3ds Max Modeling Techniques - Part 1 - Renderable Splines

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

3ds Max Modeling Techniques - Part 1 - Renderable Splines

In this first tutorial, learn how to leverage Renderable Splines to model wrought-irons designs for your architectural components.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2011
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2011 or higher.


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Modeling architectural metal is not difficult but requires different
approaches based on the component you are trying to model.

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Creating an I-Beam structure has a different workflow
than creating a wrought-iron gate.

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In this movie, you will start with the easiest technique available,
i.e. using renderable splines.

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Renderable splines are useful to create metal components
that have a cross-section based on a circle, or a rectangle.

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You will use renderable splines to reproduce the mural in this scene.

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These include the shapes that simulate growing plants,
and the decorations in the L-shaped frame.

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In the bottom-right viewport, display the Camera004 view
to get a closer shot.

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Select the mural and hide it, or simply delete it altogether
as you will be recreating it.

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To create the mural on the wall, you could use the AutoGrid function.

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This ensures any shapes or objects you create align themselves
to the normals of the wall.

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However, the AutoGrid feature works well with new objects
but doesn't work so well when you're operating at a sub-object level.

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Instead, it is better to create a custom working grid
so that all operations are confined to a space you specify.

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From the Helpers panel, choose Grid.

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With AutoKey enabled, draw a grid of any size on the wall
where you want to build the mural.

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At this time you can disable AutoGrid as you won't need it anymore.

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Right-click and choose Activate Grid to enable it.
This becomes your new construction space.

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You can move the grid along the surface of the wall
as the construction plane extends to infinity.

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You can now start building the mural.

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Start with an L-Shape. Use the Line command and click three points
that form the letter L.

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To keep the lines straight, hold the Shift key
as you click the second and third points.

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Right-click to finish the command.

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In the Modify panel, go to Spline mode.

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Enable the Outline tool. Click and drag the spline to turn
the two segments into a closed contour.

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Still in the Modify panel, choose the Create Line command.
This creates a line that is part of the current spline.

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Using simple clicks, create three or four extensions
to simulate growing or climbing plants.

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Right-click to end the Create Line process.

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Go to vertex sub-object mode. Select all the vertices that simulate
the growing plants.

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With a right-click, turn these vertices into Bezier mode.

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Use the right-click again to reset all the Bezier tangents.

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Feel free to make adjustments to the vertices until you get a design
you like.

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Next you create the decorative elements that go in the frame.

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These spiraling elements are quite recurrent in wrought-iron designs.

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You could try creating them with the Line tool but an easier method
would be using the Helix shape.

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A helix is a 3D shape but can be used in 2D if its height is set to 0.

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You build a helix by specifying an inner radius with a click and drag.

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Another Move/Click specifies the height, and another specifies
the outer radius.

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You don't need to be too accurate as you create the helix.
You can always change its parameters later.

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In the Modify panel, ensure the height is set to 0,
so that it is in the same plane as the wall.

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Adjust the radii and the number of turns so that it looks similar
to what is shown here.

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Once done, use the Front view and mirror/copy the shape
on the XY Mirror Axis.

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Reposition the clone in the frame.

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Next you connect the two spirals.

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Select the mural object and in the Modify panel, use the Attach tool
to attach the two spirals.

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Using Create Line, enable 3D snap. Right-click the Snap button
and ensure only the Endpoint option is enabled.

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Connect the two spirals endpoint to endpoint. Right-click to finish
the Create Line process.

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Turn off snap mode and go into vertex mode.

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Using region select, select the vertices where the line meets a spiral.
These are in effect two vertices sharing the same spot.

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Click Weld to weld the two vertices into one.

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Repeat the procedure with the other spiral.

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You can adjust vertices, or even delete a few that do not seem necessary.

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One last note, helixes are made of linear segments and that should be fine
when seen from a distance.

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If you need to turn helixes into curves,
then you can do so at the Spline level.

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Select the spline combo, right-click and choose Curve from the quad menu.

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Double-check to see if some Bezier handles are not out of shape
and adjust where necessary.

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You can change individual vertex types. Not all of them have to be Bezier.

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From this point on, you can make the necessary mirror/copies to duplicate
the spirals.

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This can be done using Mirror/Copy, or by using Shift+Rotate and Shift+Move.

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And so the mural is created but at this time, it cannot be rendered just yet.

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To render a spline, first you need to give it volume.

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With the mural selected, expand the rendering rollout.

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Enable both checkmarks, Enable in Renderer and Enable in Viewport.

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By default, the cross-sections are circular. Set the Thickness to about 1"

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Now the mural appears at render time.

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If you wish, go to the Material Editor and apply the existing
Blue Metal material to the mural.

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Other than the circular cross-section, you can also give the spline
a rectangular cross-section.

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Finally, you can set the Interpolation to Adaptive
so that curved areas have more sub-divisions.

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Before you move on, you'd better reset the construction plane
to the Home Grid.

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This is done by selecting the custom grid, right-click it,
and then choose Activate HomeGrid.

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If you need cross-sections other than circular or rectangular,
then you need a different workflow than renderable splines.

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In the next movie, you look at a technique that starts with splines,
but that can use any type of cross-section you might need.
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • Modeling
  • 2011
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