Now lets move back a few steps. Before you start to model adjust (customize) software to make your work fast and comfortable. Here are a few things I like to adjust: In Customize-Preferences set the system unit scale- inch or centimeter, set the number of undo levels, show vertices as large dots or... You can also set the color of the viewports, grid, objects... but I like to leave that as default.
Every command (button) can have a shortkey. You can set up your own, but first get familiar with the software.
Do the research before you start modeling. Go to the library or try to find a bluepring on the Internet. Here is a useful link where many blueprints can be found: www.suurland.com
Try to make a sketch on paper. Do a front, side and top view drawing. Make sure you drew every part to be the same size in side and top views. It is a good idea to have sketch lines that will help you draw a same size model in all three views. One of my reference drawings for a shark-like ship is shown on the left.
You can also use a camera to make reference pictures, but you will get slightly distorted images because of perspective.
Camera on the left shows the way perspecitve will affect object size and shape. What you need is camera that will take morthogonal picture, which will have no distortion.
Ok, these pictures are not the best for background viewport image use, but you can use them just as a reference. As you get more experienced this distortion will stop being a problem.
Use a camera to shoot an object from different angles, with different sun and shadow areas, close-ups and details.
What to do when reference images are done?
1. It's always good to have the pictures beside the monitor. Use a big piece of hard paper (A3 format) and put your reference drawing and pictures on it. If you are modeling a face it is not a bad idea to use a mirror.
2. You can use images as a background in viewports. (Views-Vieport Background). Be sure to remove grid to see image better. (Views-Grids-). I try not to use reference images like this. Max sometimes goes wild with those images and you will end up needing to adjust them every 10 minutes.
3. You can use those reference images as maps for materials that will later be applied to Planes. Put the image to Material Diffuse map slot, and turn on See map in Viewport. On the left is a perspective view with four planes with materials and blueprint images attached.
The software is adjusted, research is done, reference images are in viewports, now about viewports. As default there are 4 viewports and they are all the same size. Most of the work is done in Perspective view, so move the cursor over the cross in the center in between all four views, click and move to make Perspective view the biggest. Also use Min/Max Toggle to make one viewport the size of all 4. Or later use expert mode (Views-Expert Mode). You will see just a viewport over the whole screen (no buttons or toolbars-that's way it's called expert mode).
I like to see a Perspective view as a main one and I use the rest of viewports as help views. Most of the time I have Smooth + Highlights turned on as well as Edges Faces. Grid is mainly turned off but you never know when you are going to need it.
There will be a lot of rotating, coming close to, going away from model you are working on, so the faster you do those basic maneuvers the better. This is the way a 3 button + scroll mouse is a must have. In combination with Shift, Ctrl and Alt those mouse buttons are really useful.
1. Right mouse button- click on anything and you get a floating menu. Right click on objects to see their menu. Use a Ctrl+Alt (press and hold) and now click right button to get Rendering Tools floating menu. Use just Ctrl and right button and see what you get... always try to experiment.
As you are working, you will find the next three points very useful.
2. In any viewport use the scroll to zoom in and out. For really precise zoom press and hold Ctrl+Alt and use the scroll.
3. In any viewport click and hold the scroll to pan.
4. In any viewport press and hold Alt and the 3. button (scroll) to rotate the view around the object.