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Documentation

To quickly get started, see the downloads page. For problems, see the troubleshooting section; let me know if you're still stuck. Check the quick reference page for a brief rundown of mouse and keyboard controls, menu and export options, and what the files included with Mineways each do. Read this for the process I go through when exporting for 3D printing.

Normally you can just hit "OK" on the export dialog and things will work fine. Read on if you want to understand how to make your models less expensive, use different texture packs, and otherwise tailor you want to see printed out. What follows is extensive documentation about each part of the export and print process. If you don't want to wade through it all, at least search this page for the phrase "Key tip", as these bits are particularly useful.

Subscribe to the Mineways mailing list - it's for only important announcements, such as new version releases.

Installation

Installation is trivial: download and unzip (using 7-Zip or other decompressor) to some directory, like the desktop.

Uninstall: just delete the directory. If you created color schemes, there will be a few small entries in the registry, If you are fanatical and really want to clean these out, search for "Mineways" in your registry editor and you'll find them.

Double-click the mineways.exe to run the program.

Opening Worlds and Schematics

There are many ways to open a Minecraft world or schematic file in Mineways. If one doesn't work for you, try the next.

File | Open World: In the "File" menu header there is "Open World". Click (or hover) and move to the right to select your world. These are the worlds in your "%appdata%\.minecraft\saves" directory. The worlds are listed by their (not necessarily unique) given names on the left, their folder on the right, and arranged alphabetically by these folders. If you want to specify a different directory for where your world saves are located, use the "-s" option on the command line on startup; see the command line options.

If you want to export any particular block, use File | Open and select the "[Block Test World]" - this is an internally-generated "world" of blocks, with each block type listed from west to east in block ID order, and with variants shown from north to south by their data values. To select a single block, find it, right-click it, then hit "[" to move the bottom level up by one, thus selecting only the block itself and not the surrounding grass.

Here's a view of a small portion of [Block Test World] exported to OBJ and rendered with Cinema 4D:

If you can't find your world in the list, you can select "Find your world..." at the bottom, which is the same as doing...

File | Open...: This option is for opening schematic files and worlds. Navigate to wherever your schematic or world is stored and select the level.dat file. On Windows, the default folder for world save files is "%appdata%\.minecraft\saves"; for Mac it's "~/Library/Application Support/minecraft/saves/". A pro tip: if you save or rename your schematic file to have the world "repeat" in it, e.g. rename "eiffel.schematic" to "eiffelRepeat.schematic", the schematic will load and be repeated across the map, with a minimum one block gap between each model. This can be useful if you want to create a single 3D print file that has multiple copies of the model. Also, for schematics, only, Control-A will select the whole schematic model.

File | Import Settings: If you've previously exported a model from your world or schematic, you can actually select this data file (.OBJ, .WRL, or for STL export, the .TXT file generated) with Import Settings. This will not only open your world, but will also set all the previous export settings you used to make this export file, including the color scheme and the terrain file chosen.

When you import a file's settings, the settings affect only the particular file type. For example, if you read in a WRL file for 3D printing, its settings will not affect OBJ rendering export (or even OBJ 3D printing export, for export settings specific to OBJ files, such as material output). This feature is backwards compatible to Mineways 2.0, though of course features added since then will be given default values. A noticeable change in 5.01 is that the "Create composite overlay faces" is off by default; files from before 5.01 will read in but not change this option to on (which is what was used in 5.00 and earlier to export the model).

One other extremely useful type of file that Import Settings can read in is a script file. You can create script files to automatically perform all sorts of operations, including special ways of modifying blocks during export. See the scripting documentation for more information.

The first image is a schematic pikachu7795240.schematic loaded via "File | Open..." In the second the schematic is renamed pikachu7795240repeat.schematic and loaded. The word "repeat" in the file name tips off Mineways to repeat the object. Also, I typed Control-A to select a single copy of the schematic.

Here is a 3x3 set of objects output and viewed with G3D:

Mapping

Here's basic map use:

Selecting a Region

To create a 3D file for viewing or printing you first select a 3D box in your world. Whatever is in this box is exported. Hold down the right mouse button (or left mouse and Control key) and drag to define a selection area. Key tip: once a region is defined, you can then use the right mouse button to select an edge or corner and drag to fine-tune the rectangle. Hit the space bar to automatically adjust the lower height to something reasonable, if need be.

Once you make a selection, you may get a dialog as shown below.

Example Region Selection:
At first, the selected area excludes some terrain visible from above, as the lower boundary is too high.

Choosing "yes" lowers this depth and adjusts the slider

Note that sometimes the adjusted lower depth becomes too low, for example when the selection includes a deep hole. In photo above, the lower depth has been increased to the point where some terrain is now unselected. Bright pink shows terrain exactly at this lower depth.

By default, the heights used for the rectangular block are from y=63 (sea level) to y=255. The upper slider determines the maximum height, but usually you'll leave this one alone. You'll normally use it for viewing or selecting areas fully underground or in the Nether.

The lower depth can be changed in a number of ways, even when no area is selected. The lower slider is the simplest way to modify this value. If you click the middle mouse button on a location, the lower depth is set to its height. The [ and ] keys shift the lower depth by one, and so are useful for tuning. The spacebar will also select a reasonable lower depth for your selection volume; shift-space will treat water and glass as solid. See the shortcut key list for more program options.

Key tip: to see what you're doing, export the model and view with a viewer. I usually work by adjusting the box size and export options in Mineways, export, then viewing the file in G3D (which reloads the viewed file when you tap the "r" key) or, for .WRL files, MeshLab (unfortunately, their Alt-R reload doesn't clear out the previously-loaded file) to see the results.

Exporting Models

If you want to render the model, select "Export for Rendering" from the File menu, or use Control-R, and save your file. The resulting file(s) can then be imported into a huge variety of 3D modelers and viewers, e.g. Blender. See this section for instructions for various popular modelers.

You can select "Export Model for 3D Printing", Control-P, to create a model suitable for sending to a 3D printer. Even if you don't have a 3D printer, you can still get it printed, usually for a reasonable price. See the next section for how to get going.

The big difference between rendering and printing is that 3D print models must be solid and well-formed. Currently Mineways treats all blocks as solid, full blocks: half-steps or stairs are treated as blocks, as is every other block. There is also no transparency for the materials, since printers do not currently support this type of creation. Models for rendering can, when full texturing is on, include billboard models for flowers, saplings, crops, and other elements. Note that the billboard locations are added in comments to the output .OBJ and .WRL files. In this way, a dedicated modeler could substitute his own elaborate grass, flower, or other models in place of the simple billboards Minecraft provides.

To make your model immediately viewable on the web in 3D, choose the third option "Publish to Sketchfab." Mineways directly uploads your model to the Sketchfab site and makes it displayable to everyone. It's fun and easy, honestly. Go here for detailed instructions.

The last option is "Export Schematic", which allows you to then import your model to another world by using WorldEdit or MCEdit. Note that Mineways can read any schematic file by using "File | Open...".

Mineways' schematic export option allows you to easily grab a volume of your world and turn it into a schematic file. This type of file is commonly used to share constructions among builders. Tools such as WorldEdit or MCEdit can be used to import them into other worlds, make duplicates, etc. You can also upload and share these files on sites such as MCSchematics.com and Planet Minecraft. Signs will not have text, chests will lose their contents, objects such as paintings are not exported, and heads are turned into pumpkins. Currently no export options beyond the dimensions and the rotation angle affect schematic export in Mineways, and the rotation angle only partially works, mostly for full blocks that do not have any orientation. In other words, the orientation angle will rotate the model as a whole, but each individual block will not be rotated: stair steps and signs will still go the old direction, rails get "interesting", etc. I'd avoid it...

Displaying with G3D

Once you have a model for rendering, you might want to preview it before importing it to 3D modeler. If you are using Wavefront OBJ files (the default), I highly recommend the free G3D viewer. In fact, it now recognizes a special tag in the OBJ's material description that makes Mineways models display with the classic blocky Minecraft look. If you use VRML or STL files, MeshLab is a fine free viewer for these other formats. Avoid 3D Builder, which comes with Windows 10, if you use colors; it's fine for STLs.

Download this special version of G3D here. Unzip and run, then drop your .OBJ file on to the window to view it. Simpler yet, you can set up your Windows system to view .OBJ files with G3D when double-clicked. Just run register-G3D-viewer64-run-as-administrator.bat one time as administrator (see these instructions to learn how).

Camera controls: WASD for normal movement, ZC for up and down, QE for swivel. Hold down Shift to go more slowly, Alt to go very fast. Escape to quit.

Aside from being a lovely renderer, G3D has additional features such as making a screenshot (F4) and recording a video (F6). The master G3D site is here.

Here's an example, side to side, of this set of sampler files, which show one of (almost) every block in Minecraft (a good world for looking at blocks and texture packs is here, and a compact one here).

G3D displaying an OBJ rendering file:

OBJ render with G3D

Color Schemes

Color schemes allows you to change the color for any block, and - extremely useful for 3d printing - remove any blocks you want from view. Key tip: you can eliminate all glass from your model by setting its alpha to 0 in a color scheme. This part of this video shows how to use color schemes to do this.

