Subdivision Surface Modeling

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This is a modeling technique for making high-resolution models, by manipulating a lower-resolution "cage" model and using software to subdivide for a smoother surface.

Subdividing increases the number of vertices on the model, making curves more rounded. Usually each subdivision level increases the vertex count 4x the original count.

For game artists, "high-poly hard-surface" usually means creating mechanical/constructed models, which are used to bake into Normal Maps and other types of textures, which are in turn used on lower-resolution game-friendly models.

Subdivision surfaces can also be used for organic shapes.

Not to be confused with SmoothingGroups. Sometimes the term "box modeling" is used, though this applies only to the cage modeling process, not to the subdivision.

Subdivision Methods

There are many ways to subdivide models. 3ds Max uses mostly the Meshsmooth or Turbosmooth modifiers, while Maya uses mostly the Smooth Mesh Preview (3 key) or Subdiv Proxy.

Beware: Maya's "Subdivision Surface" system is a specialized case which allows different subdivision levels in different areas; this is different from most other modeling tools which divide the whole model instead.

Many tools now support Pixar's OpenSubdiv library which may help solve this issue. However the full modeling pipeline should be tested early, to avoid costly errors later on.


Some 3d modeling tools support edge creasing, which allows setting subdivision tension on specific edges. This creates degrees of edge "hardness".

These crease weights typically only work within the original modeling software and are not exportable.

Models made for games are often exported to work with multiple modeling and baking tools... trying to export a model with creases or local subdivisions may not retain the original modeler's intent.


Subd subdsurfacesoverview.png Subdivision Surfaces: Overview video from The GuerrillaCG Project

Subd subdtopologyartifacts.png Subdivision Topology Artifacts video from The GuerrillaCG Project

Subd opensubdiv.png OpenSubdiv - Modeling Tips by Pixar.

Subd inorganicfundamentals1.png Hard Surface Fundamentals for 3ds Max by Grant 'sathe' Warwick

Subd tecnicasmodelado.png Técnicas modelado por subdivisión by Cristóbal Vila

Subd subdmodelingprimer.png The POLE from the defunct

Subd gotwires.png gotwires Got Wires is all about Subdivision Modeling: Video Tutorials, Sub-D Wires and Modeling Resources.

Subd wikipedia.png Subdivision surface - Wikipedia has good technical info about sub-d.

Subd perna.png Shared: My Technical Talk content by Per 'Perna' Abrahamsen.

How u model dem shapes? Image Ripped! by cookedpeanut

SubD Makkon.jpg Pinterest: Hard Surface Topology by Ben 'Makkon' Hale

Modeling workflows and their advantages\disadvantages on the workplace .

Hard Surfaces

Subd benbolton.jpg Proboolean + Dynamesh hardsurface workflow tutorial

Subd SimonFuchs.jpg Basic Hardsurface Tutorials By Simon Fuchs.

Subd howumodeldemshapes.png How The F*#% Do I Model This? - Reply for help with specific shapes thread on the Polycount Forum.

Subd floatingpanelinglines.jpg Making paneling lines as a floater for 3ds Max by Ralphie 'boyluya' Agenar. From the Polycount Forum thread Firefall - Hard surface Art Dump.

Subd probooleans.png Using ProBooleans in 3ds Max for sub-d modeling Polycount forum thread.

Subd per1283dtutorials.png 3D Tutorials from Per Abrahamsen aka Per128

Subd marcusaseth.png Minitutorials by Marcus Aseth - by Marcus Aseth. Modeling gun parts, etc.

Subd slipgatecentral.png hard surface modelling hints pt1 - by 'slipgatecentral'. Creating floaters in Maya, short video tutorial.

Subd circularholes.png How to create circular holes by subdivision by Etereae Studios (translated into English by Google)

Subd blaizer.png Subdivision Tips – Hard Surface Modelling by Alberto 'Blaizer' Lozano (translated into English by Google)

Subd doublesmooth.png Double Smooth - by Ben 'poopinmymouth' MathisVideo tutorial demonstrates the double-smooth technique for fast sub-d modeling.

Subd firehydrant.png Model a Detailed High Poly Fire Hydrant in 3ds Max - by Ben Tate

Sculpt philipkmetal.png Matte Metal Tutorial - by Philip 'Philipk' KlevestavModeling and texturing a sci-fi metal plate wall using 3ds Max and Photoshop. More modeling and texturing tutorials at

Subd modelingbathroomtiles.png ModelingBathroomTiles - by okkun

Subd modelinghipolyweaponsispainful.png modeling hi poly weapons is painful, any tips? from the Polycount Forum.

Subd technicalhighpolyworkflow.png Technical highpoly workflow tutorial and scripts from the Polycount Forum.

Subd chainmailneox.png Modeling chainmail in 3ds Max - by Steffen "Neox" Unger

Organic Surfaces

Subd makingofmoff.png The Making of Moff - High Polygon Realistic Character Creation - by Darren "Daz" Pattenden

Subd shoelaces.png Modeling shoe laces, boot laces... etc. from the Polycount Boards

Subd digitalsculpturetechniques.pngDigital Sculpture Techniques by Bay Raitt and Greg Minter

Subd thepole.pngThe Pole from the forum. Saved here: Media:SubdivisionModelingDotCom_The-Pole.pdf (10MB PDF)

Subd thepolerevised.pngThe Pole - Revised from the forum

Subd thebody.pngMedia:SubdivisionModelingDotCom_Topology-Body.pdf (1MB PDF) from the forum.

Subd thehead.pngMedia:SubdivisionModelingDotCom_Topology-Head.pdf (8MB PDF) from the forum.

Tips & Tricks

Subdiv plasticchair.jpg Subdiv roundinsets.jpg Subdiv tubes-oblastradiuso.jpg Subdiv transition.jpg Subdiv cylinder-extrusion.jpg Subdiv cylinder-extrusion3.png Subdiv gunstock-racer445.jpg Subdiv bolt-insets.png Santos Polygone-Table-Stage-2.png Santos PolygonTableSketchA.png Santos Polygon-Table v04.png Santos MovingPolesv01 web.png Subdiv stepdownguide.png Subdiv quad topology tips PeterSatera.jpg

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