How to model a World War 2 British Spitfire from start to finish. Final Render.
This tutorial can be followed by anyone using 3ds Max 208 or later. Basic understanding of 3ds Max is required, I use 3ds max 2012 for the modeling of this tutorial so the screen shots may be a little different, however the general guidelines can be followed with almost any version of 3ds Max. I am also using Photo shop, but any layer based paint program should work for doing the photo shop stuff.
In 3ds max versions earlier then 2011 you may need to increase the image sharpness in your viewport display. To do this, before doing any work go to customize, then preferences and click on viewport tab.
Next click on configure driver and then make sure background texture size and match bitmap size as closely as possible are checked. You will have to reset your 3ds max interface by clicking on file then reset. Now you should see your textures in the viewport crisp.
To start it is a good idea to search the web and download as many images of the real thing you are going to model to use as references. For our model we are going to search the internet for a British Spitfire-010.
Google images is a great place to start, however an even better place is a website dedicated to providing free aircraft photos. www.airliners.net Also we will need a blueprint to follow, we can get these at www.the-blueprints.com
When you have your reference images and blueprints place them into folders so you can nicely manage them while you model as shown below.
So to start create a plane 670 X 690 or however you want, with 1 height and width segment.
Next take your blue print that you downloaded from the-blueprints.com and apply it to your plane. You can do this by going to your material editor and picking bitmap from the map list and then chose your blue print.
Next we are going to cut our blueprint up, to do this we need to convert our blueprint to an editable poly object. You can either right click or select convert to editable poly or you can apply it in the modifier stack. I like to use the modifier stack because if I make a mistake I can always delete the modifier.
Next activate your edge mode and select both sides of your plane, as seen in the image.
Next click connect and create a new line across your image.
Continue to do this until you have completely sliced up your image so it looks like the image below.
After you have sliced up your image activate polygon mode and select each part of your newly sliced plane and detach them so you have three different panels like this.
Next arrange them according to each view.
Front, Side and Top.
One last thing we need to do before we start modeling, select all the planes, then right click and chose properties than un-check frozen in gray and press OK.
Next right click and chose Freeze selection, that’s it, we are now ready to model.
We can start by using a cylinder primitive since most airplanes are tube like. So create a cylinder in the front viewport and align it up with the blueprint, I used sides 12 and 1 segments.
Next let’s apply a general texture to our tube so we have more control. Also during our modeling process we will want to make our model invisible while we work so we can see our blueprint. We can do this two ways, first the texture we applied can be used and all we need to do is turn down our opacity to 0. Or the other way is to hold down ALT + X and we turn our model invisible.
Next according to our blueprint, it looks like our cylinder needs to be stretched into an ellipse. Do this by selecting your scale command and scaling up sizing to your blueprint as seen here.
Next convert your model into an editable Poly object by Right clicking and choosing convert to.
Next lets ad some extra lines. Just like we did to our blueprint plane, select your cylinder, press ALT+X to make our model invisible and activate edge mode, select the edges you want to connect and then click connect to create a line between them, here is what I did.
Alternately you can use the cut tool and cut your lines into your object.
Next activate vertex mode, select and move your vertexes around so you get something like this.
Next let’s slice our aircraft down the center and delete half of it, like this.
Also delete both the front and back so we have a tube.
Next we can apply a symmetry modifier to our aircraft so as we work on one side the other half automatically updates.
Next let’s finish up the ends of our cylinder, start by activating edge mode and selecting one of the end edges of our model. Start to extrude the edges out following the blueprint by holding down SHIFT and dragging out, do this until both sides of your model are complete as seen here.
Next let’s work on the wings, start by creating a few new lines here.
Next activate polygon mode and select these polygons.
Next extrude them out like this, by using the extrude command.
Next place more lines and move vertexes around until you have your wings looking like this.
Next we can apply Mesh smooth to our model to see what it looks like, go to your modifier panel and apply Mesh smooth to your model between symmetry like this.
