Adding paths (Shapes)

Adding shapes in 3ds Max No I don't know why they used such a horribly non-descriptive name. is as simple, and similar, to adding and primitive mesh. You can use the top drop down menu via "Create > Shapes" or through the create tab on the settings pane as shown below.

As with the polygonal primitives the exacy mouse controls for adding each shape will differ. For instance the "Line" shape will require you to click to make control points (or click and drag for curved lines), several segments if you wish, before *right* clicking to finish the line.

Conversly shapes like "Star" will need you to click and drag once to make the initial diameter of the star, and then have drag a second time to form the inner diameter, before clicking once to finalize the shape.

Otherws might not even be shapes in the traditional sense.

In 3ds max the "section" shape may not appear to do anything at first if you have nothing else in the scene. This particular shape is meant to interact with other shapes. If you place an object within the scene and have the section shape intersect with that object, then upon adding an "edit spline" modifier you'll have a spline that matches the surface of the object where the shape plane intersected.

Path Modifiers

Adding modifiers to paths in 3DS max is exremely similar to adding modifiers to mesh objects. In fact many of the modifiers for one can be added to the other! Just check and see if the modifier is not greyed out. For instance normal extrusion modifiers are typically available when a spline is selected.

Otherweise modifiers specifically for paths / splines can be found under "Modifiers > Path / Spline Editing".

For any given spline operation you do though always remember to add an "edit spline" modifier first so that you can change the shape of the final geometry later if needed. That's the power of splines after all.

One oddity of Max specifically is that the widely used "loft" function is not a normal modifier. Much like a "Boolean" is not a regular modifier the "loft" option is found in the "compound objects" section of the creation drop down menu. The process for using it is also not as simple as choosing a list of shapes. To use the loft follow the following steps.

  1. Select "loft" from the compound obejcts menu.
  2. In the creation panel select "get path" and click on a spline to denote the path of the shape (much like a sweep modifier has a path).
  3. In the creation panel select "get shape" and click on the spline to be the start of the loft geometry.
  4. Repeat the previous step but first change the percentage position to up to 100 to denote the position of the next spline you're going to choose.
  5. You should be able to modify the original splines to change the shape of the loft.

Editing Shapes

Keep in mind that only the "Line" shape from the creation menu will give you the option of editing the control points of that shape by default. For most of the others you'll have to add an "edit spline" modifier just as you would an edit poly modifier to edit mesh primitives. Go to "Modifiers > Patch/Spline Editing > Edit Spline" in the top dropdown menu.

  • Once you have a point selected you can change the exact position of that point in 3d space using the same coordinate boxes at the bottom of the interface that you use to position objects.
  • Use "create line" to create new line segment(s) within the same shape. Just keep in mind these new segments are NOT joined to pre-existing segments..
  • With "connect" switched on you can click and drag between two vertices to make a line segment between them.
  • The simplest way to create a point exactly halfway between two existing points in a path is probably to be in the "segment" sub-object mode, select the segment(s) you wish to divide, right click, and select the "divide" command. This is especially better than adding by clicking and dragging vertices if you are trying to stick a grid or set of straight lines.

While in spline editing mode you'll also notice that the right click menu has changed when you click within the main work area. Right clicking now brings up several operations specific to shapes but also has a few settings that change the way the contorl points work.

Make sure you note the following commands in the right click menu. "Bezier Corner", "Bezier", "Corner", and "Smooth". These will be crucial to working with paths in Max.

The different corner types. The upper left is set to "Bezier Corner" (note the handles pointing in different directions), upper right: "Bezier" , lower left: "corner", and lower right: "smooth".

When working with splines ALWAYS REMEMBER that you are working with paths that exist in a 3d space. If you move a point or handle while in a perspective you might change what was a previously flattened shape into a shape width depth, width, and height.

Also, if you need to deform a geometry object along a spline then you won't find the appropraite modifier under either mesh or spline modifiers. You'll be looking for the "path" deformer under the Animation section of the modifiers menu.