Monday, 18 May 2009

3D Modelling Tutorial Part 2 – 3DS Max

Following on from the basics in the previous post (which I had to split.  It was making this tutorial too large) we continue on to shape our box in to an airplane.

As a reminder and in case your scroll button is broken, along with page down and the down arrow buttons, I know mine usually feel like that sometimes after a pretty long document.  Usually from me hitting it with something hard, like my head. 

Here’s the objective in this tutorial.

 Tut2-Plane Finished

End result


Making the Wings

First off the Winds.  To make the wings of the airplane we are going to extrude the middle portions of the box, flatten them down and shift them back.

Now to work at the polygon level we need to change our selection criteria from object to polygon.  If you remember from the earlier post, we do this from the right hand command panel on the second tab.


  • With the object selected, click on the second tab in the command bar window.
  • Expand the “Edit Mesh” tree
  • Select the “Polygon” branch of the tree and you are in polygon selection mode

If the “Edit Mesh” branch is not there, then either you have not converted the object to a “Editable Mesh” or selected a different conversion option.  Read back to see if you have overlooked something

  • Next we select the polygons we are going to use for the wings, so select the box (our object) in the perspective view, go to the right hand command panel and select the second tab (modifier tab)
  • Expand the tree for the “Edit Mesh” item in the list and select polygon.
  • Now click on the square in the middle of the side of the box (as shown below), the polygon should change to RED to identify is has been selected.
6-Select Poly

Side middle polygon selected in perspective view.  Note side or front view could also have been used.

  • Now in the perspective view, hold down the ALT key, press the middle mouse button and rotate the view around so you can see the opposite side of the box
  • Release the mouse and ALT key’s
  • Now hold down the CTRL (Control) key and select using the left mouse button the same polygon on the side now in view (as shown below).  you should now have the same polygon selected on both sides of the box (rotate the view around to see both sides to be sure). 
Don’t use the right mouse click or select a polygon without using the CTRL key or you will deselect what were aiming for.


7-Select poly 2

Polygon also selected on other side of box.  Side or front view would not help selecting the back side.

  • Now right click on the selected polygon in view and select the Extrude command.  you will notice the mouse icon will change to a stacked box icon when hovering over your selection now.


Right click menu, note “extrude” command on right hand side of panel

  • To Extrude, hover mouse over selected area, hold the left button of the mouse and pull down.  you should get an effect the same as the picture below.  Extrude it until the wings are about the same width as the length of the plane.
*Note – Try also pulling back with the mouse when Extruding just to see the effect.  The polygons move inside the box instead of outwards.  Right click at any time while performing a command to undo any changes.


9-Post Extrude

After Extruding the wings

  • Now with the wing polygons still selected we need to switch to the Scale Command.  Like before right click in the selected area and select “Scale” from the right click menu.  The SCALE gizmo should appear on the selected area

Select the “scale” command

  • As before, hover the mouse of the selected area (note the icon has changed again, but only over the selected area).  Click on the Blue “Z” arrow of the GIZMO and this time pull down to scale in until the edges of the end of the wing meet up
  • Also then select the “X” arrow and narrow the wing tip slightly.  You are aiming for an effect as shown below.
11-Post Scale

Wing tips after scaling

  • Lastly, still continuing with the wing tips selected, were going to move them to the back of the plane and down a bit.  For this we need to change to the Move command.  Again like before right click on the selection and click on the “Scale” command.

Select the “move” command

  • Now if you grab the centre of the Move gizmo where both boxes highlight yellow and drag the wings back and down in the perspective view until they are just past the rear of the plane and dipping just below the bottom (as shown below).  Alternatively use the top and side views and do it in two stages (back then down).
I usually prefer the perspective view doing this kind of manoeuvre as it gives you the fluidity to see how your model shapes as you move.


