3D Programs

Basic Modeling Tools (C4D, Maya)

Overview

Working in a 3-D modeling program can be intimidating, with its multiple viewports, specialized tools, and unique interface. However, all polygon modeling programs are based on points, edges and verities. Most of the time you will only need a few basic tools to build your model: transform, cut, bevel and extrude, and bridge or fill holes. These are the tools to look for when learning a new program. This tutorial will show you where to find these tools in Cinema 4D and Maya.

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Points, Edges and Polygons

Polygon models are made up of points in 3D space. Each point, also called a vertex, has an X, Y, and Z coordinate. Two points or vertices are connected by an edge. Three or more points, and their edges, create a polygon, also called a face. Polygons with three sides are called "tris," polygons with four sides are called "quads," and polygons with more than four sides are called "n-gons."

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3D programs allow you to choose to work with the whole object, or a specific component - point, edge or polygon. This is the selection mode. There are times when you will want to use each of the selection modes.


Selection Modes in Cinema 4D

To pick a selection mode in Cinema 4D, use these button located on the left side of the workspace.

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Selection Modes in Maya

To pick a selection mode in Maya, right-click and hold over your object, then drag over to your choice in the menu and release. Maya also has the option of "Multi" which allows you to work with any component - vertex, edge, or polygon - or a combination.

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Multi-component can also be turned on from the modeling toolkit. From the modeling toolkit, you can choose a specific component to work with by clicking on the individual icons.

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Transform Tools

Transform tools are simply the move, scale and rotate tools. Transformation tools can be used on the object as a whole, on a single component like a vertex, or on a selection group of components. Choosing one of these tools while you have something selected will make a transformation axis appear.

Note: Scale and rotate do not apply to individual vertices, as they are simply points in space.


Transform Tools in Cinema 4D

In Cinema 4D, the transform tools are located next to the selection tool in the top left of the workspace. Move is represented by intersected double-pointed arrows. Scale is the button with a square inside of a larger square. Rotate is the furthest right of the set, with two curved arrows making a circle.

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Transformation Tools in Maya

In Maya, the transform tools are located along the left side, below the selection tools. Move is represented by a cone and a single arrow. The rotate button has a sphere and a circular arrow. Scale has a cube and four arrows pointing different directions.

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Working with Transform Tools

When you choose a transform tool with a selection, a transform axis will appear. Typically, the move axis has arrows at the end and the scale axis has cubes. The rotate axis is made of circles.

By clicking on one of the nodes, you can constrain the transformation. For example, if you click and drag on the green arrow of the move axis, the selection will only move along that axis, up and down, no matter where you drag the mouse. Click and drag directly on one of circles of the rotate axis to rotate only in that one direction. Alternatively, clicking on the nodes in between the axis (in Maya, these are squares. In c4d, they are corners), you can constrain the transformation along two axis. For example, clicking and dragging on the green square at the bottom of the scale axis icon will scale the object along both the X (left to right) and Z (front to back) planes, but not Y (up and down).

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Cutting Tool

No matter what primitive you start out with, at some point you will want to add more points. The best way to do this is to add edge loops. Edge loops are a series of edges connected end to end that run all the way around your model. Adding edge loops, rather than just cutting polygons and adding points willy-nilly, will help you avoid n-gons (polygons with more than four sides) which are difficult for 3D programs to work with.


Adding Edge Loops in Cinema 4D

In Cinema 4D, you can add edge loops using the knife tool. Make sure you are in point, edge or polygon mode, and then right-click and select "knife" from the menu.

First, you will want to change a few properties. In the tool settings, change the mode to loop and uncheck "restrict to selection." Leave "create n-gons" checked. If your model is all quads (4-sided polygons) already, using the knife in loop mode won't create any n-gons anyway. Unchecking it may create unexpected tris (polygons with 3 sides).

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When you hover over your model, you will see a while loop indicating where the cut will be. Click to complete the cut.

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Adding Edge Loops in Maya

Edge loops in Maya can be added using the multi-cut tool, which can be found in the the polygon shelf, or in the modeling toolkit.

Note: This only applies to Maya 2015 and newer.

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Hold control (control, not command) to add edge loops. Hold shift to snap (the snap step can be set in the tool options in the modeling toolkit). Again, when you hover over your object, you will see a preview of the new cut. Click to create it.

