Expanding on Details

In previous articles, I’ve mentioned how details affect our work. I’d like to expand on that by presenting two methods you can use to add complex details to your scenes quickly.

Importing and Working with Paths from Photoshop

I’ll start with the metallic lion mounted on the pillar shown in Figure 1.  Using Adobe Photoshop with 3ds Max®, we can add objects like this lion to our scene in just a few minutes.

Figure 1

First, locate (or create) an image similar to the one in Figure 2.  Open the file with Adobe Photoshop. Refer to Figure 2 where I marked the following steps in numerical order. Using the magic wand tool (1) with the contiguous option unchecked (2), click a point on the image that makes up the shape you want to import into 3ds Max.  Once the shape is selected, navigate to the Paths tab (3) and select the Make Work Path from Selection option (4).  Next, export the path to an Adobe Illustrator format using the File Menu -> Export -> Paths to Illustrator option.

Figure 2

In 3ds Max, select the File menu and choose Import to import the file. 3ds Max will ask if you want to merge the file into the current scene, completely replace the scene, and if you want the path to be a single object or multiple objects. Once your selections are complete, 3ds Max will insert the path as an editable spline. Apply the Edit Poly modifier to the spline object(s). You can now extrude the faces or work with the object however you’d like.

Working with the Displace Modifier

With the Displace modifier we can engrave or emboss images in our objects to add detail or use as guides for reconstruction.  See the tiger engraved into the wall of the child’s room in Figure 3. Like the lion, this took just a few minutes to create.

Figure 3

First, select an image similar to the one displayed in Figure 2.  I chose an image of a tiger for this exercise.  Insert a plane with length and width segments set to one.  Next, apply the Subdivide modifier and navigate to its parameters. Since we are trying to engrave a fairly detailed image into our object we need to adjust the size of the subdivision until we have plenty of triangles to form our shape.

Next, apply the Displace modifier. The Displace modifier has several properties. Start by selecting your image using the button in the bitmap category identified as step 1 in Figure 4.  Be sure to adjust the image to fit your particular plane by using the Bitmap Fit option under the Alignment category marked by number 2 in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Finally, adjust the strength, decay, and blur values until you achieve the level of detail you want.If you have trouble achieving the desired detail, you may have to readjust the Subdivide modifier parameters to have a higher number of triangles to work with.

Please note there are usually alternate methods to achieving desired results. For example, normal bump maps could be used with materials or the displace feature could be applied through a material to achieve similar results that I presented in this article.  It’s just a matter of exploring the options and applying them as they are appropriate for your needs. 

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