If you are a new user of 3ds max or an experienced one you know that if you want to improve your workflow you need to see inside the application a bit more. Every application can be used in a so called general way where you just use the basic functions for your purpose, but if you want to get from it the maximum you have to know something extra. With just some extra knowledge you can improve your viewport navigation, tools selection or optimize the time for test renders. There is a lot of ways how to improve your modelling or rendering skills but as by any other software you should first improve the skill needed to handle the application itself. I will focus on the default install of 3ds max which include also MentalRay and not on any third party tools, plugins or renderers.
These tips & tricks can help you to optimize and speed up your workflow and get more experience with 3ds max. Take them just like a guide and not something you need to strictly follow. Also, the workflow tips listed below are used by our tutorials and can help you to follow them.
Keep your 3ds max up to date
Every new release of 3ds max brings a lot of new improvements and bug fixes but also brings new ones. Even that it’s not so bad like by a popular OS system, still it needs to be fixed. The developer team by Autodesk is trying to gather all bug reports and suggestions form users and implement fixes for this as soon as they can. Sometimes the fixes are fixing things which you even don’t use or need but sometimes you are just waiting when they release a new service pack or update. So, a basic rule here is to keep your program up to date and try to follow the releases of the updates or service packs to be able to install them before you face any problem.
Configure your default scene settings
By default 3ds max is configured to load the scene using preconfigured default settings which includes so called „Generic units“ which is a virtual unit system used by 3ds max, Default Scanline Render for rendering and also standard maps inside the „Material Editor“. Usually users are changings this only for a certain purpose at a certain moment, but if you want to save time you can configure 3ds max to load customized settings just on start-up.
- Unit system– Modelling and object using the „Generic units“ it’s fine, but when you want to use physical accurate lightning after you need to make it in real world units (mm, cm, inch,...). Using the menu „Customize > Units Setup“ you can change the settings to anything you want.
- Default renderer – If you are either using MentalRay or any third party renderer you can set-up them as your default renderer which will save you some time
- Default materials – together with changing the renderer you can also choose your default materials inside the material editor, this means that instead of „Standard“ materials you would have all slots filled with „Arch & Design” materials
Know the shortcuts
The workflow inside 3ds max can be optimized just by knowing the some important shortcuts which makes your life much easier and save a lot of time. The shortcuts can be customized and for sure you will not use all of them but some you should know and use every time you model. Here few which can help you with speeding up your workflow.
- „ctrl + left mouse button“ – moving the scene (horizontally & vertically )
- „ctrl + middle mouse button“ – rotating the scene
- Mouse wheel – zoom in/out
- „L, P, B, F“ – toggle the viewports (Left, Perspective, Back, Front)
- „z“ – zoom on the current selection or object
- „alt + x“ – makes selected object see-through
- „c“ – select camera in the current view. If more cameras are present in the scene 3ds max will roll out all of your cameras to select the desired one
- „x“ – does your transforming gizmo disappeared? Try „x“
- „ctrl + x“ – expert mode
- „F10“ – rendering window