Next lets work on the cockpit, activate edge mode and start creating some new lines here.
Next, start by selecting the top polygons associated with the cockpit and extrude them up.
Always remember to delete all polygons from the inside of your aircraft, because when using symmetry, these polygons can cause problems when you apply a smooth modifier to your model.
Next move your edges and vertexes around until you get something like this.
To close up the front and back parts of our aircraft we can use the bridge command. Select two edges that need to be closed and press the bridge command.
You can also add some extra lines to give it more shape. Do this until your front and back are sealed.
This is what we should have so far.
Next let’s work on the tail and the tail wings. Start by creating a new line here, this will help us get the correct design for our tail.
Next select these polygons.
Next extrude them first up one level then another level but leave out the polygon to your left so you get a square like shape.
Next use your vertex mode and move the vertexes around so you get a shape like this.
Remember to delete the inside polygons after you are finished so you get a smooth look.
Next we can create the tail fins just like we did the wings. Select these polygons and extrude, then move vertexes around to get a good look.
We should now get something like this.
Now let’s give our aircraft more detail, we can do this by creating the cabin windows, by placing more lines on our wings and body to give it a better shape so when we use Mesh Smooth again it will look even better.
Let’s first work on the windows, start by selecting these polygons and giving them an inset, we will want to use by polygon setting.
Next delete the inside polygon here.
Next extrude in the inset polygons you just created.
Then detach to element your windows and give them another general texture with half opacity like windows.
Do all your windows just like the first ones and you should get something like this.
To help our windows keep their shape we need to add some extra lines, let’s do this now, make some cuts or add lines here.
We should have something like this now.
I am going to work a little bit more on the shape of our wings, so I selected a line on the inside of the wing and pressed the Ring command.
Next I will add a single line in the center of the wing to give it more shape by pressing the connect button.
Now we can pull out the new lines a little bit on each side of our wing to give it a more round look, do the same to the back tail wings.
Next let’s build the propeller, to do this we need a front cone. We can use a cone primitive or a cylinder and shape it into a cone. I am going to use a cone primitive with 10 sides and segments of 1.
To make the cone fit we need to expand the front end of our aircraft, so activate vertex mode and move some vertexes around so you get something like this.
Next turn the cone into an editable poly object, delete the back of it and ad some lines to make it more bulbous, like this.
Next to create the propeller, create a long box in the front viewport, then move it into position according to the blueprints.
Next we want to shape our propeller blade, so convert it to editable poly and then shape it by adding lines and moving vertexes until you get something like this.
Here is a close up of the front shape.
This is what it looks like mesh smoothed.
We can also give it a little twist; do this by selecting the bottom half vertexes and rotating them slightly.
Next part is to copy and rotate your propellers. You can do this very easily by going to the Hierarchy tab and selecting affect pivot only. Next move your pivot to the center of your propeller hub where your propellers will spin from.
Next to rotate your propeller, click on tools then array.
Next change the rotate value to 360 and press preview to see what happens then give your rotate number a 3 or 4 or 5. Some of these aircraft have 3 propellers and some have 4 or 5, so it is up to you how many you want. I am going to use 3.
So far we should have something like this.
Next we can work on the wheels, start by creating a cylinder in your side viewport according to your blueprint.
Next move it into place.
Next give your cylinder 30 sides and then convert it to editable poly, then select both edges of your wheel.
Next we will chamfer our wheel edges like this; I used a setting of 1.
Next activate polygon mode and select both front and back as seen here and inset a few times.
Now extrude in to create the bolt and connection place of the wheel.
The final touches on our wheel are going to be traction grooves, so what we need to do is create some more lines through the center, like this.
Next we are going to chamfer them; I used a setting of 0.04 like this.
If you go to your front view and hold down CTRL and drag a selection between your new polygons, you can select all three polygon sets as seen here.
