This is a jumbled-together mess of great tips provided by shipbuilders from all walks of shipbuilding, whether it be Titan Artisans or your plain old average shipbuilder.
The tips in this section are about taking sections and making them into pieces of art, or making them into killing-machines.
These are tips that work well for any style or technique of sectioning.
There are 29 pieces for a reason. Repeating any piece other than the curved 45 degree one, the 3 rectangular ones, and under special circumstances the wing sections, should be illegal. 'Nuff said.
In addition, some pieces go extremely well with each other, and some pieces go horribly with each other. It is always helpful to find what these combinations are. I could tell you some, but that'd be revealing my trade secrets, eh?
Ablative armor is the layering of pieces under other pieces to achieve a 'break-away' armor type effect.
I'll cut to the chase. Ablative armor plating is in place for two things, both or only one. Looks and combat effectiveness. You can possibly have both but heres the facts.
Larger pieces = Best for large ships and I mean LARGE ships. Like Velvet Hammer sized warships. Because these ships have naturally high HP anyway, they wont need ablatives near as much. However, keep in mind larger pieces are no where near as combat effective as smaller pieces. They will be sheared off way quicker. Always keep this in mind.
Smaller pieces = THE BEST ABLATIVE ARMOR PERIOD. Especially when it comes to combat effectiveness and with some savvy you can make them look great. Smaller pieces are harder to sheer off then larger pieces. Thus they are the best for when you want your ship to take a major beating.
ALSO keep in mind that Ablatives will not stop every shot. Believe it or not, Railguns are not the only weapon with some penetrative properties. Even a simple blaster barrage could penetrate them. And plasma charges are hell for ablatives.
An important note for ablative armour is not to layer it too close (collision handling reasons), and to ensure that your ship is still close to it's original design/purpose. Ablatives can easily expand the footprint of any craft and make things very ugly if done incorrectly, so be careful when using them.
If you're doing multi-layered ablatives, make sure you do each layer in the correct order - going back to fix errors on the earlier layers is a pain in the ass, let me tell you!
Designing your ship is just as important as having good knowledge over the various tricks you can do with the weapons, modules, and sections BSF provides for you.
While designing, take a pencil and a piece of paper. A rubber if you want. Draw on it the outlines of your ship. Start playing with it, adding here or there. This way you'll save time, seeing that something doesn't look good on the paper, rather then noticing it after building it in the editor. It's actually a quite quick way to find the shape you're looking for, rather then trying out every idea in the ED.
Sometimes really good ideas come to your head while you're rather far away from the PC. I usually grab the nearest piece of writable equipment near me and draw them or write them down.
Look at other peoples ships. It can be a large inspiration. Also, look on other ships that don't come from BF - you just might find that 'thingie' you were looking for for your design.
And most important, have fun. Stop doing a ship when you feel you're making yourself do it. Take a break, blast some aliens, watch TV.
Explore different creative mediums. For some, pencil and paper. Me, I use lego, bionicle parts, and modelling clay. Once you have an initial design, build it in different ways, change some things, let the ship evolve. Ships are so much better when they have a "soul" imparted into them from the evolution and work you performed on them. My best ships are results of such a technique.
Never lose sight of the bigger ship. A pattern may look nice, but if it doesn't fit into the general shape of the ship, scrap it (or take a screenshot of it so you remember how to make it). Unlike larger ships, over-sectioning is a major problem for small ships. Sometimes you just can't add and overlap that many sections.
When building a realistic ship…
When picking the loadout for a ship, think about what the ship should actually do beyond PD, Carrier, Gun Platform. Does it work with other ships? If so what other ships? Very few naval vessels are meant to be used alone. Some ships carry long range weapons for bombardment, other carry short range weapons to fend off close attacks to other ships, still others carry weapons that are meant to kill other ships.
How far does it operate form base? If its far, you might add storage compartments for food and supplies. Also, smaller ships tend to operate from a larger mothership.
Often, asking a few questions can really help you make a better ship.