I’ve discovered a couple of gotchas while trying to model a toy wooden airplane using 3D Studio Max 2012. In order to give the wooden pieces a rounded look, I was looking to use MeshSmooth. In fact, there’s a good example of using MeshSmooth here. However, my models always came out far too round. Playing with MeshSmooth’s parameters didn’t help at all.

As it turns out, MeshSmooth is not a catch-all solution to round off your models with no further work. I ended up experimenting with Editable Poly to get more hands-on experience.

Important tip: Editable Poly is not the same as the Edit Poly modifier. The Editable Poly structure gives you a Surface Subdivision rollout, while Edit Poly does not. It’s this Surface Subdivision rollout that gives you a chance to subdivide your polygons and get a smooth look, so don’t forget to actually convert your objects to Editable Poly if you need this.

Here is the inspiration I used to model my plane:

Wooden toy plane, used as inspiration for 3D subdivision modelling

An easy to understand example of controlling how your surfaces are subdivided is the airplane’s wing. It started out as a plain box, which I created using 3×3 segments on each side. When you subdivide this mesh, you get a much too rounded shape. The trick is to move some of the interior edges more to the sides, thus influencing the subdivision and rounding.

The result:

Rendering of wooden toy plane model