Modeling a low-poly gun with 3DS Max 5.0 (for Intermediate users)

by Black Sabbath

Published : April 2003
Feedback : Black Sabbath

Introduction - the basics

In this tutorial you will learn how to model a weapon.

So what things are important for this kind of modeling?

  • Texture. The texture gives 80% of reality to a model ,so the better the texture, the better and more life-like our model will be. For me high res. texture is around 1600x1200 resolution. If you have a chance, the best way to obtain such hi-res pic is by taking a photo of a real gun with a digital camera.

  • Before I start to model, I "make" the whole gun in my head. Why do I do that? I do it because when I have the finished model in my head, it's much easier then to step into 3DS Max and make the gun (you don’t have any problems with texturing some "tricky" parts of the weapon).

  • Polygon count. The borderline for the poly count is changing every year, mainly because the new graphic cards are getting stronger and stronger. My models have from 600 to1200 polys, but you can make a model that has 2500 polys, but don’t go over that. Why? Well some people think "who cares about poly count?" - your graphic card does, believe me. The number of 2500 poly. is more than enough to make realistic model for a game (Let's just say that in the game Hitman characters have somewhere about 2000 polys , in Colin McRae Rally 3, cars have about 15 000 polys).

Okay now let's start with the modeling.

In Max, click on front viewport and than hit alt+B. Viewport background should be open.

Now choose files, and look for the picture of weapon you want to model.

In the same window check

  • bitmap fit
  • display background
  • lock zoom/pan
Close the window.

Now in the front view port zoom and pan until you get the handle in the centre of your view.

Now go to command panel (on your right side), select create shapes tab and choose line.

When you do that, start draging an outline of the handle.

Now the important thing here is that you must finish at the same spot where you started to draw the outline of the handle (so that the program can close spline properly- you can also do this manually later, but this way is safer)

See the image and you'll know what I mean.

When you finish with draging the outline, go to command panel-modify and in pull down manu-Modifier list choose Extrude.

For extrude set the amount 6,5 , segments 1.

This is what I have now in front and perspective view.
Now in next image we have almost half the job done -now don’t be afraid, it's simple -just look the image and you will understand everything. All objects are made with the same tool-line/extrude, like the handle.

Now I will explain that ellipse we just made.

Go to Create-Shapes-choose Ellipse.

In Front view port start at middle of that part of the gun.

Move the mouse until you get something close to what's on the image.

Now rotate the ellipse in "Y" axis. (don’t forget too line up the object in left view port)

When you do that , extrude ellipse and give it 2 segments .

After that go to command panel, click on ellipse and than expand the interpolation menu, set Steps to 2 and check "optimize".

This will cut down the poly count significantly.


Now you select the middle vertices and in front view port move them to the left.

Now choose the vertices like on the image and scale them down a little bit on two (X & Y) axis.

See the image and you will know what I mean.

Now it's time to align the newly created ellipse. Select the object A (the ellipse in this case), then choose "align" tool .

In the main tools bar, and then click on the object B (forward hand grip in this case). You'll now have a new window open, in which you just need to check the Y axe box.

After you align the ellipse you can do the same thing with the rest of the objects.


Now we go to the next stage:

We'll create some more complex objects (cylinders and tubes) which you'll find under "create tab", geometry, standard primitives.

To keep the polycount low, go to modify tab and adjust the height segments to 1 (default is 5) and sides to 10-12 (default is 18)

Now the front sight was made with Tube and than I used Boolean tool and box to get that shape.
You first select the object you want to cut (operand A) and than under –Create – Geometry –Pull down menu– Compound objects _Choose –Boolean and than _Pick Operand B(make sure that Subtraction A-B is check ) ,now just click on the box.(operand B)

I have this for now.

Lets go add some details to the wooden forward grip.


Now in perspective view rotate the view until you get something close to the image Select the object.

Go to Modify tab and in modifier list choose Edit mesh.


Now we will use the cut tool (this tool you can use with polygon or edge mode under edit mesh –I use the edge tool so you can easily see what I do.)

This will add additional edges to the surface of the object which we'll then manually move to shape the object.

So Under the Edith Mesh choose edge mod.


Select the two edges like on the image and now choose Cut tool.

With your left mouse button click on one edge and than on the opposite edge, and then drag the new edge between them.

Remember to click with your right mouse button afterwards to close the tool. Just cut with tool 3 times.

After cutting the object (because I cut in perspective view, the newly created edges are not lined up)

Go toTop view port and change it to bottom view port, then line up the vertices (see the image )

After that go to right view p. and try to adjust the vertices so they look close to shape on image.

Yes there is another tool for this kind of job –Chamfer Edge –under edge mod.-why I didn’t use that tool? Firstly because I like to have control over my model in a way of poly count and that tool is not yet good enough. Any way I find that one can do this better with the cut tool.


Now we will adjust the body of the weapon. Select the body, apply the Edith Mesh on it, go to polygon mod, select the poly.

Like on image, right click with your mouse on persp. View, and then choose the extrude tool.

Try to get something like on image.

After that go to vertex and adjust vertices (see image)
The final stage of the body shaping was made same way as the wooden part of the gun.(Cut tool with some adjustment of the vertices)
Ok This is it,the weapon is over, just one thing- hell you didn’t explain how you did that part of weapon?

Well this I will explain only with words so if you do know something about max you will understand what the hell I am talking about.

Start with the line tool and draw an outline of that leaf sight (try to keep low count of segments) then Clone that object to another side of gun.

After you do that, select the firstly created object, apply the edit mesh and than with cut tool add 3 more segments to that object.

As you can see there is plenty of options to keEp any parts geek satisfied while modeling their own weapons for in game use.

When you add 3 segments you get the newly created polygons; choose the polygons and use the extrude tool and rotate tool to get more segments and shape them like on the image. Afterwards you can adjust the vertices a little bit more to fine-tune the final shape.

Black Sabbath