How do use a color scheme: From the menu, Add a new color scheme, then Edit it. Change the name "Color Scheme" at the top of the dialog that pops up to something useful, then select any block type to edit it. Color is given in hexadecimal color format. You can use MWSnap (old but free), FastStone Capture (new but costs $20), or other programs to find the hexadecimal (e.g. #787878) color value of any pixel on your screen. 'Alpha' says how opaque a block will appear on the screen, with 255 meaning fully opaque and 0 meaning fully transparent (invisible). Blocks with an alpha of 0 will be deleted when exporting. You can turn off export of all blocks by using the "Hide All Blocks" button. This feature allows you to create separate parts, e.g. a glass roof could be created by then turning on just glass export. The "Hide Tree Blocks" hides all log and leaf blocks, making printing of 3D terrain simpler (trees are sometimes hard to print well).

Changing the color will affect the 3D print model's color for only the "solid material colors" and "richer color textures" export modes; "full color texture patterns" (the default on the export dialog) will not be affected (except water, a little bit). To change full color textures' colors, you need to edit the input terrainExt.png itself. See TileMaker.

"My Model's Too Expensive!"

If you export to 3D print and upload to Shapeways, you might be surprised to find that the price is sometimes just shy of a used car. For example, this model of our spawn area is 15 x 9.8 inches in size (about 190 x 125 blocks, 2 mm wide), and costs $633.14. Expensive models happen because either the model is too small, or too large. The problem with models with only a few blocks in them is that you'll then scale it up to see it: each block itself is then massive. You have to pay for each block's volume. Mineways can't help you much there, you'll need to use a CAD program to hollow out your object manually. Shapeways has a tutorial on hollowing.

The more common problem you can hit is the blocks are not small enough. This happens with larger models, those 100+ hour darlings you sweated over in Minecraft. The cause is that, by default, Mineways exports the model to print at a safe size. Colored sandstone has a thin wall dimension of 2 millimeters. This means if some wall in your model is less than 2 mm thick, it is in danger of breaking into pieces if printed in color.

Rule of thumb: colored sandstone has a cost of $6 for every thousand blocks printed at the default 2 mm/block. There's a fixed cost of $3 per model, and $6.50 shipping. For example, if you want to spend $50, at this scale your model can have about 6750 blocks, after subtracting the fixed costs.

There are some solutions to the price problem:

By the way, I hear "it would be cheaper using LEGOs" a fair bit. LEGO blocks cost around 4-5 cents a block, 2 mm colored sandstone 3D printed blocks run about 6/10th of a cent. There are advantages to LEGOs (larger, reusable, fun to make) and disadvantages (no textures, not perfect cubes), but LEGO cost is not an advantage.

By default, Wavefront OBJ *.obj (and *.mtl) files are exported for rendering, VRML97 (aka VRML2) for 3D printing. Here's the rundown of the various file types you can select, including some subtleties about each.

OBJ, absolute: Wavefront OBJ is an old format, so is commonly supported as an import format for a huge range of applications. If you export materials, a corresponding *.mtl file is output; if you export textures, one or more *.png files are also created. The .obj and .mtl files are text files, so can be edited or processed further. By selecting "absolute" for the OBJ file, indices are absolute (positive), the norm. This is the format to use for export for upload to Sculpteo. See other export choices in the OBJ file export options documentation.

OBJ, relative: relative indices are used on faces. These allow you to concatenate two or more OBJ files into a single OBJ file.

Binary STL: This file format is commonly used by 3D printers. It normally is used for single-color materials, but the exporter will use either the Materialise Magics or VisCAM format to attach colors to triangles - see this article. I recommend using VisCAM's variant, as MeshLab will then display the proper model colors. When STL files, binary or ASCII, are exported a corresponding *.txt file is generated with information about the model. This same data is included in the beginning of the *.obj and *.wrl files themselves. This text file can be read back into Mineways using "Import Settings" to set everything back the way it was set before.

ASCII text STL: A variant for 3D printers, the file generated is considerably larger than the binary form and cannot include color. The main advantage is that this file type is a simple text file and so can be easily edited. The format is trivial and so can provide a raw set of triangles for a model.

VRML97: Also known as VRML2 or VRML 2.0. While this format has been superseded by X3D, it is commonly supported by a wide range of packages. That said, its main reason for existence here is that it's the only file format that Shapeways uses for colored models. The *.wrl and *.png file created are put into a zip file and uploaded to Shapeways for printing - see more about this process below. The VRML file produced is tailored towards making a single texture for printing. Note: Shapeways will properly preview all VRML output modes other than "solid material colors", where it has a limit of 16 different colors. These colored models will print fine, however. VRML97: Also known as VRML2 or VRML 2.0. While this format has been superseded by X3D, it is commonly supported by a wide range of packages. That said, its main reason for existence here is that it's the only file format that Shapeways uses for colored models. The *.wrl and *.png file created are put into a zip file and uploaded to Shapeways for printing - see more about this process below. The VRML file produced is tailored towards making a single texture for printing. Note: Shapeways will properly preview all VRML output modes other than "solid material colors", where it has a limit of 16 different colors. These colored models will print fine, however.

Export options

There is a bewildering dialog that pops up on export, with a ton of options. You can blithely ignore this dialog and always just click OK (or the Enter key). However, some of the options are extremely useful, so plow on if you want to make sure your model is strong enough and still cheap as can be.

export dialog

World coordinates selection: you can see and change the 3D volume of space to export from your world. If you want to know the location of a place in your world, use the F3 key when playing Minecraft. Note that negative values like -5.239 will round down to -6, and also note that your Y-value altitude is one higher than where your feet are located, and so two higher than the ground beneath you.

Key tip: If you exported a model in an earlier session and want to use the same settings for another export, read the model file (.OBJ, .WRL, or for STL the .TXT file) with the "Import Settings" command from the "File" Menu.

Create a ZIP: like it says, when exporting for 3d printing a ZIP file of the exported files is created, ready for upload for 3d printing at Shapeways or other service.

Create files themselves: the exported files themselves are also made available for previewing. By default, this option is off for VRML 3d printing, on for everything else. This is done because too often the .wrl file got uploaded to Shapeways; you must upload the .zip file.

Material export: these are pretty much as they say. The "no materials" option is just that. "Solid material colors" will give solid swatches of color for each material. "Richer color textures" gives texture tiles that have some noise in them. For the OBJ file format the difference is that a PNG texture file is output; VRML97 always exports a texture for any material option. "Full color textures patterns" requires the terrainExt.png file, reading this file to create full textures for each block, as possible. Some blocks are not yet supported for export, so are rendered as solid blocks. Remember that for any format you can always turn off a block from being output by setting its alpha to zero in your own color scheme. For "full textures" the color scheme has no other effect, other than affecting the water color: the higher the alpha set, the more of the base color you define is combined with the water texture. So, for a deeper blue, you can define the two water colors (note there's a "stationary water") as dark blue or even black and a high alpha, e.g. 200.

The one file you may want to change is the terrainExt.png file that comes with Mineways. To select a different terrainExt.png file, use the "Set Terrain File (terrainExt.png)" under the File menu. Mineways comes with a number of premade terrainExt.png files for you to try. If you have a terrainExt.png file you would always like to use by default, copy it into the directory where mineways.exe is located and call it terrainExt.png, replacing the one that is there.

To make terrainExt.png files yourself, use the TileMaker.

Here are some of the texture pack terrainExt.png files distributed with Mineways, displayed with G3D.

Click on an image for the larger version.

The effective 3D print resolution of textures appears to be around maybe 10x10 for the default output block size of 2 mm/block. Fine details are unlikely to be visible, though sometimes I'm surprised to see them.

Click on an image for higher resolution versions.
small grillwork This model was made using Glimmar's Steampunk terrainExt.png and printed at 2 mm/block. It appears that the glass cube grillwork texture has some synchronization problem with the printer, causing the pattern to sometimes print out incorrectly.
3 mm chain

This model is printed at 3 mm/block and shows the original 16x16 TNT tile; however, at both ends the fidelity becomes poor.

5 mm chest

This model, from Alexander Boden, is a 5 mm/block print which clearly shows details such as cobblestone and tree bark.

One warning: 128x128 and larger tile texture packs will work (and will take a while to process), but previewing these files in an interactive viewer may not work. This is because DirectX and OpenGL have limitations on the maximum texture size. These texture files should display fine in offline renderers.

Internals: the tiles are each given a border 1 pixel wide. This border avoids bilinear interpolation artifacts. However, mipmapping will not work well, since tiles are next to each other, so disable it for rendering (other sampling techniques should work fine). If you cannot disable bilinear interpolation in your renderer and want a blockier look, take your terrainExt.png file and resize it to be say 4x larger in both directions - you can use the TileMaker program included with Mineways (use the "-t tileSize" option), or any other image manipulation program (I'd use "nearest neighbor", if possible - IrfanView has this option when resizing a texture by doing "Size method: Resize"). Note: from experimentation, this higher resolution does not improve the clarity of 3D texture printing.

On the left, the basic 256 x 384 terrainExt.png file is used; on the right, the input terrainExt.png image is resized (without filtering) to 1024 texels wide. You can download high-resolution versions of terrainExt.png: 1024 wide and 8192 wide.

low resolution high resolution

You can also interactively compare these sampling methods here vs. here.

Wavefront OBJ file export options:

The logic for the first few options is confusing (even to me), so here are all the permutations (ignore the G3D material option):

If you check "Split materials into subtypes", for the last three combinations materials are then created per sub-type, e.g., there are three kinds of Dirt. If only a single material is output, this option is ignored.

