Part 1



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So you want to build a plane in 3D Studio Max. First you will need to do some work before you even open up the software.
This tutorial is fairly extensive, some steps are for those more inclined to thoroughness and could be skipped
There are references to other tutorials at various points, so when it says then go & do them. It's part of the lesson here. There is no point my writing sections that are covered elsewhere and in quality too.


It's worth mentioning also a general note about computer software tutorials. In my experience, most software tutorials are walk-thoroughts, in other words, it tells you step by step what to do. I have a feeling that this is not the ideal way to learn. So what I recommend you do is read through all of this, and follow it step at a time but with your own plane based on plans you have obtained.

If you find any stumbling blocks with this tut, please politely contact me- I cannot correct, amend & improve unless I'm approached with an e-mail -feedback. It is important to me that this tutorial is of quality and is therefore useful.



Name Description
Intro this page.
Setting up Units, Shortcuts ...
Methodology & Tools Getting used to the tools
Build a Fuselage learn various tools in Mesh Editing
Make Wings start with a primitive
Aerlerons detaching and linking
Finishing Off Mapping, & getting ready to render
Keyboard Shortcuts my favourite keyboard shortcuts
Repairs What to do if things go wrong
Most pages have a footnote where useful material is found or may be added. This is also the place to find glossary notes and hyperlinks.

This tutorial is primarily aimed at modelers with a good knowledge of aircraft, though other users wanting to learn Max box modeling could hopefully benefit here. I assume you hare familiar with aircraft part nomenclature.

On the right is the kind of image you can make from this tutorial.

final render
  Before you do start, it’s worth stressing that this is not a tutorial on how to build a model for a specific purpose. You will not be able to make a new CFS3/T4T/Il-2 plane from this. This is an independent tutorial though some input has been made from game developers, I do not claim to be contributing to the practice of game design. You should however, be able to render a decent representation of a machine that is clearly recognisable & perhaps involved in some interesting activity. If you have some relative who flew in a particular action, perhaps there is some added incentive there.
If you do want to make game models, refer to the Game/Software Developers Kit (SDK) for your target game.


The value of getting good accurate information cannot be overstated. Though you will no doubt be able to reduce resolution of your model if it is intended for small screen renders, or background objects. Even in games, there will be users who will look in close-up with expert personal knowledge at your model. They then go to their nearest museum with the same plane in it & scrutinize every curve, panel line and pivot point. The best games require new models to be vetted by the design team before general release. What’s worse than having your hard work rejected because of inaccurate modeling?
Get the best plans you can, ideally 1:48 scale plans if you are making an aircraft. Smaller drawings can be a problem because line thickness reduces accuracy considerably. Therefore look for the drawings made with thin lines.
A good source is one of the various aircraft enthusiast or aero-modeler magazines. These have the advantage that there is never a crease in the page to deal with when placed under the scanner.

DXF splines

.plans in zip formatLo-res plans


Many professional model builders use splines arranged in a kind of cage to use a guide when mesh modeling They will normally use CAD software to draw in vector splines the outlines and cross sections needed. Then the splines are imported in to Max either in *.dxf format (or even Adobe *.ai under special circumstances)


Ultimately you will be limited by the fact that the model will have to describe curved forms using facets. A curved nose-cone is actually a number of flat triangles and some compromise is going to be part of each design decision you make. Smooth curves require lots of small triangles close together and this will increase the number of polygons, which is more work for the computer to move around. You will have to judge by eye whether it’s the face centre or edge that lines up with your reference spline, on a curve it has to be one or the other or somewhere in between If you want the computer to refresh the screen quickly enough not to flicker or stutter, then keep the polygon count low. Again, refer to the SDK for the actual limits you are allowed.
At this early stage it’s worth having some communication with your skin designer (if that’s not yourself) since there is much that can be done with clever bitmapping instead of modeling in 3D.

I have used screen capture images extensively in the following pages. In all cases I used fireworks to oprimise the pictures so they download quicker. So hopefully, as you read down the page, images will have loaded before you get to it's respective section.
My tutorial is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it a complete beginners guide, do take the time to browese & follow tutorials in the links below.





Scale Aviation Modeler Although it's the best magazine for plans and useful photos, they have no website. Just go to the newsagents instead.  
Aeroplane Monthly Magazine aimed at the enthusiast- with excellent articles & plans also.
3D World tutorial the FW190 tutorial that was printed in the magazine Issue 21.  
SimOuthouse thread how to set up backgrounds in GMax  
UIUC airfoils technical stuff on aerofoils, for engineers  
Skyraider very high quality WWII modeler in Max, includes a superlative tutorial or two.  
Skinning Skyraiders skinning tutorial  
Flugzeuwerke Il-2 site with excellent resources & in depth info on planes specific to the Eastern front.  
Lemsko de German modeller with pages showing verious stages of each model's development.  
Microsoft's P38 the infamous P38 tutorial that comes with GMax.  
   airtut conts

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