Tips That Never Get Old

Here are a few tips that help improve the experience when working with 3ds Max®.

1. Non-destructive Edits with the Modifier Stack

It’s no secret that the modifier stack is an incredibly powerful tool unlike any available in other applications.  The stack provides the ability to apply modifications with an infinite number of ways to review and control their impact on our objects.  Using the stack ensures there is a record of the decisions we’ve made so we can always return our object to its original state.  Generally speaking, users limit themselves to the basic abilities of the modifiers and parameters within them.  One important behavior that gets overlooked is that we can make sub-object modifications to our selections and store those changes using the stack.  We can bend, manipulate, change or delete polygons, vertices, or entire chunks of our objects while having the option to return to the original form any time.  The trick is to apply the Edit Poly modifier before making sub-object modifications. See Figure 1 for an example.

Figure 1: Sub-object modifications and modifier stack

2. Generate Topology

The Topology tool manipulates the edges of an object based on templates provided and input parameters. We can use this tool to build a wide range of objects including brick walls, stone walkways, abstract art, and much more. See Figure 2.

Figure 2: Generate Topology tool

3. Edge Distance

The Edge Distance option with soft selection restricts the selection to contiguous faces. This is particularly useful when selecting protruding parts of objects where a portion is difficult to see or select. See Figure 3 for example.

Figure 3: Soft selection with Edge Distance

4. Sub-object Editing

The default shortcuts to enter the sub-object editing mode of an Editable Poly are 1 through 5.  For example, if I want to edit the vertices of an Editable Poly I’ve selected, I would press the number 1 on my keyboard. For the faces, I’d type in number 4.  To exit the mode, we have to ensure the Keyboard Shortcut Override toggle is set to Off.  With the override off, we can press the key again to exit.  See Figure 4.

Figure 4: Keyboard Shortcut Override

5. Removing Materials

Within the More Button of the Utilities tab lies a trove of tools. One I’d like to present is the UVW Remove tool.  While the UVW option of the tool works only on collapsed editable meshes, the Material Removal option works on anything selected.  See Figure 5.

Figure 5: UVW Remove

Brian Chapman is an Autodesk Authorized Developer, creator of Pro-Cad.Net and a Senior Designer for an engineering firm located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brian can be reached at

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