Designing Text & Signage In 3D (Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 and Earlier)

February 4, 2010 in 3D, AutoDesk 3DSMax, Featured by Rufino

Designing Text & Signage In 3D
( Autodesk 3dsmax 2010 and Earlier)

In this tutorial we will cover creating detailed signage with the text, edit poly and other various tools in 3dsmax 2010. Most elements of this tutorial can be transferred to the earlier versions of this software. I will be using Mental Ray as my renderer.

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: Easy (Prior Knowledge Of Software Interface Is A Plus.)

Step 1: Using The Text Tool

To start with, open 3dsmax and go to the Text Tool. I usually type in my text before picking the font. This will allow you to cycle through the fonts while seeing how it will appear.

For the sake of complexity, I will pick a detailed font, which we will break into a bunch of objects / materials.

Step 2: Edit Spline And Extracting Curves

Once you have your font picked, you can make a copy. To make a copy, SHIFT and move the object. Select “Copy”. Hide your copy for possible later use. Select your text and apply an “Edit Spline” modifier. Activate “Spline Selection Method” and select the bottom layer of the splines, then click “Detach”.

You will want to repeat this step for each material / object that you choose to make. You can decide to dissect the text all the way or only part of the way.

Think of each set of splines as a layer of wood or metal that you will later give depth.

Step 3: Extruding Your Shapes

Select your lower set of splines, hide the others. Go to the modify panel and apply an “Edit Poly Modifier”. This will turn your shapes into geometry. Activate the “polygon Selection Method” and hit the Extrude dialogue box button. Now you can set the extrusion height and press ok.

This step needs to be repeated for each material type / shape set.

Step 4 – Finished Sign Text Model

Now you should have something similar to the image below in your perspective viewport. All of the objects are broken apart and ready to start materializing. I colored each object to help visualize the different materials and layers of the sign.

You can either add a bevel in edit poly at any time for each object set or add it in with the material in a later step. I will only add a bevel as a material effect.

Step 5 – The Wood Material

For the wood material I started with an Arch & Design material and edited the values shown below. These values need to be tested as they may not work as well for your scene or texture map. Once created, select the objects that you wish to apply them to and hit the apply button. (Boxed In Blue)

Step 6 – The Bronze Material

For the bronze material I started with an Arch & Design material and edited the values shown below. These values need to be tested as they may not work as well for your scene or texture map. Once created, select the objects that you wish to apply them to and hit the apply button. (Boxed In Blue)

Step 7 – The Dark Metal Material

The dark metal material was created by using the same values as the bronze material, minus 2 changes. Add a metal material to the bump and diffuse slots.

You can copy the bronze material by dragging it to another slot. Now change the name and add your maps.

Step 8 – Wood Back Boards

The wood back board / bracing was created by using boxes with dimensions resembling 2×4’s, and the wood material was applied.

Step 9 – Hanging Chains

The hanging chains were created by using a circle spline and setting it to renderable. Then I added an “Edit Spline” modifier and elongated the link. Next I instanced the link up and rotated each a bit. Once I had 4 different links going up I instanced the set so I didn’t have to continue copying.

Step 10 – Lighting

The lighting rig that you chose totally depends on your taste and your scene. I am lighting this model by itself. I added MR Sun and MR Sky. I also added a few target spotlights. The spotlights are set to a high intensity value, because of the exposure control I am about to set. My spotlights are set to 3,000 with a very low “Hotspot” and a high “Falloff”. I also set my decay type to “Inverse Square” and adjusted the distance to almost hit the sign.

Step 11 – Exposure Control

To open the exposure control options press “8”. Under exposure control make sure that “MR Photographic Exposure Control” is selected. You may have to change it from automatic or linear. Next, select the “Outdoor Daylight, Clear Sky” preset.

Step 12 – Render Settings

For the render settings I used a mostly basic setup. I used finalgather along with global illumination (GI). The reason that I used GI, is because I had spotlights set up. I was hoping for soft shadows, which did not seem to pan out very well. Doing tests with this and assessing the gain is very important and can save you a huge amount of time when rendering… especially with animations, if you multiply seconds by ntsc.

My samples per pixel were set to 4/16. This helps take away graininess and make for a much sharper image. It will also drastically raise render times. Make sure again to assess the gain, as sometimes if you up the setting… if won’t look any different. This is uncommon before 4/16… raising it from there takes a bit more of an eye.

Step 13 – Reflecting On The Tutorial

Hopefully you have learned a few elements that you did not know before reading. Often little things will spark a realization with combining tools together to make a greater object or animation. Keep your mind open and think about the art of 3D as more of an infinite mix of elements to come to the same goal. One tool does not apply to everything. Have fun my friends.