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Reproducing lego sails


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29 replies to this topic  – Started by studdles , Sep 26 2013 02:59 PM

#1 studdles

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 02:59 PM

Go to Classic-Pirates.com

Hi all, this is my first post here so I hope some of you will find this useful.

I have been interested in lego pirates in particular since I got my first set almost 20 years ago. The problem is that as the sets age, the sails become tattered and worn, and can be quite difficult to find. I've been searching for a while now for a reliable technique for reproducing lego sails in as authentic a way as possible, but with little success (maybe I've just been looking wrong?)

Anyhow, I've been working on my own technique, and decided I would share it for those who, like me, have been searching for a way to make authentic looking lego sails that are nearly indistinguishable from the originals.

The sails I've been working on are those of the Skull's Eye Schooner, the number one ship on my, and half the planet's, wanted list.

The problem everyone has when it comes to reproducing sails is trying to work out the material that lego uses. It has a relatively unique stiffness for a cloth that is relatively thin; this is not because a special material has been used, but because a standard linen cloth has been prepared with a sizing/priming agent. What I have done is primed regular calico cloth with a watered down acrylic gesso. When dried, it is a very good likeness of lego's cloth, and is stiff enough to be fed into an inkjet printer.

Here's the gesso I used: gesso is used by artists to prime canvases for painting and can be purchased from any art/craft supply store, this jar cost me $10 and will probably make a few dozen sails. They can come coloured, I've chosen white as the base colour of the skull's eye schooner is white, but acrylic paint can be added to make different base colours, such as the tan coloured imperial flagship's sails.

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Again, just plain calico, very cheap I've cut it slightly larger than A4 here

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You want to water the gesso down roughly 1 part gesso to 3 parts water, this will help the gesso to soak into the calico. Give it two coats on each side then hang it up to dry. Once dry, I trimmed it down to A4 size.

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Next up, I got the 1:1 scans from the sails library here: http://www.eurobrick...showtopic=10076 , traced them in photoshop and recoloured them to improve the saturation once printed. As the scans were 1:1, no resizing was needed before printing. I just fed the canvas into the printer carefully and printed at high quality settings.

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Once the sail is printed it's just a matter of cutting them out:

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And here's the final result:

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And here's an armada flagship sail I made

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I hope someone finds this useful. I will upload my tracings later for anyone who's interested

Edited by Walter, 28 September 2013 - 06:20 PM.


#2 Captain Edward

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 03:14 PM

Very well, very well! Really amazing. I made my own sails a little bid different, only this is a nice example, exact the same.

#3 kurigan

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 05:27 PM

Brilliant! Looks identical to me. Here's a dumb question though; Does the ink still sink in to the fabric or is it just on the surface? I wonder if the gesso could be washed off leaving the sail more flexible but still with a printed design. 

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#4 JopieK

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 09:59 PM

I wonder if it is possible to use heat transfer on Gesso, that would make a lot of applications possible!

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#5 studdles

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 07:45 AM

The gesso is kind of absorbed into the fabric, and its acrylic based so once its dry it wouldn't wash out even if you wanted to. The gesso essentially coats the cotton fibres and the ink coats the gesso. because the ink doesn't soak in, it doesn't cause any bleeding.

Having said that, the way I've been making these sails, they are very flexible; mine turn out slightly less stiff than lego's, but the look of the sails are almost exactly the same.

Edited by studdles, 28 September 2013 - 07:46 AM.


#6 studdles

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 09:21 PM

Here's another one I've made recently, one of my Carribean Clipper's mainsails has torn around one of it's holes. It's otherwise looking pretty ragged and dirty so I figured I could try making a new one.

The bottom sail is the newly made one
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Old one top, new one bottom, the blue is slightly lighter on the new one so I may reprint it a bit darker.

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Here's a close up to show the texture and detail you can get

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#7 Paddi

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 09:06 PM

Thanks for this little Guide. Lokks good on the Ship.

#8 Mencot

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 04:29 AM

Awesome, been trying to make my own capes and also sails but the problem ha always been to get the real feel in the bigger clothfabric
Thanks for sharing :classic:

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#9 kermit

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 11:35 PM

That is a great idea but the only problem I see is that the sails will sag if the string is not taunt or a much more stiffer material is used.

#10 studdles

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Posted 05 October 2013 - 02:19 AM

View Postkermit, on 04 October 2013 - 11:35 PM, said:

That is a great idea but the only problem I see is that the sails will sag if the string is not taunt or a much more stiffer material is used.

Thanks Kermit. The gesso actually makes the cotton stiff, it turns out very similar to the material lego uses. I suspect they make their sails in a very similar way: a cotton fabric primed with something to add stiffness, prevent fraying and improve printability.

#11 studdles

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 11:24 PM

I've been trying my hand at some custom sails: here's some Prussian themed ones

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Has anyone else tried/had any luck with this method of sail making yet?

#12 christianvonnoppenquader

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 10:58 PM

Thank you very much guys for this great manual. If my sails will ever be damaged I will also try to rebuild some by myself. Probably with an own design (The Prussian theme looks great)
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#13 Hesedguy

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 10:29 PM

So I've recently picked up all my legos from my parents house, and have been trying to put together some MOC ships for a game (either Broadsides! or ESPG). *Ahem* I suppose that's all besides the point. I've been reading up on re/creating sails and I like this method the best as it's the only one I can find that actually allows a fairly good recreation of the original sails, however the thing I can't find an answer to is: "How do you print on both sides like the foresail you did here on the Caribbean Clipper?"

