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Basic Modelling Techniques in 3ds Max

By Michael Bauer
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Software used:
3ds Max

Here I will show you some of the basic concepts that many students of Max might overlook because they are focused on modelling characters right off the bat. While this is fine, it also makes for a frustrating experience when someone new to Max wishes to unleash their creativity.

Therefore this is my main focus here, to help you understand some of the basic things you should have under your belt concerning using this programme in order to free the artist within you!

What we are going to start with is learning how to use our Primitives to enable us to quickly get modelling. This is a powerful way to not only create or model quickly, but it can also be a great way of getting some ideas down in 3D space. Remember the point here is to unleash your creativity!

The first thing that we must have in our minds is what we are going to model. However, sometimes just letting yourself go is a great way to explore your own creativity. But for this project I am going to begin thinking that we are going to try and model some kind of reactor. This is where I will start, but if we end up somewhere else, it'll be okay because if our creativity begins leading us down a different path it is best to follow it. Of course, if you are being paid to model something specific then veering off that path will not end well for you. But with this exercise - which is exactly what this is going to be: an exercise - we will not have those constraints.

Let's begin!

1. Open Max, and under the Create tab change the Standard Primitives drop down to Extended Primitives, and then create a Chamfer Cylinder in the centre of the Perspective view. Remember that most of the Extended Primitives have 3 creation parameters that must be created: Radius, Height and Fillet. Here is what it should look with all three parameters created (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

This is the only object we will create.  Everything else we do from here on out will be copies of this object.  We are also not going to convert it to an Editable Poly because, while it will give us control over the object at the sub-object level, we will lose the power to adjust and manipulate the Chamfer Cylinder primitive.  This is important and much overlooked.
Just so we are all on the same page, select this cylinder, go to the Modify tab and make the following settings, shown in Fig.02.

Fig. 02

2. Alright, now using the Move tool, hold down Shift with the LMB (left mouse button) and move the cylinder up on the Z axis a little, then release the mouse. In the window that opens ensure that Copy is the selected method and hit OK (Fig.03).

Fig. 03

Note: from this point on, I am not going to describe in detail how to make these copies, I will assume that you now understand how to do it!

3. Now let's adjust this new cylinder's primitive properties, so go to the Modify tab, make these changes and then move the cylinder dow, like so (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

4. Make another copy and move it up (Fig.05).

Fig. 05

5. Copy it, switch to the Front View and then move it down and make these adjustments (Fig.06).

Fig. 06

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(ID: 233001, pid: 0) Jeong on Mon, 11 November 2013 5:37pm
Thx! Im Max beginner. Its Fun and very good tutorial for me! xD
(ID: 168777, pid: 0) Neylian on Mon, 26 November 2012 12:33am
Thank! I just started with 3d max and was looking step by step tutorial for beginners! Helped me a lot to learn and master more fundamental skills of modeling! Thank u 1000000 infinite times! :D
(ID: 168122, pid: 0) Patrick on Thu, 22 November 2012 12:22am
Ohh, you're my master. Thanks for this marvel job!
(ID: 114216, pid: 0) Nouzie on Fri, 04 May 2012 8:06pm
Thanks for this tutorial. It`s great!
(ID: 98087, pid: 0) Krs on Mon, 26 March 2012 5:26pm
Fantastic tutorial, loved it, thanks to this lone tutorial I've gotten into Maxscript and having a blast making ridiculous techno-tentacle shapes! :)
(ID: 95705, pid: 0) Mr Fidget on Sat, 17 March 2012 6:07pm
Thank you very much for this simple, yet powerful tutorial.
(ID: 88521, pid: 0) Patrick on Thu, 23 February 2012 4:03pm
wow. that was a very very good tutorial, i still cant believe you made that from one little shape :D thx a lot man :)