Make Z the up direction instead of Y: some graphics applications consider the Y direction to be "up", some Z. If your model imports sideways into your application, check (or uncheck) this box.

Create composite overlay faces: For 3D printing there cannot be "floating" cutout tiles such as vines, ladders, rails, etc. These block types are overlaid atop the underlying block and a new "composite" texture is saved and used. This process must be done for 3D printing. For rendering it is an option. The advantage of leaving this option off is that the result more closely matches Minecraft itself, and that each object has its own material. It also means that all render files exported could use single set of PNG textures, since no composite textures are created. The main drawback of having this option off is that you may encounter z-fighting problems, stray shadows, or other artifacts in your renderings.

This option was on by default for rendering up to version 5.00 of Mineways (really, it could not be turned off); as of 5.01 this option is off by default.

composite off Create composite option off (the default). The ladders, rails, and lily pad float a bit above the surface.
composite on Create composite option on. Note how the ladders, rails, and lily pad are attached to the surface.

Center model around the origin: when checked, the center of the bottom of the model is put at the origin, location (0,0,0). This helps for import into some renderers, and can improve the floating-point resolution of the data. If you want to instead have the same coordinate values as in your world, uncheck this box (you might also want to set the "Make each block" size to whatever you like). Unchecking this option is useful if you do multiple exports from the same world for rendering and want them to use the same coordinate space. Multiple exports are a way to get around the export size limits for the 32-bit version of Mineways, which is what runs on the Mac.

Use biome in center of export area: Instead of the default colors (seen on the Plains biome), use the grass, tree, and water colors computed by the biome in the export. Currently the biome at the center of the export is used for the whole export. I hope to export multiple biomes someday, but this is a complex export, as it can require many different color variants of grass and tree blocks. See the biomes display option for how to display the biomes.

Create block faces at the borders: this option is only available for rendering, to reduce polygon count. When on, the edges of the export the model are sealed off with whatever blocks were at the borders. For 3D printing this is necessary, as the model must be a solid object. For rendering these side and bottom polygons often are not needed, as the camera is usually positioned to never view these areas of the model. Turning this option off for rendering also allows better "tiling", where you export a world piece by piece and read all the pieces in (see center model, above), as it pays more attention to neighboring blocks just outside the borders. Note: the various 3D print "fill air bubbles" methods will turn off this method (it's a bug).

In the scene below, the camera is dollied out to see the borders. The model with borders off, on the right, has about 15% less polygons in it.

Tree leaves solid (less polygons): this option is only available for rendering, to reduce polygon count. Tree leaves are "cutout" textures, which means that by default each leaf block is exported, along with the trunks. In forested scenes this can make for a lot of extra polygons. By checking this box, leaves are made solid with a black background, which then allows many less polygons to be generated. For example, in the scene below, rendered with G3D, the transparent leaf model has 986k triangles, the solid leaf model just 369k triangles.

The rest of the options mostly have to do with 3D printing, which follows.

Exporting to 3D print

As background, view the Shapeways 3D color printing process video. Layers of material are laid down and solidified at the appropriate spots. Unsolidified "sand" is vacuumed away. You pay by volume, not by complexity. What this means to you is: avoid making enclosed spaces with tiny entrances. Unfortunately, most buildings are just that: large rooms with small doors. Your job is to make sure your model has either no openings at all, in which case the Hollow option can clear out the inside, leaving just a shell. Alternately, make escape holes yourself using snow blocks, which you then melt after all processing of your model. I'll explain these options below.

There are other potential pitfalls with 3D printing, such as thin wall problems (more here), and too many polygons (rare for a Minecraft model), to name just two. Shapeways' tutorial pages and materials pages give you a lot to chew on, Sculpteo has a good single-page rundown. The Mineways program tries to guide you past the major pitfalls, but it's always possible to generate something that's essentially unprintable: too weak, holes too small to clear out the dust, etc. Browsing the tutorials there should help you understand what is possible. Options follow.

Rotate model clockwise: this is useful when you want to display a model on Shapeways. The view of the model is rendered by Shapeways from the south-south-east. So if your model faces west, you might rotate it 270 degrees to have it face south and so display better on your models page. One way to tell if the model is facing right before uploading to Shapeways is to load it into MeshLab, which has pretty much the same initial view as Shapeways uses.

Scale: There are four major ways to scale your model.

Bonus pro tip, for pixel-art makers: if you export pixel art, you'll often want scale the model down to lower than 2 mm/block, e.g., by specifying a target height. This keeps the price down and lets you get exactly the size you want. However, the thickness of pixel art model is usually just one block wide, and Shapeways won't print a model in colored sandstone that is less than 2 mm thick. You could go add blocks to make the model twice as thick, but there's an easier way. Open up the WRL file in a text editor and look for this line:

scale 1 1 1
Say you were printing at 0.8 mm/block. Change that to, for example
scale 2.5 1 1
and the model will be 2.5 times as wide in the X direction, 2 mm/block. Give the file a preview to see if it's what you want. You may need to do
scale 1 1 2.5
or possibly even (if you built the pixel art on the ground, facing up)
scale 1 2.5 1
to thicken the model in the right direction. Don't forget to put this new WRL inside the ZIP file before uploading to Shapeways. Note that this will also stretch the appearance of the blocks around the edges, for good or ill. For pixel art (which you might want to export without texture, just colors) this probably won't matter.

Physical material: choosing a material here from among the more sensible Shapeways material options sets the default wall thickness and constrains the "Aim for a cost" option. It also ensures that the price is computed for that material and output in the top of the model file (or associated *.txt file, for STL output). Key tip: if you look at your export file (.OBJ, .WRL, or for STL the .TXT file) in a text editor, you'll find all sorts of useful information about the model and how you generated it.

The "White & Flexible" material has a smaller minimum wall thickness compared to "Colored Sandstone" (0.7 mm vs. 2.0 mm), so much smaller (and cheaper) models can be created in it. White & flexible is plastic and pretty durable, colored sandstone is heavier, fairly strong, but brittle. Shapeways has a tutorial on how to paint this white plastic material, which can be fun in itself. Note that the ceramics material has a maximum wall thickness of 15 mm, something Mineways does not check; this material is also the only one where you are charged by surface area instead of volume (which Mineways does compute).

The "Custom Printer" material is used for STL export. By default, it is set to show the approximate cost of a print for 1.75 mm PLA priced at $24 for a 1 kilogram spool. The cost numbers are modifiable by using a script. See the scripting commands for "Custom printer" for how to set new cost values.

Model's units: when a model is saved, the values stored in the file are not in any particular units, like meters or inches. However, 3D printers need this scale for printing the model. Millimeters are assumed, as this is what Shapeways uses by default. For other services and printers, other units are assumed. Here's a brief rundown:

By default, the model is heavily processed to clear up a number of potential 3D printing problems:

Fill air bubbles: any hollow area is filled with solid material (specifically, glass, which can sometimes be seen when doing base hollowing, below). There are two sub-options:

Example: in the first image, the inside of the building is not filled in. In the second, the "Seal off entrances" export box is checked. Since the model has window and door gaps that are only a block wide, these will be detected and the interior will be filled in, as shown on the right.

Wide door example: in the first image, the inside of this simple building is visible. In the second, the "Seal off entrances" export box is checked. The torches are then considered as blocking the entrance; since the entrance is fully sealed off, the room is filled with glass. This example is trivial, but by placing torches you can seal rooms off so that they fill up with glass, then get hollowed by the "hollow" option, described further on, thus saving on printing areas difficult or impossible to see from outside.

Another wide door example: Another way to seal off large doors or windows is to add snow blocks. Here a two-block-wide door will not automatically be sealed off by the "seal off entrances" option. By adding snow blocks and then also enabling the melt option, the building interior will be sealed off and then the snow blocks removed before output.

Connect parts sharing an edge: certain non-manifold edges (where two blocks are diagonal and share an edge) are eliminated by a welding process in which more blocks are added. This welding process normally occurs only when it joins pieces that otherwise would be separated and fall apart.

Example:
With all connect parts options off the strings of the balloons do not connect. These will probably print as separate bits.

Blocks sharing an edge are connected. Some parts of the strings touch only at corner tips, so are still not connected. Note that for these examples the "delete floating objects" option was turned off, as otherwise the disconnected string bits would have been removed.

Corner tips are connected, and now each balloon will print correctly.

Debug mode, showing edge connecting blocks as lava and tip connecting blocks as pink wool.

Delete floating objects: if objects hang in space, these are eliminated if they're small (less than 16 blocks in size) or are entirely tree logs and leaves. This step eliminates parts of trees hanging along the edge because of where the selection box is located. If you get a warning about there being more than one part in a model exported, crank the block number up to 1000 or more to get rid of larger chunks (once you know what those chunks are - see the debug display parts mode below). If you're sure you want just the one connected group in the scene, set this value to 999999 and only the largest object in the scene will be saved.

Example:
Exporting without deletion of floating objects results in a hunk of foliage hanging in space.

The "debug showing groups" option shows the disconnected group (the black columns are support columns created when hollowing).

Turning on deletion of floating objects, the floating foliage is deleted. Note the clump of leaves from a chopped-off tree stuck to the house is not deleted: get out the shears in Minecraft, if you want to chop it clear.

Hollow out bottom of model: models are typically resting on an uneven ground layer, and building interiors are typically filled in. Hollowing clears out blocks inside the model, making it less expensive and faster to print. The "super hollow" option is more aggressive, searching hollow areas found to see if more can be carved out.

