Basic Modelling for beginners

With this tutorial I just want to show you, how the basic 3D Modelling works. For this I use the great programme 3ds Max 4.2, but this tutorial may work with other releases of max, too! I start with the Main Layout of Max, well, hope it helps you. :)

1. Window Options

These are the main four windows we will work with. I don't think i have to explain the windows "Top", "Front", and "Left", this is simply the side you see your Model from! (this is in 2D). In the "Perspective" View you see the 3D Model. If we now rightclick on the text (Top;Front;Left;Perspective), a list pops up:

The first 3 Lines (Smooth + Highlights; Wireframe; Other) are used to set how the objects are shown. If you use Smooth + Highlights, you see the Model with skin. If you choose Wireframe, you'll just see a wiremodel of your objects! (That safes performance). At "other" you'll find some other View options.

Show Grid means, that the 3D Grid is displayed (for example: In "Perspective" View in the picture 1 it is turned off). With "Show Background" you can display a background in one, or all, or whatever windows.

Sorry, but I don't really know what "Show Safe Frame" means, but it isn't really important.

  • (Note by 3D Total team: "Show Safe Frame" shows a set of frames - "Safe Areas". It basically tells you to keep important elements inside the rectangles to avoid losing them out of focus due to video overscan when the image is output to a TV.)

  • With Viewport Clipping you can set the distance of View, that means, how far you can see!

    Texture Correction, sorry, the same as "Show Safe Frame". (Note by 3D Total team: "texture correction" should be turned on for instant feedback when unwrapping the UVW coordinates using the UVW unwrap modifier.)

    Disable View shuts the Window down.

    At "Views" you can choose other perspectives, like "Right", or "Camera" (If you have a camera placed in the scene).

    With "Undo View zoom Extends" you can repair a wrong moving of the camera.

    With "Configure" you can choose lots of other options.

    2. The Toolbar

    Now I'll explain the toolbar:

    With these arrows you can "undo", or "redo" actions.

    With these you can link, and unlink Objects.

    With this you can apply "Spacewarps" to objects.

    This arrow (if it's pressed like here, it means that it's choosed) means, that you can select objects.

    Here you can choose the kind of selection, like selecting by drawing a grid.

    Here you can choose your objects from a list (very helpful when having many objects).

    Here you can 1. move 2. rotate 3. scale objects.

    With the left button you can manipulate objects (for example the diameter), with the right you can change which pivot/pivots will be used for scaling and rotation.

    Here you can choose on what axis you can move your objects.

    With the first symbol you can mirror objects. With the second symbol you can clone objects and line them up automatically. The 3rd symbol is used to align objects (for example to the camera).

    Here you can open the Track View, where you can do lots of stuff with animations, and everything that's in the scene.

    Here you can watch your objects in a scheme.

    TheMaterial Editor gives you the possibility to work with textures.

    Everything that has to do with rendering your models.

    3. Modelling Options

    Now I'll explain, how you create and modify objects.

    First of all I'll explain the buttons to you. The upper line:

    1. This arrow means, that you can create objects.
    2. This bent shape means, that you can modify objects.
    3. These boxes mean that you can modify the hydraulics functions and focal points here.
    4. This wheel means, that you can modify, or create animations here, but it's also possible to work with the track bar.
    5. Here you can choose, how the objects will be shown.
    6. Here you can use plugins and so on (like the polygon counter).

    The lower line: Create objects/effects:

    1. The sphere tells you, that you can create objects with "skin" here (like boxes, or cylinders)
    2. Here you can draw simple splines.
    3. Here you can set lights.
    4. Here you can set cameras.
    5. Here you can use helpers.
    6. Here you can use Spacewarps.
    7. Here you can create different things, like a sun.

    Modify Objects:

    Here is only a modifier list, which I'll explain later.

    Focal Points:

    1. With pivot you can set the pivot of an object.
    2. With IK you can modify the inverse kinematics settings of various bones and linked hierarchies.
    3. Here you can block movements, for example you can make an object moving only on the x axis, and block the other axis!


    I'm always doing this with the track bar, it's for animations.


    There is no lower list.


    There's no lower list either.  

