Imperial Building Techniques

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Hi everyone! This is my attempt to share some building techniques, tips and general thoughts on my building process. Although my MOCs are not generally very complex, I get a lot of requests for instructions so I thought there may be some interest. This is not a step by step tutorial, although hopefully you should be able to create something in this style fairly simply by following along if you are so inclined! Here is the final product which you can also find in this thread here.


Part 1 - The (basic) base

Although it may seem a logical place to start, somehow I often don't start with the base! It does make things easier generally if you do though! A raised base tends to add to the scene, giving the impression of depth. For this build I'll use the basic raised base that I use a lot. It's a modified version of a base that you can find full tutorials for on BrickBuilt


The first step is to get a bunch of 2x2 plates of varying length. I have used black because I have a lot - but the colour at this stage isn't really important as you likely won't actually see any of these in the finished product. Place the plates out in the rough size/shape that you want to make the base. IMPORTANT: You don't have to get the exact size/shape right first time. This method is easy to modify as we go - I fact by the time I get the end of this build I'm certain I will modify the base!


The next stage is to join your 2x2 plates with 1x1 plates around the outside of the base. It is important that the outside edge is two plates high.


Now we want to re-enforce your base - this is especially important if you plan on moving your MOC around. You can use any size plates to connect the base together but it is important that none of this form work exceeds two plates in height.


Now we begin on the SNOT sides. Line the outside edge of the base with bricks with the stud on the side. Again colour is not that important, although if you have bricks in the base colour of your landscape that can help. In this example I have not used bricks with studs for the corners but rather have used ordinary bricks in dark tan - which will be the primary colour of the landscape in this MOC. The reason for this will become clearer in some of the future steps, but it means you have the option of varying the height of the base in the corners, which can break up the uniformity of the edges and make them look more 'natural'.


We can now start to lay down the ground level. Expand your support bricks below as you go using normal bricks and more plates as required. You can see I'm using lots of 2 wide black bricks to give the top plates extra support. Better to use more than you need here as there is nothing worse than pressing in parts later on only for the base to collapse because there isn't enough support underneath.


And here is the basic base competed. We'll modify it and finish texturing the sides as we continue with the MOC. Note the one plate lower corners I mentioned before. For now; however, let's continue with the exciting part - the building!

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Part 2 - The main structure/building

For this example, I am going to build in the classic stucco style often associated with the Lego pirate theme's Imperial factions. For this style you'll primarily use white bricks, with some earthy highlights. I use light bley, tan and dark tan in this example but any of the nougats and even sometimes dark red or any of the yellows can also work. I also make heavy use of old yellowed white bricks. For this style - the nastier the scratches and yellowing the better! So if you are lucky enough to have a stack of old neglected white bricks - this is the style for you!

To begin with, let's lay the foundation. I'm going to use light bley for a foundation in this case.


Lay out the foundation in the shape that you want the building. At this stage you should have a decent idea of what you think the finished building will look like (although typically I change my concept midway through this stage in this very build!).


Things to consider are placement of windows and doors. In this picture you can see I've temporarily laid out some windows to make sure I have good spacing. There is nothing more annoying than building up to the window stage only to realise you need to extend the whole wall by a stud to get the symmetry right! Build up your foundations between one and two bricks in height, varying the height randomly as you go. I have also started to mix some tan in at this stage for added detail. Also remember to place your doorway(s) at this stage. In this example the door will be where the 1x4 bley tile down is located.


Now for the repetitive part - building the walls. Using a mix of plates, round plates, headlight bricks, masonry profile bricks and normal bricks, start laying down the walls. Uniformity is the enemy here. Make the layers as random as you can. I love to use headlight bricks on there side to make a two plate high exposed stud - this gives the walls a nice texture. My sigfig also makes an appearance here so I can judge the height of the windows. The window height can vary depending on the type and style of building/window. In this build I've gone seven plates high (six if you don't include the rail plate I've used as a window base). You'll notice in the next picture I've modified the height of the walls around the window as I designed the window frame.


Here I've used a simple window frame design. The arched windows are framed by 1x1 round bricks with a white flower piece inbetween for added detail. A 1x4 arch is placed on top with a wheel guard sitting on top of the arch. The wheel guard won't clip into place and there is a gap visible between the top of the window and the guard itself. We'll secure the wheel guard with bricks and plates in the next steps. 

Now let's make the door.


