For many of us, the holy grail of modeling surface detail is the ability to “paint” geometry directly onto a surface in 3d space – being able to generate complex effects, or influence subtle variation with the stroke of the mouse or stylus. Tools such as Mudbox and Zbrush already support this exact mode of working, however combining geometry painting with the parametrics of 3ds Max to achieve responsive panel behavior would be a “best of both worlds” scenario. We’ll test this concept in the video below. Using the new viewport canvas tool in combination with the displacement modifier, we’ll attempt to build and manipulate surface effects similar to the embossed pattern on Zaha Hadid’s footware for Lacoste.

We’ll begin by modeling the surface and stacking modifiers to establish parametric relationships. The basis for this technique is derived from “Modeling with Images” by David Fano of Case. Once the model has been set up, we’ll explore functionality within the viewport canvas tool to help us control variation in the amount of displacement.


Using the viewport canvas to drive a displacement modifier brings ”Mudbox-like” capabilities to 3ds Max allowing us to affect complex variation in patterning with a high level of precision and control by “painting” directly onto a 3d surface. Unfortunately, image based modeling only works with the displacement modifier, greatly limiting the type of behaviors that can be achieved with this workflow. The ability to use images with other 3ds Max modifiers is necessary for image based modeling to be a viable workflow on most projects.

Tips and tricks videos on the viewport canvas can be found on the Autodesk Area blog here.
More information on working with the Animate mode of the Edit Poly modifier in 3dsMax can be found here.