Tag Archives: Modeling

Tutorials from the Past

When I was just starting out in 3D (properly, I don’t count the year while I was still on a programming course) I would surf more tutorial sites than I care to count, looking for some quick, fun things to make. Fortunately, a little into this time I had the foresight (read: dumb luck) to stumble onto Delicious. As a result, some of the oldest ‘beginning’ tutorials I followed are still there.

What follows are some of the best ones.

Escalight.com – Particle Forming into Logo

One of the first tests I did was using this tutorial.  It’s simple enough to follow, though you’ll have to adapt it a bit for the newer versions of 3Ds Max (or whatever other software you’re using)…  I like particles, what can I say?  Actually, I still have the renders I was testing from this on my Youtube channel.

3D Total – Particle Fire

Beautiful, simple, and using methods I hadn’t even considered beforehand.  This tutorial got passed around class a lot too, particularly in second year.  Naturally, I have test renders of it in a whole variety of colours – again some of which happen to still be on my Youtube.

3DM3 – Subdivision Body Model

I’ll admit, I never actually finished making this one (short attention span, and as I quickly discovered I’m not a modeller) – it’s simple and easy to follow though.  Made a lovely torso and the beginnings of legs this way and the principles were extremely useful with the rest of the characters I made.

Skymedias – Making Low Poly Game Hair

I was really bad at this at the time.  The concept is simple, and unfortunately simple concepts require lots of work to get right.  Lack of patience, abandoned it for good ol’ hair and fur.  Still useful, and I may look into it again at some point down the line.

Parting Message

Are there any tutorials that you particularly enjoyed working on?  I have a ton more, though some of them have disappeared, and others were never bookmarked in the first place (organised, very).  When I find them I’ll post them up!

Just a quick reminder as well that the competition from last week is still available – extending the deadline to next week while I go rustle up some people (ie. you).  Have a quick look at the prizes if you’re interested.

Practical Tips #4; Pay Attention to Time

Vancouver clock wikimedia commons

How many times have you had to re-work something that you thought clicked really well?

I’m going to assume it’s been at least once. Probably far more times than you care to really think about! In this last week alone I’ve had to change and tweak things on a project at least three times; I’ve a feeling we can all relate to that. The next few Practical Tips are going to focus on areas of planning that can help minimize repeat tasks, starting with taking time of day and season into account. You may not really think about these and still create some amazing pieces, however this series is about polishing things and making it even better. Besides, on the off chance it does become important, wouldn’t you like to know how to start?

This tip will show you how to add context to your scenes and animations by using the time and date.

It’s good, but…

There’s a city scene in your animation; one that you’re particularly proud of actually. You’ve got your lighting set up beautifully, you have wonderfully animated people in the background, your sound effects are realistic, and your camera fly-through is nothing short of an art form. Your textures even manage to work well together and approximate realism – but better!

When your project manager (or audience/client/whoever) sees it they start asking questions. Why are there people in party clothes first thing in the morning? Why are the lights on all the cars on in full sunlight? Shouldn’t the children be heading to school instead of skipping around in the middle of the park next to the old people on the benches? Didn’t the brief say ‘Monday morning’?

Your scene is beautiful; but it’s logic is so flawed that you’ll have to go and redesign parts of it. Think of the waste!

Avoiding the ‘but’

How much easier would it be if  there had been a way to plan this sort of thing before doing all that work?  Instead of redesigning parts and tweaking for a few hours, you could have been doing something more fun, or even getting a jump-start on your next task!  Your scenes would mesh together logically, you wouldn’t have avid fans (or, worse, your boss) wondering why certain things were there, and best of all your viewers would be able to appreciate your work without getting distracted.

Also, you could be secure in the knowledge that each item or piece of your scene was there for a reason; this means you could justify it if you needed to further down the line.

Prevention is better than a cure

1. Read your brief twice. If there are any mentions of time or date on it you may not notice until the second pass; if there aren’t you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find your information. Go to the source and ask your boss or clients. Read the context of the scene too if it’s part of a larger project, sometimes this will give you more information as well.

2. Research. I can hear the groans now… Look at it this way – an hour (or less) doing research now can save you 2+ hours later. Check the background of the location, local weather, what people do at a specific time of day or season. Find out enough so you have a basic grounding in your chosen place.

3. Find ways to work it in! This is the fun part; use your research and the information you got from your brief, and come up with the most creative way to incorporate your new ideas. It doesn’t have to be anything big or particularly thorough, just show you’ve thought about it and avoid the obvious errors. (Note: don’t obsess over this. If you start to take longer making sure things are accurate than you do working on the project there’s something wrong.)


It’s worth running through these steps whenever you’re working on a big project, or you feel time might play a factor. While you might not want to use it every time it’ll lift your work when you do, and keeping it in the back of your mind will help you add an extra layer of polish.

And if things do go wrong and you have to re-do a part? You now have some idea of where to start.

