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[WIP]-Zmodeler tutorial (3d modeling)

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The [WIP] in the topic title stands for Work In Progress, which means ill be updating this thread as i move on with writing.

I decided not to write the whole tutorial in a text programm cause i need something that keeps me going and the more often i see this unfinished topic the more ill be working on it.

In this tutorial ill be trying to lead you from the very basic contents of zmodeler up to the point where you have your own made model in gtavc/gta3.

Before you read all of it and try yourself at modeling you should know 1 important thing: The model is only one half of the whole thing, the second part is the texture, there are usable pics/textures around the net but being able to make good textures favours the chance for making good models.

If you really cant stand making textures than you will probably find yourself soon enough with tons of great models but no textures for them, though maybe you can find someone who likes to make textures and you can team up with him.

However, just had to say that first cause i often get stuck when it comes to find/create textures that fit my models.

We will be making a katana (japanese samurai sword) and a shotgun from the beginning to the end, why 2 weapons? Cause weapons are good to start learning the tool and dont take too long.

If someone wants to get into creating vehicles i can only help out to a limited extent, for more info you might have to visit http://gtaforums.com which is the best database for help related to gta modding.

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You can download ZModeler v1.07 (1.92Mb) for free at the bottom of this page: http://www.zmodeler2.com/?mode=downloads

You can download txdworkshop (will be needed to create your own .txd's) on this site: http://www.gtatools.com/pafiledb/pafile ... file&id=15

And of course you will need some good painting programm like adobe photoshop, paint shop pro, or whatever you want to use. (DONT ask here where you can download those painting programms cause they cost money and this forum doesnt allow warez talk).

You might also need some blueprints or textures, http://www.google.com will give you enough sources for that, or you can look around http://www.gtaforums.com, they have some sticky topics with links.

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Getting started

When you install zmodeler, make sure you install it in english, the first time i used zmod i installed it in german and it was rather annoying cause all my tools had different names then in the english tutorial i was reading which gave me huge problems to understand what i was supposed to do.

If you want to use zmod on another language do that later, in this tutorial i will be only using the english setup and believe me, any other language complicates things only.

Once you installed zmodeler, start it up.

Your windows and elements wont be set up like mine on this screen:


To do this you can just drag all the elements around until you have them the same way as on the picture.

By clicking and draging on the middle point of all views (marked red in picture) you can adjust the sizes of them.

By right-clicking the pop up boxes in every view (marked blue in picture) you can change them to any other view, left, right, top, front, 3d.... (dont use user view and uv view yet).

Now its time to set up your options.

Go options/3dview and make sure only the following things are activated:

  • zbuffer
  • dithering
  • per-face rendering
    And in options/3dview/build time, activate:
  • while action

Now go: options/settings and go to the "direct 3d" tab, adjust everything like i have it:


Now adjust the "open-save" tab same as this one:


The options in the "open-save" tab are pretty much up to everyones favour, i personally like when i reopen my model and everything is the same as when i closed zmod the last time.

Autosaving has also saved my ass sometimes, ive set it to save my project every 15 minutes, this is really up to you though.

Now click on the pop up box of the 3d view and adjust everything same as this pic:


In: 3dview/pop up box/settings/textures you activate:

  • use textures
  • smooth textures
  • multiple textures (chrome)
    In: 3dview/pop up box/settings/camera you activate:
  • perspectived

I think now we are done with setting up zmod and can start with the basics

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The Basics

First of all, lets see what we are working with.

This is a face, also called "polygon":


Every model in gta3/vc consists of these triangles and any kind of shape is possible (ok theres always exceptions, you cant make a perfect round sphere) but we are not aiming for high poly models anyways.

I will be starting with the basics now, this is the most important section of this tutorial, if you dont fully understand the basics, dont bother to read on.

If you dont understand something, read it again and again until you understand it completely, i had to do the same when i red other zmod tutorials.