Next extrude them in a small amount, use Local Normal as the type; with mesh smooth applied you should get something like this. Of course you can do as much or as little detail as you like, for this tutorial I will leave my wheel like this.
Next go to your spline tab and click on line, then draw a line as seen here connecting your wheel to the bottom of your wings. Remember to check mark Enable in Render and Viewport and set the size to something like 2.2.
Next position the new line so that it matches all viewports and then convert it to editable poly, you can also apply a general texture to it and the wheel.
Next activate edge mode and select this edge, then chamfer it like this.
Now let’s give our wheel pole some depth, create a few lines here.
Now activate polygon mode and select these polygons, then extrude them in or out to create sections.
Next to help our new pole keep its shape when we apply mesh smooth to it we need to give it more lines. Select all these edges and give them connect of 2 with a pinch of 90.
Now attach them to your wings and you have two wheels.
The back wheel is very similar to the creation of the front wheels; you can copy one of the front wheels to the back, scale it down and then attach it to a spline that is converted to editable poly as seen here.
Next let’s do some more work on the engines, as you can see in the blueprints as well as any images you downloaded from the internet, the engine has a bunch of little pipes coming out of it. To start create two lines here.
Next select these polygons and delete them.
Next select the new edge cutout and while holding down SHIFT drag in and down creating a hole.
Give our new whole some strength to hole its shape by creating some new lines here.
Next go to your spline tab and create a spline for one of the tubes coming out of the engine.
Next convert to editable poly and delete both the front and back polygons so you have a tube.
Next give your tube a little thickness by applying a shell modifier to it, I used a setting of 0.12 on the inside.
Next convert back to editable poly and then copy it 6 times as seen here.
Let’s add some extra detail to our body, wings and tail. To start first save two copies of your work as different names, this helps so if you do not like anything you do in the next step you can always go back to the previous model
So next collapse your mesh smooth modifier in your modifier stack so you only have editable poly and symmetry as seen here. Make sure mesh smooth is turned on when you collapse.
Next let’s create our wing flaps, or ailerons. Select these polygons and detach to element.
Then move them away from your wings a very small amount so you leave a small gap.
We can even give them another texture so we know what they are like this.
Do this for all your wing and tail flaps so you have something like this.
Next we can add a small seat for the cockpit, follow these instructions for building your seat and then place in inside your cockpit area.
Place your seat inside your cockpit area as seen here.
To create an interior for our cockpit we will need to work from the inside, if you still have your symmetry active in your modifier stack, turn it off by clicking on the little light bulb.
Next select the edge inside the cockpit area just under the front window and extrude it out by holding down SHIFT and dragging.
If you can’t see the texture on the polygons you are extruding, you can flip the normal values by clicking on polygon and then select the extruded polygons and click on flip.
Continue to extrude the polygons in edge mode until you have a nice looking cockpit as seen here.
Next part, apply a general texture to it and close off the side by selecting different edges and bridging them, or using cape holes in the modifier, then give it a mesh smooth by clicking on MSmooth in polygon selection.
We should now have a cockpit area like this.
To finish up our modeling, let’s install some guns on our aircraft. According to many of the reference images it looks like the guns were mounted on the wings.
You can create your guns any way you like; I am going to create mine with a cylinder. Start out by creating a cylinder and converting it to editable poly; next delete both ends so it becomes a tube.
Next move it into place and give it some lines and delete some polygons so you get something like this. I added more lines to the cylinder then deleted holes in the side and extruded them in, I also extruded the front.
Now give it a mesh smooth so you get something like this, and then attach it to your aircraft, you can even duplicate it if you like.
So here is the finished model.
Next is how to texture our model. We will be using Photo shop for texturing, however the techniques used in Photo shop can be applied to almost any layer based image program.
So to start out collapse everything in your modifier stack so you only have editable poly.
Next make sure all parts of your model that will be on the same texture are attached to each other. For example: All body parts should be together. All engine or propeller parts could be together, and all wheel and bay door parts. Etc..
