Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > PHP/MySQL/Scripting

3D Modeling Basics

This chapter is from the book

Working in the 3D World

Because each program is unique and does things a little differently, it's up to you to get up to speed on the user interface for your product, learning about how to move around, change the viewports, and so forth. However, they all have some things in common. Each has viewports into the 3D universe, sets of mouse-selected and type-in commands and parameters, dialogs or text files where you can set options, and so forth. Let's take a look at some of the things to be concerned with.

Getting Around

You'll probably be using a mouse to construct and modify objects, as well as navigate your way through the 3D universe. Familiarize yourself with any special functions the mouse performs through the use of the mouse button or key combinations. In particular, look for shortcuts that enable you to manipulate frequently used controls, such as selecting axes and switching between move, rotate, and scale functions.

To modify a shape or object, you have to select it, which usually highlights it somehow to set it apart from the rest. You can select things in the typical ways, by clicking on them with the cursor or dragging a marquee around a cluster of objects. In addition, many products allow you to open a dialog box and select objects by name, type, or color, which is very useful for picking out groups of related objects quickly (especially if you've followed a good object-naming convention).

You'll spend a lot of time peering at viewports, so get familiar with their controls. Most programs provide a way to pan (slide around the viewpoint) so that you can see things that are off to one side. You can also zoom in for detail work or zoom out to see more of the scene. There may also be a zoom all control that will automatically zoom out to show you everything in the scene. This is very helpful when you're trying to locate and move wayward pieces that were imported or created somewhere away from the rest of the model.

Most programs allow you to customize your viewports, selecting where you want the top view, the left view, the perspective view, and so on to be located. You may also be able change the size of these windows in some cases. If you can't select a new viewport with a mouse click, learn the hotkeys for changing views so you don't have to resort to using a drop-down menu.

Units and Scale

3D software uses coordinates to keep track of the size and location of objects, but these numbers are extremely long and rather awkward for users to work with directly. It's much more practical to use measurement systems you're familiar with, like inches or centimeters. Because of this, 3D programs often allow users to select the type of units they want to use for measuring: English (feet and inches), Metric (meters and centimeters), or Generic (decimal numbers, but much shorter than coordinates). In addition, they may let the user choose between fractional (1/2) or decimal (0.5) display.

Just as blueprints and engineering drawings use a scale—such as 1/8"=1'-0" or 1cm=1m—3D programs often allow you to set a scaling factor as well. It's important to set both units and scale when you first start a project, and be sure you use the same ones when building other models to combine with the first. That way, you're using a consistent measurement system, and when you merge the models into a single project, they'll be the proper sizes relative to each other.

Grids and Snaps

Grids are cross-hatched lines that can be seen in the viewport and used like graph paper for determining scale when creating objects (see Figure 3.5). When you build a 3D object, part of it usually ends up on a default grid that radiates out of the origin point, in the center of the 3D universe. However, you can change the spot at which an object will appear through the use of construction planes or construction grids, which are alternate, movable planes that move the default location for new objects to other parts of the universe. These are useful when you have a large scene and are working in a particular section only, or if you want objects to appear already aligned to a particular plane.

Figure 3.5FIGURE 3.5 Using grids and snaps: (a) Grids and snaps make the creation and alignment of shapes and objects easier. (b) Because both objects are active regardless of viewpoint, you can align objects from any perspective. (c) For creating free-form shapes or objects, turn snap off. (d) Snaps can be set independently of the grid, making it easier to handle adjustments that are smaller than the grid.

The snap feature usually is employed in conjunction with a grid and causes the cursor to snap from one position to another, usually at the intersection of two grid lines. Depending on the program, you may be able to snap to the vertices or faces on objects as well. Note that the snap setting can be different from the grid setting, which is convenient for creating or moving objects precisely without having to alter the grid setting.

It's a good idea to use grids and snaps whenever possible, because it makes your shapes and alignments more exact, and you probably will find that it makes the modeling process go faster.

Hide and Unhide

Hide enables you to make a shape or object disappear from the scene; use Unhide to make it reappear later. This pair of commands is great for clearing out mesh that you don't need to see at the present time (as well as preventing that mesh from being accidentally modified), and it makes the scene render faster, as well. Sometimes, however, you want to see the object, but don't want it to be selected or modified accidentally. That's where a command that is commonly called either Freeze or Ghost comes in.


When you apply Freeze or Ghost to a shape or object, it still appears in the scene, but you cannot select it while it's frozen. This is a very useful feature, because 3D scenes tend to get quite complex, and it's easy to pick or transform the wrong object. Frozen objects usually change color, letting you know the object is frozen so you don't get frustrated trying to figure out why you can't select it. When you want to modify the object, you can Unfreeze or Unghost it.


Grouping is a convenient way to attach a number of different shapes or objects together temporarily. This enables you to deal with them as a whole for transforms, mapping, and other operations, but still tweak them on an individual basis if need be.

Creating a group is easy—just select the objects you want, Group them, and give the group a name. In addition, some programs enable you to manipulate individual objects within a group without using Ungroup first.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020