Lightwave Modeling Tips
By bmckain
Published: 6/10/09

Lightwave ModelingTips
by Bob McKain

Over time, Iíve been fortunate to pick up several helpful tips that make working on a model, and reworking it, easier. These are basic workflow and conventions that that you may find useful additions to your workflow.

Better Contrast

Once of the first things I found useful was a tip to find a good set of colors to work within modeler. The easier it is to see your selections the quicker you can identify problems and correct them. Iíve played with many settings over the years and Iíve finally landed on this color setup: blue for the background and red for selection highlights. Much will depend on your eyes and preferences but this image shows how easy it is to see what has been selected

To set your colors, choose Edit/Display Options from your menu and adjust the colors. You can set colors for back ground, point, edge, polygon and normal selections. Iíve found this particular combination works well with background schematics loaded as well. The key is high contrast and colors that donít get lost with the typical black and white scheme or grey backgrounds.

Naming Conventions

Having worked on models that have more than twenty surfaces, I have found that having a good naming convention can really help to locate a particular surface. Itís always best to avoid long surface lists if possible, but when you must deal with them having a good naming convention will save headaches.

As you can see, with this model Iíve been careful to give the surfaces a unique naming convention. This was important, since I had several variations of this model and wanted to load each into the same scene. Unique names made it easy to find model-specific surfaces and know exactly which surfaces I was affecting later on. One point to make note of: if you are working on a network farm, you may need to use the underscore instead of the space-hyphen-space. Some networks donít play well with the hyphen.

Where Did The Parts Go?

This step is one that is often missed and one I have found to be crucial when revisiting a model to adjust it or change it. Lightwave allows you to create a parts list and the best time to do that is while setting up your model. I have found it extremely helpful to build my models in sub-groups and, once done, determine what the best parts arrangement is. Itís not necessary to name each surface as a part but it does help to make groups of parts where choosing a surface wonít select what youíre after. For the rim in this example, I separated the model into two parts, the wheel and the spokes.

I wanted to be able to easily select the spoke later on. As you can see, I made everything from the spokes inward all part of the same parts list. By selecting ďRim Ė SpokesĒ and deselecting the lugs and hub I am able to adjust or replace the spokes any time when revisiting the model.

Easy Wireframes

This little tip that Iíve found helpful is to make use of the Info tab and ďColor WireframeĒ. Often I just want a quick and pretty wireframe to show off and donít want to jump into layout to render one. The solution is simple: I choose the wireframe colors as I go by using the info tab. As you see from this screen grab, I used black for the lug nuts and white for everything else. There are thirteen preset colors you can select.

Of course, you can be as elaborate or minimalist as you want but the result is: you can do a quick screengrab and it makes a nice color wireframe thatís easy to see.

My Model Wonít Export

There are many reasons why a LW model may not export well but two of the most common reasons are single-point polys and stray points. The reason I want to mention the last two is that itís a commonly missed problem, and often when Iíve had a model that wouldnít port cleanly I could trace it back to one of those two reasons. The best way to see if you have stray points or single-point polys is to use the ďStatisticsĒ tab. In poly mode. Click the ďStatisticsĒ tab and notice the 1 vertex and 2 vertices reports. If you have any click the ď+Ē symbol next to the report lines and all the polys reported will show up. Carefully find each one and eliminate it. Do the same for points mode, only this time take note of the 1 polygons report. Again, carefully clean up all single point polygons until there are none left. This wonít guarantee that your model will export but these two steps will eliminate the most common offenders that prevent export. One more issue to make note of is that other programs will not use Lightwave-specific surfacing solutions such as procedurals. If you want a model to export and look the same in other packages you may want to consider baking the textures or using standard or UV mapping.

This tutorial has also been provided as a PDF file: LW Modeling Tips.pdf