Creating A Space Ship In 3DS Max

June 25, 2010 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured by Rufino

Creating A Space Ship In 3ds Max (Session 1)
( Autodesk 3dsmax 2010)

Here we will be begin to cover the modeling of a space ship in Autodesk 3ds Max. This is part 1 of a 2 part series. In this installment box modeling, soft selection, plugins and the use of modifiers will be covered. A general understanding of 3ds Max is needed for this tutorial. Topics covered in this tutorial can be applied to modeling a wide array of objects.

In this tutorial, I start by modeling both sides of the ship. About half way through, I stop modeling the other side of the ship, because we will mirror the other side, making it match perfectly.

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. 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: Starting As A Box

Start by creating a box. Add as many segments as you feel you need to create the base detail and shaping. I have added several segments for each side. It is also wise to work in scale. Make sure you have the units set to what you prefer (Standard or Metric). When creating the initial box, please keep in mind the size of ship that you wish you create. This boxes size will make up the bulk of this space ship.

Step 2: Deforming The Nose

Apply "Edit Poly" to the segmented box. You can find it under the "Modifiers Tab". Activate the "Vertice" selection mode and turn on "Soft Selection". Soft selection will create a blended range of deformation as you scale the vertices. To change the blend amount, change the falloff value. You can also experiment with "Pinch" and "Bubble".

I selected and scaled down only the front vertices, setting the falloff as shown below.

Step 3: Nose Shaping

In this step I have pulled the nose out further without soft selection. I have also selected side edges and moved them inwards and downwards. Start by activating the "Edge Selection Mode" and move the edges to the desired location. You have to be careful not to pinch the model. I did not use soft selection in this step. You can use soft selection is you prefer a more organic looking ship.

Step 4 – The Basic Cockpit / Helm

For creating the basic shape of the cockpit I went back to "Vertice Selection Mode" and made sure to check "Ignore Back facing". This allows you to make a selection in the top viewport without selecting the ships bottom vertices. Pull the vertices to the desired height, angle and location.

Without ignore back facing on, you will either have to deselect the ship’s bottom vertices or you will be deforming the bottom of the ship as well.

Step 5 – Beveling The Nose Inlet

Select the inner snout faces and activate the "Bevel Tool". I have only beveled them slightly.

Step 6 – Pulling Back The Nose Inlet

Bevel the nose inlet a few more times. Then pull the nose inlet backwards with the move tool, creating some depth for the inlet.

At this point you should be familiar with Soft Selection, moving vertices / faces, using the Bevel Tool and the Scale Tool for shaping the model.

Step 7 – Beveling The Snout Edges

In this step, I simply beveled the remaining front faces of the snout. Creating details like this helps accentuate highlights and shadows along with reflections.

Step 8 – Cockpit Edges 1

In this step I have moved vertices to shape the "hatch or cockpit" area a bit better. After you are satisfied with the location of the vertices go to edge selection mode and select the edges as shown below.

Step 9 – Chamfering The Edges

I wanted to add some detailed edges to the cockpit / hatch areas. In this step I have ‘Chamfered" the edges twice. Now we have faces that we can extrude or bevel.

Step 10 – Adding Hatch Glass Definition

Here, in the polygon selection mode I selected certain faces and used the "Bevel" tool to extrude and chamfer them at the same time. Then at the front of the hatch I pulled the top faces backwards.

The bevel tool essentially take care of 2 steps in one, saving time.

Step 11 – Creating Vents

These vents or inlets were created using the same tools that we have already covered. The faces were extruded, then the top vertices were moved to create a certain slope in all directions. The front and back faces were then beveled.

You may have to move the inside face inwards a bit to create the effect you want.

Step 12 – Sculpting The Rear

In this step I have sculpted the rear of the ship a bit. First I selected the 3/4 rear vertices with "ignore back facing" OFF. Then I scaled them down making a bevel effect. The rear of the ship was scaled up and rotated. You can edit the vertices to create any type of ship rear.

You can also use the cut tool under "Edit Poly" to create new faces if you so desire.

Step 13 – Detaching The Hatch Glass

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 – Adding Side Windows

I decided to add some windows on the sides. This again was done by using the "Bevel" tool. Then I detached the windows just as we previously did with the hatch.

Step 15 – Turbosmooth

At this point I wanted to test out adding the "Turbosmooth" modifier to check how a more organic feel would look. It is up to you whether or not to use it. If you prefer a more blocky space ship then you may not want to add this modifier.

If you do add this modifier be careful setting the number of iterations. Many times I have been asked "How come 3ds Max freezes or crashes when I set the Iterations to 10?" This is because of the mesh density created.

I prefer to stick to 1 or 2 iterations


Step 16 – Editing The Base Cage

With Turbosmooth applied, you can edit the "Base Cage" while viewing the smoothed result. This makes sculpting organic shapes much easier. You can see the cage below in orange.

Go back to "Edit Poly", edge selection mode and check "Show Cage". Now you can move, rotate or scale the edges as you see fit.

Have fun moving the cage and experimenting with different shaping.


Step 17 – Comparing Smoothed and Un smoothed

In this step I set the render engine to Mental Ray and added a MR Sun and MR Sky. The Exposure Control was set to MR Photographic Exposure Control with the "Outdoor Daylight, Clear Sky" option set. You can read more on setting this up Here. It is covered in Step 10 of that article.

Then I applied an "Arch + Design" material to the main ship. Under templates I picked Brushed Metal. I did the same for the glass objects, but picked the glass (Thin Geometry) preset.

Both rendered options can be seen below. Now we can decide if we want to go with the smoothing or without.


Step 18 – Adding More Base Detail

Now that I have seen both smoothed and un smoothed, I have decided to use the version without turbosmooth. In this step I plan on adding more base surface detail. I am chamfering edges, editing vertices and extruding faces.

One goal is to Generally create a more pleasing model by softening the edges manually (Chamfering).

I have also detached certain faces that were extruded inwards. Then I applied a copy of the brushed metal material to them and made the base color darker (Diffuse Color)


Step 19 – Using The Greeble Plugin For Details

Greeble is a plugin for 3ds Max that creates boxy structure quickly and easily. It proves very useful for adding mechanical wall type details. This plugin has saved me days of time while working on a game titled "Lacuna Expanse".

You can download and read about Greeble HERE.

Install the plugin and then reopen 3ds Max. Select the faces that you have detached. (The ones that have the darker brushed metal material.) Now go to the modifier panel and select Greeble from the list. You should automatically see the geometry change. Play with the distances and amounts to get the right look.

You can view the options I chose below, along with the end result.


Step 20 – Conclusion

So far in this tutorial we have created the base of the ship and began some detailing. Many tools were discussed and used. All of the tools can be used to create a wide array of objects, please keep that in mind as you try new things.

In the next session we will go over the majority of detailing items, materializing the model and then finally rendering it in Mental Ray.