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Modeling, Texturing & Rigging a Realistic Shark in 3D Studio Max - Part 1

In our latest series, and first animal-based tutorial you'll learn how to create a believable shark in 3D Studio Max. In part 1, author Soni Kumari will walk you through the entire process of modeling the shark's body, fins, mouth, eyes and teeth using 3D Studio Max's standard poly modeling tool-set. Later parts in the series will cover UV Mapping and Texturing, as well as creating a versatile and animation friendly rig for the Shark.

Let's start by launching 3ds Max and loading our reference images for the front, top and left views. So keep the panels views in "Reset" mode as shown in the image below.


First click on the Create panel and select the Plane primitive, then create a plane in the Front view.


Press the M key on the keyboard (or click on the Material Editor button on main tool bar), to open the Material Editor window. Here select an empty material slot and then click on the Diffuse map button.


This opens the Material/Map Browser window. Here click on Bitmap map and then click on the OK button.


The Select Bitmap Image File browser window will now open. Here select the "Front Reference" image file, which has been supplied with this tutorial and then press the Open button.


Select the active material slot where our map is applied, and then drag and drop it onto the Plane primitive in the Front viewport. Also click on the Show Bitmap button, and check on the 2- Sided option box.


Now jump into the Left viewport and create another Plane primitive, just like we did for the front view.


Select another empty material slot, and this time apply the "Side Reference" image of the shark, and then repeat the process from steps 3 to step 6.


Following the same process, we have now added all three images in the Top, Front and Left views.


With all three planes selected, do a Right-click and select the Object Properties... command from the popup menu.


It opens the Object Properties window. Here uncheck the Show Frozen in Gray option, and then click on the OK button to apply the command to the selected planes in the viewport.


With the same planes selected, do another Right-click and choose the Freeze Selection command in the popup menu.


Next we will start modeling the shark. So again click on the Create panel, and then in the Geometry group, under Standard Primitives, select the Box primitive. Then create a box in the perspective view by clicking and dragging, as shown in the following image.


Jump into the Left view to arrange the box primitive properly. With the box selected, do a Right-click and select Convert To: > Convert to Editable Poly to make it editable.


Now while in Vertex Sub-Object Mode, try to adjust the vertices according to the reference image.


To add more detail, we need more edge loops. So while in Edge selection mode, select any of the corner edges and then click on the Ring button to select all four corner edges. Then Right-click on the box primitive, and click on the Connect options box in the pop up menu as shown below.


This opens the Connect settings options. Select Segments and keep the value at 4. Then click on the green check mark button to apply the connect command.


Back in Vertex selection mode, adjust the vertices to match the reference image as shown.


Following the same procedure as before, add 3 edge loops horizontally.


Next jump in the Front view, and add an edge loop down the center of the box using the Ring and Connect commands. We'll be using symmetry to model our shark, and we need this additional edge loop so we can delete half of the polygons, before adding the symmetry effect.


So while in Face selection mode, select half of the faces as shown, and press the Delete key to delete the selected polygon faces.


With the half box selected, go to the Modify panel, click on the modifier drop down arrow and choose the Symmetry modifier from the modifier list, to apply it to the box.


After applying the Symmetry modifier, choose Y as the Mirror Axis direction and check on the Flip option.


While still in the Front view, adjust the vertices to match the reference image.


Now jump into the Top view, and again try to adjust the vertices according to the reference image.


Next, select the cap faces on both ends of the box and press the Delete key to delete them.


In the Left viewport and with Edge selection mode active, select all the border edges around the tail end.


With the border edges selected, press and hold the Shift key, and then drag back 5 times to extrude the boarder edges towards the tail.


With the mesh selected, press Alt+X to enter X-Ray Mode and make the mesh transparent. This will give you a chance to easily see the background reference image when adjusting the vertices.


Also jump into the Top view and adjust the outlining vertices to the reference image.


Following the same procedure, we extrude the border edges towards the head of the shark maintaining the mesh flow according to the reference image.


Now let’s work on the mouth area of the shark. So zoom in on the mouth area, and select the two outer edges. Then extrude them thrice, to make the jaw.


After extruding the edges, adjust the vertices of the jaw to match the reference image.


Following the same technique, select the four edges of the upper mouth area, and extrude them six times as shown below.


After extruding the edges, adjust the vertices of the upper mouth area accordingly following the reference image.


In the Top view, the front of the shark still looks like a box. So we need to adjust it further to match the reference.


So back in Vertex selection mode, arrange the vertices according to the top reference image.


Next we will adjust things in the Perspective view.


To add more detail to the shark model, we need to insert more edges. So here I have inserted an edge loop along the bottom using the Connect edge tool.


I have also added another edge along the top of the shark, again using the Connect tool.


Select the four edges beneath the upper mouth area, as shown below.


Then with the Shift key pressed, drag the edges along the Y-Axis to complete the poly loop inside the mouth. Also Scale and align the border edges to fill any possible gaps in between.


Select the next two edges along the upper mouth, and extrude them in the same as we did previously.


Finally select the last upper edge, and extrude it to fill in the gap as shown in the image below.


Now we will merge or "weld" the vertices as needed. So while in Vertex selection mode, do a Right-click on the polygon mesh and choose the Target Weld command in the fly out menu list.


With the tool active, select the first vertex and then drag and drop it on the target vertex, to weld them together.


After welding the vertices, connect the edges three times to fill the gap.


In the Border selection mode, select the border edges as shown and click on the Cap button to fill the holes.


In Vertex selection mode, select the two vertices (shown in red below) and click on the Connect button to connect the selected vertices together.


Now create one more edge loop as shown.


