A curve

In Mathematics, a Spline is a numeric Function that is Piecewise-defined by Polynomial function, and which possesses a high degree of smoothness at the places where the polynomial pieces connect (which are known as knots)“. Thank you dear Wikipedia, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

“But, what link can there possibly be between Splines and Polygons?” you may ask yourself. And that’s a legitimate question, since I usually write about polygons and cake (made from polygons too).

Well, you have to know you can actually create 3D models by using these famous splines. That’s right!

A basic spline

As you may know, I mainly use 3DS Max to model my vehicles, buildings, etc. 3DS  taught me to use the word “spline” to define a 3D Bezier curve when it comes to design.

Actually, It’s a commonly used technique in automotive design. Seeing as I mostly model vehicles, it makes perfect sense for me to be working with curves.

However, I apologize in advance, because somehow, I have the feeling this post will feel like a tutorial.

The 3DS Max “Lathe” tool works just like an actual shaping tool and allows to easily sculpt an object  with a very smooth shape.
So, as an example, I’ve made a pretty bowl for you:

The process to use Lathe modifier.

I’ve got another little trick for you : You also can do what is called a “Sweep”. This is actually a  standard shape that you’ll select and with which you’ll “sweep” the previously drawn curve.  The shape is then multiplied to create the desired object.
Here is another example for you, and be prepared, I went a bit crazy and I’m now modeling…a mug!

The process to use Sweep modifier.

Anyway, now that you see how it works, let’s get serious and I’ll show you how you can apply it to your 3D modeling.

Once, in my student days, I was looking for a tool to model by using Splines, and I finally found a tool called SURFACE. At the beginning, Surface was a third party plugin, then Kinetix eventually bought the licence and included the tool in 3DS Max 3.0. I don’t know who this third-party is, but I owe him a big “thanks”.

Digging through my archives, I found the following model. That’s what it looked like the first time I tried to use this tool, based on three pieces of circles intersecting with each other.

The use of a Surface modifier

How did the software turn this into that? I don’t have a clue. Voodoo magic?
Well, and so… how do you put this technique into practice? Among other things, you can  use these tricks to model a vehicle. An airplane, for example.

Use of spline in modeling

It can also be used for specific organic creations.
Like for this wonderful purple…marshmallow.
I could probably have made something sexier, but you get the idea.

Chantilly

In short, I love modeling using Splines . The tool “Surface modifier ” is probably my favorite, it’s part of the workflow for all my vehicles .

I also think it’s a good starting point to model an object with a lot of rounded surfaces .

However , be aware that Splines, alone, are difficult to comprehend in 3D for our poor humanoid eyes that can’t decide whether a form is curved or hollow. So we will have to get used to the tool and rotate around your model, regularly move the camera angle to visualize the form , and then use the Surface modifier.

If you’re not using this technique already, I can only recommend you try it asap!

Cheers

Philemon