Dishes? Pfft. Use Lathe to Set the Table


Today I’m going to show you quickly how to use the Lathe modifier in 3D Studio Max.  When used with splines you can create all sorts of cylindrical objects; glasses, bottles, plates, bowls, and so on.  They won’t be the best modelled objects however its a good way to get a base set up for altering and creating more complex objects.

How to use Lathe in 3Ds Max from Heather Craik on Vimeo.

If you’re going to cheat with Turbosmooth…

At least do it properly.  I’ve seen a few people over the last couple of months just plain using it wrong and having their computers crash, lag, and run off to join the revolution as a result.  We can do better than that!

In this video I’ll show you what Turbosmooth does, how you lag your computer in under five seconds (possibly without a demonstration dependent on video quality), and how to get the same results without making your workstation freeze every time you click a button.  Please note, I don’t suggest using Turbosmooth for everything and its far from being a miracle modifier, but for quick, dirty and easy smoothing there’s a lot to be said for it.

How to Cheat Turbosmooth Effectively from Heather Craik on Vimeo.


When using Turbosmooth as a quick and easy smoothing option for high detail keep the following in mind:

  • Ramping up the number of iterations will slow your computer down to the point of being unmanageable.
  • You can achieve the same effect by adding the iterations at render time.
  • It’s still cheating! (But in a smarter way)

Hope this has helped someone, have fun playing with 3D!  If it’s been useful don’t forget to comment below and let me know (or even if it hasn’t for that matter).

Falling Feathers Part 3: Setting the Scene

In this part we’re going to step back a little from the more technical aspects (particles, effects systems, etc) and focus on setting the scene for our animation and positioning the camera.  This will probably be quite a long post; I’ve already had to split out the remaining tasks so that it takes another week, and while I could make this entire post about modeling the scene it’d just drag things out even further.

After today the scene should be starting to come together; all that will remain after this is to create the textures (a post in and of itself), light the scene, and tweak a few things to enhance the animation.  We’re looking at another 2-3 weeks of work after this, but by the end of this tutorial we’ll be at least half way to our finished product.

Modeling the Scene

As you can see from the finished result above, we’re going to be making a window with a table sitting in front of it and views to the world outside of it.  The feathers we made last week are going to be falling from the sky outside, and the feather we made in the first week is going to sit near the open window and stir gently in the breeze.

Before we start working on this, I’m just going to hide the work we did last week so that it doesn’t get in the way and slow down render time.  You could model with the particle system visible though it’d distract me which is why quite often I’ll hide things that aren’t relevant while I’m working.

To keep things as simple as possible, we’re going to start with a box.  Give it 1 segment for each parameter to keep the lines clean, and make it 180 length, 100 width and 10 height.  You can keep it the colour it was when it was created, but I’m going to quickly change it to grey because it’s easier for me to focus on.  Convert it to an editable poly and rename it as window_pane.

Select the polygons and delete the two largest faces, this should give you just the outside edges of a frame.

Switch to edge selection and select the eight around the new gap.  Make sure you’re in the front viewport (with the gap facing you) and press shift while using the scale tool to create new polys within the object.

After that, switch views so that you’re looking at the side of your window.  Keep an eye on it in perspective and select the first four new edges.  Hold shift and move them in towards the centre, then repeat with the other edges.  This should create the wooden part of the window.

In the interest of keeping things simple, all we’re going to do now is create polygons to fill in the gaps.  Go to polygon selection and scroll down until you see the ‘Create’ button.  Make sure that you can see all four corners of one of the gaps in your viewport (you may need to make the object see-through for this), click create, and then click on each of the corners in turn returning to the first at the end to close it.  Voila, a new polygon!  Do the same on the other side and that’s our window.

At this point you can hide that pane or leave it while you create the frame around the window.  First, create another box big enough to represent a room.  Again, 1 segment for each of the parameters, and convert it to an editable poly.  Name it room_interior.

Delete the top polygon and the side facing away from the window, then press control+a to select all the polygons in the object.  Scroll down the options until you see ‘Flip’ and click it; that will change the faces of the polygons so that they face inward.

Create another box that’s roughly the size you want your window to be and make it wide.  Position it where you want your window to be, and then click on room_interior.  Go to the Create button and change the drop-down menu to ‘Compound Objects’.

Select Boolean while you have room_interior selected, then scroll down the options until you see ‘Select Operand B’.  Click on the new box we created, and make sure that ‘Subtract, B from A’ is selected in the options below.  It should create a hole for our window.

Convert the object back into an editable poly and go to Edge Select mode.  From here we need to create three more edges; Go to ‘Cut’ and drag from the corners of the new holes to the corners of that polygon.  The icon should change when you’re hovering over a vertex, this is important for attaching the new cut to the object the way we want it to.  After each line you create right click with your mouse to exit that cut.  Repeat for all the corners.

Select the object as a whole, hold shift, and scale it up in perspective view (making sure that you scale from the middle so that it grows evenly). Move it down so that the floor of the new object is below the old floor.

Select the polygons in the new object, press control+a, and flip them again so that their faces point out.

Move the vertices around the window on the second object until they line up with the first object.  The gap between is going to create our window sill.

