The Making of SHARC – part 1 Modeling

Eric Lay works in 3D modelling, architectural drafting, rendering and graphics. In this tutorial, he shows us how to create this futuristic aircraft or as he calls it, ‘Super High Altitude Racing Craft’ (SHARC). In this first part, Eric shows us his modeling techniques and use of readily available plugins to create this 3D base model and in part 2, he shows the rendering and Photoshop work.


Modeling this airplane was fairly simple. There are only a few shapes arranged to make up the airplane shape. What takes time is creating the panel lines.

1. I first blocked out a shape for the body of the airplane. This took a little trial and error but I finally arrived at a shape I was happy with. Here you can see the overall shape as well as a section through it for clarity.

Basic Shape

2. I then used the sculpting plugin Artisan and its Subdivide and Smooth tool, with 3 iterations (you can download the trial here). This produced a nice fuselage shape for the airplane.

Produce Fuselage Shape

3. Next I created a simple rectangular box with the bottom left open then used Artisan’s Subdivide and Smooth again with 3 iterations. This will form the canopy.

Create New Shape For Canopy

4. I placed the new canopy shape on fuselage.

Canopy on Fuselage

5. To give the canopy a stylistic shape I used the Sketchy Free Form Deformation plugin. Choosing a 3×3 configuration I then edited the grips and scaled back the top left 6 grips to sweep the canopy back a bit.

Modify Canopy Using SketchyFFD Plugin

Sweep Canopy Back Slightly

6. The wings and tails are simple extruded shapes.

Simple Extruded Shapes

7. After using Subdivide and Smooth with 3 iterations again, I moved the wings and tails into place.

Wings and Tails in Place

From Another Viewpoint

8. Next I added a little air scoop detail on the sides of the fuselage using Tools on Surface to make the arcs, then some simple stitching with the Line Tool. The basic model is now finished. Can you tell the direction I am going with this airplane? Should it have been a submersible? Ha ha.

Adding Air Scoop Detail

9. From here on out the modeling is very simple but time consuming. First I intersected the wings and canopy and removed the unwanted geometry. I then took quite a while figuring out where I wanted the body panels located. I used reference photos of actual airplanes as well as a many sci-fi models found on the web.

The main tools I used in creating the panels are the Eraser tool (holding ctrl and shift to unhide lines) and the Tools on Surface plugin. Within the Tools on Surface plugin I used the line, circle, arc and offset functions the most.

Create Panels

Added Body Panels

10. I continued to add panel lines until I was satisfied with the level of detail I wanted. I then colored them black to make them more prominent.

Continued to Add Panel Lines

Color Them Black to Make More Prominent

11. Here I added a simple cockpit shape inside the canopy, colored the canopy a transparent shade and thickened the canopy bracing a bit with the Joint Push Pull plugin.

Cockpit Detail

12. Finally I colored and added a few extras to the panels. I also downloaded a pilot from the 3D Warehouse.

Colored Model

Side View


In part 2, I show you how to render it in Twilight Render to create a base image to paint over and then finish it off with some Photoshop post-processing.

Thanks for reading…


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