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Note from the author: This tutorial was originally written to accompany an overview of 3ds max 5.

To complete the full 45 steps of the tutorial, additional Photoshop resource files are required, but due to current webspace issues (the additional files total approx 40Mb compressed), these have not been made available at this time, but will be in the very near future.

Enlarge Screenshot Start off with a sphere, with 100 radius and 32 segments. Rotate it so it’s poles are facing front and back. Right-click the geometry and convert to Editable Poly. In polygon sub-object mode, select the rear of the sphere and delete the selected polygons. Select a ring of front faces and extrude slightly as illustrated. Select any sharp edges and chamfer them in Edge sub-object mode.
Enlarge Screenshot Ensure the center of the hemisphere has enough segments leading to it’s pole by chamfering any existing ring edges to create a few more to refine the curever to the pole’s point. Draw a pattern in edge sub-object mode to create the panel illustrated. Chamfer slightly to create the wider segments and chamfer again to create the side segments.
Enlarge Screenshot Enter vertex sub-object mode and target weld any wayward vertices. You may need to create new edges around the right-angles of the created edges else when we refine our geometry later on, the mesh will pinch and deform unless these edges are sorted out.
Enlarge Screenshot Select all of the inner polygons of the newly created edges and negatively extrude to create an indentation. Chamfer any sharp right-angled edges created by the extrusion as shown. Select the inner polygons around the pole of the geometry and extrude outwards slightly. Extrude again ever so slightly and use the Outline tool to create a lip. Extrude twice and negatively Outline to taper the polygons in a little.
Enlarge Screenshot Select the inner ring of polygons around the pole and extrude back to create an indentation. Deselect the outer polygons and extrude outwards. Deselect the outer polygons and extrude inwards. Create double polygon extrusions as shown on the two inner extrusions (ie create an additional small extrusion on top of the existing one); this will keep the mesh tighter when refining our geometry later on.
Enlarge Screenshot Create another sphere with the same settings as before and rotate it so a pole is facing up. Select the top four polygon segment rings and extrude outward. Select the outer edge that has been created and chamfer it to remove any harsh edges and to refine our geometry. Delete the bottom polygons so we remain with an extruded ring.
Enlarge Screenshot Select the top two rings of polygons and delete them. Select the middle ring of edges and chamfer them to give us a total of 3 rings of polygons where there were once two. Select a cross of edges and chamfer them. In Border sub-object, select the inner border and chamfer slightly. Select the inner border again and collapse. Select the outer polygons of the 3 rings and extrude as illustrated.
Enlarge Screenshot Select the inner collapse vertex and chamfer to create a ring of polygons. Chamfer the edge ring slightly to create an additional polygon ring. Select the ring of polygons and extrude as illustrated. Due to the chamfering of the collapsed vertex, you may need to target weld any vertex irregularities – these will show up as smoothing errors.
Enlarge Screenshot Select one quarter of the geometry, including the center circle and inner extrusions leading up to the center ring, invert the selection and delete the rest. Select the harsh corners of the geometry and chamfer them as illustrated.
Enlarge Screenshot Close all sub-object selections and add a symmetry modifier. Rotate the gizmo to mirror the geometry. Add another symmetry modifier and rotate the gizmo to complete the geometry – making it whole again, but repeating the chamfered edges around the geometry as intended.
Enlarge Screenshot The large top faces will pinch when refined later on, so delete them, Border select the top inner outline and chamfer it slightly. Select the inner border again and collapse to bring the border selection to one point.
Enlarge Screenshot Create another sphere with the same settings as before. Add a Slice modifier and rotate it’s Gizmo 45 degrees so it cuts the sphere diagonally when viewing it in the Front Viewport. Check on Remove Bottom. Add another Slice Modifier and perform this operation another 3 times, rotating the Gizmo 90 degrees each time to end up with the geometry shown.
Enlarge Screenshot With the sliced sphere still selected rename it Side Panel. Clone the panel by selecting move (or rotate or scale) and shift-clicking the geometry. Copy it and rotate it so it is facing the left-hand side. Perform this operation again with the top sphere (the “Socket”) and rotate this so it is over the top of the copied Sliced sphere. Taper the geometry in a little as shown and extrude the middle polygons further back.
Enlarge Screenshot Create a cylinder and label it Head. Set the Radius to 30, Height to 40, 3 Height Segments, 1 Cap Segment and 18 Sides. Collapse to Editable Poly and reposition the vertices so they line up as shown. To create the curve at the top of the geometry select a ring of vertices and scale then using Uniform Scale. Re-perform this on the other vertices to create the dome shape shown.
