Creating a Skeleton in 3ds Max - Part 7 - Wrapping up

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7 min

Creating a Skeleton in 3ds Max - Part 7 - Wrapping up

In this tutorial, learn how to finalize the skeleton creation process by mirroring the left hand to create the right hand, the only limb still missing. You will also learn how to establish the parent/child relationships between fingers, hands and wrists and verify the skeleton's hierarchy.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2013
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2013 or higher.


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You're almost done with the skeleton. You still need to create bones for the hands and fingers.

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This process is a bit time-consuming as this is where you'll have the most bones in the skeleton.

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In fact, this is also true in human anatomy, the hands and fingers have the most bones in the human body.

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Whereas you created the arm bones in the top view, to favor the forward/backward rotation of the arm,

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You will create the hand and fingers in the Front view, to favor the local-Z axis.

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This way, the primary rotation of the hand will be up and down,

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whereas the twist and the left/right motions will be secondary.

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In the case of the fingers, it should be clear that they also need to be created in the Front View.

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This places the main axis of rotation in local-Z so that the fingers curl nicely.

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The finger bases would also need to rotate slightly in Local-Y to spread the fingers in a secondary motion.

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The rest of the finger joints shouldn't need any such secondary motion.

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The fingers should not need a twisting rotation either.

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The thumb is a little harder to set up.

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It should be noted that contrary to the fingers, the thumb bones should be created in the Top View.

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Once adjusted, the Z-Local rotation works best to make the thumb rotate properly.

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A secondary rotation on the Y-axis is also important for the thumb base, much like it was for the fingers.

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The rest of the thumb joints need only rotate in Z.

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Maximize the Front view and set it to Shaded mode.

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To place the hand and finger bones, it's probably best to set the zombie's geometry to see through mode.

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This will enable you to see inside the mesh in shaded views.

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In order to do that, you need to unfreeze the Mesh layer, and then select the zombie character and press Alt+X.

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Once this is done, you can freeze the Mesh layer one more time.

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To place the joints properly, you need to see the underlying geometry. Press F4 to enable Edged Faces mode.

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Make sure the Bones layer is still current.

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Because the space inside the hand and fingers is more restrictive, set the Bone Object size to 0.5 in width and height.

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In the Front view, create a single bone for the character's left hand.

00:02:30 --> 00:02:34
Remember to right-click to end a bone chain creation process.

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As always, do not worry about accuracy at this point and don't create the new bone too close to an existing one.

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By doing so, you risk connecting the new bone to the existing one and you don't want that at this stage.

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Name the new bones "Hand" and "Hand-nub".

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Using the selection tool, select the main hand bone you just created (not the nub).

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Using the Align tool, align the selected bone to the original wrist bone named: "zombie_l_Wrist_bone"

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Make sure you align the two bones pivot-to-pivot, in position in all three axes.

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In Rotation, make sure only the X-Rotation is active.

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This ensures the hand is aligned with the elbow, although it has different Y & Z orientations.

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In the Bone Tools dialog, enable Bones Edit Mode.

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Select the nub and make any necessary adjustments.

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Make sure you only move the nub on the local XY-plane, to keep the hand bone aligned with the forearm.

00:03:40 --> 00:03:46
If you wish, you can even adjust the hand bone size to look more like a hand.

00:03:46 --> 00:03:49
This will have no effect on the skinning.

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Select both the hand and its nub and reset the stretch.

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Exit Bone Edit Mode when done.

00:04:10 --> 00:04:14
Next you create a bone chain for the first finger.

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In the Front view, create a three-bone chain for the index finger.

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Set the names of the new bones as "Index_1", Index_2", "Index_3" and "Index_3-nub".

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Select the base bone (Index_1) and relocate it in the top view.

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Make sure you place it where the knuckle should be.

00:04:45 --> 00:04:49
A common mistake is to place it too forward in the finger.

00:04:49 --> 00:04:59
Using the Rotate tool, rotate the base bone on its local-Y axis so that the whole finger chain is aligned with the geometry.

00:05:03 --> 00:05:07
Make the necessary adjustments in the Front View.

00:05:10 --> 00:05:15
Keep an eye on the Perspective view to make sure the first joint is positioned properly.

00:05:16 --> 00:05:21
Enable Bone Edit Mode. Also, make sure the Move tool is set to Local.

00:05:22 --> 00:05:28
Adjust the bones on their local-XY planes so that the joints are placed properly.

00:05:28 --> 00:05:35
There is no magic formula here, you just need to be patient and adjust the joints by looking in multiple viewports.

00:05:35 --> 00:05:44
As you've learned before, it's always a good idea to delete and recreate the nub, so that it's properly aligned with its parent bone.

00:05:48 --> 00:05:54
When you're done with the index chain, reset the stretch and exit Bone Edit Mode.

00:05:58 --> 00:06:02
Copy the Index chain to create the middle finger.

00:06:06 --> 00:06:12
Rename the bones accordingly (Middle_1, 2 & 3, and don't forget the nub).

00:06:17 --> 00:06:23
Select the middle finger base and rotate it so that the whole chain is aligned with the geometry.

00:06:30 --> 00:06:37
In Bone Edit Mode, adjust the positioning of the joints on the Local-XY plane.

00:06:41 --> 00:06:47
Be careful not to break the linear pattern the finger chains are following.

00:06:56 --> 00:07:00
Reset the Stretch and Exit Bone Edit Mode when done.

00:07:04 --> 00:07:10
Repeat the procedure to create the ring finger and the pinky.

00:07:57 --> 00:08:01
When you're done with the four fingers, create a chain for the thumb.

00:08:02 --> 00:08:08
Make sure you create it in the top view, to favor the proper rotation in the local-Z axis.

00:08:08 --> 00:08:14
Of course because you create it in the top view, you need to select the base

00:08:14 --> 00:08:16
and move it up to the correct height.

00:08:17 --> 00:08:27
You would probably need slight local rotations in Y and even in X to orient the chain to follow the geometry.

00:08:30 --> 00:08:35
As always, adjust the joints in Bone Edit mode.

00:08:35 --> 00:08:40
Make sure you only move them locally on the XY plane.

00:08:40 --> 00:08:45
You want the bones to remain flat on the local XY plane.

00:09:00 --> 00:09:05
When you're done, select the fingers' and the thumb's base bones,

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and link them to the hand.

00:09:15 --> 00:09:19
Similarly, link the hand to the wrist.

00:09:23 --> 00:09:29
Ultimately, when the wrist is animated, the hand and fingers will react to that motion.

00:09:38 --> 00:09:50
Don't forget to use the Rename Objects tool to add the "zombie_l_" prefix and the "_bone" suffix as you did before with the rest of the skeleton.

00:09:51 --> 00:09:57
You're almost done. In the next movie, you'll wrap up the skeleton by adding the right hand.
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