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November 22, 2007

REVIEW: Using Evan Designs' Model Builder Software

Mbsphoto0 Everyone knows it’s the small details that make a model train layout more interesting.  Whether your layout is 4’x 6’ or 16’ x 30’, the addition of a few simple buildings to a scene can add extra detail to bring a layout to life.  O Gauge buildings and structures aren’t cheap so a well-developed town can set you back some serious dollars.  Because of limited budgets, many have come up with ingenious methods to fabricate buildings from scratch but these techniques can be cumbersome and time consuming.  The folks at Evan Designs realized this and created a software product called Model Builder Software to simplify the construction of model buildings from scratch using card stock and printed images.  I had a chance to use this software and here are my thoughts. 

Be sure to read how to enter a chance to win a copy of Model Builder Software at the end of the review.

Click on the link below to read on

Evan Designs is a sponsor of OGaugeWatch and I thank them for that. However, as I was getting ready to review the software I was skeptical of the appearance of the buildings created using their software. My thinking was that you would only want to use these paper buildings on the far off portions of a layout. To test my hypothesis, I decided to create a detailed diorama of a city street complete with buildings, sidewalks and a cobblestone street all made using the software. Surely such a detailed scene would expose the quality of buildings for what they were, images on card stock.

The first matter at hand was installing the software. Model Builder Software comes packaged in a nice DVD style case complete with a user manual and a booklet containing project ideas (see Photo 1).  Mbsphoto1

Installing the software was as simple as placing the CD in the CD drive. The installation program started automatically (like mine, most PCs are set up to start programs on a CD automatically when inserted into the CD drive) and in less than a minute or two the software was installed. Sorry Apple users, Model Builder is designed to only run on Windows (2000, ME, XP, Vista).

The concept of the software is quite simple. You create pictures of building fronts, sides, backs and roofs from a plethora of image objects like windows and doors and building material patterns like brick, stone and siding that are included in the software.  All of the objects and patterns can be moved, resized and  layered on top of one another. When you're done designing the images of your building's components you print them out, cut them to size and paste them on a card stock building shell. 

Following the thorough instruction manual, I created four city buildings for my diorama. The software's interface (see Photo 2) is easy to use especially if you're familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher or similar programs. Don’t worry if you're not familiar with these programs, the user manual does a very nice job of explaining how to use the software.


You will want to have the following tools and supplies on hand before you start assembling your buildings.

  • Presentation Board 1/16 inch thick
  • Matte Photo Paper
  • A razor knife with breakaway blades
  • A metal "grip" ruler
  • Craft glue
  • 2 small scrap pieces of presentation board for spreading the glue and smoothing the printed images after gluing
  • A set of Soft Pastel Chalks
  • Matte clear coat spray paint
  • Foam Core board if you plan to create sidwalks

Using the Illustration Board I purchased from Staples (see Photo 3), I built 4 rectangular shapes of various sizes for my building shells. Since I had limited space, the depths of the buildings were only a Mbsphoto3 few inches, a nice size for background buildings on a real layout. I then used Model Builder Software to create the four walls and a rooftop for each building using different brick patterns, windows, doors and trim to fit each shell. To complete the diorama, I used a gray stone pattern for the sidewalks and curbs and a rustic brick pattern to create a cobblestone street.

Sizing objects and the building material patterns is a snap. For brick, stone or siding patterns you have the ability to stretch the pattern to the desired size then paint the pattern across a desired area. Objects like windows and building extras such as entrance lamps can be easily resized using the same functionality. You can crop smaller pieces of an object too. For example, I cropped a piece of a window object and resized it to make a storm sewer opening for my street (see Photo 4) . You also have the ability to create you own brick or siding patterns using the Material Designer if the many patterns included in the software don’t meet your needs.


The instructions suggest printing the finished building images on matte photo paper. The Multi-Purpose Matte Inkjet paper (pictured in Photo 3) I purchased from OfficeMax worked just fine. You can use regular paper but you will achieve superior results using the matte photo paper.  If your image spans more than one printed page Model Builder Software will add alignment marks to each page to help you line up the images.

Accurately cutting the printed images to fit the card stock building shells required a very sharp knife, a metal “grip” ruler and a good cutting surface. I can’t stress enough the importance of using a metal “grip” ruler. A grip ruler has a raised portion in the middle so you can securely grip it making it easier to hold the ruler in place. This is very important because you use the grip ruler to guide your cutting blade across the image you are cutting. Using a breakaway razor knife is also important because you need a sharp blade to make clean cuts. I used almost an entire strip of breakaway blades for this project.

I used Sobo premium craft & fabric glue (as suggested in the instructions) purchased from Michael's Crafts to adhere the images to the building shells. The Sobo glue worked just fine. Work on one side of a building at a time, spreading on the glue with one scrap piece of presentation board and smoothing the image with the other.  The Sobo glue sets up slow enough to allow reposition of the image.  I found you really only get one chance to reposition the image within 5 - 10 seconds before the glue takes hold. 

Mbsphoto5After gluing all the images to the building shells and foam core boards (for the sidewalks/curbs) I noticed the white paper edges at the corners of the buildings and sidewalks stuck out like a sore thumb (see Photo 5). This is easily remedied by rubbing pastel chalk of a similar color to the image across the edges to hide them. I found this technique worked very well. Notice how in Photo 6 the white edges are much less noticeable.  I also used the chalks to weather the sidewalks and the cobblestone street (see  Photo 7).  After using the chalks I covered the buildings, sidewalks and streets with a coat of matte clear coat.



Model Builder Software performed just fine and you become more proficient in using it with each building you design. There was one quirk I found troublesome. When creating objects that repeat on a structure, like windows, the easiest way to create additional objects of the same size is to use the software’s Duplicate function. I discovered objects duplicated using this function would sometimes be a fraction smaller than the original object. I worked around this problem by using Copy and Paste instead of Duplicate.

The skepticism I had going into this review quickly vanished after I completed my first building. As you can see in the photos of my diorama, the buildings, sidewalks, curbs and street look fantastic. The Model Builder software enables you to be as creative as you want and is really easy to use even if you haven’t used this type of program before. I highly recommend Model Builder Software to anyone looking for an inexpensive way to add buildings to his or her layout.

Model Builder Software sells for $45.00 and is available from the Evan Designs website, Watch a video demonstration of the software here.  Check out all of Evan Designs’ other software products including Sign CreatorStained Glass, American Advertising, Brick Yard and Window Designer.  Evan Designs also sells a line of inexpensive LED lights.

You can view more photos of my diorama project here.

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Evan Designs was kind enough to give me a copy of Model Builder Software to give to one lucky OGaugeWatch reader. If you are interested in winning this copy send an email to with the subject line Evan Designs Giveaway by 11:59 pm Friday, November 30, 2007. On Saturday, December 1st I will pick one winner at random from the emails I receive and announce the winner on OGaugeWatch. One email per participant please.

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see our cutters at

Hi all
Wanted to let everyone know that we have made some updates to the Model Builder program. Stop by the update page of our site to get your FREE update with more images, more tools, and new features.
Hey Dave, send us an email, I think ours are not getting through to you!!

I want to give a gift certificate to a friend who collects O gauge - what are the best on-line retailers?

Can this model builder software been use to create Malaysian type of village house that use wood as a common material for house building?

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