This option, used in conjunction with seal off entrances, can make detailed models stronger. If the interior of a model is entirely filled in by the "fill air bubbles" process, it can then be hollowed out and the walls left thick. For example, say you want to print your cathedral model with 1 mm wide blocks. The printer you want to use needs walls at least 2 mm thick. Instead of manually adding blocks to the interior of your entire model, by using the seal off the entrances option you fill the interiors in with solid blocks. When you hollow, you set the hollow width to 2 mm, or even 3 mm, and now the exterior walls will be made a few blocks thick, automatically.

Technical note: superhollow can sometimes create little separate objects at the bottom layer unconnected to the rest of the model, pieces of tunnel not cleaned out. You'll need to also turn on the "fill in isolated tunnels" box to have these removed ("delete floating objects" should do this, but currently does not).

Example:
Hollowing is off and tunnels are not sealed.

Tunnels are sealed (the glass blocks). While this briefly increases the block count, hollowing will cut it considerably.

Basic hollowing is performed; the cutaway shows how far it penetrates into the teapot. Block count is reduced from 26.8k blocks to 14.7k blocks.

Superhollowing is performed, reducing the count further, to 8.3k blocks. The escape hole between teapot and ground looks to be large enough to clear the sand (and indeed it was, see this photo)

Melt snow blocks: The seal off entrances option automatically looks for one-block-wide entrances and windows and seals them off. If you have wider entrances, off-axis windows (such as in a dome), holes in the roof, or other features, instead of adding torches or ladders to help seal these off, you can use snow blocks to do so. The melt option then removes these snow blocks from your model just before output. See the seal off entrances option description for an example of its use.

Export lesser, detailed blocks: when 3D printing, this option is off by default; for rendering it is on. When not checked, smaller objects, such as signs, fences, etc., are removed - only nearly-block-sized or important blocks are exported. This option is on by default when exporting full color textures for rendering; turn it off to remove the "billboard" objects and other smaller geometry objects. Remember you can also turn off output of any block type by setting its alpha to zero in your own custom color scheme. Basically, I've given you the ability to shoot yourself in the foot for 3D printing; I leave it to you to turn off any block types you think are likely to break off. As such, if you use this option you should probably turn off the "Connect parts sharing an edge" and "Delete floating objects" options further down, as these are likely to not work well - only full blocks are tracked when using these features. When exporting lesser blocks it's better to add and delete blocks by hand and not have the program clean up the data. If you do want to check for floating objects, I recommend exporting full blocks first (which will perform the check properly if the option is checked), then export lesser blocks with the option off.

Checking this box for 3D printing is experimental and risky, but will allow you to properly export slabs, stairs, etc. The model produced with this option on can have some geometry that's tough for some 3D print slicers to process. The risk is that the service bureau or printer software cannot properly interpret your files. If you are printing a single-color model, use the free cloud version of netfabb to preprocess your model. Shapeways also uses netfabb to process your uploaded models, so you should have no problems with the mesh itself using their service. You may of course still have problems with features being too thin to reliably print.

If you use another service bureau such as Sculpteo, look over your uploaded model for any missing block or texturing errors. Secret Sculpteo trick: you can see a large view of your model by using the URL http://www.sculpteo.com/en/embed/design/<xxx>, where you put the 8 character identifier for your model in place of <xxx>. For example, for this model the 8 characters in the URL are "hfM9BZw2", so use http://www.sculpteo.com/en/embed/design/hfM9BZw2 to see it large. Try these two links and compare.

Shapeways merges most of the "lesser blocks" geometry properly but fails with some textures.

Sculpteo does the texture merge properly, but is missing a stair step on the right part of the roof.

Sculpteo's solidity check feature showing how fences along the top of this palace model are likely to break off.

Currently even extremely thin objects, such as sign posts and single fence posts, are exported. These are likely to break off, especially at small block sizes. You might want to "shore up" thin features by placing blocks below them (such as for roofs made of stair steps) and next to them (such as for doors). Below are three prints done with fences, stair and slab roofs, and other small blocks. On the left, 1 mm/block, the fences and thin pillars have sheared right off. 2 mm/block, in the middle, survived intact for the most part - not surprisingly, a free-standing door at the rear broke off. With 3 mm/block, on the right, a part of the fence broke off when the superglue was applied. More photos can be found here. (Image courtesy of Alex Boden)

Fatten lesser blocks: If you do decide to export using the "lesser" option, you can make some of the more delicate blocks fatter so that they are less likely to break off during printing. No guarantees! The blocks fattened are: fences, fence gates, doors, free-standing sign posts (which I suspect will still snap off), and pressure plates (since they sometimes get used for table tops).

There are also two debug print options available, both shown in examples above. The "Debug: show floating parts" option does just that: the largest object is made semi-transparent and smaller groups each given a unique color, so that you can see what pieces of the model are not connected. Either remove these smaller parts by kicking up the "delete floating objects" limit, or go into Minecraft itself and add blocks to attach them together. That said, separate parts are fine in a file if you know what you are doing: you could be making a chain of separate links, or could have a number of individual pieces (such as letters) you want to create in a single print run.

The "show weld blocks" option shows what blocks are added by the various "connect parts" options. If you don't like where the welds are put, you can go into your Minecraft world and edit the model yourself. Key tip: you can run Mineways and play Minecraft at the same time. So, you can edit your world in Minecraft, then reload the world into Mineways by pressing the "r" key. The selected area won't be cleared when you do so, so you can edit, reload, export, and view the model (in a separate viewer); lather, rinse, repeat. This is an efficient way to improve and view any model you're working on.

TileMaker

TileMaker is a command-line utility for making a terrainExt.png file, which is the file that Mineways uses to add textures to surfaces. Note: currently the program works only on the PC. If you figure out a way to run it on the Mac for free (not through some emulator", which should work but costs money), let me know.

TileMaker works by using a few different textures from Minecraft or from a resource pack to create a new texture to feed to Mineways. Specifically, here's how to set things up:

You can then feed this file to Mineways using "File | Set Terrain File". If you want this new file to be the default used at startup, simply replace the terrainExt.png file that comes with Mineways. To sum up:
TileMaker.exe and terrainBase.png
blocks directory filled with files from assets\minecraft\textures\blocks and barrier.png perhaps from assets\minecraft\textures\items
    chest directory inside a copy of the assets\minecraft\textures\entity\chest directory

A little background might help. Minecraft itself and all resource packs have their own block image files. You'll find your Minecraft executable in a directory such as "C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft\versions\1.10.2". If you unzip the Minecraft jar file there, e.g. 1.10.2.jar, you'll find the tiles used in the jar directory "assets\minecraft\textures\blocks". They have names such as "anvil_base.png" and "cake_side.png". These are what Minecraft uses to display blocks, and what the TileMaker utility uses to make the terrainExt.png used by Mineways.

What TileMaker does by default is pretty simple: it reads in the terrainBase.png file, overlays it with any tiles in the "blocks" subdirectory (replacing the originals), extracts the chests from "blocks\chest", then writes out this new image as terrainExt.png. TileMaker's main task is to resize all tiles to the largest tile found. For example, if you had a bunch of 16x16 size block tiles in the "blocks" directory, along with one large 64x64 tile, the output terrainExt.png would have all its tiles be 64x64 in size. Chests' sizes are ignored during this resizing calculation.

There are many options available for doing more elaborate operations (such as forcing a particular tile size, using a different input directory or output file name, etc.), but then you need to run TileMaker from the command line or in a .bat file. In the command line you use "cd" to go to the directory where the TileMaker.exe file is located, then do something along these lines:

TileMaker -d blocks_doku -o terrainExtDoku.png
The "-d directory" option tells TileMaker to use this directory instead of "blocks" for the images you want to overlay. The "-o filename" tells it to write the resulting image to the filename given. Directory and image names cannot have spaces in them.

Here is a rundown of the other TileMaker options and their uses. To get a reminder of these, type:

TileMaker -?
on the command line.
TileMaker [-i terrainBase.png] [-d blocks] [-o terrainExt.png]
        [-t tileSize] [-c chosenTile] [-nb] [-nt] [-r] [-m] [-a] [-v]

-i terrainBase.png - image containing the base set of terrain blocks (includes special chest tiles). Default is 'terrainBase.png'.

-d blocks - directory of block textures to overlay on top of the base. Default directory is 'blocks'.

-o terrainExt.png - the resulting terrain image, used by Mineways. Default is terrainExt.png.

-t tileSize - force a power of 2 tile size for the resulting terrainExt.png file, e.g. 32, 128. Useful for zooming or making a 'draft quality' terrainExt.png - a low-resolution terrainExt.png makes for a much faster export. If not set, the largest tile found in the base or blocks directory is used.

-c chosenTile - for tiles with multiple versions (e.g. water, lava, portal), choose which tile to use. 0 means topmost, 1 second from top, 2 etc.; -1 bottommost, -2 next to bottom.

-nb - no base; the base texture terrainBase.png is not read. This option is good for seeing what images are in the blocks directory, as these are what get put into terrainExt.png. This terrainExt.png file is probably not usable as-is, since terrainBase.png contains some special tiles, such as those for the chests.

-nt - no tile directory; don't read in any images in the "blocks" directory, only the base image is read (and probably zoomed, otherwise this option is pointless).