Next switch to Polygon selection mode, and select the indicated faces inside the mouth, and then Extrude them inside.


With Polygon selection mode still active, select the Cut tool and then cut the polygon faces as shown in the image below.


With the Cut tool still selected, try to make any triangular faces "quad", by cutting new edges as shown below. In this way we have completed both the lower and upper mouth areas.


Now let’s make the fins of the shark. So while in the Left view, select the two polygon faces indicated below.


With the polygons selected, Extrude them upward once, according to the reference image.


Select the unneeded polygon faces on the inside and then Delete them.


Jump into the Left view, and select the ring edges. Then use the Connect tool to create 3 edge loops around the fin.


Switch from Polygon to Vertex selection mode and then adjust the vertices, according to the reference image.


Again jump into the Perspective view and select the polygon shown in the image below.


With the polygon selected, Extrude it downwards once according to the reference image.


Jump into the Front view, and adjust the vertices of the side fin according to the reference image.


Now switch to Edge selection mode, and add 3 edge loops around the side fin using the Connect tool.


To better adjust the vertices, jump into the Top view and then adjust the side fin’s vertices according to the reference image.


Again use the Connect tool to create an edge loop across the side fin.


Following the same process, create the rest of the small fins.


We have now completed all the fins for the shark model.


Switch to Edge selection mode and then select the tail border edges and Extrude them.


Extrude the tail border edges to the end of the tail, according to the reference image.


Again switch to Polygon selection mode, and then select the top face of the tail and Extrude it upward. Do the same with the bottom face as well. It should now start to look like the tail of a shark.


In this way, we complete the fins and tail of the shark using Connect and Extrude, and by adjusting the vertices wherever needed.


Next we need to delete several unneeded polygons around the border parts of the fins and the tail. So while in the Perspective view, turn off the Symmetry modifier and then select the polygons and delete them.


Again jump into the Top view and then arrange the vertices of the tail and fins according to the reference image.


We also need to extrude and align the center border of the tail. So select the edges around the hole and Extrude them towards the center, then Scale and align them as needed to close the gap.


To check the model with smoothing, turn on the Use NURMS Subdivision option found in the Editable Poly panel, under Subdivision Surface and then set the Iterations value to 2.


In this way, we have created the shark’s body. Now we will make the eyes, nose, teeth and gills.


First we will model the eyes. So jump into the Left view and switch to Vertex selection mode. Then select one vertex around the eye area, and use Chamfer to split the vertex into a polygon.


After chamfering the vertex, switch to Polygon selection mode and then use Cut to cut the surrounding faces to make a quad, as shown in the image below.


Switch to Edge selection mode and Ring the new edges, then apply a Connect to add two extra edge loops around the eye.


Adjust the vertices around the eye to improve the mesh flow and make it circular. Then, add 1 more edge loop around the nostril area using Connect again.


Jump into the Perspective view and switch back to Polygon selection mode. Then select one polygon around the nostril area, and Extrude it inward as shown in the image below.


Now harden the nostril edge, by adding 2 edge loops close together inside the nostril as shown.


In this way, we have completed the nose and eye sockets of the shark.


Next we will model the gills according to the reference image. So Ring the edges around the gill area and add 4 new edge loops vertically, using Connect.


Create 1 more edge loop horizontally to add more detail.


Switch to Vertex selection mode and then arrange the vertices according to the reference image.


While in Edge selection mode, use the Cut tool to create the edges shown in the image below.


Again switch to Vertex selection mode, and select the three vertices in the center of each gill, as shown. Then move the verticies inside the mesh using the Move tool.


Now the gill slits become visible.


To make it much better, hide the other side the mesh by turning off the Symmetry modifier, then arrange the vertices properly.


Once again, turn On the Use NURMS Subdivision option to check the model with smoothing.


Nothing too fancy, just create a simple Sphere object for the eyeball and placed it inside the eye socket.


Now we will make the Shark's teeth. So create a Cone primitive and set the values as follows: Radius 1: 0.65, Radius 2: 0.03, Height: 7.66, Height Segments: 5, Cap Segments: 1 and Sides: 24. In your case, you may need to adjust these values for your model.


You can also Scale the Cone primitive to make it look more like a tooth, if needed.


Make several copies (Edit > Clone) of the tooth, and place them as a row of teeth inside the mouth of the shark. You can randomly Scale or Rotate a couple of teeth for variation.


After duplicating and arranging the teeth, select them all and then click on the Mirror button in the main tool bar. This will open the Mirror settings box. Here set Y as the mirror axis, and turn on the Copy radio button, under the Clone Selection rollout . The Offset value is about 7.8 in my case. However it may need to be changed slightly in your case. Finally click on the OK button.


This action fills the lower jaw with teeth. Now we will follow the same procedure again. This time, select all of the lower teeth and then click on the Mirror button again in the main tool bar. This time select Z as the mirror axis and turn on Copy radio button under Clone Selection. The Offset value this time is about 1.5 in my case. Again you may need to adjust this for your model. Finally click OK and now the upper jaw is filled with teeth also.


Now first turn off the Use NURMS Subdivision option, and then select the Symmetry modifier.


Right-click on the shark mesh and select Convert To > Convert to Editable Poly, to collapse the Symmetry modifier and combine both side meshes into one.


After converting the complete mesh to editable poly. Select the pairs of verticies along the open seam in the center of the shark, and then Right-click and choose Weld from the fly-out menu, to weld the corresponding vertices together. In this way we weld all the center vertices together.


We have now completed the shark model. In the next part of the tutorial, you will learn how to texture the shark model. So save the file as ‘Complete Shark Model.max’ for the next part.




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