Back to The Basics - Tips for Working with 3ds Max Modifiers
Whether you're just getting into the world of modeling or you have some experience with 3ds Max, some times the best way to brush up on your skills or learn about something new is to go back to the basics. 3ds Max has some very powerful modeling tools that you may not be aware of. This article will cover tools some of the 3ds Max modifiers that are able to achieve complex modeling tasks in just a few minutes so you can begin using them with confidence in your own modeling projects.
Using the Lattice Modifier
If you've used Maya at all, you're probably familiar with a lattice. A lattice in Maya is a deformer that's great for making changes to a high resolution mesh. However, in 3ds Max a lattice deformer is completely different. A lattice in 3ds Max works by placing a joint on all of the vertices and struts along all the edges, basically cutting out the faces in between. This is great for creating a cage or a type of grate because it can be achieved very easily and produces nice results.
To apply a lattice modifier simply select your object and make sure it's converted to an editable poly by right clicking your model and going to Convert To>Covert to Editable Poly.
Then navigate to your modifier list and open the drop down menu and search for Lattice.
When you apply the lattice you might see some strange results, and it can be difficult to tell what's actually happening to your mesh.
This is because the radius by default is set to a value of 2 for your struts, and a value of 5 for your joints.
If you change the radius values to around 1 you'll quickly see what's happening to your model. It's basically cutting out the faces on your mesh, and creating geometry where the edges and vertices were.
You can add more resolution to the struts by dialing up the segments and checking the smooth box. For this the segments have been set to 10.
You can also apply the lattice modifier to only a certain selection of faces if you need to. Try playing around with this modifier to see the different results you can achieve on your mesh!
Using the Slice Modifier
The slice modifier is another powerful modifier in 3ds Max that you can use to split or cut out areas on your mesh. For example, you may have an object that you want to split into two pieces, like it was cut by something or if you want to cut out a chunk of the mesh you can do this very easily with the slice modifier.
To create a Sllice Modifier, make sure your mesh is converted to an editable poly by right clicking your model and going to Convert To>Convert to Editable Poly.
Once you've done that you can navigate to the Slice Modifier under the Modifier drop down menu.
You can see when you apply the Slice Modifier it drops in a plane, and if you zoom in on your mesh you can see wherever this plane is positioned it creates a new strip of edges. This is where the mesh can be split or cut from.
Now, make sure you have the Slice Plane selected so you can move and rotate the plan independently of your mesh.
When you have the plane positioned go to the slice parameters and select Split Mesh. You also want to make sure your Slice Modifier is selected.
With your Slice Modifier selected, open up the Modifier drop down menu again and apply an Edit Poly Modifier to your Slice Modifier.
Now under the new Edit Poly modifier select Element.
If you select either side of where the Split Plane was, you can see that it has separated your mesh into two different elements. You can move and rotate each element individually of each other. You can even animate this Split Plane if you wanted to create an animation where your object gets cut in half.
Not only can you split apart your mesh using the Split Modifier, but you can also cut out sections of your mesh by selecting either the Remove Top or Remove Bottom under the Split Type options.
Since this is a modifier you can turn it off or on whenever you need to, so you're not actually destroying your model.
Using the Swift Loop Tool
The Swift Loop tool in 3ds Max is a great way to quickly drop down edge loops along your mesh. When you're creating new edge loops in 3ds Max, you may be accustomed to first selecting the ring of edges and using the connect command to insert a new edge or multiple edges around the selected edges. Now, this does give you a lot of control because you can adjust how many edges you want to create, and how they are spaced between the selected edges.
However, if you just need to place a single edge loop this process of selecting the correct edges can take some time. You can interactively place a new edge ring by using the Swift Loop tool which places a new edge ring wherever you click on the mesh, and another great feature is that it allows you to place an edge loop that follows the surface curve of the mesh.
To find the Swift Edge Loop tool, make sure your mesh is an editable poly and go to Modeling>Edit>Swift Loop.
If you hover over the mesh you'll see where the new edge loop is going to be placed.
If you hold shift down this will snap the new edge directly in the middle of the surrounding edge loops and it will actually cause the new edge loop to flow along the surface curve.
As mentioned earlier, you won't have as many options as you do if you used the connect command but it's a great way to quickly drop in a few edge loops when needed, and if you want your new edge loop to conform to the surface curve.
Whether you take advantage of the flexibility of the Swift Loop tool to quickly create edge loops that follow the surface curve of a mesh or you put some of the powerful modifiers to use in 3ds Max, you'll be sure to speed up your workflow and complete modeling tasks that would otherwise be difficult to do without a modifier. If you want to learn more about the different modifiers in 3ds Max check out Modeling Tips and Tricks in 3ds Max.