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What I Think Makes A Great Builder

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Mcholypotato avatar Mcholypotato
Level 69 : High Grandmaster Blob

The purpose of this article is to keep a log of what I think makes a great builder and I will probably change some stuff here as I become better; I need to add several other sections too. The information included in this article is stuff I've learned from personal experience as well as methods and techniques I use frequently in my builds.


I first started playing Minecraft during Beta when my friend linked me the Minecraft website so we decided to pick it up and start a private survival server for our real life friends. After about two weeks everyone was more addicted to single player than multiplayer and no longer logged on much so we ditched the server. I still played consistently and started to build large structures, my first project was a huge undertaking considering I was still playing survival, an underwater city. After using what TNT I had to depth charge a lake and build two glass domes I realized how long this method was taking and went to Minecraft Forums to find some mods to help speed up the progress. And this is where my creativity really took off. Since then I became a sniper on The Voxel Box and exclusively play in creative mode and work on projects constantly, new and old alike. You can check out my channel and see some of the projects I've created.

~Personal Style~

There's no one way to define someone’s building style and even having played Minecraft since beta I still haven't perfected my own building style at all but I'm continuously working towards getting it to where I want it to be. To me, building style is consistency - in other words a veteran Minecrafter could look at some random projects without knowing who built them and select with some degree of certainty which projects were created by the same builder. This isn't to say that all your builds have to be the same, but to create a style there will be a certain consistency, design element, or a common link shared between all of your builds. Take for instance the creative builder Block_Fortress, when he posts a new project on PlanetMinecraft I don't need to look at his name to know it's a Block_Fortress project, I can just tell by his style. You can check out his channel below.
To me this is the most important attribute when it comes to building is finding your own personal style. I think the best way to find your niche is to imitate other people's work and recreate work posted on PlanetMinecraft and on servers. I spend roughly 35% of my Minecraft time building replicas of interesting projects. I do this for multiple reasons listed below and remember art begins in imitation and ends in innovation.
  1. When you go through the process of recreating someone's work you get an idea of what they were thinking when they were building it.
  2. You can generate incredible ideas by piggy-backing off someone's project.
  3. You will learn many different building techniques; some you'll like, some you won't.
  4. After you've recreated someone's work and gone through roughly their thought process, you can explore the build and see where they could improve which will help you to improve yourself.
  5. Recognizing someone's mistakes will help you recognize your own.
  6. And the last reason to recreate someone's work is to have another cool project in your own personal world.

~Style and Theming~

Once you’ve defined your personal style you want to apply another style and theme to each particular build you create. This may sound confusing but once you have a decent grasp on your personal style you want to branch out and have multiple styles within your style. So for instance, let’s say you're creating a fantasy village influenced by the medieval renaissance and would like the buildings to be tied together in some way, you do this with a common theme. Now that you have a theme in mind, you select a style within your style. This way the buildings you're creating will be themed and stylized in the same fashion in the village. Now say you want to create another village that doesn't have any ties to the first village, you keep the same theme but you select a different style from your style palette, that way the two villages will have reoccurring themes while remaining different through the use of two styles but also will reflect you as an artist because the chosen styles are simply sub-styles of your personal style. Yeah, you may need to re-read that a few times.

~Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio~

I'll start with the Fibonacci sequence because the Golden Ratio is derived from this sequence. This is one of the most commonly seen sequences and most basic. You start the sequence with the number '1' (Technically 0 but ignore that), to get the next number you add the previous two numbers. Since you only have the number '1' so far you add '0' (1 + 0 = 1). This is where the sequence starts to become a more recognizable pattern. To get the next number we add the previous two numbers together. So now our sequence becomes 1, 1, 2, the next number will be 3, the next number will be 5, and the next will be 8, and so on. This is what the sequence looks like if you continue with the pattern for a bit.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377...

The Golden ratio is an integral part of creating aesthetically pleasing builds, especially smaller buildings such as houses and detailing larger structures; some of you may already be practicing the principal without even knowing it! The Golden Ratio is simply a proportion which is derived from the Fibonacci sequence as seen above. You get the Golden Ratio number by taking the last number you placed in the Fibonacci sequence and dividing it by the previous number. Below is the Fibonacci sequence being divided by the number before it. As you continue down the Fibonacci sequence, the ratios converge upon one number which is roughly 1.618 and that is the Golden Ratio.

