3D Artist

Combine 3ds Max and Marvelous Designer

Tips & Tutorials
Carrie Mok

Find out how to add fabric to your hard-surface models


This tutorial was written by the amazing Paul Pepera and appeared in issue 97 of 3D Artist

Tools used

3ds Max
Marvelous Designer

We will briefly go over the workflow to generate cloth elements for a cockpit render using Marvelous Designer, an extremely powerful tool that allows you to quickly generate very realistic-looking cloth and soft-bodied models. Marvelous Designer is so versatile you can use it for almost any subject matter – in this case we used it for the padding work in a sci-fi cockpit piece. We will get results that are far more realistic looking and much quicker than if we were choosing to sculpt in ZBrush.


Step 01 – Think about the design

Think about the design

This project begins the same way other projects start – deciding what to design. I made a series of industrial spacecraft several months ago that I always wanted to come back to and model the interiors. The aesthetic of the spacecraft designs is dominated by cloth coverings that serve as thermal insulation. I wanted to apply this same treatment to the interior cockpit design and figured this would be good, additional practice in utilising Marvelous Designer in interesting ways.

Step 02 – Block out the shapes

Block out the shapes

To start the actual modelling of the interior the first step is to block out the shape of the space in 3ds Max and place the main elements into the scene that will represent the locations for the final instrument panels, seats, switches and other cockpit parts. The blockout shape is derived from the exterior model of the spacecraft – it serves as a guide for where the window placements should be. This primitive shell of the space will serve as the foundation avatar for laying down the cloth in Marvelous Designer. Keep things simple and basic for now – more detail will be added later in the process once the cloth elements are laid down.


Step 03 – Go to Marvelous Designer

Go to Marvelous Designer

Now take the shell mesh of the cockpit from the blockout phase and import it as an avatar inside Marvelous Designer. You can sketch out cloth shapes that will serve as the templates that we’ll lay down over the avatar – alternatively you can create the cloth templates in Max and import them into MD as well. Lay the cloth shape over the avatar in the desired position and let it fall onto the avatar by clicking the simulate button (Spacebar on the keyboard). Apply negative pressure to the cloth to help it ‘squeeze’ the avatar mesh – this will help the pinning process in the next step. Also you can turn the avatar upside down before importing to make the pinning process a bit more simple by allowing gravity to hold the cloth template onto the avatar.

Step 04 – Pin the cloth

Pin the cloth

Once the mesh is draped on the avatar select the Add Pin tool. Use the marquee tools to select areas of the cloth that will hold the mesh down once positive pressure is introduced. The location of these pins can help inform how the creases and shears of the simulated cloth will look. In the Fabric options you can change the properties of how the cloth behaves once simulated or you can select a preset cloth that comes with Marvelous Designer. Cotton_CLO and Windbreaker presets yield good results for this piece.

Step 05 – Add pressure

Add pressure

Now apply positive Pressure to the cloth. The pins will hold down the mesh at strategic points creating a nice, cushion effect to the cloth. Play around with the Shrinkage Weft and Warp values to achieve different results in the shearing of the cloth. Also lower the Particle Distance to get a more detailed simulation at the expense of performance. Once you are happy with the results export the mesh as an OBJ. Next run it through a decimation program to reduce the polycount and make it more manageable inside Max – we used Decimation Master in ZBrush for this work.

Step 06 – Go back to 3ds Max

Go back to 3ds Max

Once back inside Max import the mesh generated from Marvelous Designer. Use FFD modifiers and Soft Selection to fit the cloth around the elements in Max, such as the window frames. Delete any unnecessary geometry that resulted from the pinning. You can also fit in cloth meshes that were not generated on an avatar base mesh in Marvelous Designer using the FFD modifiers in Max – enabling you to reuse generated cloth meshes between different projects to speed up the process.

Step 07 – Add cloth to cables

Add cloth to cables

We can use a similar process to generate the cloth effects on the cables and piping in the cockpit. Use a spline to draw out the shapes of the cables in Max and export them as avatars into Marvelous Designer. As before, draw out the cloth templates that will cover the avatar; stitch together different templates to account for any curves in the avatar that may create pinching or unwanted stretching. Pressure, Shrinkage Weft/Wrap and Fabric Properties are some of the settings you can play with to achieve different-looking results.


Step 08 – Model the instrument panels

Model the instrument panels

We wanted to keep the design grounded in realism but still evoke a feeling of sci-fi – we like the idea of retro-futurism; incorporating old technology into sci-fi contexts. One of these areas are the hard-surface instrument panels. We referenced a lot of Russian aircraft cockpits (such as the MiG-21) and pulled interesting elements directly from them. The modelling was done all in 3ds Max, with a liberal use of subdivisions to ensure clean edges and bevels. To speed things up we only modelled a few unique panels and indicators and instanced them around the cockpit.

Step 09 – Prep for render

Prep for render

V-Ray was picked as the rendering solution for this scene. Since this was primarily an exercise in cloth simulation in Marvelous Designer we weren’t concerned with applying materials to the objects – we wanted to do a sort of clay render of just the modelling work – though we did want to achieve a rather realistic lighting setup. A dome light was positioned around the scene and the intensity of it was increased to simulate sunlight. We ensured the physical camera settings yielded a realistic look to the lighting – making the area outside the windows overexposed and letting the illumination of the interior be done with GI. We put a VRayLight material on the instrument panel gauges to add a bit more interest and secondary lighting to the scene.

  • Dmitry M

    Wow! That’s great!

  • Darsh Tarantino

    A tutorial for this with Cinema 4D? or Maya? plz?