Using three 1x4 (you can use one 2x4 and one 1x4 - it doesn't matter) make the back of the door. It is important these plates are at the bottom of the door. The top two studs should just be tiles - if you have backing on the top two studs the door is not going to fit into the arch in the next step. Place at least one 1x6 tile for stability on this base then make up the rest of the door using tiles of varying lengths. Try not to have the joins of the tiles in the same place on adjacent tiles. You can place a ring or a 1x1 round plate as a door knob.


Now place the top on top of the tile you laid earlier to mark the doorway. The walls each side of the door should be exactly 11 plates (three bricks and two plates)high. Now place a 1x6x2 arch on top of the doorway, sliding the tiles at the top of the door into the hollow part of the arch as shown above. The door will slide around but we can fix that in a minute.


Using some plates/bricks, build a stopper to prevent the door sliding inward. The door is not joined to the base here (although you probably could if you really wanted to). To stop it sliding outward, you can place a plate next to the tile the door sits on. You'll see this later on as I build up the pathway around the front door.


Continue building up the walls adding windows as you go. Remember to plan for other features such as putting in bricks with studs on the side to attach vines or torches. Clips if you wanted to add racks or other accessories/details.


A top view. This building won't have an interior (most of mine don't) but I've added an interior wall for the back tower part for stability later on. You'll notice on the parts of the wall that won't be visible from the outside, I haven't bothered texturing. Save your parts (and time) for the visible sections!!!

At this stage my plan was for a simple one story building with an offset roof over the door and a tower at the back in the centre of the building. This would soon change....


For now however, I continue with the original plan. The walls around the smaller door section are at the right height so I add the end section using curves and a decorative technic brick. I have also closed in the ceiling with a plate. This will make attaching the terracotta style roof much easier in a later step. Also you can see that I've started adding some pathway around the door including the exposed stud I mentioned earlier to stabilise the door.


The side view of the roof end showing the curved bricks and decorative pieces. You can add some little details like the torch as you go, or all at the end or like in the case, a combination of both. Thinking about the details now is good to prevent you having to rebuild sections later to add the attachments to the wall.

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Here is where my plans for a simple single story building got... well funky! I wasn't happy with the bare wall at the right hand side and wanted to add an overhang. As I did this a new plan for a second story evolved. This is a great example of being flexible in your planning and changing things on the fly as the inspiration takes you.


Overhangs need support! Here I have used some SNOT curved bricks attached to the wall with bricks with studs on the side to create some support for a small swivel gun emplacement. Purists won't like my swivel gun design as the handle part doesn't exist in black so I spray painted a trans-clear one. You could simply use a black tap piece instead... but I digress.

I decided that the second story would have an outside section around the gun emplacement and a small room between the balcony and the roof over the front door.


For some variety, a new window design is called for and this design will have a flower box underneath it. I have placed two headlight bricks on there side six bricks apart at the bottom level of where the window will sit. This is how we will attach our flower box.


Now add 1x1 bricks with the stud on the side in reddish brown. The stud on the side should face down towards the ground.


Next add a 1x6 tile to the bottom of the box.


And a 1x6 tile to the side of the box. The flowers won't be attached to anything but will simply sit in the box. I'm not big on strictly sticking to the 'rules' when it comes to everything must be connected!! Again there is probably a solution out there but I'm simply not that invested in finding it!

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Now the final shape is starting to take place. The front window is constructed using similar techniques to the bottom ones so that the style ties in. Although it is not clear in these photos, I have added

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Lastly I've added the front façade for the roof and the tower section at the back. The crenellations on the tower are rather castle like in style and are fairly simply to construct. Again I've used the technic bricks with the axle hole as a decorative feature.

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Part Three - The Roof

The next part is to add the terracotta style roof. This technique will work for pretty much any length roof and can be adjusted for different heights and pitches but for this building I have two roof sections each six bricks in width of very similar height and pitch. If you are using this technique on larger roofs, you may want to add more attachment points as the larger the roof, the flimsier it becomes.


I start with the four roof sections which are made with a mixture of dark red, red, reddish brown and dark brown 1x1 round bricks. You could also mix in any of the nougat colours and dark orange for a different look. After some basic experimentation, I found that a stack of five round bricks gave me the right height for the roof. A brown 1x6 plate is added for stability in the middle (although for this size roof technically this is not strictly necessary) and at the top. The bottom is a 1x6 tile. Note the attachment points on each section where I have replaced a 1x1 round brick with a 1x1 round plate/1x1 round plate with bar/1x1 round plate stack. You could add more of these for extra stability but for this size, one is plenty.

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You can attach the roof to the ceiling in a number of different ways - here I use two examples. The first above uses a 1x1 brick with stud on the side, then a 1x2 plate with clip to attach to the bar on the roof.

