Getting Started – Step 3

Learn how to use the LDraw tools

All the LDraw tools are very easy to learn and use. Excellent tutorials and documentation is available on the LDraw website, or linked from it, and I will not attempt to duplicate it here. Instead I have prepared a short “reading list” with links to the appropriate pages.

If you want to just explore on your own, and learn all there is to know about the LDraw package, the starting point is:

Follow the links in the “Tutorials” panel.

Alternatively, for a guided path through the bits you need, in order to become proficient in Minibrix construction, read on...


This is the starting point, and the tool you will be using to build the models. In the Lego world, one of the functions of MLCad, apart from building the models themselves, is to create the step-by-step building instructions that go with them. While these could just as easily be created for Minibrix buildings, you will probably not want to bother – which means you can skip at about half the documentation!

There is a short but excellent tutorial, starting at:

There are a few points to note, as you work through this tutorial:

Near the beginning of the tutorial is a reference to the different grid settings. With the Minibrix customisations installed the advice changes. You should use the coarse (left) grid for Lego constructions, and use the medium (middle) grid for Minibrix constructions. The fine setting can be used with both for the accurate adjustment of pieces.

You can ignore the references to “adding a step” as you work through the example. This is only necessary if you intend to generate the corresponding step-by-step building instructions.

When working with Lego you have to select the colours of the parts as you use them. This is not necessary for Minibrix construction as all the Minibrix parts are pre-coloured. (We will mention this point again in Step 4)

Useful short-cut keys in MLCad

There are a few short-cut keys in MLCad which, together, will greatly speed up the building process, especially when laying large slabs of plain wall. They are:
  The four cursor keys, Home (up) and End (down) – move the object
  Ctrl+Cursor Left and Ctrl+Cursor Right – rotate the object (in the horizontal plane)
  Ctrl+Cursor Up (twice) or Ctrl+Cursor Down (twice) – turn the object upside down
  Ctrl+D – Duplicate the selected object


LDView is a real-time 3D viewer for displaying LDraw models. It is an extremely useful tool for quickly checking a model without going through a long rendering process. It also includes an export service to translate the LDraw/MLCad file into the format from which POV-Ray can render high-quality images. For instructions on using LDView, read its online Help pages, or go to the LDView web site at

POV-Ray, LGEO and image rendering

POV-Ray is the ray-tracing tool that creates the high-quality images. LDraw files can be converted into POV-Ray input format either using LDView (see above), or by the earlier tools L3P and L3PAO. (L3P is the command-line program that converts the files, and L3PAO is a handy graphical interface to set up all the parameters for L3P.) LGEO is a library of parts definitions in POV-Ray format, of much higher quality than would be calculated by an LDraw file conversion. This library is included by parameter to a POV-Ray session.

For an introduction to “quick rendering” using LDView as a batch tool for the file conversion, see the tutorial at

For a basic understanding of the rendering process (with lots of pictures!) see the documentation on L3P. Even if you are not intending to use L3P as the conversion tool, this article makes excellent introductory reading to rendering in general. It can be found at:

For a more comprehensive guide to the rendering process, see the article “Conversion 101” on the LDraw site at:

Although this is a legacy article, written around L3P, many of the parameters and adjustments still apply to LDView. Chapter 2 is devoted to installing the tools, which you have already done, so you can skip that bit.

Finally, if you really want to take image rendering seriously, read the documentation on POV-Ray at:



Step 4: Learn how to use the Minibrix add-on.

Page last updated 23 September 2012