I’ve just learnt of a new way to expand selections in Hexagon: select some faces (or edges), then position your cursor away from the object, then hold down CMD (Mac) or CTRL (PC) and drag in any direction. The selection will grow into the direction that you drag.
It doesn’t always reliably work, because some weird algorithm is applied (I think it may depend on where next to your object you start to click and drag), but it’s another selection weapon for our Hexagon arsenal.
You can find many other selection tools under the Selection menu, such as:
connect / between
1 over n
Most of these are self explanatory, maybe except for the last one:
1 over n Selection
I’ve not found this super handy tool in any other modelling app. It allows us to select something like every other row, or every third polygon (or every n-th thing) from our current selection.
For example, we can select things like this:
To use it, make a selection as usual, say a single polygon on this sphere. Then head over to Selection – Select “1 over n” and take a look at the Properties box. Don’t worry about the fact that your selection has seemingly disappeared… it’s a “feature”.
Choose a value (say 4 for “every fourth polygon”) and hit validate. Requires a bit of experimentation and may not always give the desired results, nevertheless it can be another very handy tool in how you make selections.
Hexagon doesn’t really have a subdivide function that quadruples the number of faces of an object (like ZBrush for example). But there is a trick we can use to add this functionality.
Take Hexagon’s cube primitive here. All we can do is to specify one without subdivisions. If we need more, we’re stuck.
There is another cube primitive on the Second Life tab, but it has too many faces, so we won’t worry about it and stick with this guy above for the moment.
To subdivide all faces equally, head over to Face Selection mode (F2), then select all faces of your object. CMD+A (or CTRL+A) will do the trick.
With all faces selected, choose the Quad Tessellation tool on the Vertex Modelling tab. As soon as you select it, all faces will be divided into quads (when possible). Feel free to choose any of the other subdivision algorithms if you wish.
To subdivide again, simply select all faces again and choose the tool again. The result is shown on the right. And just to show what’s been hiding on the Second Life tab, the Second Life Cube is shown on the left 🙂
This works with objects other than cubes too of course. The more polygons you’re trying to subdivide at once, the higher a chance you have to crash Hexagon. Therefore it’s a good idea to save your document before attempting to carry out this trick.
And remember: each full subdivision will quadruple the amount of faces on your object. Give Hexagon a moment to calculate this (you won’t receive any feedback while it’s working).
On the very right hand side of the Hexagon’s toolbar is the Custom section. It sits there unnoticed and unpopulated by default.
We can turn it into a handy modelling companion by populating it with a few select tools that our overworked brains can never remember where to find.
To add your own tools, simply select one the usual way, from any other tab, and right-click on it. A dialogue box appears asking if you’d like to add said tool to the custom tool palette.
Now head over to the custom tool palette and find said tool there. If ever you want to remove one, right-click it. Compile your own tailor made tool collection!
The icon on the far left is an undock option: it will create a floating window of the custom tool palette which will remain visible and always “on top” of Hexagon – even if you close all other tabs. Just in case you enjoy losing yourself in modelling zen.
To close it again, click the tiny triangle at the top right.
Tessellation is a rather abstract term in the 3D world. All it means is to “add more edges” to a polygon. There always seems to be a complex technical term for things, and a more human one (like “polygon” and “face”).
Tessellation can be used to subdivide an object in controlled places. Say you had a standard cube with 8 edges and 6 faces, and you’d like to create more edges somewhere in the middle. That’s where the Tessellation Tools in Hexagon come in handy. You can find them under the Vertex Modelling tab.
Edge Tessellation Tools
When you click on the icon, you’ll see 6 sub-icons drop down. Similar to the Edge Tools, all Tessellation Tools are mere variations of a single tool.
The first two options are Free Tessellation and Surface Tessellation. I find much of a difference between them: select the tool, then hover over an edge and click to select a point. Hover over another edge and click to create another point. Both will be connected now. Keep going, and press RETURN or click validate when you’re done.
While tessellating, hold SHIFT to snap to existing points when hovering over your object. SHIFT will also help position your cursor right in the middle of an edge so you get an exact split. You can double-click to finish the current tessellation and start on a new edge.
The third option is Tessellation by Segment: it loop-slices the entire object where you click and cuts where you would expect a loop selection. Each click equals a cut across the entire object. Hover over an edge and click.
You can hold SHIFT to find existing points (indicated in red), or the exact halfway point on a line.
Surface Tessellation Tools
The last three tools work after you’ve selected one or more faces (polygons) and act as soon as you select them. No need to press validate.
Quad Tessellation: divide the selected polygon into polygons with 4 vertices
Triangular Tesselation: divide the selected polygon into polygons with 3 vertices
Diamond Tesselation: divide the delected polygon into a diamond in the middle, with random results on the outside (not sure why anyone would ever need this option)
You can also tesselate polygons using the Connect Tool (it’s to the right of the Tessellation Tools, looks like a simple line). To use it, select two points or edges, and click the tool. Hold down SHIFT to select the second edge or point.