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On the second section I've used the same basic technique but this time with 1x2 plates with clip on top.


Lastly both sections are finished of with a stack of round bricks/plates sitting in the crevice created by the 1x6 plates at the top of the roof. These are held in place by gravity and a small amount of tension. If you're a purist who can't stand the thought of unattached bricks, you could attach them to the walls with a technic brick (tricky to get into the correct position but possible). And that's the roof done!

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Part Four - Detailing

With the roof now on, the building is basically complete - but not finished! Firstly the balcony area looks very stark and exposed and well... a bit boring. Lets add a barrel and a minifig in addition to the torch we already added. It still looks a bit bare. I'm planing on a palm tree on the opposite side of the building so some green would help balance things out on this side. Also standing in the sun all day must be very hot for that redcoat sentry! Let's add a pergola!

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The poles are built using simple 1x1 round bricks with some brown flower pieces for decoration. The cross beams on the top are brown plates. As you can see the poles are offset by half a stud using jumper plates, this works out ok with the top plates as you can connect the round 1x1 bricks to the offset middle studs in the bottom of the plates. This way the poles are offset by half a stud, but the cross beams still line up with the rest of the building. The vine on top adds the colour and shade. Don't forget to show how the vine gets from the ground to the pergola - we don't want a floating plant with no roots!


We also need to finish landscaping the base plate. The SNOT sides are smoothed over with some slope bricks, plates and tiles. Using a mixture of colours also helps make the landscape look more natural and blend everything together. While it depends on the look you want to achieve; I like using a lot of tiles in the landscaping stage. Some exposed studs look good (not everything should be tiled), but in general more tiles makes the build look less blocky IMO. Again it depends on your personal taste here! The other thing to note is the bley detailing around the base of the building. This is important to help blend the building into the landscape.

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Some more shots of the landscaping. In the first picture you can see the flower insert for the flower box. Again this just sits in place (sorry purists!). At this stage add some interest to the scene with some barrels and chests - or if you are lucky enough to have some, the scala vases that I was inspired to ship out all the way from Europe by the work of @Gideon (Jonas Wide).


Lastly I've added the palm tree. The design is not original - it's been used many times - I think @Full Plate ( Emil Lidé) may have been the originator - you can find lots of great vegetation builds in their Flickr stream or website.

So apart from the final photography, that is the guide part of the build pretty much done! I'll post the final build in it's own thread in the BoBS forum once I've taken the photos and link here. Please feel free to ask any questions on any of the techniques or anything else here. I hope this was useful, I'm not the most creative or advanced builder but I'll happy to try and share my thoughts and techniques if it helps anyone!

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Thanks for sharing, David! As I mentioned earlier, this tutorial looks great and I'm sure it will be a big help for numerous members of the community!

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For someone (me) who mostly builds ships, this is extremely valuable and helpful tutorial worth several re-reads and much closer study, especially since I'm thinking about switching to the land-based builds soon.

Thank ye for the time and effort you set aside for making this. :pir-thumb:

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Some very nice tutorials - thank you for sharing them and the work that you put into them @Ayrlego.

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This is fantastic, thank you! It's fascinating to see your process of building and I've picked up some great tips, thanks!



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@Ayrlego Thank you for this topic with useful tips. :pir-huzzah2:  I was able to learn a lot.

I like the swivel gun, it looks more realistic than the one I built. What bricks is it made of?

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On 3/4/2023 at 11:06 PM, Ayrlego said:


At this stage add some interest to the scene with some barrels and chests - or if you are lucky enough to have some, the scala vases that I was inspired to ship out all the way from Europe by the work of @Gideon (Jonas Wide).


Thanks! But the credit for the large amphora should go to @Legopard, as I think I borrowed this technique with the Scala flower pots from his excellent Venice 1486 build:
(Itself a treasure trove of more build techniques well suited for an Age of Sail city too!)


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Excellent tutorial @Ayrlego!!! I love your style which is instantly recognisable and I will say again that I always believed that your builds hit the perfect spot between overly fancy builds and (too) intricate techniques and what a mortal one like us can build with a modest collection of bricks (ie not working for TLG or not having tons of bricks at his/her disposal).

On a side note, let's sign a petition for @Gideon to come back to BoBS!!! :pir_laugh2:

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Excellent build with lots of awesome details! I like how clean it is. Nice to see the work in prgress photos.

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I'm a huge fan of your creations and this tutorial is simply epic! Thank you so much for sharing it! :thumbup::thumbup:

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