3DS Max Design: Rendering a Simple Path Animation.

First, create an animation based on a simple walkthrough “path”:

  1. Create a walkthrough “path” in your scene. (For example, use the Line tool to draw a curved path.)
  2. Choose Animation > Walkthrough Assistant.
  3. Click Create New Camera.
  4. In the Path Control area, click Pick Path.
  5. Select the walkthrough path in a viewport.
  6. In the upper-left corner of the viewport, choose the name of the camera you created in Step 3. This will cause the viewport to display the camera’s view.
  7. Click the Play Animation button to view the animation.

Next, render the animation.

  1. Click F10 to bring up the Render Setup dialog box.
  2. In the Time Output area, select the appropriate settings for the duration/range of the animation.
  3. Make sure to specify a location to save the animation.
  4. Click Shift-Q to render the animation.

3DS Max Design: Rendering a Still Image.

The process of rendering a still image usually follows this workflow:

Create a Camera.

Fine-Tune Camera Position and Parameters.

Adjusting a camera’s parameters.

Set up Render Parameters.

Render the Image.


Create a Camera.

Usually, the first step in creating a rendered still image from 3DS Max is to create a camera. There are two kinds of cameras in 3DS Max. Free Cameras are useful for creating animations (see 3DS Max Design: Rendering a Simple Path Animation). For still images, Target Cameras are more useful.

  1. Choose Create menu > Cameras > Target Camera.
  2. Click in the active viewport to set the location of the camera. Drag and release to aim the camera.

Fine-Tune Camera Position and Parameters.

Adjusting a camera’s position in the viewport. Use this procedure to manually adjust a Target Camera’s position and viewpoint.

  1. Choose Views > Viewport Configuration > Layout. Select a layout configuration with multiple viewports.
  2. Click in one of the viewports to select the Camera view. Other viewports can be set to Top, Left, etc., to provide adequate multi-dimensional views of the camera’s position in the scene.
  3. Click Apply; click OK.

Adjusting a camera’s parameters. Use this procedure to precisely adjust a camera’s parameters.

  1. Click on a camera to select it.
  2. In the Command Panel, click the Modify tab (second from left).
  3. Make adjustments under the appropriate rollout (e. g., Parameters, Depth of Field Parameters, Maxwell Parameters).

Set up Render Parameters.

Choose Render Setup (click F10, or Rendering > Render Setup) to access the Render Setup dialog box.

The Common tab includes basic settings such as render size and file destination, as well as more advanced settings for fine-tuning rendered output.

To render a single image (instead of an animation): Check the Time Output area: “Single” should be checked.

To change render output size: Make appropriate selections in the Output Size area.

To change file destination: In the Render Output area, click Files. Specify the file name, location, and type. (Note: this will turn the Save File toggle on; it will remain on until you turn it off.)


Render the Image.

Choose Rendering > Render.


3DS Max Design: Creating a Daylight System.

In 3DS Max Design, a Daylight System can be used to accurately simulate the lighting effects of natural sunlight based on location and time parameters.

To create a Daylight System:

  1. Choose Create > Lights > Daylight System (or Lighting Analysis > Create > Daylight System).
  2. In the Daylight System Creation dialog box, click Yes. (This automatically sets default parameters for the system.)
  3. Click and drag anywhere in the active viewport to set the Compass Rose. This indicates the orientation of the Daylight System.
  4. In the mental ray Sky dialog box, click Yes. (This automatically creates a sky “environment map”.)
  5. Click to place the Daylight System icon in the active viewport. Right-click in an empty area of the viewport to complete.
  6. Click Alt-B to bring up the Viewport Background options. Make sure that Use Environment Background is selected. (Alternatively, you can specify other content for the background.)
  7. In the Command Panel, under the Create tab, click the Systems button (far right side of tab).
  8. Set the day and time under the Time area.
  9. Set the location under the Location area.

Note: You can adjust additional parameters any time by clicking on the Daylight System icon in the active viewport. Parameters are available in the Command Panel under the Modify tab and the Motion tab.

3DS Max Design: Importing and Linking Models.

Linking from Revit. Linked Revit models are connected to their source file and will reflect updates made to that source. To import an existing Revit model into a 3DS scene:

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Link Revit. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the Revit file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the Manage Links dialog box, click on the Presets tab. Select the appropriate Preset (e. g., combine by material or category).
  4. Click on the Attach tab.
  5. To set the initial view (optional), click Revit View.
  6. Click Attach this file.
  7. In the Daylight System Creation dialog box, click Yes if you wish to adjust the parameters for the Daylight System. Otherwise, click No. (You can return to this option later by choosing Create > Lights > Daylight System.)
  8. Close the Manage Links dialog box. (You can return to the Manage Links dialog box at any time by choosing Application Menu > References > Manage Links.)

Linking from AutoCAD.

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Link AutoCAD. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the AutoCAD file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the Manage Links dialog box, click on the Presets tab. Select the appropriate Preset (e. g., DWG File Saved from AutoCAD).
  4. Click on the Attach tab.
  5. If you wish to import only selected layers, click the Select Layers to include button and make selections.
  6. Click Attach this file.
  7. Close the Manage Links dialog box. (You can return to the Manage Links dialog box at any time by choosing Application Menu > References > Manage Links.)

Importing a Generic .dwg file.

Use this procedure when importing a .dwg file created by any application other than AutoCAD. (You can also use this procedure with AutoCAD-created .dwg files if you wish to exclude the possibility of linking your model.)

  1. Choose Application menu > Import > Import. (The Application menu is in the far upper-left corner of the screen.)
  2. Navigate to the .dwg file, select it, and click Open.
  3. In the AutoCAD DWG/DXF Import Options dialog box, make any necessary changes to import options, or allow them to remain unchanged (default settings).
  4. Click OK.

Importing from Rhino or Sketchup. 3DS Max cannot direclty import models in Rhino (.3dm) or Sketchup (.skp) formats. However, if you save your model as a .dwg file, it can be imported using the procedure described above.

3DS Max Design: Working With Layers.

3DS Max files are organized into layers, similarly to AutoCAD or Rhino files. By default, a new 3DS Max file contains a single layer (“0”). This layer cannot be renamed or deleted.

Choose Tools > Manage Layers, or click the Layer Manager icon on the Main Toolbar.

To add a layer: Click the Create New Layer button on the upper left-hand corner of the palette.

To rename a layer: Right-click on the layer name and choose Rename.

To delete a layer: Right-click on the layer name and choose Delete.

To set a layer as Current: Click on the check mark next to a layer name.

To hide/unhide a layer: Click on the space in the Hide column.

3DS Max Design: Useful Keyboard Shortcuts.

Note: See http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Autodesk_3ds_Max/Shortcuts for a complete list.

        Enables the Move tool.

         Enables the Rotate tool.

         Snap toggle. This toggle enables/disables the snap settings. (Equivalent to F3 in AutoCAD.) To change snap settings, choose Tools > Grid and Snap Settings.

Alt-Q     Isolates the current selection. (To undo, choose Tools > End Isolation.)

Ctrl-V    Clones the current selection.

F10      Render setup.

Shift-Q  Renders the current scene.


Note: To automatically create a text file of all commands, including those with keyboard shortcuts assigned, choose Customize > Customize User Interface. On the Keyboard panel, click Write Keyboard Chart. Save the file to the location of your choice.

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.