In zmod we are working on different levels (in menu bar:zmodtuta6hw.jpg) which are:

  • vetices --> zmodtutb0eu.jpg
  • edges --> zmodtutc6iv.jpg
  • faces --> zmodtutd7ef.jpg
  • objects --> zmodtute9uu.jpg

To see how these modes apply to a model we are going to test them on a cube.

First of all make sure these buttons are activated: zmodtutf0ks.jpg <-- i will describe the functions of those 2 buttons later, for now just activate them.

Click on the cube in the objects bar: zmodtutg9dg.jpg

Make sure you are in objects level: zmodtuth1xf.jpg

Go to any view except of 3d, uv, or user view and create the cube by using the left mouse button, the first click defines the center of the cube, then you can move your mouse to adjust the size and click again to create the cube.

To demonstarate the dependencies of different levels we are going to use the move tool, select the move tool in the tools bar by clicking on modify/move:


Now select the single selection tool in select/single

Allselect tools are always bound to the right mouse button, all other tools are bound to the left mouse button, so now you have the single selection tool on your right mouse button and the move tool on your left mouse button.

Before we move anything you should note that many tools in zmod can be used on a horizontal axis zmodtuti6am.jpg, a vertical axis zmodtutj9zz.jpg or on both zmodtutk7xh.jpg, and in depth zmodtutl2gl.jpg

(the icon for the depth direction can also be a Z depending on which version of zmod you have installed, so its either a D or a Z).

You can now select the cube with a right click and move it by holding the left mouse button on it and draging it around, as you can see the whole object as its own is moving, lets try the move tool on other levels.

Click on the edges level icon zmodtutc6iv.jpg and do 1 right click on the cube to bring it into edges level.

At this time i think it might help to look at this picture again to remember what vertices, edges and faces are:


Now select an edge, move it around and see how it affects the shape of the model.

You can also switch to vertices level, select 1 or more vertices and move them around, dont try to move faces, its not possible.

Soon you will find out that some tools in zmod cant be applied on certain levels but i will cover this later when i describe all the tools in zmod.

If you want to switch from edges level to vertices level you might get the first little problem since you cant just click on the vertices level icon and then right click on the model which is in edges mode.

I cant really explain why this doesnt work (might be a bug of zmod), so heres what i use to do:

When im in edges level and i want to get into vertices level i first click on the objects level icon zmodtute9uu.jpg

it will automaticaly switch to objects level, then you select the vertices level zmodtutb0eu.jpg and right click the object.

So remember, if you want to change levels always first switch your model back into objects level and then into the other level, i havent found a better way for switching modes yet.

Switching levels is a very important topic, if you dont understand it you will be sooner or later stuck, just test it all in zmod and read the last few lines again if you have any problems.

Lets see what the selected and multiple buttons zmodtutf0ks.jpg are about.

You might noticed while trying to move vertices on the cube that 2 vertices at once have been selected, this was caused by the activated multiple button, another thing that happened could have been that multiple vertices moved at once, this was caused by the activated selected button.

I will describe it with 2 pictures:

  • the multiple button:
    As you can see by the green lines in the 3d view both vertices are marked by the mouse cursor and thus both will be selected, so basically all what the multiple button does it to select all vertices in any depth.
    If the multiple button was deactivated in this picture then only 1 vertice would be selected.
  • the selected button:


In this picture i just selected 4 vertices and moved them downwards (in vertical movement only) in the front view.

Because i had the selected button activated all 4 vertices moved at a time, if i would have the selected button disabled only 1 vertice would move.

Another very important element of zmod is the axis center (looks like this in zmod: zmodtutm3jt.jpg), it defines a location in 3d space.


In this picture its only about locations, i have only used a cube because you can see it in the 3d view which isnt the case for the axis center.

Now lets just take a look at the front view, the only locations that we can see in the front view are the location of a point in the height and in the width, we cant see how near or far the point is in depth, thats why we have the axis center in all views (except of 3d view) and when you look at the left or top view you realise that the axis center defines a point in 3d.

You might wonder now why we need the axis center, lets say i would create a cube in the front view, how should zmod know where this cube should be located in the left or top view without the axis center?

