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Introduction to Basic Box Modeling, Nautilus Shell

Author: Susurrus

Tools Needed

* Hexagon


I am a complete newbie to Hexagon and 3D modeling in general; having had little success with other 3D modeling programs I didn't expect much of my chances with Hexagon. After watching the video I attempted to model the “Wild Space Cow” shown in the First video Tutorial included with Hexagon. My results weren't stunning, but a million miles away from anything I had achieved before. This first flush of success urged me to try and model something more to my tastes; I now wish to share with you this tutorial showing how to make the Nautilus shell I went on to model using basic Box modeling tools.

Step 1: Before you begin

Throughout this tutorial I have used the default layout, so if you have troubles finding any of the tools I point you to, it might be worth resetting your work area by opening File in the taskbar then User Resources and clicking Reset all (see below).


I strongly suggest reading the short section in the Hexagon Documentation from page 25 about navigating in the 3D environment then watching the video of the first tutorial included with Hexagon (which requires QuickTime), as it shows you how the basic Box modeling tools work.

The locations of the specific tools used in this tutorial are included at the beginning of each Step.

Step 2: Create a Cube


Square up your view and zoom out a bit so you have a good strait-on view of one of the side grids, this makes proportioning your model easier.


In the Modeling tools palette in the 3D Primitives tab select the Cube.

Position your cursor in the middle of the 3D workspace.

Click your mouse once to designate the start position of your Cube.

Drag your cursor away to increase the size of your cube, and back to decrease.

Click again to set the size of your Cube.


Note. For this model I recommended you make your Cube approximately the size of one of the squares on the grid.

Step 3: Select the polygon on the right side of your Cube


In the Selection palette, click Select Faces. This enables you to only select and manipulate faces (polygons) on your model.

Now rotate your view (you can rotate your view by holding down Alt + left mouse button, moving mouse to rotate as required) until you have a good view of the polygon on the right side of your cube.

Hover your mouse over this polygon, it will turn blue, now click to select it.


Step 4: Activate the Sweep tool


From the Modeling tools palette select the Vertex modeling tab and activate the Sweep tool.

Your selected polygon will jump out to where your cursor is.


Using the Sweep tool:

Click once to set each new section in place.

Right click to resize your section.

Double click to Validate when you're finished.

Note. Position your section before resizing it.

Take this moment to fiddle around a little with the Sweep tool, changing your view, moving your selected polygon back and forth, until you feel comfortable with it.

If, after playing around, you have a bit of a mess simply Undo (Edit Menu or Ctrl+Z) a couple of times.


Note. You can undo at any point whilst using the Sweep tool to remove the section you just created.

Step 5: Use the Sweep tool to create a Spiral (see pic below)


It may take you a few attempts to get the curvature of the spiral and its number of sections to your liking.

Remember don't try to duplicate what I've done; this is an organic model so its individuality is what's important. The only thing you must ensure is that you don't make your sections too long (see below), as you then won't have enough polygons to create the rest of your model from.


Step 6: Create the lower opening


Ensure that Select Faces is active (if it is blue it is active), if not, activate it again (see Step 3).

Rotate your view so you can see the left polygon of your first cube.

Click to select it.


Now you need to choose a polygon on your spiral (see pic below) to keep in your mind (don't select it), which you can aim at when you use the Sweep tool.


Once you have chosen your target polygon, use the Sweep tool on your selected polygon on your first Cube. Continue the outer curve of your spiral up towards the inner curve of your spiral leaving a gap between the two, which we will fill in later.

See pic below for the result.


Now select the top polygon of your first Cube and create a similar extrusion to the one you just did, this time aiming at the gap you previously left. See pic below.


Step 7: Create the Braces


To create your braces you can use one or two polygons.

To use two polygons, select the first by highlighting then clicking on it; then select the second whilst holding down the Shift key, highlight it then click to select it.

See below for a representation of what your brace will look like with one polygon selected or two polygons selected.