The Bridge Tool allows us to join two parts of an object together, either by selecting polygons or vertices. Simply select the parts of each object to be joined, then hit the Bridge Tool under Vertex Modelling.
You can also select the Bridge Tool, then select both faces or points in question and hit validate.
Predictable results can only be achieved when the polygons have the same amount of points. Hexagon will interpolate and join objects if they don’t, but it will randomly create points where they are needed.
Also note that both object need to be part of the same object: if you have two separate cubes, you cannot use the Bridge Tool unless you weld them together first (also under Vertex Modelling.
We can do rather amazing things using the Edge Tools in Hexagon (under Vertex Modelling). The options are slightly confusing though:
The first option is a combination of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th option. You can create a new edge, extract inwards, outwards, filet around or move existing edges of your object.
Here’s how to use it: select an edge or two on your object, then select the Edge Tool (first option). You’ll see something like this:
The red edge is our selection. Grab it to move it. It’s equivalent to the 5th little icon in the Edge Tools.
Hover over the green square to learn that it will fillet the edge. It means “split the current edge into two, and shave off everything between those edges”. Left-click and drag to create something like this:
Hover over the blue hexagon to learn that this will extract around. It’s almost like fillet, but rather than slicing something off, it will create two new edges in addition to our existing one and leave the extra piece in place:
The two white/grey rectangles will extract an edge along into either direction. This will simply create one additional edge:
The fifth option (red selection) will move an existing edge to a different position, like so:
You can select more than one edge at a time for very creative (and scarily unpredictable) effects.
Many features from Hexagon have been ported over to Carrara, but not all of them are obvious and easy to find for Hexagon users.
Here are my favourite features from Hexagon, and how to access them in Carrara:
Tweak / Stretch Tool
The one Hexagon tool I was missing most was Vertex Modelling – Tweak, which is very similar to the Utilities – Stretch tool. I was looking all over Carrara and couldn’t find anything equivalent.
Until I realised that this function is enabled by default! As long as you’re in Carrara’s vertex modelling mode, Move Tool enabled (T) and Paint Selection deselected. Simply hover over a polygon, edge or vertex and start moving it just like in Hexagon.
All movements happen perpendicular to the camera. For most accurate results, work in 4-view mode. If the manipulator gets in the way, simply hide in the sidebar (Manipulator – Hidden):
Utilities – Lay On lets you align two faces against each other in Hexagon. Carrara doesn’t have such a tool, but you can get the same results by using a combination of two functions in the Assemble Room: Edit – Align and Collision Detection.
For this to work, both objects must be individual objects, they can’t be two cubes that are part of the same vertex object for example. But they can be two unrelated objects (say a primitive and a spline object).
Position them loosely they way you want them, then select them. Next head over to Edit – Align (this option is greyed out if only one object is selected).
From the modal window, select all axis you’d like to align, as well as how you want to align them. Hot Point or Center works well. Now the objects are in position, but not quite touching. To make that happen, select the little “three ball icon” in the title bar of the current document.
Collision Detection is not related to the physics engine. Instead it’s a positioning tool you can use in your scene. Extremely handy!
Copy On Support
In Hexagon you could create an object, then select a path, and have a copy of your object made x times along that path. Carrara doesn’t have this option, but its Duplicate tool has a hidden feature that can work well for such tasks:
When you either select Edit – Duplicate, Carrara remembers the changes you’ve applied to your first copy. Don’t select any other object in between, simply make your first copy, apply a change, then duplicate again. The next copy will have your changes automatically applied.
Here I’m building simple stairs using Collision Detection to place the first copy on top of the other one. Then I’ll simply select Edit – Duplicate again until my staircase is tall enough.
Grouping the many parts of a Vertex Object
Hexagon takes care of giving each new 3D object an automatic name (like Form3, Line20 and so forth). This happens automatically as soon as you create a new object. With Carrara and its modellers it’s a little different.
Instead of creating one Vertex Object, and then adding several parts to this object (Construct 3D – Cube, then Construct 3D – Sphere, etc), create each part of your model as a separate object. In fact, mix and match kinds in a single object by amalgamating several parts from different modellers. Then select all items that belong together and select Edit – Group.
If you add two cubes in the same Vertex Object, Carrara will see them as a single object. To split them apart, select Edit – Split Object and a group will be created from all those separate parts. Very neat!
The key thing to note is that an object and its components are created in the Assemble Room rather than in one of the modelling rooms.
Twister / Bender
Carrara has those and many other deformers under the Modifiers Tab in the Assemble Room. Click the plus icon to add a modifier, then tweak the values as you like. You can even combine multiple modifiers and animate them if you like. Twist and bend are only the beginning. Wait until you try explode!
