Creating a Skeleton in 3ds Max - Part 4 - Arm Bones

Login to Follow
  • Games
  • Rendering
  • 2013
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Character Animation
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Advanced
10 min

Creating a Skeleton in 3ds Max - Part 4 - Arm Bones

In this tutorial, you create arm bones for the character's skeleton. These include bone joints for the clavicles, shoulders, elbows and wrists. You will actually be building three chains for each arm. One chain will be used for skinning; the other two will eventually be used for blending animation between IK and FK solutions.


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


00:00:02 --> 00:00:06
With the legs in place, you now tackle the creation of the arms.

00:00:07 --> 00:00:12
The process is fairly similar to the creation of the leg bones, with one notable difference though.

00:00:13 --> 00:00:18
Whereas you created the legs in a side view, to favor the bending of the knees in the local Z-axis,

00:00:19 --> 00:00:26
youneed to create the arms in the Top view, again to favor the bending of the elbows in the appropriate local Z-axis.

00:00:27 --> 00:00:31
Make sure the Bone layer is still current and maximize the Top view.

00:00:31 --> 00:00:40
Create a chain over the character's left arm that includes bones for the clavicle, upper arm and lower arm.

00:00:40 --> 00:00:43
Right-click at the wrist to end the chain.

00:00:43 --> 00:00:49
As always, do not worry about accuracy at this stage, you'll adjust the joints positioning in a moment.

00:00:50 --> 00:00:57
Also, do not start the chain too close to the spine, you don't want to connect the arm chain to the rest of the skeleton yet.

00:00:57 --> 00:01:01
At this stage, the arm chain is created on the floor.

00:01:01 --> 00:01:09
In the Front view, select the clavicle bone and move it up so that the chain is at the appropriate height.

00:01:12 --> 00:01:15
Go to the Bone Tools dialog and enable Bone Edit Mode.

00:01:16 --> 00:01:21
In the Front view, adjust the position of the bones in a Left/Right direction only.

00:01:22 --> 00:01:27
It is particularly important not to break the line between upper and lower arm bones.

00:01:27 --> 00:01:34
Remember that the elbow joints rotate in only one direction, much like the knee you worked on earlier.

00:01:34 --> 00:01:39
Also pay special attention to the position of the shoulder and elbow joints.

00:01:39 --> 00:01:45
These are often misplaced, especially the shoulder bone if it's placed too low on the arm.

00:01:45 --> 00:01:52
If you feel the bone chain is globally too high or too low, exit Bone Edit Mode and adjust the clavicle.

00:01:53 --> 00:01:57
You can even rotate the clavicle slightly if you need to.

00:01:59 --> 00:02:08
You still need to adjust the chain in the top view to make sure the joints are in the right place.

00:02:15 --> 00:02:22
As you have done before and to ensure the nub is aligned with the forearm, delete it and recreate it.

00:02:24 --> 00:02:28
Also, select all bones in the arm chain and reset the stretch.

00:02:30 --> 00:02:33
Exit Bone Edit Mode when done.

00:02:35 --> 00:02:43
Rename the bones: Clav, Shoulder, Forearm and Wrist.

00:02:47 --> 00:02:54
Use the Rename Objects dialog to force a "zombie_l_" prefix

00:02:57 --> 00:03:03
and a "_bone" suffix to keep with the naming convention you started.

00:03:04 --> 00:03:10
Before you mirror the bone chain to create the right arm, you need to duplicate part of it to help with the rigging later.

00:03:11 --> 00:03:19
You need to duplicate the shoulder, forearm and wrist bones twice, to create bone controllers for IK and FK animation.

00:03:20 --> 00:03:23
This ultimately will help you use two different animation styles.

00:03:24 --> 00:03:31
At this time, you only need to worry about building such bones; how you rig them, you will be learning later in great detail.

00:03:32 --> 00:03:35
Select all the arm bones except the clavicle.

00:03:35 --> 00:03:44
Choose Edit > Clone and make a copy. At this time the duplicated clones are sitting on top of the original bones.

00:03:44 --> 00:03:54
In the Bone Tools dialog, set the copied bones sizes to be slightly bigger in order to see them better, about 1.2 in width and height.

00:03:54 --> 00:03:58
You can also change their wirecolor for better visibility.

00:03:58 --> 00:04:04
Choose from the 3ds Max palette or from the AutoCAD palette for more color choices.

00:04:05 --> 00:04:15
You also need to adjust the bone names. At this time, the duplicates share the names of the originals, with a 001 suffix added to the names.

