Intro To 3D Modelling, Lesson 2: Using The Interface And Toolbars

Intro To 3D Modelling, Lesson 2: Using The Interface And Toolbars

Yesterday we introduced you to 3D modeling using an app called Rhino 3D. Today we’re diving in to the interface and toolbars so you can get to know your new environment.

The Interface

Many 3D programs are very intimidating to new users because they sport too many buttons or have almost no options initially visible. In Rhino, the interface almost as familiar as opening up a Word document. You are greeted with the typical tool bar with open, save and paste options, as well as a few others. Add a command line up top and you are left with a very easy initial introduction to the interface.

The quickest way to learn in Rhino is through both exploration and testing. The command line works in a similar way Google’s predictive text technology. Type a letter C and you can see all the commands that start with that letter.

If the command line and the tool buttons aren’t enough, you can always point your up to the top menu bar and access any of the tools that way.

Whenever I launch Rhino, I like to open up a couple of other windows: layers and object properties. These two windows act as both navigational aids and information windows about your model.

With the Layers window, you can turn layers on and off, lock them, change line types, colours and set a myriad of other options. You can even rename the layers and create sublayers (these act like layer groups) to keep things more organised.

The object properties window is your other really important window. When you select an object, it will tell you what sort of object it is, what it’s comprised of, materials, etc. It is kind of like the project manager of Rhino that has all the information right when you need it.

Zooming, Panning And Orbiting

To start navigate with the camera, memorise these three simple combinations:

•Right Click + Drag = Orbit •Right Click + Shift = Pan •Right Click + Ctrl = Zoom

To navigate 3D space, you must understand the camera that you are looking through. The hot key combinations above will allow you to navigate the 3D space so you can see your model from every angle. When you are moving the camera around, it might initially feel like you are moving around your model.

You can download the model I use in the Navigation of 3D space here.

If you’ve ever worked in an image editing package like Photoshop or Painter, you’ll be aware of the importance of the zoom and pan tools. The orbit tool enables you to fly around your model and see it from all sides.

The Toolbars


The two main toolbars, conveniently titled “Main1” and “Main2”, are essentially broken down into objects and object modifiers.

With these two tool bars, you can perform just about all of the critical operations you need. The icons are fairly intuitive: the circle button makes a circle, for example.[clear]


Some of the tools have a little arrow in their bottom right corner. If you click and hold on this, it will expand that tool to show additional options. For example, by clicking and holding on the circle button the image to the right will appear. These tools all enable you to draw the circle in various ways.

The expansion option is very useful because sometimes you’ll need to draw a shape in a way other than the default (typically the default prompts you to pick a point, then drag out to another point to create your shape.)

Remember, when I mentioned the command line? If you get stuck, just type it out what you think the command you might be thinking of is called, and Rhino will drop down the possible commands that it could be (assuming you choose the correct starting letter.) If that doesn’t help, you can press F1 for help or go to the menu bar and click on “Help” to find addtional answers.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the viewports and construction planes. Stay tuned.

This lesson was created by Gabriel Mathews of PolyPlane. You can follow him on Twitter @PolyPlane and on Facebook.


  • Loving the lessons. I have dabbled with a little bit of rhino for importing 3d models into lighting design software. Which modelling software would be best suited todo both 3d modelling and accurate lighting design?

  • @trev you’re going to want to use an unbiased renderer to achieve close to accurate lighting, but even this has a lot of factors that are hard to get right ie. monitor gamma / virtual camera exposure settings / limited light,reflection bounces/IES lights/etc.

    the Maxwell renderer works with most 3d software (i think it only supports rhino in windows) but the learning curve for realistic lighting is much harder than 3d modeling. so beware.

    Personally, I’d start out with Vray to learn the basics, then move onto the slow, painful render times of Maxwell.

  • @trev bugger, i didnt read the question properly. promise to keep this short.

    theres no one be-all-end-all package for lighting. Usually you’re going to have to spend money on a 3rd party renderer.

    I personally find the modeling tools in 3ds max are best for arch visualizations. with that in mind, while mental ray (inbuild renderer) does a good job @ lighting, its by no means accurate.

    a cheap solution is to use evermotion’s free unbias renderer “Nox”. (although the process is painful).

    or go with Maxwell, as stated above.

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