#14 studdles

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 06:05 AM

I print mine from photoshop, it lets you put crop marks around the outside of your image, in addition to letting you adjust the position of the image on the page. I printed the sail out on A4 paper first, and measured the distance from the left and right sides of the page to the crop marks. I then inverted the image in photoshop along its long axis so when I flipped the paper it would be oriented correctly, and adjusted the position in photoshop's print settings for the difference in margin sizes between the left and the right. If your measurements are correct it should print fine, I test it on paper first anyway. When you print on cloth, however, be aware that the cloth must be cut to the exact size of your A4 paper.

#15 Hesedguy

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 09:26 AM

Seems a little complex, but it does make sense. I'll definitely be going through a few pieces of paper in the process. Thanks Studdles.

#16 beyza

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Posted 17 December 2013 - 10:53 PM

This is looking good. Thank you for the tutorial.

#17 bradman2929

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 09:59 PM

Amazing thread and thank you.  I am new and this is my first post.  I am trying to make a pirate imperial alliance vs grey and black castle with forest men and undead/dragon castle in the middle sides as neutral.  The flags are too expensive on ebay, often more than the hulls.  I paint and use gesso a lot, what an awesome idea.  I am seriouly considering doing a knight ship.  The theme will be from the late 15th cenutury.  I am still on the fence about mixing classic with annes revenge and black peral and also about keeping the exact colors of the builds.  I am leaning towards using the pieces I want on some of the ships but also having baggies with the origional, to many of the origional ships to me have to many clashing colors, like bright green, red, white, black, and yellow, which would be sharp just to have red, white, and black with mabye little yellow.

This is going to take me years to do even with 1/2 of the old castle sets I curently have, going to build a thin baseplate area that will be dowel stackable so its totally adjustable floor to ceiling because I won't have time to rebuild.  Anybody know any cool custom ships, have seen a cool lighthouse and some others.  Thanks,
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#18 ummester

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 08:37 AM

This is most excellent - exactly what I was looking for, in fact.

I take it the more gesso you add to the mix, the stiffer the sails are?

#19 Hesedguy

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 09:37 PM

That would work. However, I would recommend adding more coats to thicken the fabric as opposed to making the mixture thicker. I've done it a few times and if the fabric isn't stiff enough adding another coat works pretty well. Plus, you don't run the risk of ending up with "cardboard" fabric when you add another coat (as long as you are using the recommended ratio).

#20 ummester

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Posted 24 May 2014 - 01:09 PM

Cheers Hesedguy

Just gave some caliso a pretty decent 1/3 coat - will see if it has the texture of paper tomorrow and run it through the printer if so.

Once the sails are printed, cut and I know they fit - I will re coat with a 1/3 mix as needed to stiffen them up. I'm hoping to achieve a billowed look with all 10 sails - we'll see how it goes.

#21 Jolly Rodger 27

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 12:04 PM

Firstly thank you for the guide, I have part one done and have 12 sheets of sails ready to print, but alas many sails are now missing from the archive, I wanted to try to replace the sails on my 6286, they are looking mighty tired and besides I had black ink in stock! Does anyone have a different link to these scans or have they saved them and would either re-upload them or send to my dropbox?
Many thanks.
Looking forward to hoisting anchor on the old girl soon.

#22 clm

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 07:27 PM

I second this post, I have been bricklinking the classic ships and really need to print up.... all of them :) (although I think these posts might go better IN the post about the sail scans... I think I will post there too)

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#23 Jolly Rodger 27

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 08:44 PM

Good thinking Chris (Vassal) i'd was tired and had a few rums!!

#24 Israel Hands

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 11:09 PM

I've uploaded the sails to the original thread.

While this is an excellent tutorial, I couldn't make it work for me. The process was very time consuming and I found it impossible to get the creases out of calico.

I use pre-treated artist canvas that comes in loose A4 sheets. The one I used was from Cartridge World and is called True Canvas 100% cotton canvas. A4 226 gsm (170gm2). My only issue was that on my printer I couldn't get a rich hue, I had to ramp the saturation right up, but your milage may vary

Here is a close up of the weave
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And here is my BSB. The sails are stiffer then the origional Lego sails, but they are good enough for me. I did used a hole punch for, well, punching the holes, but I found they were slightly too big. In the end I used my eyelet plier kit to make the holes, but I guess that a leather hole punch would be better. The holes are 5mm

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#25 Israel Hands

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 11:28 PM

Just remembered a couple of things, first I ran the scans through photoshop and removed the white parts and adjusted the saturation. There are some guides left for punching the holes.

Also, i can't guarantee the scaling. I just used print preview, found the image size at 100% and then adjusted accordingly until it match the correct size

Black Seas Barracuda (6285 - 10040):
http://www.brickshel...rmainsail-1.jpg
http://www.brickshel...rmainsail-1.jpg
http://www.brickshel.../sailbb23-1.jpg




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