I made only three sections to my brace but you can make more if you wish, do what looks right to you. The only thing to keep in mind is that we are going to use polygons on the top of each of the braces to make the little barbs.

Don't forget to leave a gap between the end of your brace and spiral, as in the next Step I will show you how to create a smooth transition between the two.

To create your first brace, ensure that Select Faces is active and select one or two polygons on your spiral, activate the Sweep tool.

Now you can use this same technique to create the rest of your braces. You can make whatever shape, size and number of braces you wish with as many sections to them, and as much space between each as you wish. Experiment and come up with something you like, don't worry too much about their positioning at the moment as you can adjust that latter on. (See below for the result of what I did).


Step 8: Use the Bridge tool to connect the braces


Rotate your view so you can see clearly the end polygon of one of your braces, then select it.

Rotate view again, hold down Shift and select a corresponding polygon on your spiral.


Under the Vertex Modeling tab select the Bridge tool.

Now the gap between your two selected polygons should be filled with a new section linking the two together (see pic below).


Note. If you used more than one polygon to create one of your braces, simply select all the polygons on the end of your brace and then select a polygon/polygons on your spiral. Then use the Bride tool as before.


Repeat this process for the rest of your braces.


Step 9: Resolving problems with the Bridge tool


If during the process of using the Bridge tool something appears to go weird, inside out or twisted don't worry, just Undo and use the Universal Manipulator (see page 44 of the documentation included with Hexagon for explanation of use if you're not sure how to use it) to rotate and reposition your selected polygon until it looks like the two will Bridge smoothly and try again.

If you discover a hole in your model you can create the missing polygon with the Bridge tool.

Activate Select Edges from the Selection palette and select an edge on each side of your hole. Now activate the Bridge tool to create a polygon between the two edges.



Step 10: Create the Barbs


Select a polygon on the top of one of your braces.


As before with your braces, you can select more polygons to use if you wish.

Use the Sweep tool to create your barb; you will need to decrease the size of each section quite dramatically in order to create a sharp point to your barb.

(See below for result)


Now you can create barbs on the rest of your braces, or only the outer ones as I have (see below).


Step 11: Add smoothing and tweak your model


Now your model is essentially finished, to really see what you've achieved click Increase Smoothing in the Vertex modeling tab twice.


The Universal Manipulator (see page 44 of the documentation included with Hexagon for explanation of use) is very easy to use although it will take a while to get used to. Now is the time when you can use the Universal Manipulator to start tweaking your model, removing annoying little lumps, changing the angle and size of your braces etc.


Whilst using the Universal Manipulator, in the top right of your screen you will see the Properties window. In the Properties window you will see a Soft Selector tick box, using this in conjunction with the Radius slide bar beneath it allows the selection of multiple points around your selection, this is known as soft deformation.

You can also use the Symmetry button when you wish for your changes to be mirrored, along an axis, down each side of your model.

One thing in particular I would suggest adjusting in your model is the angle of the edges connecting your braces with your spiral.

In the Selection Palette click Select Edges.

Select an edge connecting your brace to your spiral, then rotate your view round to the other side of your model, hold down the Shift key and select the edge opposite to the one you previously selected. Now use the Universal Manipulator to rotate your selected edges.


As you can see in the pic below, even this simple tweak makes a subtle but effective difference to the overall appearance of the model.


Step 12: Your finished model

Now your model is finished you can also use the Sweep tool again to add individuality to your model (see pic below).


I did the model for this tutorial in only ten minutes, so it's a bit ruff round the edges. You can take much longer tweaking and perfecting your model to come up with something like the one below; my original model which I've spent overall about an hour tweaking to get just right.


I hope you have had success with this tutorial and will move on to more ambitious projects after seeing the impressive results possible with only these simple tools. I also hope to write some more tutorials about the more advanced tools and techniques used in Hexagon, as I learn them myself.

Till then, Happy Modeling!