Enlarge Screenshot Create a box Length 80, Width 10 and Height 80, and position it so it intersects the Head geometry as shown. The box should just positioned just inside one column of faces; scale it if necessary. Select the Head and create a new Boolean Compound object. Select the box as operand B and ensure Subtraction (A-B) is selected.
Enlarge Screenshot Collapse to an Editable Poly. Target weld any floating or mid-polygon vertices from the Boolean to clean up the geometry which will help our refinement later on. Select the new edges that have been created from the Boolean operation and chamfer them to remove the harsh edges. Again, weld and / or clean-up any wayward vertices if necessary.
Enlarge Screenshot Select the Top Panel and rotate copy it so it is repositioned and facing down as shown. Select the side socket and copy-uniform scale it. Rotate it and reposition it as illustrated. You may wish to change to Local Reference Co-Ordinates to reposition the smaller socket, and moving it along the Z-axis in User or Perspective view.
Enlarge Screenshot In the Left Viewport, create a cylinder with a Radius of 20 and a Height of 10. Set the Height Segments to 1 and 18 Sides. Reposition it as shown so it sits nicely in the Booleaned section of the Head geometry. Scale it as necessary so it’s a very snug fit. Select the side edges of the cylinder and chamfer them slightly.
Enlarge Screenshot Collapse to an Editable Poly and select three alternate polygons. Inset these polygons a little and extrude outwards. Inset slightly again and extrude back to form 3 small tube-like structures over the cylinder as illustrated. Create another cylinder and reposition it on the side of the head near to the top.
Enlarge Screenshot Add an Edit Mesh Modifier and select the top Polygon. Extrude slightly and uniform scale inwards to create a rim set of polygons. Extrude back, extrude slightly again and uniform scale again to create an indented rim. Re-perform this several times until you arrive at the shape illustrated. Instance clone this object to the other side of the head.
Enlarge Screenshot Create another cylinder or clone the previous one and delete the existing Edit Mesh Modifier and add a new one. Create ledges and negative extrusions as before to create the basic geometry shown. Create a set of polygons in the centre as illustrated. Select the centre vertex and use soft-selection to create a slight bulge when moving the centre vertex outwards.
Enlarge Screenshot Select the top geometry positioned just under the head. Select polygons on the side of the curved surfaces in whatever pattern you see fit (illustrated is a 2 to 1 repeat around the geometry). Inset these slightly as shown and extrude back. Additionally, extrude the centre polygons at the top back else the head will intersect when rotated later on.
Enlarge Screenshot Perform the same operation as described previously to the side and front panels to add a little extra detail to the geometry. Additionally, tweak the geometry on each object by either selecting and deleting (or selecting and adding a delete Mesh Modifier (as shown) or scaling the centre vertices (shown on non-selected object).
Enlarge Screenshot This scaling or deleting of polygons prevents the two objects intersecting, such as the side socket or front geometry. The front geometry is too big, so delete the outer polygons as shown, chamfer the outer Border selection and scale the border inwards. Again, chamfer any sharp edges as necessary.
Enlarge Screenshot The rear panel is relatively simple. Clone another panel and rotate it so it is at the rear of the Bot. Select the complete inner polygon rings, extrude back and inset a relatively large amount. Extrude again, inset slightly and extrude back. Leave the remaining polygons as illustrated. Chamfer any pointed edges.
Enlarge Screenshot Rubber seals are created by selecting Borders from the top panel and extracting as a shape. Make the shape renderable, amend the thickness to about 4 and rotate clone around the geometry as shown. Create seals for other geometry, such as the sockets using the same method.
Enlarge Screenshot Create the arm joint with a new sphere, selecting one of poles and extrude out. Extrude again and position against the socket. Extrude outwards, then inset and extrude the outwards facing polygons to form a type of ridged surface. Create the leg socket using a similar method by chamfering and extruding to get the desired shape.
Enlarge Screenshot The forearm is created using a clone of the arm joint, rotated and repositioned. The End polygons are deleted and The new elbow socket created by chamfering, extruding and scaling the new polygons. The forearm and cannons are created using a similar method. Scale the forearm polygons (excluding the end ones) to create the desired shape. Create the cannon by extruding and insetting the end polygons.
Enlarge Screenshot Create the mouth display by selecting the relevant polygons, insetting and extruding back. Refine the edges by chamfering and cleaning up any unwanted polygons. Finally extrude the base of the head down slightly to create a slight ledge. The foot thruster is a modified clone of the foot socket, repositioned and refined using extrusions and insetting by polygon to create the bottom detail.
Enlarge Screenshot Create a new material. Set the shader to Multi-Layer. Lock the Ambient and Diffuse colours and give it a blue colour. Set the First Specular Layer Level to 300, Glossiness to 90. Set the second layer Level to 20 and Glossiness to 0. Add a Falloff map to the reflection slot and add a Raytrace map to the falloff map’s Side slot. Assign this to the whole of the Bot’s body geometry.
