The Making of 3Z Arctic Imaginary City Model Kit (1:200 Scale) "How to Make Almost Anything Almost Anywhere"

Introduction: The Making of 3Z Arctic Imaginary City Model Kit (1:200 Scale) "How to Make Almost Anything Almost Anywhere"

About: I am an artist/designer. For over 10 years, I've made visualisations and animations for companies. I now concentrate on making 2d and 3d art. I am fascinated with maker technologies and often use FabLabs to ...

In This Instructable, I'm going to show you the entire process of how I made my 3Z Arctic Imaginary City Model Kit (1:200 Scale) from concept ideas and sketches to a finished product.

I was fortunate to be invited to FabLab Isafjordur in the very North West of Iceland to work on creative projects for two and a half months due to my past work success at FabLabs. A kind of FabLab art residency. I had access to all the machines, awesome!

We can now make almost anything almost anywhere, at least where there is a nearby FabLab, Makerspace or somewhere else with maker tools.

During my time at FabLab Isafjordur, I developed a number of creative projects and taught some workshops too encouraging creative art and design projects with maker tools. Something, I am really passionate about.

The main project I developed there was one of my imaginary city artworks. Some of you will know about these if you follow my website and blog that I am fascinated with creating imaginary futuristic cities and I also use my design methods to help others to do the same.

This time, I turned it into a model kit product rather than a single artwork.

This FabLab is in the NorthWest of Iceland and only about 300Km from Greenland. In other words, quite an extreme location!

At the start of my stay here, I figured that if I could make a big creative project with an end product here, I could make it anywhere.

Having said that, despite the location, the town of Isafjordur is a great place and has all the modern amenities such as a sports centre and amazing restaurants.

I want this imaginary 3Z Arctic city to remain unique and copyrighted to me. However, I want you to use these brief instructions / methodology to help you understand how you can make your own imaginary city and inspire you to use FabLabs and Makerspaces to make your own Cities Of The Imagination.

So here goes, join with me on this journey...

Materials -

PLA for 3D printing

Sketch paper pen

Adhesive glue


Clear perspex

LED if you want to light it up

Tools -

3D printer

Laser cutter for the box


Inkscape of similar vector

3Ds Max or equivalent ie Blender




DaVinci Resolve Pro or other nonlinear editing software to make a product video

Step 1: Research and Drawing (Thingeri Art Residency)

For this "birth of ideas" stage, attended the Westfjords residency in NW Iceland during my time at the FabLab. This residency was a group residency, it included other visual artists a musician and a writer. A great place to be and a great experience sharing ideas with the others.

If you have time and are embarking on a big project like this one. I would recommend having a break like this, just to draw. I spent the 10 days here, sketching photographing, having. I also had fun an getting inspired by this amazing part of the world.

If you can't do a residency or want to do your own thing, take a tent away, or a city trip etc or even where you live, chill out. Just, I would say a break like this is an "ideas factory" even if it is for a long weekend.

I usually just take a sketchbook and pencil/pens with me. It will really help your ideas...

All I did here was draw draw draw and listen to music while doing so!

I also took some photographs of the scenery, technological elements.

I also made a structure with tape and strips of wood.

All these experiments were "sketches" to get my creativity working on full blast! A free time to expand and explore...

Step 2: Design Sketch Stage

When the ten day Westfjords group residency ended, I remember walking around Isafjordur outside the lab, trying hard to visualise what on I was going to make as the remainder of the FabLab project.

Jet trails and a prominent local indentation in the mountain side called "The Troll Seat" started to fuel ideas from the shapes I developed in the group residency.

I imagined a city floating in the sky, over "The Troll Seat".

I already had in mind a sphere type shape for the city, see the simple wooden sculpture I made on the Westfjords residency.

I then got back to "The Lab" and sketched out a rough plan. You can see from the sketches, I had in mind a central spherical core with elements attached and coming out of that.

I also thought that this time, I would make a product kit of my imaginary city that can be boxed up and sold. Previous imaginary cities I have made have been one-off artworks.

As the city would finally be a model kit, 3D print time would have to be factored in with the final cost of the kit. It will have to be sold at quite a high price as a specialist collectors kit due to 3D print time and exclusivity. Another option is to sell the digital files at a cheaper price so people can print it out themselves. This is a good idea at the moment due to long print times. However, copyright protection would have to be strongly enforced with this option!

