How to Measure Marine Canvas with a Camera

From photos to canvas measurement

The Concept

Replace physical canvas templating with digital templating by using your camera to create 3D tubes, frames, curves, and points for export to your favourite CAD. Watch the video below for an overview.

PhotoModeler Canvas Concept Animation

Introduction Video

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 points and model the canvas frames and tubes on the photos.

‣ Export to CAD/CAM to complete your work.

The Advantages

PhotoModeler has several advantages over the other technologies for carrying out direct 3D measurement needed for canvas replacement work. These technologies are laser distance meters, string distance/angle meters, laser scanners, and photogrammetry.  PhotoModeler is a photogrammetry system (taking measurements from photos). PhotoModeler is an excellent, lower-cost, and higher-accuracy alternative to the Proliner Prodim. The advantages of PhotoModeler in general are:

  • Lower cost.
  • Works with boats in or out of the water.
  • 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.
  • Not primarily hardware-based, so it improves and gets more functions over time.
  • Easier equipment transport to the site (camera is lighter and smaller).
  • Ability to remap your designs on the original photos for client presentation.

PhotoModeler has been in the measurement business for 30 years and our software has a lot of powerful technology. 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). See also comparison with other technologies.

Example Canvas Projects

Here are some examples of boat canvas projects done from photography with PhotoModeler by our customers.

  • Power Boat Canvas

  • Work boat Enclosure

  • Beneteau Enclosure

  • Larson Enclosure

  • Sailboat Cover

  • Pleasure Craft Cover

  • Wood Boat

One of the project photos

PhotoModeler 3D work

3D CAD work

Project courtesy of Dustom Covers.

3D CAD work rendered on photo

New to 3D Canvas and Digital Workflows?

Are you new to the world of digital workflows and 3D for marine canvas measurement and production? It can be hard to know how to start. Visit our New to Marine Canvas Digital Workflows? page for some ideas.

Instruction Videos

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/spray-hood. These methods are described in the document and videos shown below.

We suggest customers have a good CAD background and some experience with digital workflows to get the most out of the system at this time. As well these techniques are 3D vs the traditional 2D pattern methods, and that requires a deeper CAD understanding. There is a learning curve with this new system, so customers should be aware of the extra time and patience needed to get started! Suggested prerequisites for one or more of your team members:

  • Experience with a canvas design and production system (manual or digital)
  • Experience with manual templating of boats and tubes/frames
  • 2D and 3D-surface CAD experience
  • A plan for production of cut fabric (plotting/manual cutting, or digital cutter)



The Digital Templating for Marine Canvas with Your Camera video introduces the concepts behind using PhotoModeler for boat and frame measurement for canvas replacement. This video is a repeat of one at top of this page.

Getting Started

The Getting Started with Marine Canvas Measurement video outlines the steps for starting a canvas measurement project in PhotoModeler. View this page for printing target pages shown.

Points, Lines, and Curves

The Measuring Points, Lines, and Curves for Marine Canvas video builds on the Getting Started video and describes how to add points and other objects needed to complete a canvas measurement ready for CAD export. 

Bent Tubes

The Bent Tube Introduction video builds on the Getting Started video and describes how canvas support frames and tubes are modeled using PhotoModeler.

Documents & Resources

Additional Resources

In addition to the documents and videos above, the following can be useful resources for training and setup:

Member of ATA MFA