-r - replace (from the 'blocks' directory) only those tiles not in the base texture. This is a way of extending a base texture to new versions of Minecraft, while retaining existing blocks. For example, say you spend some time making a great terrainExt.png file you love. A new version of Minecraft comes out, adding say a wheat mill block. You put this new wheat mill block image in the blocks directory, get the latest version of Mineways/TileMaker (which hopefully would support the wheat mill), and run with "-r". This reads the blocks directory and checks the terrainBase.png at the same time. If terrainBase.png has no data for the tile's location, i.e. it's black with an alpha of 0, then the block is used to create a terrainExt.png file, otherwise the block is ignored.

-m - to report all missing tiles, ones that Mineways uses but were not in the tiles directory. This option is a way of finding if there are any images you can still add to the "blocks" directory. For example, if "nether_brick.png" is reported missing, you know that "blocks" doesn't have this image and that Mineways will use it. This merely means that the default terrainBase.png texture will be used instead.

-a - include alternate texture names when files are not found. These alternate names can be found in tiles.h, alternate names of textures sometimes found in block texture directories.

-s - output solid color. Instead of exporting the texture, export a solid color formed from the average color of the texture. This is useful if you want specific colors for block faces or for various IDs for a block type. The texture produced is more appropriate for 3D printing.

-S - output solid color with cutouts. As above, but for rendering. Note that the "grass_side_overlay" texture will still affect the side of the block, so modify this texture to avoid detailed grass block sides.

-v - verbose, explain everything going on. Default: display only warnings.

Rendering Tips

This section covers the basics on importing Mineways files into various renderers. To be honest, if you want better geometry for some blocks, you should consider using jmc2obj. Mineways' focus is on 3D printing more than rendering, so has limitations such as using a single texture for the model. The one feature that Mineways offers animators that is currently not in other exporters is the "individual blocks" option, which exports each block as a separate object.

While I have your ear, you should also check out OptiFine, GLSL Shaders, and Unbelievable Shaders for in-game play or viewing: they have lots of cool rendering options.

Previewing:

To quickly check results before printing or importing into a rendering program, consider using an interactive previewer. MeshLab is a good previewer models in any format Mineways produces.

For rendering preview I recommend the G3D when using full color textures. It does not have cross-sectioning and supports only OBJ files, but has much better transparency support and shadows, and has screenshot and video capture built in.

What follows are steps for using various popular rendering software packages. There are always more; for example, this article talks in depth about using RenderMan for rendering.

Blender

Here's a quick beginner tutorial from Alexander Boden, along with ideas by Milenco Mulder and others; if you have anything to add, let me know. This is for Blender version 2.75a. Alternative Minecraft exporters for Blender include jmc2obj, a general-purpose and full-featured exporter, and Mineblend, which is tailored specifically for Minecraft to Blender import.

There is some additional information on Blender and Mineways in this, this and this thread. There are a number of add-ons for Blender with Minecraft, e.g. these rigs, which can give you models that Mineways itself currently does not export.

1) Open your World in Mineways, then, select the area for exporting (hold right mouse button and drag the rectangle), and choose "File | Export Model for Rendering" from the menu.

2) "File | Export Model for Rendering" and save the file as a Wavefront Object (.obj) to a folder of your choice. Let's call it myobject.obj or whatever you like. You can simply click "OK" in the dialog with the export settings.

3) Open Blender 2.75a (or later) and click anywhere on the screen to make the splash screen disappear. Then press "x" (or "delete"), and then "Enter". This deletes the default cube on the screen.

4) Import the model: select "File | Import | Wavefront (.obj)" from the menu. Search and select for your Mineways export file (the .obj file) and click "Import OBJ" (or just double-click the file name itself). Wait a bit.

If you cannot select Wavefront from the Import dialog, you have to activate this file format first from the settings menu. Select "File | User Preferences", activate the "Addons" tab, and scroll down in the list until you find "Import-Export: Wavefront OBJ format)". Just activate the checkbox at this entry, dismiss the settings dialog and try importing again.

5) Turn on textured display: near the bottom of the viewport, above the animation timeline, is "View Select Add Object" etc. Just to the right of "Object Mode" is a shaded white sphere. Click on it and pick "Texture". You should now see the model as textured.

6) Resizing: The model we have just imported is probably small on the screen. There are two solutions: one is to use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out - this changes the camera's location. Alternatively, move the cursor to the center of the screen, hit "s", and move the mouse until you have the right size, then click the left mouse button to save the size. This second method changes the size of the model itself, which you might not want to do.

7) Rendering: You are now ready to do a first render of your model. Just press "F12" or select "Render | Render Image" from the menu and have a look.

8) Material Conversion:Material Conversion: You'll probably notice a few problems with the render: transparent objects aren't transparent, flowers and torches are on billboards, etc. At this point you have three choices: easy, easy, and hard. The easy routes are to use one of two scripts provided with the Mineways distribution: blender_mineways.py, created by Nicky and improved by Wyatt Jameson, or CyclesMineways.py, created by Jonathan Edelman.

9) Camera: Go back to the interactive view by hitting "F11". Move your view around with the middle mouse button. You can rotate by dragging with middle-mouse, or hold down shift and you'll pan, or hold down control and you'll dolly. Once you like the view, click Control-Alt-Numpad 0 to set the camera to your view. If you always want your current view to show what is rendered, while in interactive mode select "View" (in the lower left), "Properties", and under the View area select "Lock Camera to View". If you found the right angle and perspective for your camera, you can fine tune a couple of parameters in the camera menu. This can be found by first selecting the Camera object from the list of objects in the upper right, then clicking the small film-camera (not the photo camera) symbol just below the list of objects, towards the right. When you click it, a section called "lens" should appear. You can set the "Shift" of the X and Y axis, as well as the focal length of the camera.

If you are happy with your results, you can select "Image | Save as Image" from the menu near the left bottom of the screen, or hit F3.

10) Ambient lighting: In order to achieve a more even lighting of your scene, select the "world" icon in the menu bar where you also found the camera and the lamp settings (i.e., just below the object list). Turn on the "Ambient Occlusion" checkbox in the parameter list below. Play with the "Factor" value in this section, I like something between 0.25-0.5. In this menu, you can also set the background of your scene in the "World" section. Pick the "Real Sky" option and set horizon and zenith colors as you wish.

11) Lighting: There is one predefined light source on the working area (which looks like a dot with two enclosing dotted circles). You'll usually have to zoom out to see it. You can right click to select it, or select the Lamp from the object list. Move it around the screen by selecting the red, green, and blue arrows and dragging. Then, select the Lamp settings in the same menu bar where you found the camera symbol. It looks like a small sun with four arrows pointing away from it in different directions. Click it, and you can find all kinds of parameters that affect the lighting of your scene. For example, try exchanging the "Point" type for "Sun", and play with the "Energy" value. You can also change the color by clicking the color field above the Energy settings. You can add Lamps from the "Add" menu in the upper left.

12) Render Size: You can also set several parameters of the Renderer by selecting the small photo camera icon in the menu bar where you also found the film camera, the lamp, etc. In the section "Dimensions", you can set the Resolution of the image and add a border, etc. In order to export Full HD, you can set the Resolution to X:1920 and Y:1080, and set 100% in the bar below these settings.

13) Upload your creation to the Mineways Flickr group! (Optional, but extremely recommended)

Here's a typical result, made in a few minutes:

3DS MAX

Note: 3DS MAX is free for students and teachers.

These instructions are for 3DS MAX 2012. You might also try jmc2obj instead, as it does a better job producing some geometry. The steps here should also work for cleaning up jmc2obj OBJ models.

For newbies (like me): in a Viewport, middle-mouse button changes the view: mouse-wheel to zoom, button to pan, Alt key down to rotate, Control key down to fast-pan. Shift+Q to render. Steps are as follows:

Step 1: Get your world and region selected in Mineways, then select 'Export Model for 3D Rendering'.

Step 2: Save as the file type 'OBJ'. You may wish to try the "G3D full material" option, as this gives a slightly different water color by changing the diffuse color to white.

Step 3: Adjust the export options as you wish. Nothing is required here; by default, blocks will come in at a size of 1/10th meter each. You can adjust this by changing "Make each block 100 mm high"; for example, 1000 mm is 1 meter, MAX's unit size.

Step 4: Use the upper left MAX symbol menu and select Import. Find the .obj file and select it. In the OBJ Import Options, under Normals select Faceted to get Minecraft's blocky look. Alternately, if you want to smooth water surfaces a bit, select "Auto" and leave the setting at 30 degrees. Click "Import" at the bottom.

Step 5: Go to Render Setup in the Rendering menu (or just hit "F10"). Select the Renderer tab and uncheck the "Filter Maps" checkbox under Antialiasing. This makes cutout objects look correct, as well as making the Minecraft textures have their distinctive blocky appearance.

Step 6 (optional): At this point rendering should work fine. In interactive preview mode you will see some transparency problems in the Viewport. To fix these, bring up the material editor by pressing "M" and expand the view. Scroll down in the Material/Map Browser on the left and find "+ Scene Materials". Click on the "+" to show the scene's materials. Double-click on whatever material looks bad, e.g. Stationary_Water, Glass, Leaves, Torch, Tall_Grass, Sugar_Cane, Rose, Dandelion, etc. Now click on the "checkerboard-with-light" icon along the top, which does "Show Shaded Material in Viewport". This material should now look better. Do this for each material that looks bad. Press "M" again when finished, to dismiss the material browser. If someone knows a faster way to change all materials, let me know. Note that these fixes do not affect the final render itself.