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Extrude and Bevel

Extrude creates new geometry by extending a face or edge. Bevel (sometimes called chamfer) rounds out edges by adding a smoothing division to a point, edge or polygon. A bevel can also be created by simply scaling an extruded face.

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Extrude and Bevel in Cinema 4D

Both the extrude tool and bevel tool can be accessed by right-clicking and selecting them from the tool menu.

To extrude, select the extrude tool, then click and drag on the face, edge or point you want to extrude. Dragging to the right will extrude the selection out; dragging left will extrude the selection in.

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Cinema 4D also has a "extrude inner" tool that creates a smaller polygon within the original polygon. This is simply an extrude that is scaled without any movement (it remains flush with the original face). Notice that it still maintains quads and edge loops.

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The bevel tool works in the same way. Simply select the part you wish to bevel, and then click and drag.

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Extrude and Bevel Maya

The extrude and bevel tools and their options can be accessed from the modeling toolkit.

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The extrude tool can also be found in the polygon shelf, or by going to Edit Mesh > Extrude.

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Simply click and drag on a component to extrude. Dragging to the right extrudes out, dragging to the right extrudes inward.

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Command-shift-right click to select the property edited by dragging in the viewport, or click the radio button next to the property in the modeling toolkit options. Choose "offset" to create a smaller polygon within the original polygon.

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The bevel tool can be also be accessed by going to Edit Mesh > Edge: Bevel, or Edit Mesh > Face: Bevel. Simply click and drag on the selection you wish to bevel: dragging to the right increases the bevel, to the left decreases it. You can also increase the number of segments, which will also increase the roundness of the bevel.

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Bridge and Fill Hole

You may also want to delete components and create new polygons to replace them. A simple example would be, say, a window in a wall.

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In Cinema 4D

In Cinema 4D, there are several options for patching holes and creating polygons. The two I use the most are the fill hole tool, and the polygon pen. The bridge tool also works well.


The fill hole tool (right-click, then choose "Fill Hole" from the tool menu) works great for simple holes in a model. However, it tends to not handle more complex operations. In our window example, the fill hole tool will only let us recreate the faces we just deleted, rather than giving us the option to bridge between the two sides.

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Both the bridge tool and the polygon pen tool give us much more control over where the new polygons are created. Again, both can be found in the right-click tool menu.

The bridge tool is best used in edge mode. Simply click and drag from one edge to the other to create a polygon between them.

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The polygon pen tool works best in point mode. Click vertices to draw out a polygon. Click the first vertex again to complete it.

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In Maya

Maya also has bridge and fill hole tools.


As in Cinema 4D, simply using Mesh > Fill Hole creates the polygons we wanted to get rid of, rather than connecting the two sides. We could also select the edges around a hole and then use fill hole, which gives us a little more control. However, in this case, there is no edge between the the two sides, so the fill hole option will not work the way we want.


Again, the bridge tool works best in edge or face mode. Select the two edges you want to connect (opposite sides of a quad), then either click bridge in the modeling tool kit or the polygon shelf, or choose Edit Mesh > Bridge.

Command-shift-right click will bring up the bridge properties menu, which will allow you to change the number of division, taper, twist and offset.

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Bonus Tip

There are times when I want to know and edit the exact coordinates of a point or object, especially to copy the coordinates and transformation from one object to another.


Exact Coordinates in Cinema 4D

In Cinema 4D, the exact coordinates for a selection (or the center of selection group) is shown in the bottom-middle of the screen. Be sure to click "apply" to apply any changes you made.

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When the attribute menu is in object mode, right click the P > copy to copy the position of an object, which can be pasted in to another object by right clicking on the P > paste. Right clicking the X will only copy the object's X coordinate. This applies to the other coordinates as well.

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Exact Coordinates in Maya

To view the exact coordinates of a selection in Maya, go to Window > General Editors > Component Editor, and make sure you are on the polygons tab.

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An object's transform properties (coordinates, rotation and scale) can be found in both the channel box and the attribute editor. To copy properties from one object to another, first select the object to be copied TO, and then select the object to be copied FROM. The object to copy TO should be white, the object to be copied FROM will be green. Click inside the box for the property you want to copy, then hit tab. If you want to copy all of the objects transform properties, just keep hitting tab.

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Thanks for sticking with me through all of that!

Tutorial by Elise Tarsa.