Quick note of caution though: Modifiers work great inside Carrara. However if you intend to export geometry created with those, forget it: even though it works, the amount of unnecessary vertices you get is rather frightening.
What’s missing from Carrara’s Vertex Tools?
Not all features have made it across, and perhaps never will. Here’s what I’m missing in Carrara:
1 over n selection
a knife or quick slice tool
Why not just use Hexagon instead?
As much as I love Hexagon, it hasn’t seen a major upgrade since 2006. Even though Hexagon’s feature set is rather complete, it has numerous bugs that can cause the app to crash frequently – depending on your system and what you’re doing with it. DAZ have chosen to keep the much more feature rich Carrara under development, but it appears that Hexagon has turned into abandonware.
Don’t get me wrong, I find it rather charming that the software still looks and feels the same as it did many years ago, but there is a danger that on future operating systems Hexagon may stop working altogether – you never know if and when this may happen.
Therefore it’s good to have a “backup solution” for your 3D modelling needs. Until then, when using Hexagon, save early and save often. Make use of the Incremental Saving feature or use Version Control.
Since I bought the Microsoft Touch Keyboard for my 1st Generation Surface Pro, 3D usage has become even better than before (I went for the purple one). Many functions have keyboard shortcuts that make life quicker and easier when it comes to navigating a scene in 3D Space.
Before I forget how this works, I thought I’d take some notes.
Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object.
Hold down ALT, press the stylus button and drag onscreen to pan left/right/top/bottom
Pinch with two fingers to zoom in and out
All the above Hexagon controls will also work in Carrara, but we have a few extras at our disposal:
Hold down SPACE while dragging to pan
Hold down ALT + CTRL, then drag the stylus up and down to zoom in and out (just in case you don’t like touching the screen while you’re holding a pen).
Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object (same as in Hexagon and Carrara).
Hold down ALT + CTRL to bank the camera
Hold down the SPACE bar while dragging to pan left/right/up/down
Hold down SPACE + CTRL to zoom in and out
For best results with Surface Pro and Wacom Tablets, make sure to enable Tablet Mode under Mouse Input in Preferences.
Once every year I pick up my 3D hobby and find that I’ve forgotten most of what I used to know. That’s because I hardly take notes.
With all my coding endeavours this really isn’t an option – so I’ve promised myself to learn from past mistakes and take notes on the 3D stuff as well, saving me time and frustration in the future. Let’s get started by remembering how to navigate a scene in Hexagon.
Magic Trackpad Navigation
I’m using Hexagon 220.127.116.11 on a Mac with a Magic Touchpad. The principles are the same on a 3-button mouse in Windows though, where Option is equivalent to the ALT key. There are three ways in which you can navigate:
With the Object Selection tool selected,
Zoom in and out: two-finger swipe forward and back
Rotate: hold Option-Click with one finger, while moving another finger
Pan left and right: hold Option while right-clicking (with two fingers), then drag both fingers. It’s like a two-finger drag while holding Option
Alternatively you can click on any of these three navigational icons, found at the bottom in the middle of the screen. The first one is the object selection tool, and the next three are the camera navigation tools (rotate, pan and zoom).
You can either click one of them and then click anywhere in the scene while dragging your second finger to perform the selected action. At the end of which you need to select the object selection tool again to perform things like moving the object or manipulating it any other way.
Or you can click one of those three icons while dragging with your other finger to perform the action. As soon as you let go, the object selection tool is active again. It’s a nice when you work on an object, but sometimes the movement isn’t as smooth (especially when you have to drag off-screen).
You also have limited control by using the keyboard – and it couldn’t be easier:
Cursor Left / Right: Rotate left and right
Cursor Up/Down: Pan up and down
Cursor Shift+Left/Right: Rotate 90 degrees
Cursor Shift+Up/Down: sideview or top view
P: toggles Orthographic and Perspective view
Space Navigating in Carrara
You’ll be pleased to hear that the same principles as above apply to Carrara too. I’m using Carrara Pro 8.5 for Mac, and the only difference really is the location of theses icons – in case you’d like to use them. They’re on the top left by default, on the side of the screen.
You can select objects with the first 6 icons and move a selected object with the lower 5. Just like in Hexagon, you can either click any of those icons and then navigate by click-draging anywhere in the scene. You’ll have to select an object manipulation tool afterwards.
Or you can click an icon, then drag to perform a navigational action. As soon as you let go again your object selection/manipulation toll is selected again. Here’s what those lower five navigational icons do:
Track YZ will move an object up and down, and zoom in and out when you drag left/right. It’s weird.
Track XY will pan an object up, down, left or right.
Tack XZ will move and object left and right, and zoom when you drag up and down.
Dolly is a multifunctional tool. Click it multiple times to get Pan and Bank.
Dolly rotates around your object
Pan moves your object left/right/up/down
Bank tilts your scene on the horizon line – nice for creepy camera angles