Creating A Space Ship In 3DS Max (Session 2)

August 6, 2010 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured by Rufino

Creating A Space Ship In 3ds Max (Session 2)
( Autodesk 3dsmax 2010)

Welcome to the 2nd session of creating a space ship in 3dsmax 2010. In this session we will go over mirroring, welding and other various detailing elements including the thruster system and decals. This tutorial should be used as a guide to create and design your own space ship.

I hope you enjoy this session.

Author: Ryan W. Knope

Ryan W. Knope is a freelance 3D / 2D Artist / Consultant with 13 years experience in the 3D and 2D industry. His main artistic love lies with interior and exterior rendering although he takes on just about every type of graphics work. Recently he has directed and created most of the artwork for the game "Lacuna Expanse".

Ryan is also the architectural / interior voice for 3D Artist Magazine’s Question and Answer Panel. He lives with his wife Krista, in sunny Denver, Colorado.

Tutorial Details

  • Programs: Autodesk 3dsmax 2010
  • Difficulty: Medium (Prior Knowledge of 3dsmax interface and tools is a plus.)

Supplied Data

Step 1: Where We Left Off

At the end of the last session we had loosely modeled both sides of the ship, then started refining one side, while leaving the other side basic. We also added detailing with the "Greeble Plugin" on one side. The engine bay was left open in back for placement of a thruster system later on.

Step 2: Fine Tuning Vertices

To start with, we need to go over the active side of the model (The side we will use) and make sure that the base is what we want it to be. The last thing you want to do is to have to go back and edit a ton of vertices on both sides of the ship independently to fix problematic inaccuracies making the ship sides different in design.

Check over the model and make sure vents, inlets, and all other items are modeled the way you want. Try to remove any pinching by moving vertices so that faces do not cross.

Also soften any edges you wish to, via the chamfer tool in edit poly, vertex or face modes. This can be done at any point, but is easier when only doing half of the model.

Step 3: Slice Plane – Cutting In Half

Here we have to find the center point and cut the model in half. We will do this using "Slice Plane" under edit poly with "Element Mode" activated. Make sure that you have the "Angle Snap Toggle" activated, because you may need to rotate the slice plane. This will ensure that the cut is perfectly vertical.

Once the slice plane is located perfectly center click the "Slice" button.

Step 4 – Deleting The Other Half

Select the un-needed half with "Polygon" Selection mode activated. This part can be tricky and you may have to zoom in very close to the model to make sure that you have all of that sides faces selected. Once fully selected, press delete.

Double check to make sure you have a clean mid section and delete any random faces that might be sticking out.

Step 5 – Mirroring

Now that we have cut our model in half we need to mirror the model and match them together so that we can weld the center vertices in the next step.

Select the model and SHIFT + Move and create a copy. Now mirror the copy along the, axis in the front viewport. Move the mirrored copy to match / touch the other side, zoom in and get it as closely matched as possible.

Step 6 – Welding Vertices

Now that we have the centers matched, we can attach and weld the 2 models together to create 1 mesh / element.

Hide all objects except the 2 sides we are working on. Select side 1 and under edit poly hit the "Attach Dialogue Box" button. This will bring up a list of objects to attach. Pick Side 2. Now the 2 sides are the same model, but different elements.

Next, with vertice selection mode activated, scroll down and hit the "Weld Dialogue Button". This will bring up the weld vertices entry box, as shown below. Since I built this model to scale, or close to it, 3 inches is a very small distance. If you built your model out of scale, you will need to change your threshold accordingly.

You should see the number of vertices change as matching doubles become 1. Test render the newly welded model to make sure you didn’t over or under weld.

Step 7 – Editing And Adding Base Items

Now that we have 2 sides that match, you can extrude and detach panel faces and apply the greeble plugin to them. Do this using the same methods we used in session 1. You can also use "Soft Selection" to edit the shape of the ship in a more organic manner. It is best to do this by selecting both parallel faces (Same face on both sides).

Below you can see the result of detaching and adding more details with Greeble and creating side windows.

Step 8 – Thruster Overview

Below you can see the thruster both assembled and disassembled. Each piece was started as a basic object from the create panel. Then I used "Edit Poly" to change the shaping accordingly.

The wires were created from renderable splines. The front turbine area was created in the same manner, then using edit poly I enlarged the front area. You could then instance the turbine nodes manually or use the array or spacing tools.

I won’t delve into the creation of this too much. The methods employed should be a lot more self explanatory once seeing the exploded view below.

Step 9 – Adding Decals – The Overview

There are a few different methods for adding decals or graphics to the ship. You could unwrap and texture the entire body of the ship, which I will not cover as it is tedious and does not need to be done with this type of model. You could add a ship name or number with the text tool. Finally you could extract a set of faces and apply a material that includes a diffuse and opacity map. This I will cover.

Below, you can see the product of adding the decals.

Step 10 – Adding Decals – Creating The Faces

To create the decal geometry, go into edit poly "Face" mode and select the faces that you want the decal on. In this case it is the back wing. SHIFT + Move this face out just ever so slightly, you will now see the "Clone Part Of Mesh" dialogue. Make sure you pick "Clone To Object" unless you want to use a "Multi / Sub Object Material".

Now that the decal object is created, we need to create the material for it.

Step 11 – Adding Decals – Materials And Maps

For the decals I will be using an "Arch + Design" material. This material should include diffuse (Color) and Cutout (Opacity) maps. Notice the difference in the maps. With opacity maps, Black = 0% visibility.

Step 12 – Adding Decals – UVW Maps

Now you need to add a UVW map for each of the decal objects, otherwise the material will not show up in the proper location. Select one of the decal objects, hit the down arrow at the modify panel and select "UVW Mapping" from the modifier list. Use Planar Mapping.

You may need to change the alignment axis as shown below.

You will most likely also need to rotate the "Gizmo". To do this click where is says "Gizmo", under UVW Mapping and use the rotate tool to fit it properly to the object.

Changing the length and width will most likely need to be done as well.

Step 13 – Hatch Detailing – Detaching

This step is pretty simple. Under polygon selection in "Edit Poly" select the hatch faces, and hit the "Detach" button. This will separate this area from the rest of the model, creating a new object.

This new object will later have a different material.

If you do not want to separate the object for material purposes then you can also use a different material ID and use a "Multi / Sub Object Material".

Step 14 – Hatch Detailing – Extrude

I wanted to add just a bit of depth to the hatch detailing. I did this by extruding a short distance. After extruding I added the darker brushed metal material that we created in the last session..

Step 15 – Vent Details

For the vents I simply added boxes matching the curve of the vent. I did this for both front and back vents. Then I added an "Arch + Design" Material that was a complete default setting other than changing to diffuse color to black.

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Step 16 – Conclusion

Over the past 2 sessions we have went from a box to a detailed space ship. The many items covered can be applied to a multitude of different objects. When going through any tutorial, try to think of where tools and topics could have been applied in the past models that you have created, along with the models you plan to create in the future.

On an object such as this I could go on detailing for days and days. Remember that depending on the time line and project pipe line, this process will not work for every project. In-Game models will require a very different method.

I hope you enjoyed this session along with learning a little. Thanks for reading.

-Ryan W. Knope