Thats what the axis center is there for and you can place it anywhere in 3d space just by placing it in multiple views, to place it just press "." (without the "" marks) on your keyboard and the axis center will be placed where your mouse cursor is.

Note: the axis center is always active and in any view except of 3d.

But thats not all, theres other things that are dependant on the axis center.


In the picture above you can see how the scaleing of a cube can be affected by the location of the axis center


In this picture you can see how rotating a cube can be affected by the location of the axis center

This is enough explanation for the axis center, bottom line is: If something doesnt go to a location you expected/wanted it to go then look where the axis center is.

The objects list in zmod is pretty self-explanatory:


It is merely used to hide/unhide, select/deselect objects or its vertices or faces.

By a left click on an object in the list you can hide/unhide it, in the current situation the cube and the cylinder are shown and the sphere is hidden.

By a right click on an object in the list you can open its menu and do some other things, such as renaming, creating a copy... we will use this all later when we create the katana.

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Modeling a Katana

Before you make a model its always very useful to make a plan in your mind of how you will do it, this might save hours of work, sometimes i spend more time thinking about how i should do something than it actually takes in the end.

Though only to know how you model something takes practice, sometimes in my real life when im bored (mostly at work :P) i look at random objects and ask myself how i would model them.

Look at this jetski for example:


I have made this jetski just with 7 cylinders and merely used the scale and move tool to get to the shape of it, first i tried to do it differently and failed but then i realised that i could do it much easier just by modifying cylinders and since then i mostly work with them and our katana will be only made out of 4 cylinders.

Again, http://www.google.com or http://www.ebay.com can be very helpful to find reference pictures.

Lets begin, open zmod and activate the sel and the mul button (zmodtutf0ks.jpg), also activate this hand icon: zmodtuto6aq.jpg

Then make sure your views are setup like on this picture:


In the objects bar click on the cylinder to select it (zmodtutp6ni.jpg)

Go to the front view and click once, then drag your mouse in any direction to adjust the size of the cylinder, when the size is ok click once again and a dialog will show up:


Here you can define the name of the new cylinder and how many horizontal and how many vertical steps it will have.

This dialog will show up on creation of any of the objects in the objects bar except of the cube (even though it would be very confortable to have an option for the cube).

We are making the handle first so we choose 10 horizontal and 10 vertical steps and name the cylinder "handle".


Select in the tool bar: modify\scale and select\single and make sure you deselect the horizontal axis cause we only want to scale the cylinder on the vertical axis (zmodtutj9zz.jpg).

You can select the cylinder with a right click and scale it by holding the left mouse button and moving it vertically.

Now select only the horizontal axis (zmodtuti6am.jpg), go to the left view and scale the cylinder horizontally:


Lets make the next object, choose the cylinder again in the objects bar (zmodtutp6ni.jpg) and click right in the middle of your existing cylinder in the front view, make the cylinder about twice the size as the handle.

Choose 16 horizontal and 0 vertical steps and name the new cylinder "tsuba".


At the moment it all rather looks like a hotdog than a katana, we now have to scale the tsuba a bit but first we hide the handle, you can do this easily by just clicking the handle in the objects list and it will hide.

Now we do about the same as we did with the handle, select the modify\scale and the select\single tools again, select and scale the tsuba in the front view on the vertical axis so it isnt complete round.

Then go to the left view and scale the tsuba horizontally so it becomes very thin (see picture below).

Now select the modify\move tool and move the tsuba horizontal to the left end of the handle.

Here could come the first question which could sound like... "how am i supposed to know where to move the tsuba if i cant see the handle?"

go to the objects list:


right click the handle and you will see the menu in the picture above, here you can hide/unhide, select/deselect objects the fast way, now unhide and deselect the handle, you will now be able to move the tsuba while the handle wont be affected, yet you will see it in the background.

After you are done with that you should have something like this:


Lets forget about the handle and the tsuba for now and move on to the blade, we will tune the whole mesh once we have a general shape of the whole model.

And again, create a third cylinder at the same source point as the other ones, this time with 5 horizontal and 20 vertical steps, name it "blade".