13-Post Move

Wings in final position

  • With the wings done, it’s time to get on with the tail.  now this involves exactly the same operation as the wings but angling up instead of down. so:


14-Tail Wings Before Select the polygon in the middle rear of the plane and the same on the other side as with the wings


Extrude the tail wings out and then scale down to a point like with the wings.
Finally move then back and up this time until they are at the opposite angle of the wings
15-Tail Wings After
  • Then it’s on to the tail itself, again this is a similar approach
16-Tail Before We start off by selecting the centre polygon at the rear of the plane


Again like before, Extrude up, scale the top in, this time only moving the tail backwards so it the top is just overshooting the rear. 17-Tail After 
If you want to get more interesting, try having a split tail by using the two polygon’s to either side of the centre one instead of the centre.  Or even all three.  Experiment and see where it leads.


On to the Cockpit and nose

You will seem to notice a trend here in the way that the original body has been pulled and stretched to make the wings.  Now the nose may seem more of the same but you can always add simple variations.  These actions are the bread and butter of meddling so best to practice with them.  Anyway on with the show.

So far we have only been manipulating single polygons at a time, granted we have selected two at a time but we have done the same operations with them as one.  From here on we expand on that and also start manipulating edges to get the effects we want.

  • So to start we need to select the top nine polygons all at once.
18-Nose Before

The top polygons selected, not the bottom three.

  • Now similar to before we extrude out the front to about the same length as the polygons before it and then scale the nose in both on the Z and Y axis.
19-Nose After

End result with the nose cone

  • now we finally have something starting to look like a proper plane, but every plane needs a cockpit.
  • So start by selecting the centre most polygon behind the nose cone.
  • Like before, extrude up, scale it down and move it back so the rear edge of the polygon is just past the front of the wings.

The start of moulding the cockpit.

  • Now as it stands, it doesn’t look much like a cockpit, more like something poking out the aircraft, so here’s where we begin to mess with edges.
  • First begin by changing your selection mode from Polygon to Edge
  • With the object selected, click on the second tab in the command bar window.
  • Expand the “Edit Mesh” tree (if not so already)
  • Select the “Edge” branch of the tree and you are in edge selection mode

  • Now select the edge of the cockpit as shown below
  • Right click and change to Move mode
  • Then using only the Y arrow move the edge of the cockpit closer to the side of the plane.

1st Side of cockpit done

  • Then rinse and repeat for the other side of the cockpit


2nd Side of cockpit, try and get the two sides even

Unlike before, you cannot select the two edges and move them as one to get the effect, try it and see what happens.


Onto the Engines

Now with the main body mostly done, it’s time to give our baby some juice and my that I mean some nice big engines.

  • First off, with any jet engine to push something out it needs to suck something in.  Not a great phrase but basically lets start with the engine intakes.  Since we are already at the front it make sense.
  • Angle the view down and up slightly so you get a view under the cockpit
  • Remember those 3 polygons we left alone earlier, they are going to become the intakes.
  • As we are still in edge selection mode, select the two middle edges one at a time and move them towards the centre as below.  This gives us two nice polygons for our intakes.

Start of intakes with edges moved inwards

  • Now switch back to polygon selection mode and select the two large polygons on the front.
  • Next we are going to use another command on the right click menu, “Bevel”.  Right click on the selected polygons and select “Bevel Polygons” in the menu.

“Bevel polygon” command highlighted on left side of menu

  • the Bevel command works the same as the Extrude command with one difference, it is a two step command.  So like when you created the box to begin with (drawing the shape first and then giving it depth), the bevel command performs two actions.  It is actually a combination of Extrude and Scale.
  • So now if you hover over the polygons you will see a new icon (not a gizmo), click and hold the mouse and drag it downwards.  You will see that you are now burrowing inside the plane.
  • Let go of the mouse when you think you are deep enough, but note that you are not jet finished, pull down on the mouse and notice that the hole you have just made is now narrowing.  Play with it until you are happy with the result.

End result.  Notice I have actually bevelled twice, second time a bit deeper to give a narrowing effect.


Lastly – The Engine

To finish off our plane we need an engine, one powerful enough to blast us in to outer space, or at least get us off the ground.

Nothing new here but a culmination of what you have used so far.

  • First rotate the perspective view around to look at the rear of the aircraft.
  • Fist off, we need a big engine and with the way the polygons are arranged at the moment, it’s just not big enough, so lets move the edges around to give us a bigger expanse to work with.
  • Use the command panel and get back into edge selection mode first.
  • First move out the centre edges to the sides like so (moving the entire vertical line)
  • Next move the inner horizontal lines to create one big polygon in the centre.

