Furniture: Upholstery Accent Chair Tutorial

Follow along in the creation of a SKU

01. Overview

Upholstery accents can be a challenge to model. In this tutorial, we will show you some techniques that will help. You can download the final model to compare your work against here.

02. Collect Product Reference

We rely on product images to model accurately create out models. The more images and information you can get, the better.

  1. Collect all images. The images needed to create this model are located in the reference folder. Keep in mind that other options can have additional shots or better angles, so be sure to check them. At times, product images can be limited, so it’s good to even check customer photos.
  2. Get the overall dimensions of the product, and additional dimensions if available.

03. Reference Prep in 3ds Max

This usually depends on your workflow and the images you’re able to get for a product. For this example, I’m only going to load the front facing image to make sure I’m getting my proportions right. I will probably bring another image in later.

a. Start by creating a box with the overall dimensions of the product

  • Go to the Create Menu > Box
  • From the Top Orthographic View, begin drawing your box shape.
    • You can switch to the Top view by hitting (T) on the keyboard
    • Remember that creating primitives can be a multi click process. For the box, we have to draw out the length and width with LMB then we need to draw out the height using LMB again.
    • Before you complete the shape, you can adjust the dimensions for the product in the lower part of the create panel.
      • If you already completed the shape, you can just go to the modify panel and adjust the same settings there.
    • Use the RMB to complete the shape
    • Name it Overall_DIM

b. Set it’s transforms to be in zero world space.

Since the pivot is set to the base by default, it puts the box right where we want it.

c. Now let’s make it the object easier to see through since we will be modeling within these constraints.

Right Click on the box > Object Properties > View As Box

d. Create a plane for our reference image

i. In the Front Orthographic, create a plane with dimensions that are the same aspect ratio as the the reference image. You can check image sizes by right clicking on the file and going to Properties > Details Tab – The front angled image is 3000×3000 pixels, so we just need to make a square plane. Keep in mind, the photograph is a not a perfect representation of the product due to perspective distortion. It’s important to interpret the correct final chair positioning and proportions by observing the chair as a whole and doing a comparative analysis.

ii. Make it somewhere around the size of the product. Let’s do 36” x 36”
This doesn’t need to be perfect because we will be scaling the plane anyway.

iii. Drag the image JPG file from windows explorer right onto the plane in 3DS Max.

iv. In the Front Orthographic view (f) position and scale the plane so it’s roughly the same size as the dimension box you just made. Finally, move the plane behind the dimension box.

04. Blocking Out the Model

a. Creating the Basic Shapes

i. The Legs

1. Using the Box standard primitive, block out a simple leg shape for the chair’s front right leg. Alternate between the Front Orthographic view and the Left Orthographic view to position the leg correctly.

2. From the Modifier Panel, add a FFD 2x2x2 (Freeform Deform) to the box primitive. Expand the modifier and select Control Points. Select the Control Points, then use the Transform and Scale tools to shape the leg to match the orthographic images.

3. Now, add a Symmetry modifier to the stack. Expand the modifier and make sure the Mirror’s x position is located at 0. This should produce a left front leg for the chair.

4. Modelling the back legs’ subtle curve will require an extra step. After tapering the leg shape with the FFD 2x2x2 modifier, select the vertical edges of the leg. Then, Connect Edges to add additional geometry. Finally, apply a FFD 3x3x3 and adjust its Control Points to create an accurate shape.

5. When you’re satisfied, add a Symmetry modifier to create the remaining rear leg.

6. Finally, smooth out those leg corners by selecting the hard edges and applying a Chamfer modifier.

ii. The Seat

1. Create a Box primitive and scale it to fit the rough size of the seat cushion.

2. Select the horizontal edges, open the Connect Edges tool, set the Segments to 2, and set the Pinch value to around 74.

3.Extrude the middle face from the rear of the cushion.

4. Let’s apply the Symmetry modifier. This allows us to create a symmetrical model quickly. Make sure your model is at x position 0. Expand your Symmetry modifier and make sure the contained mirror object is set to x position 0 as well. Use the Rotate tool to rotate the mirror object correctly.

5. Use the Swift Loop tool to add edge loops to the model. Use the Transform tool to move verts into the proper locations.

6. With Vertex Selection enabled, use Soft Selection to pull vertices into softer forms that match the chair cushions. Note that you can adjust the influence strength of Soft Selection by modifying Falloff, Pinch and Bubble values.

7. Apply an OpenSubdiv or Turbosmooth modifier to the stack. This is starting to look pretty soft!

iii. The Back

1. In the Front Orthographic view (f), make a Box primitive shape. Rotate and Scale it to match the reference in the Left Orthographic view (l).

2. With an Edit Poly modifier applied, add edge loops with the Swift Loop and Connect tools. Using the Transform tool, move edges around to match the reference. It’s useful to work with a Symmetry modifier

3. Chamfering edges can be useful for adding edge loops and rounding out forms. In this case, the central vertical edge loop has been chamfered.

4. In the Edit Poly modifier, with Polygons selected, use the Cut tool to add loops and follow the chair contours. Consider making the mesh translucent by right-clicking on the mesh and selecting Object Properties > See-Through.

5. Continue building out your model by applying edge loops and modifying their positions.

6. Add extra edge details around the seams folds. Push in the middle edges of the seams.

7. Add a Turbosmooth modifier to add softness and smoothness.

8. Use the FFD(box) 8x8x8 tool to fit the cushion into the chair back.

9. The buttons in the back area could start as a Cylinder primitive. Add some additional Cap Segments. Then, reshape the cylinder with FFD(box) 2x2x2. Finally, use Soft Selection in the Vertex Selection to pull out a button shape. Pay attention to the Falloff, Pinch and Bubble properties!

