Some LightWave 3D Modeling Tips and Tricks

Aug 17, 2008: I’ve written a more updated version of this post here.

This is a follow up to my post earlier today to share some of my modeling “secrets” to be able to model as fast as possible with LightWave 3D. Perhaps some of you out there will find this or parts of it useful.

I’m doing all my modeling in LightWave 3D 9.2 for my current project even though I was tempted to bring it into Modo for a while. But I’m using a few life savers which prevents me from going crazy which would be the case if I have had to model without them. So let’s start with my best tips for LightWave 3rd party modeling plugins.

  • Weld Pro – Free plugin that works just like LightWave’s own Weld tool with the difference that it supports symmetry.
  • DEdgeSlide – Another free wonderful plugin. LightWave doesn’t have it’s own edge slide tool (yet?), but I use this one all the time. I can’t see myself modeling without being able to slide edges anymore. The difference between sliding and moving an edge or edgeloop is that sliding tries to preserve the shape of the geometry.
  • EasySplit- This one comes with a $50 price tag. And it’s worth every dime of it. It allows you to more or less draw in new topology on your mesh. Just draw in new edges with a single a mouse stroke. I find myself using this over and over when I’m changing topology or adding new edges. To just be able to draw in new topology is a major time saver. And guess what, it supports symmetry.
  • PMirror – Well symmetry does get lost now and then when modeling. And this little free baby corrects it with a single push of a button. Oh, how many times I’ve pressed that button with a smile on my face. Beware though if you’re using Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces it doesn’t support it fully like it does with Subpatch surfaces, but just tab to polygon mode before running PMirror and you will be a happy camper.
  • Connect – Well, this isn’t a 3rd party tool but it was introduced in the LightWave default toolkit with version 9.2 (or was it in 9.0?). Anyway, I thought I should mention it as I use it all the time now. It’s a great and quick way to add new geometry where you need it by just selecting edges, vertexes or polygons and run connect to create new edges between them. Preferably have it mapped on a hotkey as you’ll use it a great deal when you get used to this tool.

And also another small but oh so lovely tip. Use your extra mouse buttons! I have mapped some tools I use all the time on my spare buttons. I am blessed with having 5 extra mouse buttons on my current mouse. it goes like this:

  • Back button – Drop Current Selection
  • Forward button – Select Loop
  • Mute button – Select Connected
  • Volume up button – Expand Selection
  • Volume down button – Contract Selection

Anyway, I know, strange buttons to have on a mouse, but it’s one of those Logitech Media mice. The MX 610 cordless laser mouse to be precise. But well, as they can be reprogrammed into something useful, it’s a pretty good mouse for 3D modeling.

And while I am into this minor tips and tricks session, another must do for the die hard LightWave modeler. Hokeys are great, but it can be hard to have every tool on a hot key, especially if you run out of keys or don’t feel like overloading your poor brain with 100′s of key combination for every program you are using. So what I do in LightWave is to setup a tab with all tools gathered that I am using in one place. So I have them available to me at all times without having to jump through different tabs or dig down inside menu hierarchies.
So this is my customized tab in Modeler for organic modeling, which I think covers everything I need at the moment for a speedy workflow while modeling. It’s a constant work in progress though as new tools or plugins are released but it’s a quick job to just exchange a tool on those rare occasion something new surfaces.
Quick and dirty Walk through…

LightWave Organic Modeling Customized Tab

Modeling Menu

Add & Reduce

  • Collapse Polys – For those occasions where I quickly just wanna rearrange the flow of a group of quads.
  • Bridge - Connect polygons with new geometry created in between.
  • Cut - Cut a loop or selected order of polygons with the amount of cuts needed. No longer interactive since Lightwave 9, so I seldom use it at the moment.
  • QuickCut1 - Predefined number of cuts. I have 3 rows cutted automatically with this one.
  • QS Dbl Term – 2 rows quick cut with termination to prevent n-gons.
  • BandGlue - Glues together two rows of looping polygons to one band.
  • BandSaw Pro – Cuts a loop of polygon in as many rows as needed.
  • Multishift - Bevel on steroids. Bevels in several steps and polygons can be grouped. And best of all, advanced bevels can be stored, either to disk or to memory. I use store to memory for instance when I have made a nice nail bevel on a character to quickly reuse it on the other 4 fingers.