Only move the inner edges this time else it will mess up the rear wings.


  • Now all that’s left is to carve inwards the Engine exhaust in the same way we did with the intakes using the Bevel command.
  • First change back to Polygon selection mode and select the centre polygon.
  • Then right click and select the “Bevel Polygon” command, left click on the selection and pull back, remembering when you let go of the mouse, you will perform the second part of the command to scale in and pull back again.

Engine exhaust bevelled inwards

  • Now to finish off the engine I added a little twist and reversed the last step and then bevelled outwards, to show a little of what can be done by mixing commands, so with the polygon still selected and the “Bevel” command still in action.
  • left click on the selected polygon and then push up (instead of down like before), let go of the mouse button and then pull back, to get something like below.

Engine final result



That’s if for now.  I’d suggest not stopping there and play around with this tutorial a bit to get a feel for the basics, even try starting with a cylinder primitive instead of a box to see what difference it makes to the outcome.

Remember, we have done all the above with only 1 primitive, we could have fashioned the wings, cockpit and such with multiple objects, but there is really no need when you can mould from something simple.

For extra credit though also try adding some weapons and missiles to the aircraft with other objects (starting with a cylinder first or a Cone) and moulding it to your needs.

Have fun and get ready for the next instalment in the series after I get the other half of this tutorial done in Blender.  Blender requires a little more work to get to this point but the important thing to remember is that the tricks are he same, just a different way of doing them.


Friday, 15 May 2009

3D Modelling Tutorial Part 2 – Intro Basics

Given the time constraints I've had trying to get this tutorial moving, I’ve decided to shake things up a bit to get the posting a bit more regular.

So I've dropped the 3D man part of this tutorial to focus on the slightly more complex Plane model.  The trick with this is to master the 3 main commands (the bread and butter of 3D modelling), namely Move, Scale and Rotate.  by the end of this tutorial you should be used to flipping between them and how best to use them to get results.

This is what were aiming for:

Tut2-Plane Finished

End result of 3D plane

Now this isn’t intended to be pretty, later on we will come back to this model for texturing and animation (amongst other things)

So let us begin.

First with some basic controls for Max (will do the same for Blender), practice with these until you’re happy getting around.

Selecting a viewport

Now for the first basic step, you got the application loaded, you’re running around with your mouse and wondering where to click next.  Remember the descriptions about the view ports in Tutorial 1 (I know it’s been a while so you might need to do a quick refresh).

Well mouse command with 3D software works a little differently, first it’s the right mouse button that is king, it is used for selecting viewports and more importantly cancelling commands while you are performing them.

Left mouse button is used for drawing and selecting commands.  You can also combine this with the CTRL (Control) key to select multiple items.

Middle mouse button is used moving the view around left / right and up / down.  You can also combine this with the ALT key to rotate view around.

Crack the Mould

You got to start somewhere right?, so we begin with a basic primitive, a box, which in 3DS max we can shape it the way we want it straight away.

  • So first right click in the “Top” viewport and then go to the command bar in the right hand panel and select “box”
1-Add Box image
  • Then draw a rectangle in the “Top” viewport by clicking and dragging from top left to bottom right using the left button of the mouse. 
Feel free to play with the rest of the standard primitives in the command panel if you wish.

Now, when you let go of the mouse, you have to remember you haven’t finished drawing, a box like most primitives in max, allows you to draw many dimensions when creating objects.

  • Now drag your mouse upwards, you should notice your shape now gains height (as above) in the other windows.  Click the left button mouse when your happy with the height to finish.
  • Next we want to carve up the box ready for us to build our plane.
2-Break up box image

Here we set the initial properties for the box we have just created such as the height, width, length, how many segments in each dimension.  You also have the open when creating a box to restrict it to a simple cube, meaning that all dimensions will remain equal when drawing the box.

