Object Manipulation in 3ds Max - Using Snap Tools

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  • 2011
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6 min

Object Manipulation in 3ds Max - Using Snap Tools

In this tutorial, learn how to use Snap Tools to ensure accuracy for Transforms. Snap Tools are most effective when used in conjunction with Move Tools as well as other transforms.


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


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Snap tools give you greater accuracy when working with tranforms.

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Snap tools are most effective with the Move tool, although they can
be used with Rotate and Scale as well.

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The default hotkey to toggle "Move" Snap mode is S.

00:00:17 --> 00:00:21
With Rotate, Angle Snap lets you rotate objects by 5 degrees increments.

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The default hotkey to toggle Angle Snap is A.

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With Scale, Percent Snap lets you scale objects up or down
by 10% increments.

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The default hotkey to toggle Percent Snap is Shift+Ctrl+P.

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The default incremental values for rotation and scale of 5 degrees
and 10% respectively can be changed by right clicking the rotation
or scale snap buttons.

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Used in conjunction with the Move tool, snap possibilities are much
wider in scope.

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The Move snap tool is actually a flyout. You will learn about its
various options in a moment.

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For now, leave the default 3D Snap mode active.

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When planning to use snap tools, it is usually more efficient to
call up the Snaps toolbar.

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This can be done with a right-click on an empty area of the main toolbar.

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Using the Snaps toolbar, you can then choose which points in space
you would like to snap onto.

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In grid mode, you can only snap to intersecting lines
on the construction grid.

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The texture map in this example has been set to match the existing
construction grid.

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Perhaps more importantly, you can snap onto geometry points such as
objects' pivot points,

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vertex points, midpoints, edges, faces, and so on.

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Arguably, one of the most valuable snap options is vertex, which lets
you snap onto any intersecting point between two or more edges.

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The default 3D snap mode is best used in a 3D view, such as Perspective
or Camera.

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In this mode, you can relocate an object in all three directions,
X, Y and Z,

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so that a point on the source object snaps onto a point
on the target object.

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In a 2D Orthographic view, such as Top or Front,
using 3D snap can be tricky.

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If there are multiple points on the same axis, such as the Z-axis
as seen in the top view, you can never be sure which point is taken
into account.

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This is why 3D snap is best used in a 3D view.

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If you need to work in a 2D Orthographic view, then you should use
one of the two 2D snaps available.

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The 2D snap mode is only useful if you are dealing exclusively with
2D geometry, such as Shape objects.

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The 2D Snap mode can only snap to objects lying on the construction grid.

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If an object is not lying on the construction grid (Z=0 in the Top view),
then you cannot snap to it.

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Notice how you cannot snap to a "floating" object, but you can snap
to an object on the floor.

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This makes 2D Snap difficult to work with when using objects in various
3D locations.

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On the other hand, the 2.5D snap mode is very useful when you need
to relocate an object on one plane,

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without affecting the third dimension.

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For example, you can move this box in the top view to align it
with another box.

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Notice how you have relocated the object on the XY plane,

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while the elevation remains unchanged, even though the target object
in this case is higher.

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Notice also that unlike 2D snap, a 2.5D snap does recognize snap points
that are not on the construction grid.

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As you can see, 2.5D is a very powerful way to move objects
on a single plane.

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It is NOT advisable to use 2.5D Snap in a 3D view, as it will yield
unexpected results.

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Finally, take a look at the Use Axis Constraints option.

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This is best used in 3D Snap mode with the Transform gizmo disabled.

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The Transform gizmo can be toggled on or off using the X key.

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The Use Axis Constraint lets you snap points on a single
or dual axis translation.

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To move an object in X, Y, or Z, press the F5, F6, or F7 keys
to enable a single direction at a time.

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Using 3D snap in vertex mode, notice how you can align a vertex
to another while the object travels in one direction only.

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It is important to note that this mode also works in two directions

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This, in effect, replaces the 2.5D mode you learned about earlier.

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To set this mode to work in two axes simultaneously, use F8 to move
between the XY, YZ, and XZ planes.

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At any time, disable Use Axis Constraint to return to full 3D snap mode.

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Don't forget to toggle back the Transform gizmo (X key) when you're done.

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  • 3ds Max
  • Modeling
  • 2011
  • Basics
  • Building Levels
  • Deploying and Building
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