3ds Max Modeling Techniques - Part 1 - Modeling with Splines

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  • Design Visualization
  • Modeling
  • 2011
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
6 min

3ds Max Modeling Techniques - Part 1 - Modeling with Splines

In this first tutorial, learn how to draw splines and edit them into customizable shapes. You will start by taking a 2D shape and transforming them into 3D objects with the help of modifiers.

  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2010
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2010 or higher.


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Instead of always starting with a 3D volume, it is sometimes easier
to model a 3D object from a 2D shape.

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2D shapes, or splines in 3ds Max terminology, are simple geometric
shapes that you typically draw in an orthographic view.

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There are many splines to choose from, starting with the Line command.

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The Creation Method options are different based on the version
of 3ds Max you are using,

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The Drag Type option defaults to Bezier in 3ds Max while it is set
to corner in 3ds Max Design.

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This is also true when you load Max or Design Initial Settings using
the Custom UI & Defaults switcher.

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In Corner/Bezier mode, you create linear segments with a single click
in the viewport, and curve segments with a click and drag.

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A right-click exits the command.

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This method can be difficult to control at creation time. It is usually
easier to start simple and build in detail later.

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To build the simple profile of a wine glass for example, you can use
the Corner method for both Initial and Drag types.

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Keep in mind that holding the Shift key constrains your movement
in orthogonal mode.

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Five points (4 segments) is all you need to start.

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In the Modify panel, you can access the sub-elements of the 2D shape
you created; Vertex, Segment and Spline.

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In Vertex mode, you can easily relocate one or more vertices using
the Move tool.

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More importantly, you can convert a vertex type from the default Corner
type to other types using the Quad menu.

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In Smooth mode, you are presented with a curvature that you can only
control by moving the vertex.

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In Bezier mode handles appear, which give you more control over
the curvature.

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As you zoom in, you'll notice that the edges are not so smooth.
This can be controlled by increasing the number of steps
in the Interpolation rollout.

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The Adaptive option provides another smoothing method.

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This method increases the number of steps when the segments are curved
and decreases them when the segments are linear.

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The Bezier Corner method breaks the handles so you can control each one

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If you need more vertices to control the shape, you can use the Refine

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This tool inserts a vertex at the point on the shape where you click
with your mouse.

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Segment mode lets you edit segments between vertices.

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You can easily edit segments by moving or rotating them.

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More importantly, you can divide a segment into different sections.

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This inserts equidistant vertices so you do not have to estimate their
location using the Refine tool.

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In Spline mode, you edit the shape globally.

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One useful tool in Spline mode is the Outline tool. This creates
a double line out of a single shape.

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You can select the spline, then specify the value in the edit box,
or use the Outline button and click & drag the spline.

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This created some hard edges. You can adjust them back at the vertex level.

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You can use commands such Chamfer and Fillet to edit vertices.

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Chamfer creates "cut" corners, and Fillet creates round corners.

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When two or more vertices are close together,
you can weld them into one vertex.

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This is done by selecting two or more vertices, then clicking
the Weld tool.

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For this command to work, the selected vertices must be within
the distance specified in the Weld threshold.

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Keep in mind that only the Line command gives you direct access
to sub-components.

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Other shapes are parametric, and you can only access their sub-objects
after converting them to an Editable Spline or by adding
an Edit Spline modifier.

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For example, a simple tabletop can be created using the Rectangle tool.

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Once converted into an Editable Spline, you can access sub-components,

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divide segments,

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transform vertices, and so on.

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When you create multiple shapes, you can attach them to one spline
and perform Boolean operations to clean them up.

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For example, you can create the cross-section for a table leg using circles.

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If these shapes are parametric, you need to turn one of them into
an Editable Spline first.

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Once that is done, you can use the Attach tool to make the other
splines part of the original.

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Remember to exit the Attach tool when you are done.

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Notice that the rest of the parametric shapes didn't need to be converted
into editable splines to be attached to the original shape.

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To use Boolean operations on splines, they must intersect one another.

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With the original spline selected, make sure the Union method
is selected, and then click the Boolean button.

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Pick the splines you wish to union.

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Switch to a different mode such as Subtraction if you want to remove
a spline from the result.

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This created a nice cross-section of a table leg.

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If you need to scale a 2D shape, always perform a scale
at the sub-object level to retain its integrity.
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • Modeling
  • 2011
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