Previewing the Head

In this lesson, you use an existing file to preview the shape of the head.

Open a scene with completed contours and background images:

Below are the steps to set up the viewport backgrounds for reference but the file already has the images setup so skip ahead..


  1. Make sure the Right viewport is active. Choose Views > Viewport Background.

  2. In the Viewport Background dialog, click Files and choose head_side.png as the background source.

  3. Make sure Match Bitmap and Lock Zoom/Pan are turned on, then click OK.

    You might have to adjust the position of the NURBS model to align it with the bitmap.

    Tip: Whenever you need to adjust the position of the background relative to the model, use CTRL+ALT+B to toggle Lock Zoom/Pan. When Lock Zoom/Pan is off, the model zooms and pans independently of the background. When Lock Zoom/Pan is on, zoom and pan affect both the model and the background.

    Tip: Another way to view reference images while you model in 3ds max is to display them using the Asset Browser.

  4. Make the Front viewport active, and then choose Views > Viewport Background.

  5. In the Viewport Background dialog, click Files and choose head_front.png as the background source.

  6. Make sure Match Bitmap and Lock Zoom/Pan are turned on, then click OK.

    Again, you might have to adjust the position of the NURBS model to align it with the bitmap.

  7. Select the NURBS model so it shows up better against the backgrounds.

The Right viewport shows the profile, and the Front viewport shows the face. You can see that the two drawings don't completely match up. This is often the case when you build a model from drawings created in 2D. A 3D model can't exactly match both elevations, so you have to choose a compromise that is truest to the spirit of the character. In the case of the Goco head, the profile of the snout has been made shorter to better match the wideness of the full face.

Preview the head:

  1. Go to the Modify panel, and then select the NURBS model.

  2. On the General rollout, turn on NURBS Creation Toolbox to display the toolbox.

    Tip: Whenever a NURBS model is selected and the Modify panel is active, you can toggle display of this toolbox by pressing CTRL+T (make sure the Keyboard Shortcut Override Toggle is turned on).

  3. In the toolbox, click Create U Loft Surface.

    The U Loft Surface rollout is displayed on the Modify panel. A U Loft is a NURBS surface sub-object that stretches across contour curves.

    Most NURBS sub-object types have an associated rollout. Usually this rollout is displayed at the bottom of the Modify panel. For example, the rollout for CV curves such as the contours you are working with is displayed below the long Curve Common rollout.

    One advantage of using the NURBS Creation Toolbox to create NURBS sub-objects is that during creation, while a toolbox button is on, the rollout for that type of sub-object appears near the top of the Modify panel, just below the Modifier Stack rollout.

  4. Turning on U loft creation displays the U Loft Surface rollout. On this rollout, make sure Display While Creating is turned on.

    Turning on this option can slow down 3ds max, but for the purposes of this tutorial, you want to see what's happening.

  5. Click each contour curve once, in spatial order, beginning with the neck and proceeding to the mouth.

    As you move the mouse, curves turn blue to indicate that you can pick them for use by the U loft.

    After you have clicked the third contour, 3ds max begins to display a surface that stretches across the contours.

    Tip: While you're creating the U loft, pressing BACKSPACE undoes the last section that you created (between one contour and the next).

    Tip: If your mouse has a middle mouse button, you can use ALT+middle mouse button to arc-rotate the viewport while you create the loft. This can help you see the contour curves.

  6. Right-click to end loft creation.

  7. Turn on Flip Normals if needed.

    Now the surface shows one-half of Goco's head.

  8. Save your work as StudentID#_goco_loft.max..

    At this stage, you might notice things about the model you want to correct. You can go into Surface sub-object level, select the U loft, and then on the U Loft Surface rollout turn on the Edit Curves button. Edit Curves is a shortcut that lets you edit contours without having to switch back and forth between the Curve and Surface sub-object levels. It lets you move the CVs of curves in the U loft. Select the curve's name in the U Curves list, and then move its CVs.

    While Edit Curves is turned on and a curve is selected in the U Curves list, other curve and CV editing rollouts are displayed below the U Loft Sub-Object rollout. You can edit the curve using the available controls in these rollouts, as well.

    The U loft you created in this lesson is not the final surface for the head. First, you are going to add a bit more detail, and then mirror the contour curves.


Adding Detail to the Head