(1/1 =1.0), (2/1 = 2.0), (3/2 = 1.5), (5/3 = 1.67), (8/5 = 1.6), (13/8 = 1.625), (21/13 = 1.615), (34/21 = 1.619), (55/34 = 1.618), (89/55 = 1.618), and this pattern continues indefinitely, coming closer and closer to 1.618, but never actually reaching 1.618 exactly because between each number there are infinite numbers.

Now how does this apply to building?

The basic premise of the Golden Ratio is that you can take any number and multiply and/or divide that length by the Golden Ratio (1.618). By doing this you will get a length that is in harmony with the length you first multiplied/divided with the Golden Ratio. You can use this method for calculating new wall lengths, wall heights, creating arches, stylized curves, etc. To keep it simple you can choose a number within the Fibonacci sequence and the numbers on either side of that number will be the lengths that are in harmony with the original number. So if I chose the number 8 for the length of a wall of a house, I would want the other lengths to be either 5 or 13 or both. This is just a basic overview to expose some people to the idea that may not know about it, if you want more information on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence just Google it.

~Odd Numbers~

In most of my projects I try to use odd numbers when building so the build has a natural center; for instance if I'm building a wall, instead of making it 6 blocks in length I'll go ahead and make it 7 blocks in length; a ships width, I'll make it 17 blocks instead of 16 or 18. This is what's known as bilateral symmetry, it's probably the most common use of symmetry seen in the world and in Minecraft. Within bilateral symmetry there are two sub-symmetry techniques, orthodox bilateral and dualism bilateral. This principal was identified by the Ancient Greeks, although it's used the world over. The most straight forward way to describe the difference between orthodox bilateral and dualism bilateral as it applies to Minecraft is to say that orthodox refers to odd numbers (male number) and dualism refers to even numbers (female numbers). Even numbers were once thought of as ambiguous and were considered a female number because it could be divided into two integers. Odd numbers were once considered male numbers because they can't be divided into two integers. When it comes to Minecraft, Orthodox symmetry is far more appealing in terms of aesthetics in my opinion.


Terrain may not seem that important in building but having amazing looking terrain can make even the shittiest of builds look enchanting. I'm sure you've all seen players completely clear out an area in order to build a house and it looks terrible because they didn't keep the feng shui of the land (Flat land is fail). The downside to building with the terrain is that the terrain may not exactly be as you would like it, but you have multiple tools at your disposal. The Minecraft tools I use to edit terrain are MCEdit, World Edit, creating and fixing terrain by hand, but the most useful tool I use is VoxelSniper, with this tool I can create any sort of terrain imaginable. Granted I'm not the best and I'm still learning. Even if you play single player, I would recommend creating a private server for yourself and use VoxelSniper to fix your terrain and create new terrain all together. If you want to see what players are capable of creating once they master MCEdit, WorldEdit, and VoxelSniper, check out these channels below. On a side note, you can also use the program world painter. With World Painter you can create mass amounts of terrain very quickly, adjust sea levels, and change land levels with ease. However when creating worlds with World Painter the terrain ends up looking very artificial so it's best used in conjunction with another terrain editor.

Terrain Editors
  • MCEdit - Both single player and multiplayer
  • World Edit - Both single player and multiplayer
  • Voxel Sniper - Server only plugin
  • World Painter - Both single player and multiplayer
  • World Machine - This software is a lot different than any of the others mentioned above but creates the most realistic terrain Minecrafters have seen so far.

~Inspiration and Research~

Inspiration comes in many different shapes and forms. I won't bother telling you where inspiration comes from because you should know what inspires you as it's different for everyone. For me, I'm inspired when something seems unattainable, I like to challenge myself to reach the "impossible". I'm also inspired by tribulation, it may sound emo but I do what works for me. Something to keep in mind when creative building is to only build when you feel inspired, pushing a project when you don't want to build is a sure way to make the project not turn out as you envisioned.

I spend too much time at work browsing the internet for images that can influence my builds. Most of the time I look for realistic pictures, conceptual art from video games as well as LEGO MOC builds. I'm rarely motivated by projects here on PlanetMinecraft but merely take influence from building styles from users. This creates for projects that the PlanetMinecraft community hasn't seen before.

