In this post, you will learn about 3D objects, what they’re made of and how to manipulate them to get the shapes you want!

Before we look at how to edit 3D objects, we must first look at what a 3D object is made of. A 3D object defined by vertices, edges and faces is known as a mesh. Primitive 3D objects are all meshes. Curves, metaballs, cameras and lights are not meshes. 3D modelers normally start with a primitive 3D object and use it as a basis to build upon a more complex 3D model. Let’s take a look at some properties of 3D meshes.

Vertices, Edges, Faces

Let’s backtrack to old school mathematics a little bit and discuss what vertices, edges and faces are.

  • A vertex is used to connect one or more edges. It is usually the corners of all edges. In your 3D software, vertices are those dots.
  • An edge is used to connect 2 vertices. It is the direct line between one vertex to another vertex. In your 3D software, edges are those lines.
  • A face is an enclosed area containing a series of vertices and edges. The edges form a loop where you start from one edge and go around edge by edge until you reach the same edge. In your 3D software, faces are those filled shapes that are visible to the camera when rendered.
Vertices, edges and faces in a 3D model

Vertices, edges and faces in a 3D model

Location, Rotation, Scale

You can do 3 things to directly manipulate vertices, edges and faces. Those 3 things including moving their location in the 3D space, rotating them and scaling their size. That is, you can select any vertex, edge or face and then move/rotate/scale them around. Note that you can’t rotate or scale any single vertex. Vertices will always remain the same size no matter how small/large your 3D object is. It behaves like control points and won’t be visible to the camera when rendered. You can however, select 2 connected vertices (an edge) and scale, rotate that, but you will really only be scaling and rotating that edge. By pushing and pulling around these vertices, edges and faces, you will be able to shape out and create your 3D models.

That is essentially a part of what 3D modeling is about. It’s about creating vertices, edges and faces and then pushing, pulling and nudging them around. If you don’t have enough vertices to play with, you can create more and continue shaping and building your model on top of that. You can’t just use a bunch of cubes and somehow shape objects out of that. Although it could give a cool stylized type of model. It’s better and more efficient to use one mesh and nudge vertices around.

If you want to model a skyscraper, you would have a cube as your foundation, then add vertices, edges and faces upwards shaping out windows and balconies and so on until you have yourself a tall skyscraper. The same applies if you want to model a car. Perhaps start with a cube and model out each piece of the car such as the doors, then the engine, etc by pushing and pulling a bunch of vertices/edges/faces.

It’s best if you can become used to manipulating vertices, edges and faces. Especially if you plan to become a 3D modeler one day, you’re going to need to push around a lot of vertices/edges/faces pretty much for the rest of your life! So try to spend some time in your favorite 3D software just messing up your cube and making weird/cool shapes.

That’s it for now! In a later post, we’ll go in depth and look at how to utilize modeling tools to help us create awesome 3D models.