Maya

Note: Maya is free for students and teachers.

Check out this video from this playlist, it shows how to set transparency and texture sampling. That said, you may want to use jmc2obj, which even comes with a MEL script to perform cleanup during import.

A problem with jmc2obj is that each material must be adjusted by hand. One option in Mineways that can speed import conversion is to uncheck the "Material per object" checkbox in the OBJ file export options. Doing so means you have to fix up only one material, though at the expense of not having a separate material per object (that said, you can always add new materials later). That said, this option tends to mess up Maya's display, as every object will be considered semitransparent and all will be sorted from back to front by depth in the interactive viewport, causing objects to flicker in front of each other. The scene will render just fine, however.

Cinema 4D

Here is how to import a model and set the textures for Cinema 4D. The steps are from this excellent video from this forum post, which includes a number of other useful Cinema 4D animation tutorials and resource links. Here's one more useful post. The instructions have been updated for Cinema 4D R17; older versions may need additional steps, as shown.

That said, you may want to use jmc2obj, another exporter. The main downside of jmc2obj is that you have to reattach every single texture it generates by hand; Mineways uses just one texture, so the cleanup process is much faster.

Step 1: Get your world and region selected in Mineways, then select 'Export Model for 3D Rendering'.

Step 2: Save as the file type 'OBJ'. Use Absolute OBJ, not relative, as Cinema 4D does not read relative OBJs well.

Step 3: Adjust the export options as you wish. Nothing is required here; by default, blocks will come in at a size of 1/10th meter each. You can adjust this by changing "Make each block 100 mm high"; for example, 1000 mm is 1 meter.

You may wish to change the OBJ file export options in the upper right of the dialog, but the defaults are fine.

Step 4: Once the model is exported, open Cinema4D and drag into the main window the .obj file generated. Make sure the "Presets" at the top of the OBJ Import dialog is set to Default. (If you don't, your grass blocks will import upside-down.) Hit "OK".

To move around the scene, hold down Alt and use the three mouse buttons and scroll wheel.

Step 5: Select all the materials in the material viewer, the row of spheres at the lower left. Do this by clicking one sphere and then hitting Control-A. All spheres should now be selected.

Step 6: On the material options, in the right lower window, select the "Basic" button. In the Basic Properties uncheck the Reflectance (in older versions, "Specular") option, and check the Alpha option.

Step 7: In older versions of Cinema 4D all objects will be white, as the texture is not attached. If this occurs, select the "Color" settings, and towards the bottom is the Texture setting. Click on the three dots button to the far right of "Texture" and choose the corresponding image file with the suffix "-RGB.png". For example, if your model name is "castle.obj", select "castle-RGB.png". Objects should now have textures.

Step 8: Select the "Alpha" settings, and at the bottom is the Texture setting. Again, click on the three dots button to the far right of "Texture". This time pick the image file with the suffix "-RGBA.png". If none exists, just cancel; this means you have no transparent objects in your scene. Otherwise, all transparent objects should now appear so.

Step 9: If you want to make textures look blocky, like they do in Minecraft, in the Alpha settings under Texture, change the Sampling from "<<Multiple values>>" to "none". Click on the "Color" button and change the Texture Sampling from "<<Multiple values>>" to "none" here, too. Note that in the interactive mode the textures will not look quite right, but when rendered will be blocky. Also, you'll see "Multiple Values" before and after picking "None" - have faith, you've chosen correctly. Or click on the "Multiple Values" line to the right of "Texture...." to see the settings, and the back arrow button above the menu to exit this menu. For a quick render to see the effect, click Ctrl-R.

Alternate method: VRML: If you have problems with OBJ import, or would prefer a single material for the whole scene, you can also import using VRML. (Note: there is also an OBJ plugin for C4D with a free trial, Riptide). Here are steps from James Christien (icecruiser xD; example C4D result here), with help from Huskyiee on alpha.

Step 1: Get your world and region selected in Mineways, then select 'Export Model for 3D Rendering'.

Step 2: Save as the file type 'VRML'.

Step 3: Adjust the export options as you wish. Nothing is required here; by default, blocks will come in at a size of 1/10th meter each. You can adjust this by changing "Make each block 100 mm high"; for example, 1000 mm is 1 meter.

Step 4: Once the model is exported, open Cinema4D and drag into the main window the .WRL file generated. Hit "OK" for the import options dialog.

Step 5: Once it is all loaded, if black ugly things are present on tiles - such as glass or torches - then double-click the material (the round sphere) in the materials viewer at the left bottom.

Step 6: On the material options, in the right lower window, select the "Basic" button. In the Basic Properties uncheck the Reflectance (in older versions, "Specular") and check the Alpha option. You should see to the right of the "Basic" button the button "Color", then "Alpha". Click on Alpha.

Step 7: In the Alpha settings, at the bottom is the Texture setting. Click on the little right arrow next to "Texture", go down the menu and select Bitmaps, and choose the corresponding PNG for the model. All the black things should now be gone, ready to be rendered properly.

Step 8: If you want to make textures look blocky, like they do in Minecraft, in the Alpha settings under Texture type from Sampling "MIP" to Sampling "none". Click on the "Color" button and change the Texture Sampling from "MIP" to "none" here, too. Note that in the interactive mode the textures will not look quite right, but when rendered are fine. For a quick render to see the effect, click Ctrl-R.

Publish to Sketchfab

Sketchfab is a free service that lets you upload your models and share them with others; try an example here or look at the end of these instructions. Mineways exports to it in a straightforward fashion, there are just a few steps to get your model up and running. It's always been possible to upload models to Sketchfab, see these illustrated instructions. With the 4.16 version of Mineways you can now publish directly from Mineways to Sketchfab. Note: you can always export a rendering as usual to an OBJ file and upload the ZIP of the files output to Sketchfab. This will give a somewhat different rendering style, sharp and less shadowed.

1) Sign up for an account on Sketchfab.

2) Open your World in Mineways, then, select the area for exporting (hold right mouse button and drag the rectangle), and choose "File | Publish to Sketchfab" from the menu.

3) The Sketchfab dialog will come up. Click on the button "Get your token." This will open a web page.

One line says "API Token," as shown below. Copy the API token, a long string of letters and numbers (a black box covers mine here), and paste it into the Sketchfab dialog. Fill in the other fields as you wish, then click "Upload" at the bottom.

4) When done, a new dialog comes up saying, "Your model has been uploaded. Click OK to view it on Sketchfab." - do that!

5) On the model's web page, adjust and save the view. You can orbit, pan, and zoom (mouse wheel). In the lower-right corner is an eye icon, where you can switch to a "First Person" mode - I find it a bit zippy by default, so use the mouse wheel to dial down the speed. Also, if you double-click with the middle-mouse button on your object, you set the pivot point that the camera orbits around. Pick a nice view and then click "SAVE VIEW" in the upper left-hand corner.

6) In the lower right of the window click "SETTINGS" and choose "3D settings". I recommend clicking on the light-bulb icon in the upper left, then turn on the lights (just below); this will give shadows. There are lots of options here - explore and have fun! You can change the surrounding environment, make various materials look different, etc. Annotations are nice for setting up views and touring your model.

7) In the upper right click "SAVE SETTINGS".. Then click "EXIT" and you're done.

If for some reason you can't get the "Publish to Sketchfab" feature to work for you, or you want to use anything but the default export options, there's another way to upload to Sketchfab that's only a little more work. Follow these instructions or go through the step-by-step below.

1) Open your World in Mineways, then, select the area for exporting (hold right mouse button and drag the rectangle), and choose "File | Export Model for Rendering" from the menu.

2) "File | Export Model for Rendering" and save the file as a Wavefront Object (.obj) to a folder of your choice. Let's call it myobject.obj or whatever you like. In the dialog with the export settings click on the option in the upper left click on "Create a ZIP file containing all export model files". Click "OK".

3) Sign up for an account on Sketchfab if you haven't already, then upload the zip file you created by clicking on the "UPLOAD" button in the upper right. A dialog pops up; click on "CHOOSE FILE" and upload the .obj.zip file you created. Click "CONTINUE".

4) Fill out the form as you wish. It's nice to add "minecraft" and "mineways" tags, so others can find your model. It's also nice to "Allow download", if you like.

At this point the steps are pretty much the same as above, starting at step #5. The main difference is that your uploaded model is not published by default; for the last step you'll want to click "SAVE AND PUBLISH," then "EXIT."

One other thing you may wish to do is material cleanup. On the Sketchfab Materials tab (the center one) is the "Faces Rendering" option at the bottom. You may notice some "z-fighting" for objects such as sunflowers, where the two textures on each side of the flower fight each other. Choose a material at the top and select "Single sided" for that material. This will make the object look better.

An irregularity: if you download your uploaded model from Sketchfab, it may not display correctly. The short version is that you probably have to comment out the "map_d" field in the .mtl file for the model. Some viewers incorrectly grab the red channel instead of the alpha channel from the four-channel map that Sketchfab uses for compactness.

Here's an example of Sketchfab in action, a model I uploaded. Click on the window and you can interact with it. More models here and here.