10. When you’re satisfied with the shape of the button, add the Turbosmooth modifier.

11. Add them to their proper positions on the chair using the Rotate and Transform tools.

iv. The Tufting

1. The chair’s tufting will be tricky. The diamond pattern is an important feature of the chair and important to get right for our customers.

2. Let’s start by making the pattern itself. From the Standard Primitives tab, make a 2×2 inch Plane in the Top Orthographic view (t).

3. Now, use the Array tool to make copies of the plane. With the plane selected, go to Tools > Array. Make sure the Preview button is enabled as you copy the values below.

4. Because the planes are instances, changes to one plane will affect all the planes. After applying an Edit Poly modifier, select the top and bottom edges of the plane. Use the Connect Edges tool.

5. Connect the vertically aligned edges using the same method. Then, Chamfer the vertical middle edge. Chamfer the middle horizontal edge. Chamfer Segments should be set to 2 in both cases.

6. Select the middle edge loops and pull them down a bit.

7. Then, raise the corner Vertices.

8. Drag select all the meshes and right-click the Edit Poly modifier. Select Make Unique.

9. Use the Edit Geometry Attach List to select all of your meshes. Attach them.

10. Weld the seams together by using a Welder modifier to the modifier stack. Smooth out the mesh with a Turbosmooth modifier. We’re done with this fabric mesh for now.

11. Now, we’re going to shape a patch to the back of the chair. With the patch in place, we’ll be able to smoothly shape the fabric mesh into place. From the Create panel, make a Quad Patch.

12. In the Left Orthographic view (l), align the patch to the reclining angle of the chair.

13. To match the curve of the chair, add a Bend modifier to the rotated patch.

14. The Bend modifier should get your patch pretty close to the chair’s contours, but you’ll need to make some closer adjustments. Apply an Edit Patch to the modifier stack. Use the Transform and Rotate tool to make adjustments to the Vertices of the patch. You may find it easier to work in Reference Coordinate System: Screen.

15. Add a Patch Deform Binding (WSM) to the fabric mesh. For the Pick Patch field, choose your new patch. Use the Transform and Rotate tools to get the fabric into position. When you’re satisfied, right-click on the Patch Deform Binding (WSM) modifier and select Collapse To Editable Poly.

16. Now, carve away the fabric mesh to fit the chair. Start by selecting the mesh’s polygons at the top of the chair and selecting Slice Plane from the Edit Geometry menu.

17. Select the unneeded polygons and delete them.

18. Continue trimming polygons using the Slice Plan and Cut Polygon tools.

19. Add a Turbosmooth modifier to the fabric mesh.

20. Use the FFD(box) modifiers to shape the fabric trim to match the dimensions of the chair model. Remember, to shift the fabric mesh, open the FFD(box) modifier and select the Control Points and Transform their positions.

20. Use the FFD(box) modifiers to shape the fabric trim to match the dimensions of the chair model. Remember, to shift the fabric mesh, open the FFD(box) modifier and select the Control Points and Transform their positions.

v. The Ribbon

1. The Loft tool is a helpful tool for recreating the tricky ribbon trim. Select an edge loop from the cushion by selecting an edge and hitting Loop in the Edge Selection menu. It’s even faster to just double click on an edge to select its edge loop.

2. In the Edit Edges menu, select Create Shape. This will copy the selected edge loop into a new spline.

3. In the Top Orthographic view (T), from the Splines menu, create a kidney shaped Line.

4. Not select the first line (line_cushion_low), go to the Compound Objects menu and select Lofts. In the Lofts menu, select Get Shape and click on the kidney line. This should wrap the cross section of the kidney shape across the cushion line. If you find the kidney shape is reversed, try holding Ctrl as you click the kidney shaped spline.

5. Lofts are very powerful because changes you make to the splines update the model in real time. Updates to the line cross section affect the model.

6. Fit the trim to the shape of the cushion by editing the verts in the splines.

7. To follow the chair’s contours, it may be necessary to apply the Twist Deformation. This can be found in the Loft modifier. Twist Deformations rotate the cross section shape in the loft.

7. To follow the chair’s contours, it may be necessary to apply the Twist Deformation. This can be found in the Loft modifier. Twist Deformations rotate the cross section shape in the loft.

8. Add a Noise modifier to add more natural variation to the trim.

9. Now, let’s add the buttons. Luckily, they’re a simple shape. In the Front Orthographic view (f), create a Basic Primitive Sphere. Use the Scale tool to match the button size.

10. Note that the chair’s buttons are not perfect spheres. Use the Scale tool to squeeze the button into a compressed disc shape.

11. Add the buttons to the trim using the Clone, Transform, and Rotate tools. Then, with Vertices selected, use Paint Deformation to apply indentations around the buttons. Alt-click pushes into the shape.

12. To make the the trim along the vertical chair back, select the appropriate edges and use the Create Shape tool.

13. Use the new spline and the trim cross section spline to generate a new Loft.

14. This loft may need some shape adjustments to get it in the proper position. To do so, simply open the spline Selection options. Use the Transform tool to position the spline vertices into their proper place.

15. Use the Twist Deformation in the Loft menu to twist the trim so it follows the chair’s form.

16. Use the Symmetry modifier to copy the Trim to the other side of the chair.

17. Add a Turbosmooth modifier and a Noise modifier to add some natural irregularities.

18. Add the button details along the trim and model indentations with the Soft Selection tool again.

19. At this point, the chair should be done.