Hide the handle and the tsuba, select the blade and scale it horizontally in the left view until its about 4 times longer than the handle, then move it to the left side of the handle.

Now finally we are going to work on a different level then always only objects, we have to adjust 2 vertices of the blade, to do this you first have to switch the object into vertices mode:

Click on the vertices mode button (zmodtutb0eu.jpg), then right click the blade and all vertices will be shown as red dots.

Select: modify\scale and select\quadr in the toolbar, go to the front view and use the right mouse button to drag a rectangle to select these vertices:


Now since we have the multiple button (zmodtutf0ks.jpg) activated, all vertices in depth will be selected, not only 2.

Ignore the green lines (normals) for now, i will explain their meaning later, for now you can just use them as indicators for selected vertices.

Select only the vertical axis (zmodtutj9zz.jpg) and go to the front view, now you can do just the same as you did before in objects mode, yet it will only affect the 2 strings of selected vertices.


Scale the vertices 1 and 2 until they are leveled with the vertices a and b:

Note, you have to move your mouse cursor over 1 of the selected vertices in order to highlight them, when they are highlighted they can be modified, in this case scaled.

And another thing, when you do such things as leveling vertices with other vertices they might seem prefectly leveled on the first sight but if you zoom in you will see that they are still unleveled, thus its always best to zoom in as much as possible, that way your model will be the most accurate (and we are striving for perfection, arent we?).

Select all vertices of the blade and scale them in the front or left view vertically so the blade becomes flat.

Note, selecting all vertices of an object or selecting the object will result the same way when scaleing, so we could also just have switched the blade into objects mode and scaled the object but its faster just to select all vertices instead of switching modes forth and back.

Deselect all vertices with select\none tool (right click once), go to the top view and select the marked vertice:


Stay in top view and move vertice after vertice like on this picture:


The green circles indicate vetices being selected and then moved to the point(s) shown in the frame to the right of it.

The last frame shows how it should look like after you moved the vertices, as you see i got rid of the wireframe and enabled "flat shading" to see everything a bit better, you can enable/disable these 2 modes in:

  • pop up box of 3d view\settings\shade, fill\flat shading
  • pop up box of 3d view\settings\shade, fill\wireframe\enabled

Note, it doesnt matter if your model doesnt look exactly the same as mine, in the end we are making a model from scratch and it has to look good in your eyes, you might for example like the front of the blade not to be that round so just do what looks best for you, you should be able to since we learnt how to move vertices in all directions.

We are done now with the basic shape of the model, now its about to finnish and tweak it before we texture it.

Unhide all objects and bring the handle into vertices mode, we dont really need as many vertical steps on that handle, i just personally like to make more so i have some as reserve if i calculated the amount wrong :P

select the last 4 steps of vertices in the left or top view:


Delete them using modify\delete tool, then select the 3 last steps of vertices and scale them horizontally in the left view until they are close to each other:


as you see my axis center is to the right of the selected vertices, thus the vertices will move to the right, IF your axis center should be somewhere else misplaced you can place it new with "."

Deselect all vertices and reselect the last 2 steps, then scale them vertical and horizontal in the front view, then deselect all vertices again, reselect the last step and scale it in the front view a bit more until you have something like this:


Now just select all 3 steps of vertices and move them to the right so the handle becomes long again, then deselect them all and unhide the blade and the tsuba.

Use the delete tool again and delete the 1 vertice in the middle of the handle in the front view, those faces are inside the tsuba and you wont see them afterwards so we should get rid of them.

Now select the tool: create\faces\fan and do the following:


Note first, i am only referring to the most inner circle of vertices

click on vertice 1, then on vertice 2, then on vertice 3 and so on until youre at vertice 10, after you clicked on vertice 10 hold down ctrl, now as you see your mouse cursor will turn into a text saying "done", this means that if you now click again you wont create any new faces and the tool will so to say "stop".

We have now created a whole bunch of faces but what the hell? they wont show up in the 3d view!