Edges

  • EasySplit - 3rd party plugin to draw new topology directly on the mesh.
  • DEdgeSlide - Slides Edges on the mesh while preserving the shape.
  • JW_WeldEdges – 3rd party plugin to weld edges together. Supports symmetry. It’s part of the Free JW edge pack.
  • Dissolve - Removes an edge or loop of edges from the mesh.
  • Connect - Connects edges, vertexes or polygons creating new edges between them.
  • Spin Edge – Spins an edge. I like this better than Spin Quads, but Spin Edge seems a bit unstable at the moment in LightWave. It has crashed several times for me so I stick to Spin Quads for the time being and I hope the stability will be fixed in the next service update of LightWave.
  • Add Edges – Adds new edges betwen polygons. It doesn’t support symmetry so since I got EasySplit I have more or less stopped using this one.
  • Edge Bevel – Bevels an edge interactively.
  • FI’s Wrinkle -3rd Party plugin. Free plugin that work like Edge Bevel but adds an extra edge in the middle which can be offset to quickly create a wrinkle in the geometry.
  • Sharpness - Drop down menu which contains Set Sharpness, Decrease Sharpness and Increase Sharpness. To be used on edges when working with Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces.
  • JW Edge Pack – A free plugin pack containing 13 useful plugins when working with edges. Things like EdgeWalk is pretty handy and all of them are modeling speed boosters.

Vertices

  • Move On Edge – 3rd party plugin. Moves a point along any of it’s connected edges, preserving the shape of the mesh.
  • Weld Pro – 3rd party plugin, works like LightWave Weld tool but preserves symmetry.
  • Weld Pro Config - Some settings for the Weld Pro tool, like symmetry on/off.
  • Weld Average – Welds poins to their average position instead of to the last selected point.
  • Weights – Set weights for Subpatch Subdivision surfaces.

Modify

  • Thicken - Free 3rd Party plugin from DStorm. Allows you to take a single sided mesh and add depth to it. Great for building clothing from an extracted part of a character mesh.
  • Thickener - Free 3rd Party plugin from Blochi. Works like DStorm thicken but is interactive. Interactive LScript was broken for a while in LightWave so that’s why I have both, but now it seems like that will be fixed, and then I’ll stay with Blochi’s.
  • Point Fit – Free 3rd party plugin. Tries the best it can to fit a mesh onto the object in the background layer. Great for getting a roughly modelled piece of clothing to fit a character before getting into details.
  • Smooth Scale – Scales polygons along their normal axis. Would love to have this interactive.
  • Translate Plus – Moves geometry in a controlled fashion. Lot’s of options, but I mostly use the segment translation, where you can select an edge and have your geometry move in that exact direction. Very handy when extending polygons on a mesh that’s not laying perfect on the XYZ axis.
  • Pnt Normal Move – This is the closest I get to smooth scale interactive. It moves vertexes along the normal axis. I use this quite a bit now. With some cleanup afterwards I get the results I am looking for pretty fast.
  • Magnet – Move with a fall off – Great for organic tweaking. Like pushing cheaks or moving an ear and things like that.
  • Vortex -Rotate with an fall off. Nice for making adjustments, like tweaking mouth and eyes when creating morph targets.
  • Pole 2 – Size with a fall off. When you need to resize major parts of a mesh without messing it up to much.

Tools

  • Make Symm – Select a point of each side of the X Axis and this 3rd party plugin makes them symmetrical.
  • Symm Manager – Tries to find and correct all points that are not symmetrical. Can be a bit unpredictable but now and then it does a great job.
  • PMirror - Always fixes the symmetry errors when they appear. It does it the hard way by cutting, mirroring and merging the mesh. I love this tool!
  • Symmetry - Turns symmetry on/off. I have this placed under PMirror as PMirror needs symmetry off to function correctly so I can quickly do the procedure; Symmetry -> PMirror -> Symmetry and from a broken symmetry mesh I am back working on a fixed mesh in a second.
  • Toggle Backdrop – Toggles the backdrop images on/off. When using reference images in the background.
  • Subdivision - The subdivision tools in a drop down menu; G-Toggle Subpatch, Set CC, Set Subpatch, Set Face.

Selection – All these tools are selection related and needs no explantion me thinks?

  • Sel Connect
  • Expand
  • Contract
  • Sel Points
  • Sel Polys
  • Sel Edges
  • Mirror Select
  • Create Part
  • Sketch Color
  • More Selections - A drop down menu containing all other available selection tools in LightWave in one place.

And as this was a organic modeling post I won’t go into other tabs, but I can mention that other than my organic modeling tab I have a few other customized tabs setup for different phases of the creation process. Those other Modeler tabs I have setup are as follows:

  • Texturing
  • Rigging
  • Hair
  • Plugins
  • Visualization
  • LWCad/LWCad Ext.

How those tabs are designed is subject for some other posts in the future when I do work in those phases of my modeling process. And if there is some interest that I share my setups of course.
Anyway, I hope this was a useful post, and feel free to ask me any questions!

  • Michael

    Hi Johan,

    I have configured my razer mouse for the side buttons to: drop current tool and drop selection. But I havn’t been able to get modeler to recognize these desired assignments.

    Thanks for the informative site.

    Michael