    4. Let's start

    We start with something simple: a glass with background and lighting.

    The ground:

    First of all we create a Box with two height segments in the "create" window.

    Now we set the Box in the "Top" View with a height of 3, witdh of 60, and length of 80.

    But the box isn't in the middle of the grid, so we choose the move modifier:

    Then we press F12 and set all numbers to 0:

    Now we call the object Tisch01 (which means table in German).

    Now let's have a look at the Object Modify tab:

    For this we have to select our "table" and then choose the "edit mesh" modifier: Now we choose "vertex" in the edit Mesh modifier:


    Let's now zoom, to have a closer look:

    For this we hold the left mouse button, and move the mouse upwards.

    Now draw a grid around the upper 2 vertices by clicking and dragging the mouse to selected them:

    Now we choose the scale button, and move these vertices closer together:

    In the small box (red arrow), we see the count of skaling, let's set it to 85. We didn't really move 2 vertices, we moved 4, we just could see 2 in the front window, because they lied exactly at the same points in front view.

    Now let's turn away from our bizarre table, and let's look at the glass:

    For this we zoom at a good position, by clicking this button:

    After that we rotate in the perspective view, by clicking this button (rotating works
    same as zooming):

    Now we create a cylinder with 12 sides in the Top View, and 5 Height Segments, and 3 cap-segments. It has a radius of 3, and a height of 13. And it's position isn't the middle of the table, it gets put anywhere of the table.

    Let's now select these vertices in the edit mesh modifier:

    Now we move the vertices up a bit, in the front window:

    Now we choose the upper vertices, and scale them to 190:

    Now we scale following rings of vertices (every ring sepparately).Looks a bit like a glass now, doesn't it?


    5. Texturing

    So, we have a relatively nice glass, and a simple table, but it sure still needs color:

    Let's open the Material Editor (press the "M" key), and, aha, lots of spheres...

    Let's first of all turn the Opacity to 40:

    Now the texture is transparent 40%, let's copy the texture to the glass. Now it is transparent:


    Let's take a wood texture (mo matter where it's from), click on the second sphere, double click at diffuse color on Bitmap:

    There we choose our wood texture: (you can turn the field "mirror" on, so the texture always fits perfectly together, without seam):

    Now let's turn the funny blue-white cube on, and then copy the texture to the table (the cube has to be turned on, to make the texture visible)

    But.. what's that? There's no texture on the table, how can that be? Did we do something wrong?

    No, everything's right, we just have to set an UVW Map Modifier.

    Let's use the following options:

    Hmm, not that bad. Is it?

    6. Rendering

    So, now there's a simple trick, to let the models look nicer. We render the model. Therefore click on rendering:

    Then this window appears.

    I won't explain, what the every single field means now, just the most important:

    Width and Height control the size of your picture in pixels.
    At "Files" you can save the picture.
    In Viewport you can choose, from what viewport the picture should get rendered.
    After clicking on "rendering", you see, how the picture gets build, how does it look? Well, this is only simple modelling, so, don't worry, I'll make an advanced tutorial, too. :)

    But there's still missing something, hmm...


    7. Lights and shadows

    Yes, true, now we're going to add lighting to the scene. For that we click on "Omni" Button in the create light window, it shines in every direction. I set it diagonal to the glass:

    But it still doesn't look that good, if we render it (press F9, it's a quick render, but it doesn't get saved). Let's look at the light-modify panel. Very complicated, but we're just interested, in "shadow parameters":

    Turn the field "Object Shadows" on, now we have a simple shadow: (If you turn "Shadow Map" to "Raytraced Shadow", you'll get a better shadow, especially with the transparence, but rendering takes much longer!

    If we add a second light on a differnt distance, it gives a nice effect.

    8. Editable Poly

    Now we want to make the scene look a bit more round. There's a very simple trick. Rightclick on your model, and convert it to "editable poly".

    Now click in the lower list on "Subdivide".

    click on Mesh Smooth, and your picture will look lots better:

    You can also make this with the "Mesh Smooth" Modifier in the modifier list, and the pretty good thing on that is, that you can use it for renderings only, or for renderings and viewport, so you can save much perfomance!

    So, that was it, but believe me, there will be more.

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