How to Measure Boat Decks without Physical Templates

Do you want to improve your difficult measuring and templating task for boat deck replacement? PhotoModeler can help!

The concept

Replace physical templating with digital templating by using your camera.

  • Place targets > Take photos > Load photos into the PhotoModeler software >
  • Solve project > Outline panels > Export to CAD/CAM

Special targets are temporarily placed on the deck (will not damage the boat), and then photos are taken. These photos are loaded into PhotoModeler. PhotoModeler calculates where the targets and hence the deck surfaces are in 3D space.  The targets can be purchased or even printed from your own laser printer!

In PhotoModeler you then use a tracing method to outline regions of the deck (such as the edge of non-slip areas).  The output is an accurate 2D drawing with all the deck areas in a cohesive CAD file.

The CAD file is exported from PhotoModeler and imported into your CAD or CAM software for additional cleanup, and tool path planning for each deck section.  The deck material is cut and installed.

Boat Deck Replacement Sequence


Photographing a deck area.

Learn How to Measure Boat Decks without Templates

First, we assume, that you are familiar with measuring boat decks using traditional templating methods and are already using, or soon to use, CAD and CNC cutting.

1. Introduction Video and Document

2. Detail Steps Videos and Document

3. Equipment Needed

  • A camera – you can start with a mobile phone camera (see note below)
  • PhotoModeler Standard ($995 usd for the permanent standalone license)
  • Targets (see Using Targets below)
  • A method of scaling (see Using Targets below, or optionally a tape measure or yard/meter stick)
  • Optional selfie-stick or monopod for higher photo shots

A note on cameras: Almost any camera can be used to carry out this method but we recommend a good quality and high-resolution camera (and preferably with a fixed, prime (non-zoom) lens). You can use a mobile phone, a point-n-shoot, a mirrorless, or a DSLR camera.  One note on mobile phone cameras – they don’t all work as easily. Some of the newer mobile phone cameras can modify the images making photogrammetry difficult. You can experiment with the demo version of PhotoModeler to test your equipment.

Your First Project

We strongly recommend that you experiment and test in the comfort of your office or factory when you first start with PhotoModeler. Use some masking tape to outline some pretend deck areas on the floor, place the targets (tape them to the floor if using paper), take your photos, and process in PhotoModeler. Use a scale and compare your measurements and CAD data to the real world.  You might even go as far as cutting out some paper or cardboard with your CNC cutter and placing it back on the taped floor to confirm that it fits!

At any time please send your project data to PhotoModeler Support (use the ‘Send Files to Support’ tool in PhotoModeler) for any help and guidance. We are here to ensure you succeed.

Using Targets

The boat deck measurement system uses PhotoModeler Coded Targets. These targets are circular bar codes that PhotoModeler automatically detects and reads in the photos. A single Coded Target looks like this:

Ringed Coded Target

Targets can be used in different ways, different sizes, and in different forms (such as printed paper or pre-manufactured). Here is a sample photo from a boat project with some paper targets on a small staircase together with a PhotoModeler outline:

Stair step with Coded Targets and outline

Outlining a deck area with Surface Draw.

Paper targets can be printed directly from the PhotoModeler software on your own printer at little to no cost.  If you use paper targets they can be taped down so they don’t move.  As well, paper, vinyl, or fabric can be printed and stuck to a backing of your choice (plastic, neoprene, wood, etc.) for long term use.

With the paired targets and PhotoModeler’s Letter Sheet targets, you can also define scales that are automatically applied to your project. Otherwise, you can use a tape measure to measure some distances between targets so that PhotoModeler can produce an accurately scaled drawing.

PhotoModeler Technologies has a manufactured set of targets (individual and Letter Sheets) that are optimized for this task.  We are now finalizing production and expect them to be available for purchase in early 2020.  Contact us to get on the notification list.

PhotoModeler's Manufactured Target Sets

PhotoModeler’s Manufactured Target Sets


Additional video resources

After you have reviewed the material above, if you want more specifics and details, in addition to the deck specific on-site setup and processing photos in PhotoModeler, see these videos::


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