Community Station by erich on Sketchfab

If you want to make a 3D print of a model, the easiest way is to use a 3D print service such as Shapeways or Sculpteo. The main differences are cost, quality, and speed of delivery. Shapeways is almost always less expensive, Sculpteo offers faster delivery and better supports the "Export lesser blocks" option, which lets you print out slabs, steps, fences, and other smaller bits in your model. 3D Hubs also has some users with full-color printers, so may be both competitive and fast. There are other 3D print services for consumers, such as i.materialise and Ponoko, but currently these two do not offer fully-textured 3D printing, just solid color blocks.

Shapeways

After creating an account (and creating a shop), go to the upload page. Choose a file for upload - you must pick the .ZIP file for your model that you created with Mineways, using 3D print export, e.g. "mymodel.wrl.zip". You also don't need to change the Unit of Measure: "millimeters" is the default and is what Mineways always outputs. Push the upload button.

Once you've uploaded, you will be taken to the model's page. Here you can preview the model in the window to make sure it looks correct. You can also order from this page by choosing the material. For a full color print you want to find "Full Color Sandstone", near the bottom of the page, and "add to cart". Note there's a fixed cost of $4.99 per order. Be careful, however: you normally cannot cancel your order once placed. After you've made an order, the waiting begins, sometimes 2-3 weeks.

If you later want to upload a new version of this model, there is also an option to "update file".

To make the model available to others for purchase or viewing, click on the "Selling" tab near the top of the page and fill in the options listed. The most important area is the Pricing Products section at the bottom. For full color models you want to click on the "Sandstone" link on the far right, then on "sell this material" for Full Color Sandstone. If you want, you can set a markup - your profit - by giving a higher price (I never do). Make sure to click "save changes" at the lower right when done.

You can make the model more presentable and searchable by using the "Details" tab near the top of the page. You can give the model a name and description, search categories, allow others to download it, tag it (I recommend "Minecraft" and "Mineways", so I can see the model), upload more images, etc.

See my humble shop as an example of how I set up various models.

If you get serious about printing models, the materials sampler is worth considering: it costs just $4.99 to add to an order, factoring in the $25 coupon you receive with it towards your next order.

Sculpteo

Go to the Sculpteo site and register for an account.

In Mineways, you normally want to export to Wavefront OBJ when exporting to print, using the "Sculpteo" file type. Sculpteo also accepts VRML2 files, but the OBJ exporter sets some useful defaults for Sculpteo, such as centimeters for model units. One major advantage of Sculpteo is that they support the "Export lesser blocks" option, which allows you to export slabs, stairs, fences, doors, and other smaller objects. Please read the documentation for that option before using it. Also note that when you export, the price shown is the Shapeways price; Sculpteo prices tend to be about a third higher overall.

Once you have your export file ready, on the home page click on the Upload a 3D file button in the upper right (you can also go to your account and find the "Upload a new design" link).

On the upload page choose a file - you must pick the .ZIP file for your model. Adjust the design name, description, keywords, and categories as you wish (personally, I fill these in later, when I'm sure the model is a keeper). Note you can also add French translations; I use Google Translate. Agree to the terms of use at the bottom and click "OK". Wait a bit.

You should then get a page showing your model has been uploaded. You can interact with it in the viewport using left-mouse, right-mouse, middle-mouse, and scroll wheel. Pro tip: note that rotating by going up and down near the edge of the window gives a different rotation than going up and down in the middle. This can help you adjust the "up" direction.

You now have a number of options. The "Click to see repair work on your model" shows where objects were merged - usually not that interesting. "See the price" brings you to the main page for the model. From here you can do a wide range of operations, and they're pretty self-explanatory. You can choose the material (colored by default), change the overall scale (and see the new price), or perform a solidity check. This last option is useful for seeing if some part of your model is likely to snap off during printing.

Note the links above these options. "Settings" lets you add photos, change your description and sharing options, and set the initial scale for the object. "Customize" gives some interesting options, such as engraving text, adding images and symbols, and smoothing the design. This last option can give an interesting look to smaller models, though there is a risk of some bits of the model becoming detached when printed.

Smoothing: done using Sculpteo's "smooth the design" customization option.

Zebra Imaging

If you really want to get meta, consider this option: making a hologram of your creation! See Zebra Imaging's Mineways site. You can use Mineways to export a model, then order a holographic 3D print of your creation. I made a little (pretty terrible!) video of the results; I hope to make a better one soon.

Looking Glass Factory

Another option for 3D printing a model is Looking Glass Factory. For around $90 you can make a color 3D print in Lucite of any model.

Scripting

By using "Import Settings" you can make Mineways do all sorts of things very quickly. You can also temporarily modify blocks when exporting. It's easier to use than you might think, read about it here.

Related Resources

Here are some related (free) tools that are handy, collected in one spot:

Stuff to Print

Want something to try Mineways on? There are a number of sites with cool downloadable models and worlds, including: You could get a copy of our world, Vokselia. I've also got a Shapeways shop, where you can view photos of different 3D prints and also download the model files themselves. You could also buy any of these (though you should just make your own!).

For something amazing, check this out (more here)- meta! Double-meta, I exported this model using Mineways, check it out.

Other Packages

Mineways is not the first to offer a Minecraft model exporter, nor necessarily the best for export for rendering. Minepedia has a page about exporters. Here's more information on the ones I know about and related services. They may fit your needs better than Mineways:

Minecraft Education Edition and Pocket Edition Support

This section describes how to open a Minecraft Education Edition or Minecraft Pocket Edition World in Mineways. This also includes the Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta. The format used by Minecraft Pocket/Beta and Education is different from the standard "classic" Minecraft format (it's called LevelDB), so we have to convert to the "Classic" (NBT) format. Mineways currently can't do this conversion. Some extra steps are required to open these worlds in Mineways or in classic Minecraft.

You'll need:

For Windows 10 Edition of Minecraft: Education Edition or Beta

  1. For the Education Edition: your worlds are saved in %localappdata%\Packages\Microsoft.MinecraftEducationEdition_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState\games\com.mojang\minecraftWorlds
  2. For the Beta: your worlds are saved in %localappdata%\Packages\Microsoft.MinecraftUWP_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState\games\com.mojang\minecraftWorlds
To check, press Windows-R and paste this long line in. The oddly-named folders there are your worlds. Click in to each one and you should see a level.dat file.

For Mobile only: Copying the world folder from your mobile device

Android

  1. Connect your device to your computer via USB cable as a media/storage device.
  2. In the file manager on your computer, locate the device and open the folder: games/com.mojang/minecraftWorlds
  3. Copy the desired world folder to a location on your computer.

iOS

  1. Open iExplorer and locate your iPad.
  2. On the left, click on "Applications".
  3. Open "Minecraft PE".
  4. Click on "Documents", then "Games", then "Com.Mojang", then "minecraftWorlds".
  5. Drag the file for your world onto a location on the computer.

Converting the world in MCEdit

  1. Run MCEdit by double-clicking the file "mcedit.exe".
  2. Select "Open...".
  3. Browse to your world folder, select the file "level.dat" and click "Open".
  4. In the upper left of the MCEdit window, click on "Menu" to open the menu.
  5. Click on "Select All" (or use the shortcut Ctrl-A without opening the menu).
  6. Click on "Menu" again to close the menu.
  7. In the selection menu on the left, click on "Copy".
  8. Click "Menu" to open the menu.
  9. Click "Create New World".
  10. Under "Generator:", click on "Minecraft Server" and change it to "Flatland".
  11. Change the "Height" to 1.
  12. Click "Create" at the bottom of this menu.
  13. Browse to a location on your computer, name the new world and click "Save". See the note at "Classic Minecraft save folder" if you want to save where your other "Classic" worlds are. (Accept the message that appears with "OK").
  14. Click "Select All" and close the menu (or press Ctrl-A).
  15. Click "Paste" in the menu on the left, then click on the world itself to position your world. Wait a bit for your world to load. (You can move around with the mouse and the WASD keys whille it loads.)
  16. Click "Import" at the bottom of the menu on the left.
  17. When the import is finished, click on "Menu" in the upper left again and click "Save" (or just press Ctrl+S). Wait a bit.
Note: To move around in MCEdit, use the WASD keys (W=Forward, S=Back, A=Left, D=Right). To look around with the camera, click the Right Mouse Button once to toggle camera look on. Click again to turn it off. Point up and move forward (W) to move up, etc. The WASD keys are also used to move the paste blocks before clicking Import. See the MCEdit site for a tutorial and more information.

Classic Minecraft save folder: For "Classic" Minecraft your world saves folder on Windows is "%appdata%\.minecraft\saves". Another way to locate your hidden world saves directory for "Classic" Minecraft is via the Minecraft launcher. On the lower left of the launcher window (do not click "Play"), click on "Edit Profile". At the bottom of the dialog that appears, click "Open Game Dir", then open the "saves" folder. Copy your converted world folder here.

Opening the world in Mineways

  1. Start Mineways by double-clicking on "Mineways.exe".
  2. In the menu, select "File > Open..."
  3. Browse to your world folder and select "level.dat", click "Open".
  4. Follow the instructions on this page for using Mineways.

Optional MCEdit steps for playing your world in standard Minecraft

If you also want to play your converted world in Minecraft, you can optionally remove the extra "flatland" you placed at the bottom level.
  1. Click on "Chunk view" at the top of the MCEdit window.
  2. Click and drag with the Left Mouse Button to select just the chunks of your imported world.
  3. In the controls on the left, select "Prune".
  4. In the MCEdit menu, click "Save" (or press Ctrl-S).
  5. Copy the world folder to your Minecraft saves directory.

