How to Measure Marine Canvas with a Camera

The Concept

Replace physical canvas templating with digital templating by using your camera.

From photos to canvas measurement

The Steps

‣ Place targets and dot tape on the boat in key areas

‣ Take photos from different angles and positions.

‣ Load photos into the PhotoModeler software and process.

‣ Pick out additional points and model the canvas frames and tubes in 3D on the photos.

‣ Export to CAD/CAM to complete your work.


There are several technologies for carrying out direct 3D measurement needed for canvas replacement work and skipping the paper/mylar physical templating step. These are laser distance meters, string distance meters, laser scanners, and photogrammetry.  PhotoModeler is a photogrammetry system (taking measurements from photos). The advantages of PhotoModeler are:

  • Lower cost.
  • Works with boats in the water or drydock.
  • Easier revisit of measurements from the photos without having to revisit the boat.
  • Easier documentation of the data - photos make it easier to identify what are key features.
  • Easier equipment transport to the site.

Key Technology

PhotoModeler has been in the measurement business for 30 years and our software has a lot of powerful technology that others do not have. While there is a lot of power and capability, it is also important to us to keep it accessible to a wide audience. Three key technologies used by PhotoModeler in marine canvas are: camera calibration (for highest accuracy with many different types of cameras), Coded Targets (for automation and accurate set up of projects and key points), and Bent Tubes (for modeling of canvas frames and tubes without pre-taping or any extra on-boat setup). The Bent Tube Introduction video describes how tubes are modeled using this system.

Learning More

There are a number of ways to approach canvas measurement with a camera.  This also depends on the end goal - a loose cover vs an accurate bimini or dodger/sprayhood. We suggest customers have a good CAD background and some experience with digital workflows. To receive a document on how to measure marine canvas please submit the following form: 

Example Canvas Projects

Here are three examples of boat canvas covers done from photography with PhotoModeler.  This demonstrates the potential. These projects are courtesy of Dustom Sails.

Sailboat Full Cover

PhotoModeler 3D Canvas Templating 1

PhotoModeler 3D Capture

How to Measure Marine Canvas with a Camera 3

3D Panels in CAD

PhotoModeler 3D Canvas Templating 3

Flattened Panels in CAD

PhotoModeler 3D Canvas Templating Result

Final Result

Pleasure Craft Full Cover

PhotoModeler 3D Canvas Templating Photo

A project photo

PhotoModeler 3D Canvas Templating Project

3D Line Work in PhotoModeler

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