This is due to the reason that we created all the faces in the front view instead of the back view so they are all looking into the opposite direction, so theres 2 things we could do now, we could just delete all the faces again, switch the front to the back view and draw all the faces again, OR the better solution:

Switch the handle into faces mode and select all the faces we just created.

Note, to select faces you have to select the red dots in the middle of the faces.

Since the geometry is round in the front view i would recommend the select\circle tool, rather then the select\quad tool.

Select tool: modify\reorient and click once on the selected group of faces, now they will reorient and look in the direction we initially wanted them to:


I almost forgot the fourth cylinder, go to the front view and create a new cylinder with 6 horizontal and 0 vertical steps, name it what you want..

The new cylinder will most likely have the following position/layout:


We will need to rotate it so select the cylinder on objects level and choose the modify\rotate tool, make sure you have both, the horizontal AND vertical modes selected, then in the front view left-click and hold it, then move the mouse downwards/upwards to rotate the cylinder so the left and right edges become vertical aligned:


Note, the rotate tool can be a bit messy as it doesnt provide that much control while doing it manually, theres another way to use the rotate tool when you hold ctrl and then click on an object, then you can basically enter the number of degrees the object should be rotated but this has never worked properly for me, i dont know why but it doesnt rotate into the directions i want it to, might be a bug of zmod, i rotate manually for that reason.

Now you just have to switch the cylinder into vertices mode and scale and move some vertices, by now you should do that without any problems, then afterwards place it where i have it:


Sub chapter: Normals

This is the part where most people get pissed or where they usually have the most problems and questions thus i will try to explain it as simple as possible.

Normals are the green lines displayed when vertices are being selected, what they basically do is to define the shading of an object.

This picture should explain alot about how normals work:


here are some basic facts, if you dont understand them then you wont fully understand how normals work but it doesnt matter if you dont get it yet, you will understand it better once you have experimented with it:

[*]if you are looking straight into a normal you are getting the most light reflected as possible

[*]radius 1 and radius 2 are always the same

[*]you as the viewer of a model, or so to say the camera always see light getting reflected by the model

Lets look at the first fact listed above, "if you are looking straight into a normal you are getting the most light reflected as possible"

Hide the tsuba and the handle, bring the blade into vertices mode and select all vertices, you will now see all the normals being shown as green lines.


Place your camera in the 3d view like i have in the picture above, you will see that the part around the vertex (which i have marked with a blue circle in the top view) is very bright.

The blue arrow in the top view should show how we are looking at that particular vertex in the 3d view, we are looking right into the normal thus that area is reflecting so much light and is so bright.

This all sounds extremely complicated, basically all a normal does is to define how light is being recieved by the surface and then reflected in the same radius as recieved, so the direction a normal is pointing at is important.

We have normals in real life too, only that a whole surface is full of them, means in real life the whole surface is reflecting whereas on our model onlyour few normals can reflect, so basically, the more normals we have, the smoother the light reflects.

Easy example for this:


As you can see, cylinder 1 has alot more vertices then cylinder 2, thus it has alot more normals, thus alot more points of reflection, thus its alot smoother then cylinder 2.

The easiest and most effective way to describe how normals shade a face is with the next 2 pictures:


Again, the black line is the surface, the red dot is the vertex, the green line is the vertex's normal and the square with the gradient is to illustrate how the surface would be shaded in the current state of the normal.


In the picture above you will see that the shading of the normal rotates with the normal itself so if we would look at the surface from the blue arrow it would be light too, you can test this yourself(its not part of the katana, just so you can see how the movement of a normal affects its surface):

Choose the tool: create\surfaces\flat, go to the left view and drag a rectangle then choose 20 horizontally and 20 vertical steps, go to the top view, switch to vertices mode and select 1 string of vertices (the sel and mul button should be activated), then choose the tool: surface\normals\rotation and rotate the selected normals in the top view


In the top view of the picture above we exactly the same situation and layout as in picture 32.

I hope you understand it now even though it might take some time and practice to fully understand how normals work, if not then just post.