Enlarge Screenshot Create the bottom plate geometry from another side panel. Create the initial run between the legs by creating edges along the desired route, then extrude the polygons along the middle. Target weld the outer vertices to create a smooth bulge. Use the symmetry modifier to perform the same operations on the other side and another for the rear of the geometry.
Enlarge Screenshot Copy the Multi-Layer material and label and colour it Grey. Select the forearm and in Polygon Sub-Object mode, select the polygons you want to assign this material to. Assign the material, or other if desired, to this and any other elements or inset extrusions as you see fit. Create materials for the eyepiece and ears and assign them accordingly.
Enlarge Screenshot With all materials and sub-object materials assigned, we can refine our geometry. If we have done it correctly, adding a simple Meshsmooth Modifer should smooth out any rough edges to an object and NOT result in pinched or wayward geometry. For objects that have sub-object materials, check on Separate by: Materials in the Meshsmooth’s Surface Parameters section.
Enlarge Screenshot With all refinement sorted (for Viewport update speed, use Meshsmooth’s Render Values instead of normal Iterations) we can pose our bot into a more dramatic stance. To pose the limbs, you may need to amend the pivot positions on some geometry to pose it correctly. To do this, enter the Heirarchy tab, click on Affect Pivot Only and move the pivot point to where the object should bend.
Enlarge Screenshot If you try bending the forearm now, you should see it pivots correctly. However, if you try bending the top of the arm, you will see that the forearm does not follow suit. Select The forearm and link it to the top of the arm. Likewise, link the top of the arm to the arm socket joint. Perform this same task with the foot and leg accordingly.
Enlarge Screenshot Create the Thrusters by creating a simple cylinder, positioning it and removing the top and bottom caps with an Edit Mesh Modifier. Add a UVW map and set to cylindrical. Scale the UVW map’s height slightly. Create a new material, check on 2-sided and assign it to the thrusters. Add a Falloff map to the Self-Illumination slot. Instance-copy it to the Diffuse Slot
Enlarge Screenshot Change the Falloff’s front slot to a Gradient Ramp map with a gradient as illustrated and a W angle of 90. Set the Falloff map’s second slot to a blue colour. Add a Gradient Ramp map to the Opacity Slot and change the W angle to 90. Design a gradient going from white to black (two black keys, one at 90 one at 100), left to right. Taper and link the Thrusters to the feet and pose the Bot.
Enlarge Screenshot 3ds max 5 has a very simple Global Illumination system. Create a Standard Skylight light and position it anywhere in the scene. In the Rendering menu, go to Advanced Lighting and select Light Tracer. There are no hotspots indicating there is no main light. Create an additional Direct light with diffuse checked off and shadows on to just emit a hotspot. Tint this light slightly yellow.
Enlarge Screenshot Right-click on the thrusters and select properties. In the Adv. Lighting tab, check on Exclude from Adv. Lighting Calculations. Render off on a white background as a 32 bit TGA at 2740x3307 for print resolution.
Enlarge Screenshot Bring the rendered image (or the pre-rendered bot_rendered.tga supplied) into Photoshop 7 along with the Bot_background_layers.psd and bots_toon.psd files. Copy the masked rendered Bot into the Bot_background_layers.psd canvas and position it to the right and make it the top layer. Drop in the toon-shaded Bots and place them behind the rendered Bot.
Enlarge Screenshot Load in the bots_5.psd and position it behind the rendered Bot. Change the blending type to Overlay. Load the 5’s selection by CTRL-clicking on the layer, create a new layer and stroke the layer with a white line of 16pixels. Clear the selection, clone the layer and set the copy’s blending type to Colour Dodge. Gaussian Blur the copy with 15 radius.
Enlarge Screenshot Load the bot’s selection and outside stroke the result on a new layer. Clear the selection, add a layer mask and mask out the stroke around the thrusters using a gradient. Copy the stroke layer and Gaussian and Colour Dodge as before. Load the bot’s selection and expand it by 50. Fill the selection white on a new layer. Duplicate this across the background to form the cloud shape.
Enlarge Screenshot Link, merge these cloud shapes and set the opacity to 50%. Position behind the boxes layer. Centre stroke these cloud shapes on a new layer with 8 pixels width. Clone the stroke layer a couple of times and position down as shown, changing the opacity for the 1st copy to 75% and the 2nd to 50%.
Enlarge Screenshot Load in the bots_grid.psd and paste the layer behind the boxes layer. Set to Overlay, Clone and Gaussian slightly. On the Bot layer, Magnetic Lasso-select the thrusters and copy and paste to a new layer. Set to Colour dodge and merge back down. Blur the thrusters using either the blur tool or a Gaussian’d feathered selection.
Enlarge Screenshot And our final image. 3ds max and Photoshop can go hand-in hand and can be used to produce some attractive pieces. 3ds max has the capability to produce numerous styles out of the box, but with a little imagination, mixing materials together, there are no limitations to what you can produce!


