Creating a helmet with the three-dimensional design program 3ds Max can teach you many common modeling techniques, including how to use the time-saving Symmetry modifier. This modifier automatically duplicates your work on one side of an object to another. Modeling a helmet also teaches you how to meet the challenge of creating a curved surface from primitive surfaces like lines or uncurved polygons.
Use Reference Images
1. There are many types of helmets, but some tasks apply to creating all of them. One universal task is modeling with reference images: get or make JPEG files for the top, left and front views of the helmet you want to make. Create planes in 3ds Max for each of these views, sized to the same dimensions as the files. (For example, make a 200-by-300 foot plane for a front image with dimensions 200-by-300 pixels.)
Using the 3ds Max Material Editor, load each JPEG onto its plane, and then arrange the planes to form a diorama. Mold a simple shape--e.g. box--to fit the outlines of one of the diorama's planes, then switch to another plane and mold the box to its outlines.
Model Biggest Parts First
2. In modeling, you generally start from the biggest parts, then work in the smaller, detailed parts. For the helmet's main shell, use something spherical. You could create an actual sphere; apply the "Spherify" modifier to a cube; or spin a spline around an axis.
The last approach has the advantage of letting you easily trace the outline of your reference images. To create the initial helmet from a spline, enter "Front" orthographic view and draw a "Line" shape, with the "Smooth" options selected. Trace the diorama's front image with this line, but only half of it---from the helmet's crown to its right side.
Apply the "Lathe" modifier to the finished line to sweep the line around the crown. This action forms the core helmet, which you'll likely want to shape further. To do so, convert it to an "editable poly," by right-clicking the helmet and selecting "Convert to Editable poly."
3. Using the Symmetry modifier is another common technique for modeling symmetrical objects. This modifier dynamically mirrors your work on one side of an object to the other. To use this modifier for your helmet, first delete the helmet's left half, then apply the "Symmetry" modifier from the drop-down list in the Control Panel. Click the Control Panel's "Toggle End Result" button to see the mirror image formed by the modifier. Once your helmet is complete, integrate the modifier into your helmet by re-converting the helmet into an "editable poly," as described previously.
If your helmet has horns or piping, such as the parts on Viking or football helmets, create these as polygons extruded along a spline curve: draw a "Line" object that extends from the stem of the piping or horn, up through the horn's end. Select the end polygons of the stem and click the "Edit Polygons" rollout's "Extrude Along Spline" tool to pull the polygon along the path. The resulting shape will be the horn or piping.
Finishing the Helmet
4. Smooth the finished helmet object by applying the NURMS tool under the "Graphite Modeling Tools" menu. Add color and texture using the tools in the Material Editor, then add lights to the scene for greater realism. Render the helmet using then "Render" menu items.