Basics of Bricksmith
Tutorial text by Matt Allaire
Bricksmith Tutorial

Welcome to Bricksmith.

This tutorial assumes you want to get building, so it’s written to help you as you start out.

Starting Out

Okay. So you’ve downloaded the application, and if you’re new to it, you also got the LDRAW library with it. If you didn’t, and you don’t have a copy of it, then go download it. When you decompress Bricksmith, you’ll end up with a folder named “Bricksmith”, with the Finder Brick icon on it. Put that folder someplace, like your Applications folder.

When you first open Bricksmith, notice that the scroll bars are centered. This is important, because it means that you’re looking at the point (0,0). If this was a math class I’d call it the Origin. All you need to know is that Bricksmith rotates your models around this point. And the first brick you place will be directly on this point. Subsequent bricks can go anywhere you want, but for the easiest time rotating, try to keep the model centered. But we need to do some other things first.

Building Basics

To start building, you should probably insert a brick into the model. For this tutorial, get a 2 x 4 Brick. So, go to Tools>Parts Browser to browse the part library. Now, there are a few ways to find the part you need. You can:

1. Browse the entire list, or use the Category drop-down menu to narrow your search.

2. Search by keyword.

You should get fairly good results just guessing at it, but the best format is usually "Category size x size".

Now that you have the part you want, notice the image of it that’s to your right. That is in fact a 3D rotatable zoom-in-able model of that part. Very useful.

*A note about parts: Some parts are Subparts, which means they are part of a larger whole. Try looking for the complete item for easier building. Also, some parts may say “Needs work”. This means they are unfinished or may not be true to the real element. However, they are still usable, but, as they say, need work.

Okay, now looking at the part is all well and good, but we still need to insert it. Hit the Insert button and watch your part appear on (0,0). You’ll notice it doesn’t quite look like a real brick. In Bricksmith, the currently selected brick is shown as a wireframe.

Alright. One brick inserted. Before we move on, let's add a baseplate in so we have a reference point. Add an 8 x 12 baseplate. Note that it has appeared at the top of our 2 x 4 Brick. Huh.

Now would be a great time to learn about moving bricks, right?

Brick Movement

It's actually really simply to move bricks. Just click on the one you need to move and drag it around. When you do, you'll see it becomes a wireframe. Now, keep in mind that you can only move bricks in a 2D plane. This means that you must rotate your view to get the part to go some places. To rotate your view, hold down the command and option keys and click and drag. This is the reason you'll want a centered model, because rotation will be sorta weird if it isn't. An off center model won't rotate so badly if it's large-ish, but a small one will be more affected. Now, rotating your model's view is useful for two reasons: 1, you get to see all of it. 2, bricks move around on a 2D plane, and to get that third axis of movement, you must rotate your view. See graphic. Also note that you can choose Fine, Medium, or Coarse movement with the grid-like button. This allows for, well, more fine movement than normal. Fine is about a pixel at a time, Medium is half a stud, and coarse is one stud. This applies to rotation, too.

Okay. Now we've gotten the appropriate angle of view, but we must actually move the brick. Click on the brick so it becomes a wireframe. Use the arrow keys and move the brick around.

While you're doing that, notice the Rotate buttons up top. There are buttons for positive and negative movement on the 3D axes — X, Y, and Z. Rotating is fairly simple. Select the brick, click the button. See image for which axis is which.


Red is great, but sometimes you'll want something in blue. Or green. Or Pastel Pink. To change a brick's color, just select it and use Piece>Show Colors to show the LDRAW Colors palette.

There! That wasn't too hard, was it? That's all you need to know to get started, so if you feel ready, go have fun building your first model. For more advanced information, keep reading.

Advanced Building


Steps are used so that other people can build your model easily. To make steps, just use the Add Step option under Model in the menubar. The new step appears over in the "File Contents" column on the left. Simply drag the correct bricks under it, and they become part of that step. To view a model step-by-step, select the model's name in the File Contents, then go to View>Step Display and click on each successive step and watch as Bricksmith builds up the model. Neat, hmm?


Models are, well, models, within the larger whole. For instance, if you were building a city street and you made a park bench, and you needed ten, it would be a pain to have to build all ten, right? That's where models come in. Go to Model>Add Model, and a new one appears. Be sure to center the scrollbars before building. And the new model is just like the large one — you can have steps for it. Models are also useful for grouping parts together for easy control of your big model. Finally, to actually use the model, you must choose Model>Insert Reference and then choose the model to insert it.

A word about large models: Files with large models or models with very high part counts will cause Bricksmith to switch to a less-processor-intensive rotation method. Click the graphic for a better view. This only applies to view rotation, and is only enabled when the mouse button is down.