The default Light Tracer settings may not be adequate enough for you. If the global illumination comes out grainy, try upping the Rays/Sample spinner to around 400 and increase the Filter Size slightly. This will add more quality to the end render at the expense of render times.

If you find the render is taking way too long to produce, try reducing the amount of iterations in the Meshsmooth modifier(s). This will therefore reduce the polygon count of the scene and will therefore render a lot quicker. Bear in mind that as the Meshsmooth smoothes the low polygon detail out, sharper edges may be visible at print resolution as opposed to a smoother curve.

If your render is STILL (!!) taking too long to render, reduce the amount of depth in the Global Raytracer Settings. This is accessible from the Rendering pull-down menu and reduces the amount of times a scene object is mirrored from one raytraced object to the next. The default is 9, but try a value of around 5 for similar results with faster renders.

To reduce the graininess of the reflections in the final render, turn on the material’s Enable Sampler option in it’s SuperSampling rollout. This will smooth out any aliasing in the reflection, but will greatly increase render times. Refer to the other tips in the columns to reduce render times if this is unacceptable.

You need not stop with the final modelling step of the tutorial. Additional detail can be added to the Bot, such as communications antennae, pipes, additional indentations and extrusions over the surface, or even a completely new head!

Additional textures and / or weathering can be added to the Bot by mixing the base material (the reflective plastic / spray-paint material) with other material types such as plastic, rusted metal, decals, warning chevrons (etc). These can be applied to the model by adding additional UVW maps to the geometry to position the maps then use a Mix material to blend the two types together using a mask.

If you’re up for the challenge, try adding the Bot a waist that the leg sockets are linked to. Therefore we could pose our character easier. Additionally, you may also want to look into using 3ds max 5’s character toolkit and IK system to pose or animate him.

Initially published: Computer Arts magazine, Issue 77, December 2002.

Copyright Pete Draper, December 2002. Reproduction without permission prohibited.