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9 Modeling Tips in Cinema 4D

By Alan Demafiles
Cinema 4D

Create better models of the polygonal variety in Cinema 4D

You might be rocking the runway with your Cinema 4D models most of the time, until… you don’t.
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Wearing black shoes with a brown belt is the real tragedy here...
Let’s look at how to put glam back in that game with these modeling tips in Cinema 4D.
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Follow along with the examples in the article with these files

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Modeling Tips in Cinema 4D

Here's a few of my favorite modeling tips in Cinema 4D.

1. Select parts of your model with ease

A big part of modeling is selecting the parts of editable geometry you want to work with. Fill selection lets you use edge selections to isolate polygons easily. Make looped edge selections around what you want to poly select, then switch to fill selection and hover over each isolated area to select the polys.
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Grab big chunks of geo with Fill Selection
Another way to select sections of your model is thru the phong break selection tool. Phong who? This detects breaks in the phong shading of your model to define the selectable areas.
Pro Tip: Be sure to use the tag override and use lower phong angles to narrow the selection.
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2. Cloth Surface on Flat Geometry = Live Extrusions

So you’ve got the Extrude object to extrude splines, but what about flat editable geometry? If you have the Studio version of Cinema 4D, just parent the geo to a cloth surface for a non-destructive & animatable extrusion.
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Model flat then extrude, bend or whatever later.

3. Bevel Everything

One of the easiest ways to create better looking models is to add bevels. Nothing in real life has razor sharp edges so why should your models? (Yes that includes a sharp dressed man, okay ZZ Top?)
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Those are actually Texas sized spinning belt buckles.
Bevels allow for geometry to catch highlights and add a level of detail that makes it look less digital. Of course you can model this into your editable geometry with the bevel tool, but an easier way to add a bevel is thru the Bevel deformer which keeps it nice and non-destructive allowing you to fine-tune its look. Simply add the Bevel deformer as a child of the main object.
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4. Save Iterations, Or Else...

It should go without saying that modeling parametrically or non-destructively as possible is always a good way to go since you can always get back to a previous state. But if you need to do some mesh surgery for greater detail or want to lighten up your scene’s playback speed, you’ll want to work with editable geometry. But before you hit that ‘C’ key, make sure to save a copy to get back to, either in a new .c4d file, or stashed in a hidden layer.

5. Make geometry as light as possible

A good modeling tip in Cinema 4D is to only make meshes as dense as necessary. It's generally a good thing to have lots of geometry around areas where deformation will happen. However, for rigid bodies knock that geometry down till you have the bare minimum.
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This should never be a thing if it just sits there.

6. Use Subdivision Surfaces

By keeping it light, your scene’s viewport stays fluid and if you need to bump up the resolution, add a Subdivision Surface object to the mix. Set the subdivision editor to 0 or 1 as you work your scene and 2 or higher for subdivision renderer.
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Before SDS: nice & light
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After SDS: ready for rendering
At each level, subdivision surfaces will take a polygon and divide it into 4 with the end result smoothing and rounding your geometry. So smoothing a cube will round it into a ball as you increase levels. Neat!
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You can select points, edges and polygons and ‘crease’ or weight them so they don’t get rounded. Simply select the components of your base mesh, hold down the period key as you drag left and right. All the weighted information gets saved in a new SDS Weight tag.
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it's a bullet... it''s a snail head... on its side!
Subdivision surface modeling gets pretty deep so here’s a little rabbit hole for you dive into. And if you really want to go the full monty MILG 11 is where it’s at.

7. Use falloffs on Effectors and Deformers as Modeling Tools

Where geometry is complex or dense, you can use falloffs found in the deformers and mograph effectors as modeling tools. How? Take a tire rim for example: What if you wanted to introduce a twist to the spokes of the rim? You could do a soft selection with the rotation tool, but that’s destructive. Instead, put a twist deformer and use a cylindrical falloff to only affect the spokes and not the entire geo of the rim.
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Remember when spinners were a thing?
Likewise by using a mograph plain effector in point deformation mode and as a child of the rim, we can push and pull geo and limit what geometry is affected by using cylindrical falloff.
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Mograph effectors: still powerful even without a cloner object.
To really get fancy, you can play with the spline parameters of the falloff. By the way, did I mention this is all animatable?!
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Non-destructive and animatable modeling changes FTW.

8. Transform Geometry like Photoshop

One of my favorite tools for modeling is a free plugin from Welters Cinema 4D plugins called Transform. With Transform you can easily take polygon objects or selected geometry and shear, non uniformly scale, and rotate on edges all using the transform display cage around the object. Welter's page also has a bunch of workflow gems (including the indispensable UV to Object plugin) so be sure to check it out.
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Just like photoshop’s transform bounding box, woot!

9. 5 Point Star Spline

If we’re honest, we’ve all wrestled with trying to get a simple 5 point star from a spline object to point upward. The fix is simple, rotate the 5 point star -90 degrees on the rotation B coordinate. But now although it points up, the green Y axis tells us it’s really on its side. To fix this:
  1. Make the star editable
  2. Enable axis modification mode
  3. In the coordinates manager, zero out the rotation B value.
Bonus tip: if you need this object often, save it to your library. With it selected, in the object manager go to File > Save Selected Object As.
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11. Add geometry where objects deform

Take the star we just made and throw it into an Extrude object. Now add a bend to it and what do you get? Something pretty blocky.
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To smooth this out we can add more generated geometry by changing the number of intermediate points on the Star spline. As a result the bend has more to work with. But the center of the star is still pretty blocky.
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better, closer, warmer...
To add more geometry to the caps of the extrude object, change the cap type to ‘Quadrangles’ & enable ‘Regular Grid’. Yes, this introduces triangles where all quads would be better, but unless we want to take the time to make this editable and manually add our geometry with the Polygon Pen tool, this seems like a speedy alternative.
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Take a bow you star you!
As with all things in Cinema 4D, there are more than a few ways to accomplish something and modeling is certainly no different. Hopefully these modeling tips in Cinema 4D will help you make some polygonal magic.
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The Shia has spoken