Lets optimize the normals of our katana:

the easiest and lazyest way to "fix" normals is to use the surface\normals\calculate tool, even though this will only recalculate the lenght and direction of the normals of an object and in most cases doesnt give the desired result, (its what beginners usually do cause they dont know how normals work).

Select all the objects of the katana (with select\all) and use the calculate tool on them, this is just as a base start so we have them all clean and not all out of order which often happens during the process of creating the mesh.

Deselect all objects and hide them all except of the blade, switch the blade into faces mode (zmodtutd7ef.jpg)


In the top view, select these faces and delete them.


Select all the faces i marked in the picture above,(DO NOT select any faces on the other side of the blade, only the ones you see in the picture), although this can be a bit tricky so we might want to use the "user view" for the first time:

Click on the pop up box of the top view and switch it into "user view", now a while ago we activated this button: zmodtuto6aq.jpg.

This feature is used to drag views around, just hold alt on your keyboard and the mouse cursor will change into the hand and you can move any view.

Now go to the user view, hold alt and move your mouse to move the camera around the 3d wireframe of the blade, you might notice that the camera is always focused on the x-y-z axis and its very hard to select faces if you cant even look at the object in the angle you want to, this can be changed though, just hold the left and the right mouse button while holding alt and move the mouse, now the camera itself rotates its point of view, then re-adjust the position of the camera again with onlythe left mouse button held down.

With these 2 modes of the hand feature you will be able to get the camera in any disired position, it only takes a bit time to get used to.

Note, these camera controls also apply to the 3d view with only the difference that you dont need the hand function activated and dont need to hold alt.

Now select the vertices marked red in picture 34, in which view or with which selection tool you select them is your own decision, i personally only use to select faces in the user view if im having problems to do so in the other views, the select\single tool works very well cause you can always look at the faces highlighted blue in the 3d view to see which face will be selected.

Tip: The single, quad and circle selection tools can also be used to deselect if you hold ctrl on your keyboard while using the right mouse button

Once you selected those faces chose the tool: create\objects\detach and click once on your selected faces, this tool splits selected faces off an object and creates a new object with them, you will be presented with a dialog where you have to enter a name for the new object, name it detach1.

hide the new object (detach1) and get the blade into faces mode again, now you select the following faces marked red in the next picture:


Detach them too and name the new object detach2.

Switch the blade into faces mode again and select (best in the front view) the following faces:


Detach those faces too and name them detach3.

We have split up the blade into 4 indipendent objects, now select the surface\normals\calculate tool again and use it on each of the objects that belong to the blade (in other words on: blade, detach1, detach2 and detach3).

Select: blade, detach1, detach2 and detach3, choose tool create\objects\unite select and click once on the selected objects in any view, this will unite multiple objects into 1 object, name it blade[0], now lets see what we have achieved with all that detach-reuniting:


We now have more then twice as much vertices/normals on our blade and each set of faces that we detached are now looking flat and sharp where before the whole blade had only enough vertices to shade the blade round, lets look if we can make some better normals/shading on the tsuba and the handle.

The handle looks good, its looking round as it should so we dont have to do any normals tweaking other then surface\normals\calculate.

The tsuba however has some ugly shading though so lets detach the 2 flat pieces of it, hide all other objects, get the tsuba into faces mode and select the following faces:


detach them, recalculate the normals for both objects of the tsuba and reunite them into 1 object again, now it looks flat.

My blade is way too short in range so now is the time to fix these things and make the overall appearance of the katana looking good.

We also have way too many vertical steps on the blade, i have removed some and repositioned the rest by merely using the scale tool on vertices level


How many steps you keep for the blade is your own decision, my katana has already too many steps on the blade as you dont see too much of a difference wether something is well curved or not in a third person game like gtavc.


Place the center axis in the left view where i placed it, choose the tool modify\extended\bend, select all vertices of the blade, make sure only zmodtutj9zz.jpg is selected and then hold and drag your mouse to the left in the top view to bend the blade.

I hope you have something looking similar to this:


We are finally done with the mesh, lets put some texture on our model


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