  • Copy the settings from the screen above for your box, the L / W / H don’t have to be exact (just get close enough) but set each of the segments to 3.  this breaks the box up in to 27 individual cubes and gives us a start point to begin pulling it apart.
*Tip – Hitting F4 will toggle between showing the geometry of objects in the viewports.  To display a solid or shaded wireframe view.


Practice getting the hang of views

Before we jump a little further you should familiarise yourself with moving around the views now that you have something to look at.

following on from the section earlier, select a view (say perspective) with a right mouse click and hold down the middle button of your mouse, note that now when you move the mouse, the view moves on the X and Y axis (up, down, left and right).

Now hold down the ALT key and repeat the process, you should now notice that the view rotates around the model now.

Also if you use the scroll wheel, the view zooms in and out.

These movements work in all of the viewports, play around and get used to them as you will be using them a lot.

Importance of model types

Now for us to continue, we need to convert the box we have created in to something we can mould.  When you create objects from the command bar, they each have a set of parameters (like the box above) with which you can tweak to change their basic shape:

  • Boxes have Height, width and length (plus segments)
  • Spheres have a radius and segments
  • etc.

Now this is fine when you are just creating basic objects but to start to work on them in a more creative way, you need to convert them in to an editable object, either a mesh or a polygon.

Now I wont go in to the intricacies of the difference between an “Editable Mesh” and an “Editable Polygon”, as there is not much between then but they each have their own unique properties and way you work with the converted object (there are a few other types as well).  I shall leave you to play with each type in your own time.

Key thing to remember when converting an object in to an editable object option is that it’s previous parameters are lost when using the right click option, you no longer retain to tweak the object from it’s original form.  So check that you are happy with it before you convert it.  Using the second method does not.


Converting object using right mouse click on object, selecting “Convert To” menu)

4-Convert Alternate
Converting Object using “Modifiers” by selecting object, clicking the second tab in the right hand command panel and selecting the correct “edit” type from the list (more on modifiers in a later tutorial)

Selection modes on an object

Next hurdle to get across is to show the different ways you can select the object.  if you have been playing so far you will see that when you click on your object that you are selecting the entire object in one.  Now, to get modelling we need to work on a much lower level.

Most 3D tools once you start pulling the objects apart give you the following selection options:

  • Vertex – lets you move the individual points of the object
  • Edge – moves the selected edges :-) (2 vertexes and 1 line per edge)
  • Face – moves a face of a polygon (4 vertexes and 4 lines per face)
  • Polygon – moves an entire polygon (8 vertexes and 12 lines)
  • Element – lets you edit the properties of each part of the object

In 3DS max this is represented in the right hand command panel from the second tab, as shown below


Second tab selected with the parts of the edit tree expanded.  By default it is displayed collapsed with a cross to the left of the “Edit Mesh” or “Edit Poly” modifier in the list


How to use the GIZMO

the Gizmo is an important tool no matter what 3D application you use, they all work pretty much the same way.

So here’s the Gizmo in it’s three variants in Max, each looks a little different and operates differently to support the kind of action/command you’re performing


The Move Gizmo.

  • Appears when you activate the Move command.
  • 3 Arrows in each of the 3 directions (X,Y,Z)
  • Holding the Arrow moves only in that one direction.
  • Holding the boxes in between the arrows allows movement in 2 or 3 directions.

The Rotate Gizmo

  • Appears when you activate the Rotate command.
  • 3 Rings, one for each rotation direction.
  • Holding a single ring rotates only in that direction.

The Scale Gizmo

  • Appears when you activate the Scale command.
  • Like the Move gizmo has three direction arms, which scale in one axis
  • Like the Move Gizmo has inner sections to allow scaling in more than one direction.


Lastly, a note on Pivot Points

A key thing to remember about the Gizmo is that it operates from a single point, known as the Pivot point.  By default this point is the bottom centre of the object or the middle of an individual element (such as an edge or polygon).

you can change this which we will go into in a later tutorial, but something to be aware of.  So if something doesn’t rotate or Scale how you like, then it will be because of the Pivot point

In Conclusion

This action packed intro to tutorial is essential as you go through the main section (coming very soon).  SO practice the above and play at moving around the viewports, using the basic commands and looking at the make up of objects.