How to Create a 3D Model

by Daniel Ketchum

3D models are used in many different fields and for an array of purposes., such as television, motion pictures, video games and website animation. Creating a 3D model is a fairly complex process; in the major studios it is most often broken down into several specializations, with different people completing different aspects of the model. But many capable, motivated individuals create their own models entirely from scratch. Some want to use the models in their own animation, some want to sell these models for others to use, and some just like the intellectual challenge.

If you would like to start creating your own 3D models, you will need a 3D modeling program with which to build them. While several well-known 3D programs on the market do very good modeling (such as Maya and Cinema 4D), they are very expensive and challenging to learn. A simpler and cheaper program, if all you want to do is create your own 3D models, is Hexagon (available for PC or Mac--about $150 at time of writing).

Sketch out your ideas for your model and decide on the approach you want to take. Keep in mind that the level of complexity in your model will affect how difficult it is to build. Whereas a simple straight-back chair might be relatively easy to make, a figure that needs to have posable joints will be far more work. In this article a technique known as "Box Modeling" will be used to build a simple 'toon car.

Go online to Daz3D to purchase and install Hexagon on your computer system. Then start the program.

Click the "Primitives" tab at the top and select the "Cube." Draw the cube into the view. Now change the selection mode at the top to "Faces."

Select the "Surface Modeling" tab at the top and click on the "Extrude Surface" tool. Now click on the top polygon and use the tool to extend it upward to roughly form the roof of the car. Use the same tool to select the front and back polygons to form the hood and trunk areas. Use the "Scale" function of the "Universal Manipulator" tool to adjust the overall proportions of the car.

Select the "Edge" selection mode and use the "Scale" and "Position" functions of the "Universal Manipulator" tool to adjust the lines of the car. If you need more curves, use the "Tessellation" tools to create new polygons and edges you can move around.

Select the "Primitives" tab and add four "Cylinders" to the scene. Make them all the same size and place them where the tile wells should be. Now go to the "Surface Modeling" tab and select the "Boolean" tool. Use it to remove the area of the car where you need to put the tires. Then create four more, smaller, cylinders to serve as the tires.

Select those polygons you want to be the same color, such as the body of the car. Click on the "Materials/Shading" tab on the left. Click on the "Unassigned" domain. Then click "Create New Domain." Rename the new domain"Body." Then, in the materials at the top, change the color to what you want. Do the same for all the other parts of the car. Finally, export your model as a "Wavefront OBJ" for use in other programs.

About the Author

Daniel Ketchum holds a Bachelor of Arts from East Carolina University where he also attended graduate school. Later, he taught history and humanities. Ketchum is experienced in 2D and 3D graphic programs, including Photoshop, Poser and Hexagon and primarily writes on these topics. He is a contributor to sites like Renderosity and Animotions.