it’ll copy the mesh multiple times as it goes along the profile. We’re going to use both types in this tutorial but right now we’re using the 2 profile version.

Step 22: Line Up the Edge of Your Clock and Copy Offset

Nice! Now move the circle into position as an edge of the clock. When I did this it required rotating the edge and placing it by the clock.

Now use copy offsets and make sure it’s set to pivot, and it will perfectly place the edges around each clock.

Now let’s merge these objects together! Make sure to NOT merge the clock and information center so when we put in the design around the base of the clock you can still alter the clock separately.

Step 23: Use Photoshop to Make a Cut Out

Let’s put in some of the detail work on the base of the clock.

First I took a screenshot of this detailing, cut out the background using Adobe Photoshop, and made it into a PNG.

Step 24: Draw the Engravement

To get it onto SelfCAD I practiced drawing the shape in 3D drawing.

A few important things to know before you start this process is that, one if you click on or off of the drawing tool you’re using you can toggle having the tool working and controlling other things in the scene. Two is if the profile is still checked on the bottom right under objects, then everything you draw will be considered one profile even if they’re not connected or drawn right away, which makes sense that the opposite is also true and once you click off the selected profile you can continue drawing and make multiple profiles without having to go off of this tool.

So here I set it up so one of the prongs are directly on the Y axis and using symmetry I drew that prong, then turning off the drawing I moved the reference image so the next prong is being bisected by the y axis and continued drawing making sure throughout this process that the original profile was still selected on the right so this will all become one profile.

Then I close of the shape with the line tool.

Step 25: Fill the Engravement

Once that was done, I made sure everything was one continuous polygon by selecting polygon selection and hovering my mouse over the profile, if it selects the entire profile you know it’s all one and connected, if it only selects part of to then you need to zoom in and edit your profile until it’s all one polygon. Once you’re all clear, turn your polygon so it’s standing up.

Then add thickness and fill polygon.

Step 26: Drop in Torus and Copy a Circle Profile

Now we will make a torus.

Then use loop selection to select a circle profile.

Copy the profile and then you can delete the torus.
Scale down your design to Y 50.75 making sure to keep proportions.

Step 27: Follow Path and Place

Select your design and your profile and click follow path. If this doesn’t make a smooth circle then try undoing, adding resolution to our mesh and then put it in follow path again.

Now select the different parts of the circle you created and merge objects.

Then rotate your design circle 180 on the Z axes to get it right-side up and place your design to where it looks right.

Step 28: Image to 3D

For the next part we’re going to use a tool I have yet to show you guys, Image to 3D.

First go to wireframe and mesh mode, use loop selection to select and copy an edge of the base of the clock.

After click image to 3D and drag in a picture of the MTA information.

Great! Then scale it.

Put it in follow path, wrap, with the circle profile you just made.
And place it at the base of your clock.

Step 29: Add Lightbulbs

I don’t know if you noticed it because before I was doing this project I definitely didn’t, but there are lightbulbs at the base of the clock.

Let’s put them in now, go to shape generator, move it into place, and make a sphere for the lightbulb part.

After use bouillon to combine them with union.

Bring it into copy offset and use pivot to place them around your clock!

Now merge the lightbulbs together.

Step 30: Create Detail at the Neck of the Clock

Next step is we're going to put some detail into the neck of our clock.

Go into mesh + wireframe mode and select a vertical line here.

Then go into drawing and make a circle profile, about 1 radius.

Put both profiles into follow path, here I used the taper feature too but I decided later on it looks better without it but you can make your own decision.

Move it into place..... Do you know what we’re going to do now to get the design around the circle? You guessed it! Copy offset pivot!

Now reselect the first one because that will have automatically unselected and merge objects!

Step 31: Do It Again But With Bend

Let’s do it again on top to give some more detail, but this time we’re going to need to add some resolution before we copy offset.

Use the bend tool and keep bending until it looks about like this.

NOW we’re going to use copy offset, pivot, to put this design around the top, keep in mind depending how small your profile circle was you might need more or less copies to fill up the space, you can keep undoing and trying again until it looks right to you.

Then merge them together!

Step 32: Add Numbers to the Clock Face

Ok I think we need some numbers for our clock face.

Use image to 3D to bring in a clock you like and scale it to this size (about)

Drop in a cylinder. I made a cylinder that was the same size as the cylinder I used to make our clock face, but in retrospect I should’ve made a bigger cylinder that covers the entire face of the clock and then not had to delete the edges too.Line up the clock so only the numbers are sticking out of the cylinder, I know it's a bit tricky

Use bouillon’s difference to get the numbers by themselves (I have corners around my clock face and deleted them separately)

Once you have just the numbers place them on one face of the clock.

Now use copy offset to put it on the rest of the faces!

Step 33: Union Them All Together!

As the last step, select all of our features that we haven't yet merged into one and bouillon union it. (For easier printing consider keeping the windows unit and clock separate and attaching them after, maybe add screw and nut inside it to twist it in- check out my stacked jars tutorial)

I recommend removing duplicates before you completely consider it done so there are no overlapping polygons when you try to print.