00:04:15 --> 00:04:19
Double-click the duplicated shoulder bone to select the new chain.

00:04:20 --> 00:04:26
In the Rename Objects dialog, enable Remove Last and set it to 7 digits.

00:04:27 --> 00:04:31
This will take care of the "bone001" suffix currently present..

00:04:31 --> 00:04:36
You need to replace it with a new suffix, identifying an FK chain.

00:04:36 --> 00:04:43
Enable suffix mode and type in "FK_bone" as a new suffix.

00:04:43 --> 00:04:48
Click the Rename button and verify the new bone names.

00:04:48 --> 00:04:51
Repeat the procedure to create an IK chain.

00:04:52 --> 00:04:56
Start by selecting the original chain, by double-clicking the shoulder bone.

00:04:57 --> 00:05:04
Make a copy, and this time make the duplicates slightly smaller, about 0.8

00:05:06 --> 00:05:09
Choose a different wirecolor for the new chain

00:05:14 --> 00:05:21
Change the bone names as you did earlier, this time by using an IK suffix, instead of FK.

00:05:21 --> 00:05:28
You now have three arm chains starting from the shoulder. All three are connected to the clavicle.

00:05:29 --> 00:05:36
Bone nubs always react strangely to size changes. You are better off recreating the nubs for the FK and IK chains.

00:05:37 --> 00:05:44
Select the FK chain nub and copy its name to the clipboard, using Ctrl+C

00:05:48 --> 00:05:55
Delete it, and then recreate it by selecting the FK forearm and using Create End.

00:05:55 --> 00:06:04
Since the new nub is named Bone001, change its name by pasting (Ctrl+V) the original name you saved earlier.

00:06:05 --> 00:06:08
Repeat the procedure for the IK nub.

00:06:13 --> 00:06:21
Select the whole arm chain, including the clavicle, and use the Bone Tools dialog's Mirror function to create the right arm.

00:06:22 --> 00:06:28
Select the duplicated clavicle (right arm) and invert its World position in X.

00:06:32 --> 00:06:35
The arm is now properly mirrored.

00:06:35 --> 00:06:42
As you have done multiple times by now, use the Rename Objects tool to get rid of the "(Mirrored)" suffix.

00:06:46 --> 00:06:53
Also change the prefix to accommodate an "r" identifier for the right arm chain.

00:07:02 --> 00:07:08
As you had done earlier with the legs, you still need to adjust the local rotations of the mirrored limbs.

00:07:08 --> 00:07:14
Select both clavicles and then press Page Down to select all upper arm bones.

00:07:15 --> 00:07:22
Using the Rotate tool in Local mode, make sure the rotation mode is based on objects' pivot points.

00:07:22 --> 00:07:32
Check out the rotations in Y. The arms rotate nicely as you would expect. The Y-rotation is working well here, as it did with the legs.

00:07:32 --> 00:07:39
Check the X rotations. Notice the forearms, how the rotations are working against each other.

00:07:40 --> 00:07:47
Same thing in Z; it would be nice here if the arms rotated together forward or backward.

00:07:47 --> 00:07:53
Select the new mirrored arm chain including the clavicle and go to the Hierarchy panel.

00:07:54 --> 00:08:00
Enable Affect Pivot Only and then locally rotate the Y-axis 180 degrees.

00:08:01 --> 00:08:05
Remember that you can use the relative transform type-ins to that effect.

00:08:05 --> 00:08:12
Exit Affect Pivot Only mode when done and verify the local rotations.

00:08:15 --> 00:08:20
At this stage, you're really repeating the workflow you had done with the legs earlier.

00:08:20 --> 00:08:27
This means you should select the mirrored arm, and reset the stretch in the Bone Tools dialog.

00:08:30 --> 00:08:35
This also means you would need to invert the size values to get the bones to look right.

00:08:36 --> 00:08:44
Do them one chain at a time as the main chain and the IK/FK chains have different sizes.

00:08:50 --> 00:08:57
Lastly, you'll need to recreate the nubs. Address them one at a time.

00:08:57 --> 00:09:04
Make sure you copy the nub name to memory first, so you can paste that name to the newly created nub.

00:09:20 --> 00:09:28
Finally, select both clavicles and link them to the closest spine bone (Spine3).

00:09:39 --> 00:09:46
Save your file. In the next movie, you create roll bones to help with the skinning of the arms.
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • Rendering
  • 2013
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Character Animation
To post a comment please login or register
*Save $66 per month on Autodesk's Suggested Retail Price (SRP) when purchasing 1 year term 3ds Max or Maya subscription.