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There are several types of football available to buy (the others being stiched together and patched differently) and the one that the reader has described is one, if not the most common placed type of ball. Creating this shape from scratch would take an absolute age if you were doing it by simple polygon modeling and refinement, but, fortunately, help is at hand. There is a standard geometric object in 3ds max that will make our lives a lot easier as the basic shape can be created with just a few mouse clicks!

The basic geometric object is a modified Hedra primitive. Just by creating one, it is difficult to see how this could help, but by changing the object type and tweaking a few settings (with the aid of a Tape helper to ensure that all sides of the “Patches” are virtually the same length) we should have our basic shape in next to no time.

It would be convenient to stop here as we’ve generated the required shape, but to create the individual patches of the ball, to shade it properly and to create the individual patches requires a little refinement to the model.

Firstly, to make life easier, we can collapse the mesh down to an Editable Mesh so we can quickly refine the mesh’s faces. The layout of the patches of the ball should be quite apparent so material ID’s should be assigned to the relevant ones and materials assigned accordingly; black for the individual 5 sided shapes and the rest should be white.

Next, we need to create the patches on the ball. This can be performed all over the ball in one go without having to operate on each individual patch. With every face selected, extrude by polygon slightly until you reach the relevant height of the patch, extrude again by a very small value and then outline to create a chamfered edge of the patch. This slight extrusion should be performed one or two additional times to create a slight ridge to the patch where it is stitched together (a slight bulge around the edge of the patch) and then, now with faces selected in the middle of the patches, collapsing the faces to complete the patch shape. As we have been editing the geometry, the smoothing groups may have gone awry, so this will need to be sorted out aswell.

Our ball looks almost complete, yet still appears as if it is not “fully inflated”. To solve this a Spherify modifier is assigned to the top of the modifier stack and it’s percentage spinner amended so it is not completely sphere, else the patches seams will be smoothed right out. Finally, we need to refine the patches further to remove any harsh edges in the geometry. Go back to the base Editable Poly level and select every group of faces in the centre of each patch. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds if By Vertex is checked on in Polygon Sub-Object mode and the centre vertices selected. Add a Meshsmooth modifier to the Editable Mesh so it is below the Spherify modifier and set it so it works on smoothing groups (set previously) and does not refine the entire mesh. For the Spherify modifier to work properly now, a Mesh Select modifier should be added between the Meshsmooth and Spherify modifiers with no Sub-Object selection made (to clear the selection). And now we have our finished ball. Additional decals can be put on the patches to give it a more professional finish, yet this may be slightly tedious as each individual patch would have to be selected and a map assigned to each one, unless you are really good with unwrapping UVW maps and painting textures!

Enlarge Screenshot Create a Hedro primitive object and set the Family type to Dodec/Icos. In the Family Parameters, amend the P spinner to 0.37 . This will generate the basic shaper of the football geometry.
Enlarge Screenshot Set the material ID’s of the “patches” by selecting them in groups. This is a relevantly simple selection procedure. Assign a material ID of 1 to the 6-sided patches. Invert the selection and assign a material ID of 2 to the 5-sided patches.
Enlarge Screenshot Select all polygons and check on By Polygon in the Edit Geometry rollout. Extrude slightly, then extrude again a for very small amount. Amend the Outline spinner to bring the extruded polygons inwards. Repeat this process so we form a slight ridge around the edge of the patches, then bring the final few extrusions/outlines to a slightly raised point. Click on Collapse to weld the localized faces together.
Enlarge Screenshot With our geometry now refined, the faces need smoothing out. Select all of the polygons and in the Smoothing Groups section of the Surface Properties rollout, enter 70 in the Auto Smooth spinner and click on the Auto Smooth button.
Enlarge Screenshot Check By Vertex on in Polygon Sub-Object mode and select all of the centre vertices of the individual patches. This will therefore select the surrounding faces. Add a Meshsmooth modifier and check off Apply to Whole Mesh. Set the Iterations to 1 and check on Smoothing Groups in the Parameters rollout. Add a Mesh Select modifier to remove Sub-Object selections and add a Spherify modifier. Set the Percent spinner setting to 70.
Enlarge Screenshot Create a Multi-Sub-Object material in the Material Editor. Set the number of materials to 2. Create a white material in slot 1 and a black material in slot 2. Finally, assign this material to the Football model.
Enlarge Screenshot The final football model. The basic geometric shape aids our modeling process as it creates our basic shape quicky and easily. All we need to do is refine the patches and bang it in the back of the net…
Download the max file! Zip file to accompany.


To place the ball in it’s environment, create a few different strands of textured grass of varying greens and scatter them over a plane object to generate separate Scatter Compound objects. Hide the emitters and collapse down to a single editable mesh. You could then add additional materials to create the white lines of a football pitch.

Different types of ball require different modeling methods. Whilst this one can be created easily using polygon refinement, other shapes are more taxing and may require surface tools or material deformation to accomplish the correct shape. Always break the task down into simple steps and you will find that you progress through the problem easier.

Add decals for branding or patterns around the ball. Have a look at footballs available in local sports shops and see what type of patterns are used and how they are distributed over the ball’s surface; some are directly across the ball, some are repeated on most patches to create a pattern that encompasses the ball’s surface.

Stitching and additional geometry such as the inflation value could be added to add extra realism, although these, typically, should be created as additional decal textures as they are easier to produce this way.

Initially published: 3D World magazine, Issue 30, October 2002.

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