Here are some of the resources I use for inspiration; the Eurobricks forum is quite possibly the only link you'll ever need.

~Defrag Building~

Defrag Building - Adding detail schemas to builds to create baroque and ornate systems of design, in doing so creating perceived complexity and attentive planning.

This style of building may have another name that I’m not aware of but I like to call it Defrag Building/Detailing or simply Defragging. Many of the creations that use this build technique end up looking like the block style computer defragmentation programs. I thought I’d mention this building style because more and more Minecrafters are starting to do this, especially in the past year. You can easily identify this building technique in creations because it will usually have a very busy or chaotic feel to it, using a significant amount of half blocks, fences, stairs, and sometimes colors outside the builds base color palate.

When Defragging is done right it can look amazing, but when done incorrectly or abused it just creates a completely overwhelming project for others to look at, usually ends up very messy and noisy. The thing to keep in mind is that Minecraft is a game of blocks, it has its limitations in terms of the detail that can be added to builds. Although I take much of my inspiration from non-Minecraft sources such as real life structures, I realize that trying to add Hagia Sophia level detail without texture packs is close to impossible. I see too many builds these days fall into the trap of trying to add a level of detail that tries to mimic real life and it just ends up looking like shit.

If you’ve just recently started to play Minecraft I would recommend avoiding this building technique and focus more on the method and math behind aesthetic builds rather than trying to add unnecessary detail. If you want to learn more or at least see more of this style, check out the two builders I listed below; the builders that can pull this technique off properly are few and far between and these are two of them.

~Project authors in the order of image appearance from left to right~
Although only nine images are pictured above, I would recommend all the builders I'm subscribed to, which can be found at My Subscription Page. Obviously these aren’t the only good builders, there are a ton out there and a lot I’m not subscribed to. The best thing to do to find good builders that fit your paradigm is to browse through projects here on PlanetMinecraft or visit Minecraft servers.

2 Update Logs

Update #2 : by Mcholypotato 09/29/2014 7:25:20 pmSep 29th, 2014

Updated links and blog image.

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01/18/2015 6:07 pm
Level 35 : Artisan Princess
RadarTechnician avatar
This actually makes a point a great one.
10/13/2014 7:17 am
Level 49 : Master Sweetheart
Aminoque avatar
Thanks for showing us as great builders, we appreciate it.

Great blog.
10/03/2014 7:46 pm
Level 66 : High Grandmaster Crafter
Plutouthere avatar
You have done a fantastic job of hitting all the techniques for building a structure, but I can't help but notice you don't really hit on organic building as much. Is it just because this is more focused on building structures? I know you mention organic builders but you dont really mention how they do what they do. I know for one we dont tend to follow any of those math rules you mentioned other then maybe the odd # every once and a while. Great blog by the way man well said.
10/05/2014 4:06 pm
Level 69 : High Grandmaster Blob
Mcholypotato avatar
That's a good point, I don't think I'm personally all that great at organics so I'm not sure if I should be commenting on it but I'll look into making a mention of organics. Thanks for the comment.
10/05/2014 6:21 pm
Level 66 : High Grandmaster Crafter
Plutouthere avatar
That's what all the great organic builder are here for. You can just ask them (like Murps and Divici) if you really want some insight. And I'm sure they would help you out.
09/30/2014 11:11 pm
Level 63 : High Grandmaster Architect
NinamanOfficial avatar
Wow dude. I think this may be the first building blog that hits on all points I would have mentioned! Using block as an example is great too. Great builder and super nice guy. So glad you included the golden ratio and odd numbers too! You can have a lot of fun working with ratios and other building concepts. Once again, great job dude. A well deserved diamond and fav for you :D
10/01/2014 1:26 pm
Level 69 : High Grandmaster Blob
Mcholypotato avatar
Glad you liked it.
09/28/2014 8:20 am
Level 33 : Artisan Artist
The Celestia Empire
The Celestia Empire avatar
06/03/2012 5:38 am
Level 68 : High Grandmaster Nether Knight
Vrezh avatar
Very interesting blog, thanks for sharing!
04/06/2012 7:46 pm
Level 1 : New Miner
CunningAdam avatar
Yeah, the only way to define Block_Fortress's build style is if its awesome. XD
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