Keyboard Shortcut Keys

Most operations in Mineways can be done with the mouse: left button drag and mouse wheel for viewing, middle mouse button for setting the depth to whatever is at that location, right mouse selects a region to export. If you don't have a right mouse button, hold Control down and use the left mouse button. More on mouse controls in the Selection section.

Block Types Supported

There are two main modes of export: for rendering and for 3D printing. These mainly differ in that some blocks, such as flowers, are not things that can actually be printed as-is. For 3D printing, the "Export lesser blocks" option has a major effect on what gets exported. Note that this option is on by default for rendering; turning it off will turn a number of blocks into "full blocks" instead of true geometry, for a more abstract look (but, no one ever turns it off). Finally, for the "lesser blocks" option there's a "fatten" suboption, which makes fences, fence gates, doors, free-standing sign posts, and pressure plates thicker, so they're more likely to print without snapping off.

If you want to test particular blocks to see what they look like, use the "[Block Test World]" and the block IDs to select and export whatever block types in whatever mode you want. Alternately, you could download this map.

Here's what Mineways exports as of version 5.01:

Material Sampler by Eric Haines on Sketchfab

Mineways does not support export of characters, creatures, sign text, paintings, or banner patterns.

All "full blocks" (stone, dirt, wood, etc. etc.) export the same under all modes. The table below outlines the rest. "Flatten" means a billboard like a flower, etc., is flattened to be a decal on the block below, since such objects are too thin to be 3D printed.

Block Type and ID Render Export Print Export Print w/"Lesser" Notes
Saplings (#6)
Tall Grass (#31)
Dead Bush (#32)
Flowers (#37, #38, #175)
Mushrooms (#39, #40)
Pumpkin and Melon Stems (#104, #105)
Billboards
Flattened
Flattened
Pumpkin and melon stems do not darken with maturity.
Water (#8)
Lava (#10)
Proper geometry
Full block
Proper geometry
The bottommost tile found in Minecraft's water_still.png and lava_still.png are used for these blocks. The water_flow.png and lava_flow.png bottommost left tiles are used only for vertical walls. For walls behind glass blocks, water_overlay.png is used.
Bed (#26)
Proper geometry
Stretched to full block
Proper geometry
When printed, area under bed is solid
Rails (#27, #28, #66)
Yes
Flattened to block sides
Yes, slope block added
Cobweb (#30)
Crossed billboard
Block with texture
Block with texture
Piston Extension (#34)
True piston head
Block with texture
True piston head
Detailed piston heads not fattened for 3D printing, may break.
Slabs (#44, #126)
True slab
Full block
True slab
Torches (#50, #75, #76)
Billboard torch (no flame)
Flattened
Flattened
Fire (#51)
Billboards
Block with texture
Block with texture
The bottommost tile found in Minecraft's fire_layer_0.png is used for this block.
Stairs (#53, #67, #108, #109, #114, #128, #134, #135, #136, #163, #164)
True stairs
Full block
True stairs
Note that Minecraft 1.4 connects stairs differently. If you have a pre-1.4 world, use Mineways 2.22 to export it.
Chests (#54, #95, #146)
Proper geometry
Full block
Proper geometry
The chest textures in terrainExt.png are created by TileMaker using assets/minecraft/textures/entity/chest normal.png and normal_double.png.
Redstone Wire (#55)
True geometry 1/4th pixel above surface - may cause z-fighting; use "Create composite" option to flatten
Flattened
Flattened
Wheat Seeds (#59)
Sugar Cane (#83)
Nether Wart (#115)
Carrots (#141)
Potatoes (#142)
Beet Seeds (#207)
Grows properly
Block with texture
Block with texture
The fully matured texture is used for printing, on all sides.
Farmland (#60)
Proper geometry
Full block
Proper geometry
Wetness level is ignored.
Doors (#64, #71)
Proper geometry
Full textured block
Proper geometry
Ladder (#65)
Lily Pad (#111)
Proper geometry; "Create composite" option shifts suspended lily pads to water level
Flattened
Flattened; suspended lily pads shifted to water level
Orientation of lily pad is not available in basic data, so orientation is always the same.
Wall Sign (#68)
Pressure Plates (#70, #72)
Buttons (#77, #143)
Snow (#78)
Proper geometry
Flattened
Proper geometry
Wall signs are put next to wall for printing - no gap.
Lever (#69)
Proper geometry
Flattened
Flattened
Cactus (#81)
Interlocking billboards
Full block
Smaller block
Fences (#85, #113)
Fence Gate (#81)
Cobblestone Wall (#139)
Proper geometry
Full wood block
Proper geometry
Portal (#90)
Proper geometry
Proper geometry
Proper geometry
Uses the last tile in the Minecraft portal.png texture.
Cake (#92)
Proper geometry
Stretched to full block
Proper geometry
Redstone Repeaters (#93, #94) and Comparators (#149, #150)
Proper geometry
Flattened
Geometry without torches
Trapdoor (#96)
Proper geometry
Flattened or block filled
Proper geometry
Iron Bars (#101)
Textured block
Textured block
Textured block
Glass Pane (#102)
Replaced with Glass
Replaced with Glass
Replaced with Glass
Vines (#106)
Geometry/flattened
Block geometry/flattened
Block geometry/flattened
Since vines cannot hang in air for printing, blocks are added.
Enchantment Table (#116)
Proper geometry, without book
Grown to block
Proper geometry, without book
Brewing Stand (#117)
Proper geometry
Textured block
Textured block
Delicate, and billboards won't print on a 3D printer.
Cauldron (#118)
Dragon Egg (#122)
Proper geometry
Stretch to full block
Proper geometry
When printed, area under cauldron is solid; top bit not added to completed portal frame.
End Portal (#119)
End Gateway (#209)
Full block only
Full block only
Full block only
Uses the custom tile MW_END_PORTAL.png for the void
End Portal Frame (#120)
Proper geometry, rotation is simplified to 90 degrees or not
Full block, no ender eye, correct rotation
Proper geometry, rotation is simplified to 90 degrees or not
Cocoa Pod (#127)
Proper geometry
Removed
Pod geometry, no stem or gap
Stem is removed for "lesser" printing.
Ender Chest (#130)
Proper geometry
Full block
Proper geometry
The ender chest textures in terrainExt.png are created by TileMaker using assets/minecraft/textures/entity/chest/ender.png.
Tripwire Hook (#131)
Proper geometry
Flattened
Flattened
Note that tripwire itself is currently not added.
Tripwire (#132)
Removed
Removed
Removed
Hey, it's supposed to be hidden...
Block of Emerald (#133)
Full block
Full block
Full block
Faked by putting tile at 12,14 in terrain.png.
Beacon (#138)
Proper geometry
Full block
Full block
Faked by putting tile at 11,14 in terrain.png.
Flower Pot (#140)
Proper geometry made
Removed entirely, no decal
Pot geometry, and only cactus is made
In Minecraft flower pot flowers are dimmer than the originals. Mineways does not dim these.
Head (#144)
Half-wide pumpkin
Full-size pumpkin, rotated to nearest 90 degree angle
Half-wide pumpkin
Mineways reads block entity data to get the rotation and type of head, but currently does not use the head type to put something other than a pumpkin.
Hopper (#154)
Proper geometry
Full block
Hopper interior filled in to make it solid
Barrier (#166)
Normally hidden
Normally hidden
Normally hidden
To make the barrier appear, create a color scheme and change the barrier's alpha to 1.0.
Standing Banner (#176)
Reasonable geometry, no banner pattern
Removed
Removed, too thin
Wall Banner (#177)
Reasonable geometry, no banner pattern
Removed
Made thicker, no banner pattern
End Rod (#198)
Proper geometry
Removed
Removed, too thin
Chorus Plant (#198)
Only one shape
Full block
Only one shape
In the game itself the shape used varies based on location, in some unknown way.
Structure Void (#217)
Normally hidden
Normally hidden
Normally hidden
To make the tiny structure void block appear, create a color scheme and change the alpha to 1.0, and Show all objects (F7) to see it on the map. Structure void uses red wool for its tiny output block.
Observer (#218)
Faked
Faked
Faked
Since observers are in beta, the textures may change. Piston and comparator tiles are used to fake up the observer.
Shulker Boxes (#218-234)
Simple wool
Simple wool
Simple wool
Shulker boxes are in beta, and are also unfolded textures in a shulker subdirectory as well as the tops as shulker_*.png files. As such, no directional elements are done for these currently, and wool is used in place of the tiles.

Version History

Wish List

This is the wish list, in order of personal interest and bang for the buck; if you have a good idea, let me know. Most of these are frankly a ton of work to do for minor benefits, but I might as well keep track. If you really want a feature and I can't do it, add it yourself! The code is open source on github, so I'm happy to take pull requests.

Links

Some links I commonly use.

Credits

The Mineways program is open source and is based on the (great) mapping program minutor written by Sean Kasun - his work gave me a huge head start. Mineways is a superset of his mapper, with a model exporter and other features added, though with slower map loading than his much-evolved version. I wrote this program just for fun, I'm not associated with Shapeways or Mojang; more about me here. There are other print services besides Shapeways that work with Mineways, such as Sculpteo, i.materialise and Ponoko, as well as home 3D printers.