In the future, I hope that 3D print times will get a lot faster. Then, individuals will truly have their own small factories on their desktops.

Step 3: 3D Graphics Development Stage

This is where I took the raw sketch ideas (some paper models would have been nice actually) and developed the raw sketches and ideas into a finished design.

I like to evolve my designs in 3D graphics. In this case, 3Ds Max here is the process of stills. These stills show only some of the long stages of coming up with basic shapes and developing them towards a final piece.

I hope this gives you ideas for your own 3D city design.

One thing I say, if you are going to make 3D graphics into 3D prints, you need to think like an engineer.

How large will the model be? How long will the print take? Is there any way to speed up the 3D print, for example hollowing the model out. It can be a long process but the result is worth it!

Step 4: 3D Print / Test / 3D Print and So On...

This can be a tedious time, you print it, doesn't work or fit. You then have to print again.

(to save time I would say learn a CAD prog like Fusion 360) I just use 3Ds Max but can just about get away with it as I know how 3D prints come out, still took time though.

Its also important to remember not to waste too much plastic material and electricity, it's good to be conscious of the environment during production too.

Check out the notes in the images for more information about the "trials" involved in this stage.

One thing that delayed me a lot was the fact that the PLA spool on the printer became knotted sometimes and this ruined the print. If it was a long print, I often was not around so returning to find a failed print is a nightmare especially when you are pressed for time!

Ideally, 3D prints when printing should not be left alone. :(

Step 5: Design a Product Box

Like all things that are going to become a product, not just an art piece, it needs to have a nice package-

1. to protect and send

2. As a keepsake extra to add to the culture of the piece.

For this package, I used 3DS Max to render the complete city structure out in a cartoon line style, this would make the design clear. While photographs of the final piece would show a potential buyer what the final piece will look like.

After rendering the 3Ds Max images, I then used the free Krita and Gimp applications for the box graphics. This in turn, would wrap around a cardboard box that can be quickly cut on a laser cutter.

So not only I managed to get a model kit made, I managed to make a nice presentation box.

Presentation boxes are a large factor as to whether someone will buy your product or not as I have found out in the past with 3D printed artworks on my online shop.

Step 6: Photos

Take some cool photos!

An SLR camera is great, it will give the best quality.

Also, post process on GIMP as well. In my case, I was pushed for time but it would help a lot to make a lightbox for your photo setup too. Also, outside shots, something I need to learn more. Stay tuned for the next city for more development!

As you can see though these shots are nice and a lot can be done with just using an SLR in automatic mode and then a bit of post processing in your image manipulation software.

Step 7: Make a Cool Video!

This video is meant to be mysterious and "out there". After all, this whole project was a little bit out there! To create a legend around the strange floating city. I also developed a "history" of the city and put this, along with the video and photos onto a blog post. I used photos from the residency and also drawings and 3D renders.

I used the awesome application Davinci Resolve Pro to edit the video together. The "basic" version is free.

As a product, I envisage that new Cities Of The Imagination model kits I make in the future will link together and form an overall story for a short animation and graphic novel. Watch this space for this! :)

Also, check out the second video that shows the making of Arctic City.

Step 8: Market - Make/Learn/Share

So now I hope you have an idea of In This Instructable of how I made my 3Z Arctic Imaginary City Model Kit (1:200 Scale).

Now I need to market this let's see what happens...

Stay tuned!

If you are inspired by this, let me know what you design! Let's talk...

There should be a FabLab or a Makerspace near you, you can make almost anything almost anywhere, go for it! No excuses! You can really push your creativity at these places and make almost anything you want. Almost anywhere too!

You can help me and join this journey by supporting me on Patreon and check out my weekly blog about making art with maker technology.

If you want help, tuition or consultation, book a Skype consultation with me or come to one of my workshops about this.

Thanks for checking this out and I hope that it has helped you in some way. Feel free to let me know, I'm always interested in hearing from you and your creative journey!

Also if you want to learn more, feel free to check out the accompanying post on my blog about this too. Now let's make some more stuff!

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