However if you would like to try and texture the whole aircraft with one texture then we can do that also. You would then have to attach all parts into one. Or slowly attach each part as you build your texture blueprint.
I am going to texture my aircraft with one texture and gradually add different parts as I go along. So to start make sure all your aircraft body parts are one object. No propeller or seat or wheels, just body.
Next apply an Unwrap UVW Map modifier; also it is a good time to save as another file.
Next click on Open UV Editor.
You should now see a screen like this; this is where we are going to build our texture blueprint.
First step is to go up to the top and click on Mapping then Normal Mapping.
Next chose this option, Left Right Mapping. If you like you can play around with the different options, but this option seems to work well.
Next arrange your aircraft sides so they align up together like this.
Next part is to close down the editor and then select just the wings.
Do the same thing you did to the body, click on Mapping then Normal Mapping and this time chose Back Front Mapping. Then arrange them so they fit nicely on the texture plane.
Do this same step to the back tail wings.
Next step is to collapse the UVW Map Modifier and attach another object, like the propellers or wheels and then repeat the process of positioning the UVs.
So I am going to attach the propeller next.
I am going to delete two of the blades and when I am finished texturing the single blade I will copy it to the other sides so I get three blades all using the same texture spot. We can do this technique with our wheels also.
Here is what I did.
Next let’s add our wheels.
Finely we add our seat and cockpit. You can also shrink different parts of the aircraft UVs to make room for other parts if you need to. Right now it is looking quite full; however I think we can get our cockpit in without scaling down too much.
I had to scale some things down such as the wings and wheels however it turned out looking quite good.
Next step is to render a UV template. Click on tools then Render UV Template.
Next put your resolution in the top field, I am using 4096 X 4096, I like high resolution because you can always scale down. However if you are modeling for a computer game, then the best resolution would be something like 2048 X 2048, or any number as a power of 2. When you are ready, press render UV template and save your template in your texture directory.
Next load up Photo shop and open your new UV template. Keep 3ds Max open if you can, that way you can see your texture update automatically as you work, this helps greatly to make sure everything aligns up perfectly.
When your template is loaded, take your magic wand tool and click any ware on the black, next click Select then Inverse to inverse your selection. Next Click edit Copy and then edit Paste, so you have a cutout of your template.
Next click Save and save your file as an image file, name it texture. I am going to use a TIFF file because it can be saved with layers and it can be updated instantly.
Next Right click on your cutout file and chose Blending Options, click Stroke and chose a size 8. This gives us some extra space while creating our texture.
Next create a new layer between the background layer and the cutout layer, name it Base. It is always a good idea to name each layer as you create it, this way if you have many layers you can navigate easily.
The base layer is going to be the base color for your texture; I chose a light gray color.
Next let’s apply our new texture to our 3D model. We can do this by opening our material editor and placing out texture in the diffuse slot, then pressing Assign Material to Selection. Now every time we save our file in Photo Shop our texture will automatically update.
Now let’s start some serious texturing.
Let’s do the wheels first, they are easy. First go to www.my3dtextures.com or other free texture resource websites and look for a wheel texture in the free texture section.
Pick a wheel you like, download it and then open it in your Photo shop program. Cut the wheel out as you like and position it over the wheel section you created from your UVs.
Next select the color of your wheel tire and apply it to the other parts of your tire. Then save your file with the cutout turned off and go look at your 3D model.
This is what we created with our wheel texture.
Next let’s do a base layer for out aircraft body. Follow the color and designs of all your aircraft references you downloaded recently. This is what I did for my texture.
The result on our 3D model is this; it is a start and coming along nicely. This base layer is for color mostly and to see how everything looks on your model, later on we can add more detail and also other things like dirt, or rust, or bullet holes.
Keep on working your texture, adding more color, details and anything else you think will look good then save your texture and see your 3D model automatically update with the new texture.
This is the final texture for this tutorial I created.
The End result.
Rendered with Mental Ray.