3DS Max Design: Basic Concepts.

What is 3DS Max Design?

The software’s primary use is for the production of photorealistic renderings of digital models. Renderings can be static (images) or dynamic (animations). Partly because of its lighting controls, 3DS Max Design is better-suited to architectural use than is the closely related software 3DS Max.



If you have never used 3DS before, you should review the Essential Skills movies, which are available from the software’s Help menu. Also, Autodesk (the software company which produces 3DS, Revit, and AutoCAD) offers tutorials and learning materials in several locations:




Video tutorials appear on this YouTube channel:



CADTutor includes many written tutorials:



Viewport Configuration.

It is standard practice while using 3DS to tile multiple viewports within the application window to allow for a comprehensive view of the 3D scene. Choose Views > Viewport Configuration, then Layout tab, to select from several options. The Active viewport is always bounded by a yellow rectangle. To toggle between a single Active viewport and multiple tiled viewports, click Alt-W. To adjust the size of viewports, drag the boundary between any adjacent viewports.


Viewport Options.

Each 3DS viewport includes a set of pulldown options in its upper-left corner, like this:

[+] [Top] [Wireframe]

Click and hold on these options to control the viewport content and mode.


Panning, Zooming, and Rotating Views.

Use the center mouse button to pan. (Hold Ctrl with the center button for SuperPan.)

Hold Alt with the center mouse button to rotate the view.

Spin the mouse wheel to zoom.

Alternatively, use the ViewCube in the active viewport to change the view.


The Command Panel.

The Command Panel is an essential part of the 3DS interface. By default, it is docked to the right side of the screen. (If you accidentally close the Command Panel, you can recover it by choosing Reset to Default State from the Workspace pulldown on the Quick Access Toolbar at the very top of the screen.)

The Command Panel includes several tabs, of which the most important is the Create tab.


Creating and Modifying Objects.

Creating basic objects in 3DS is a two-step process. Begin in the Create tab by selecting an object class (e. g., “Geometry”, “Shapes”, “Lights”, etc.). Click in the viewport to create the object. Once it is created, use tools in the Modify panel to adjust its parameters (e. g., height and width for boxes).

To create a box: On the Create tab, select the Geometry class. Under the Standard Primitives pulldown, choose Box. Click-drag in the viewport to define the base, then release and click again to define height. (Or, choose Create > Standard Primitives > Box.)


Selecting and Moving Objects.

Use the Select Object tool in the Main toolbar to select any object.


Use the Select and Move tool to move an object in any direction.


Once selected with this tool, an object displays the “Move Transform Gizmo.” To constrain a move action to an axis or plane, click and drag on the appropriate axis or plane on the Move Transform Gizmo. Precise coordinate adjustment can be made using the coordinate boxes at the bottom of the screen. Be aware of the distinction between Absolute and Offset Mode Transform commands. Offset Mode is useful for moving an object a fixed distance from its current point. The tool to change between these modes is to the immediate left of the coordinate boxes, and looks like this:


Note: Particularly in scenes containing many lights, you might find it helpful to select objects from a list. Click H on the keyboard to see this list.


Importing an Existing Model.

3DS can import existing models from Sketchup, Revit, or AutoCAD. Under the Application menu (upper left-hand corner), choose Import. Make sure to select the proper file type.


Applying and Editing Materials.

3DS provides comprehensive and detailed methods for defining and editing simulated materials. Extensive libraries of predefined materials are also available; predefined materials can be edited for custom applications.

Begin the material application process by clicking M on the keyboard. This brings up a Material Editor dialog box. 3DS provides two modes for editing materials: the Compact Material Editor and the Slate Material Editor. Switch between them under the Modes dropdown menu at the top of the material editor. The following commands work within the Compact Material Editor:

To apply a simulated material to a selection: Select the objects to which you wish to apply the material. Next, in the Material Editor, select the material you wish to apply. Next, under the Material menu, click Assign to Selection.

To choose a predefined material from a library: Select a blank material from the sample slots in the Material Editor window. Next, click Material > Get Material. Browse to any material in the list, and double-click it.

To edit the characteristics of a material: In the Material Editor window, choose the material you wish to edit. Material parameters and characteristics vary by material type. Editable material attributes will appear in the Material Editor window.


Placing Lights.

3DS offers controls over simulated lighting from the simplest to the most complex. Here are some simple commands and tools for adding and adjusting simulated light within a scene:

To add simulated sunlight to a scene: Set the active viewport to a Top view. Click Create > Systems > Daylight System. Click “Yes” to any recommendations made by the software. Next, click and drag to set the Compass Rose (indicating North). Finally, click to set the simulated sun.

To change the simulated location, time of day, etc.: Select the Daylight system (click H for a list of objects; the Daylight system is under “Groups”). On the Motion panel, Parameters tab, location controls are under the Control Parameters rollout.

To add an “OMNI” light (i. e., a light which shines in all directions): Click Create > Lights > Standard Lights > Omni.


Producing a Rendering.

3DS provides multiple options for rendering (i. e., producing photorealistic images). The Mental Ray rendering engine is selected by default in 3DS Max Design. To produce a rendering, choose Render from the Rendering menu, or press Shift-Q. Either option opens a Rendered Frame window.


To change Render settings: Press F10. This opens the Render Setup dialog box.

To change between the default Mental Ray engine and the simpler Scanline engine: At the bottom of the Render Setup dialog box, within the Assign Renderer rollout, choose the desired rendering engine (Mental Ray by default).

To save a rendered view: After a rendering is complete, click the Save Image button at the top of the Rendered Frame window.



One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s