Go back to ‘Create’ and ‘Compound Objects’ and select Boolean again.  This time, we want to choose room_interior as operand B and select ‘Union’ as the type.  It shouldn’t visibly change, but the objects should now be merged.

Convert to an editable poly, then create new polygons between the interior of the room and the exterior.  Pay special attention to the gap in the window, those are important for the overall look.

Once that’s done go to the edge select tool and scroll down until you can click on ‘Cut’.  On the inside of the window create new lines by clicking on one of the existing lines and dragging across to the other.  Draw a rectangle around the window with edges.

Select the polygons around the window and extrude them by 10 to create a window frame.

Draw another box to represent a table top underneath the window.  Because of the camera angle we’ll be using you don’t need to give it legs, but if you want to you can achieve this by using the cut tool to create the right shapes on the bottom then extruding.

Take the window pane you created earlier and hold shift while moving it to create a copy.  Move the first one into position on one half of the window (adjust the sizes if you need to using vertices and the move tool).

With the second one, go to the top viewport and select ‘Rotate’.  Make sure that the angle lock button is selected and rotate it so that it looks like it’s slightly open.  Maybe about 45 degrees.

Move it into place on the other side of the window, matching it up so that it looks hinged.  If you like, create hinges from cylinders and move them into the gap like so.

The last thing we need to do in terms of modeling is create the view outside the window.  We’re going to cheat slightly here and do most of the work with textures, but to give them a firm base go back to the ‘Create’ tab and select ‘Geosphere’ from ‘Standard Objects’.

Make sure that the Hemisphere option is checked and draw it in the top viewport around the scene.  It should be quite a bit larger, so that it easily wraps around everything.  Call it sky.

Convert it to an editable poly and select all the polygons with Control+a. Flip them so that they point inwards; we now have our sky.  To make it a little easier to work with right click on sky and select Object Properties.  Check ‘Backface Cull’; this allows us to see through the object if the polygons are facing away from us.

Unhide the particle system and position it between the window and sky, you may need to tweak the emitter size with the scale tool until you’re happy with the effect.

One last thing we’ve to do is unhide the original feather and move it into position.  Depending on what you want, you can either place it on the window sill just inside the open window, or on the table below it.


For this scene we want to be looking up and out the window about level with the top of the table.  It’s up to you whether you want to look out the open window, or look out the closed half; just experiment in the Perspective viewport to find a view you like.

Some things to bear in mind:

  • You don’t want to see a join in the sky, so you have to be looking above where the sky meets the ground (dome meets flat part of the Geosphere).
  • If you didn’t create hinges or aren’t happy with them, you’re not going to want your scene to see them.
  • Your feather can either rest on the window sill or on the table; where you place this will also determine where you point your camera.
  • Think about framing your shot, what’s going to lead your eye outside to the falling feathers?

Here’s three different views that I considered while playing around:

Eventually I went for the left view because it hid the pieces of my scene that I was less happy with, created a dynamic scene, and suited me the best.  This will be different for everyone, just have fun with it!

Once you have a view that you like the look of in perspective press control+c to automatically create a camera there.  Once you have a camera you can still tweak the position though it’s easier if you get it as close to where you want it as possible.

We’re nearly done with this tutorial; there are just a couple of settings for the camera that we’re going to tweak first.  Go into the modifier tab and scroll down until you see ‘Depth of Field’, check the box there (red).

Depth of field basically governs which parts of the image are in focus; you can tweak parameters to decide where objects should be clear and where they should be blurrier.

You can use focal depth to define where things should be clear, or you can select ‘Use Target Distance’ and move the target of the camera (yellow).  Sample Radius and Sample Bias (green) define how blurry things will become; play around until you find something that suits you.

For my scene I want things to be blurry until it reaches the sill just before the feather, clear until just after the feather, then getting blurrier the further away from the camera you go.  Getting this right takes quite a bit of tweaking usually and often that involves re-rendering your scene.

What you’ll find is that after we have the textures in place you’ll want to tweak this again.  We’re doing this before we texture the scene because it means that we know what parts of the texture have to be pristine long before we get to it, and what parts we can get away with being a little less accurate on.  Once you’re done playing with the settings for depth of field, make sure that you have 12 passes set under the options (the image will build up over time) and render your scene.  This could take quite a while, so don’t sit and watch while it works!

Here’s mine:


There’s not really much to recap this week; we did some basic modeling to tie our scene together and worked a little with cameras to make our work a little easier in the following weeks.  Now you should be able to see how the different elements are going to tie together in our scene, what do you think?

Next week we’re going to be looking at textures and setting up our lighting (unless I need to split the post again!).  If everything goes according to plan our scenes should be finished by around the 10th of February.

As always if you’ve any suggestions, comments, or questions I’m happy to answer them for you.  Take care; I’ll see you on Friday!


Part One: Hair and Fur Effect

Part Two: Particle Systems (Basic)

Part Three: Setting the Scene

Part Four: [due 3rd Feb]

Part Five: [due 10th Feb]