Getting started to … Model

Every now and then we get a request of people to join CTDP with the aim to learn X. Be it modeling, textures or any other skills related to Modding. Today we’d like to give a few hints where to get started with the endeavor to learn 3D-modeling.

How do I start?

It’s a rather long way before you can start to model a complex shape like a F1 car. So the first steps would be to learn how to set up blueprints for a car. There are a lot of tutorials available that deal with these topics. They guide you through the whole process from setting up the blueprints over the modeling and basic techniques used till you have finished your first car. These tutorials focus on cars with pretty simple shapes as it doesn’t make sense to learn modeling by recreating a pre-2009 Formula One car with its complex shape and all that winglets.

These are some Tutorials we can recommend to start off.

What’s next?

After you finished your first model try another car. Try some harder shapes but still use accurate blueprints which are a good aid in the beginning. Focus on getting a smooth shape and try to find your own modeling style. Don’t copy other people that created these tutorials. That won’t help you if you try to model a Formula One car or some other car where you don’t have any blueprints and of course tutorials.

Speaking of modeling Formula One cars (or other racing cars). The most important step before starting a racing car without a blueprint is research. As you don’t have any blueprints – and if you have you can’t be sure how accurate they are – you have to get the proportions right. So take a look at the technical regulations. The tell you a let about the cars measurement. They can tell you the size of a cockpit opening or the position and size of the rear wing. Also try to find good sideview pictures of your car to use that as a ‘blueprint’.

By looking at these tutorials you’ll find that some start with a simple polygon (quad) and others start with a box. Don’t hang on that too much. That’s more a personal preference which suits your style. In the end you’ll be working with polygons. And always aim to use quads. If you have to use triangles but never let a face have more than four vertices.

There are also some techniques that use spline-modeling or maybe patch-modeling. But in our opinion that are more advanced modeling techniques and not suited for beginners. If you’re pretty secure with the polymodeling and you found your own style you can start to experiment with these techniques. I find them very useful – especially the patches – if you want to recreate complex forms without spending much time. Through the splines you have a rather easy but still a very accurate way to control the form of your patch.

Which 3D modeling tool?

There are many 3d modeling tools out there. Maybe some of you know “the big 3”, Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3d Studio Max & Autodesk XSI (former Softimage XSI). But there are a lot of cheaper (Maxon Cinema 4D & Luxology Modo) and some open source (for example Blender) softwares available.

Which one is the right one for your first modeling attempt?
Well let me tell you one thing: it’s just a matter of taste. If you know how to model in one application you can adapt all your skills pretty fast to another one. Sure you have special features in some of these tools but the basics are all the same.
Most modders start with 3D Studio Max because it’s quite popular within the game industry. Maya is also a good choice to start. Nevertheless is the learning curve with the node based User Interface and the Hotbox pretty tough. Softimage XSI looks weird if you start it the first time but it’s very handy for organic and “freestyle” modeling. Cinema 4D is most used in the architectural industry but still some of the modders (for example spoony from LMT) are using it to model F1 cars. Modo is a very cool tool, too. It has a great performance in modeling and useful tools but it’s not that popular and therefore you won’t find many tutorials for it. Blender will be adressed by msater at a later time.

You see, each application has its advantage, but 80% of the tutorials out there are covering 3D Studio Max. That’s why you should start with this application (if available). After your first few cars you can try to do parts or the whole car of your next project in a different program to get an overview. Most of the 3D modelers in game or CG industry have basic knowledge in more than three 3D applications. The get a specialist you need to know the basics of each program and pick the one which fits best to your expertise and personal taste.

We take questions! If you are stuck with a problem or have questions related to modeling ask them and we will adress them in a future post here on the blog.

Thanks to TwoOneOne for some of the tutorials links.

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Textures supervisor, Webdesign, Programming

11 thoughts on “Getting started to … Model”

  1. A lot to read, as expected, but that’s good. 🙂
    In the future I think it might be interesting to show how to create texture from the ground (I’ve always wondered how modders could reproduce so well Toro Rosso bull: did they start from an image or did they create it from the ground?) and how to import a model within rF and similar.
    Well, at the moment this is already a great beginning!

  2. Yes, there is a lot of ground to cover and Modding needs some new blood.
    Textures is a topic that I would cover, but I don’t have an idea yet on how to do it. I covered a lot in the tutorials. Regarding Toro-Rosso in particular I already did the making-of. What are the aspects you’d like to see a stronger focus on?

  3. I didn’t remember those entries, I definitely need to go through them again. 🙂
    Thinking about a texture tutorial… uhm, you might report how you created texture starting from a real world picture and what process you followed when you had to create one from scratch (eg a grass texture).
    I think we need to hear other people requests too, hopefully I won’t be the only one to comment here!

  4. …all those programs to model with, and not 1 mention of Zmodeler2. easy to use, works well with low or high poly projects and works in very well with many sim racing formats.

    shame on you

  5. Good tutorials, CTDP! Thanks for taking the time to write them (not an easy task to do it properly) and to share it with us! 🙂

    Kindest regards

    @Angus94. Classic… there’s always someone who complains, even if he’s getting things useful for free. BTW, ZModeler2, despite easy for starters is not powerful enough to be among the best 3D tools out there.

  6. Ok, one question for futures tutorials or Q&A:

    To generate LOD B and LOD C i must start from zero, decrease manually from LOD A or have some script/tool to easily do that ?

  7. Hi there,

    Firstly very very big thx for your guidance to us Dahie.

    I’m an expert on Solidworks (I’m curious about did you hear anything about this software. It’s an engineering CAD program) and I model the cars on solidworks. Is it possible to use this models in a game? (like rFactor or any other)

    Thanks again..

  8. @Angus94: I agree with Rantam. ZModeler2 is a different league, it’s much more low-level and imho it serves other purposes (well). For example review and preview instead of actual modeling.

    @Andrew: Question is noted, thanks.

    @topaloglu321: At first I didn’t write the post alone, as I know very little about modeling. The post was the result of a very industrious collaboration session in an etherpad with Neidryder and erale. Within an hour of the initial idea the post was written. So credit goes also to them; It was a fun hour!
    As for your question: it’s noted and we will get back to it. 🙂

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