Modelling a Wheel With Modifiers

This was my first 3D model without the aid of a tutorial. I have to say I’m surprised it has turned out so well! I made this model as the final exercise for the Modelling with Modifiers course on CG Cookie. After modelling the cartoonesque plane I wanted to practise some more techniques but with a smaller scale project. I knew a little bit about what modifiers were but had only touched upon a couple previously. I thought this course would be a great introduction into understanding what they are used for and how they are used to make 3D modelling more efficient.

I knew modelling a wheel would be extremely difficult. I spent half the day at work pondering where to even begin. I decided the best course of action wasn’t to rush in but to plan the steps involved. I first researched a few wheel designs and saved some references. I then chose my favourite to insert into the Blender viewport. I then worked out which modifiers I was going to use – the exercise criteria stated I had to use at least two. I decided that I would model the spokes (centre piece) with an array, and subsurf modifier. I would then use a mirror, and another subsurf modifier on the outside tyre. I debated about using another array to help with the treading but decided against.

It took quite a while to work out how to get the array to work and at which point I should add it in. I spent three and a half hours modelling on my first night/attempt and realised that my method wasn’t the most efficient and I should start again for a better result. I had accidentally scaled my spokes early into the process and didn’t become aware until later when my array wouldn’t align properly. Below you can see the point at which I called it an evening and would start again the following night.

On my second attempt I began with a circle mesh (rather than a cube), poked the centre and then deleted 8/9ths of the model. I then added the array (made sure to apply the scale and rotation), selected object offset and rotated until the mesh made a complete, neat 360 degree circle. I then modelled a single spoke, added in a subsurf modifier, used proximity loops to make prominent edges sharp, played around with some more scaling to make the spokes a little more interesting to look at, and that completed my centre piece.

I then went on to add a torus mesh as the base shape for the outside tyre. I was dreading the treads. I scaled it just slightly larger than the spokes section and began to shape the mesh to make it look more like a car tyre. I used a bit of creative freedom here. As long as my tyre looked like a tyre on quick glance, then it passes in my book! Before I started on the treads, I added a cylinder mesh to act as the rim. Again, scaled it just slightly larger than the centre piece and adjusted the torus mesh until it all lined up. I then added in a few more edge loops and extruded inwards on the tyre to begin to give it some form.

Wheel Exercise 7

This was the tricky part. It took hours of playing around and multiple attempts to achieve a result I was happy withh. I began by trying to use the knife to cut shapes into the mesh. This produced a poor messy result. The subsurf modifier turned any extrusions into ugly blobs. I then attempted subdiving the whole tyre a couple of times, but it just made the geometry too dense. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to use the array here even though it probably would have worked out more efficiently!

What I finally realised is that it would have been stupid of me to individually make the tread one piece at a time. I knew I had to select specific vertices and edges and apply my method to all of these at once. Once I had identified these groups of edges it became apparent that bevelling and then extruding down towards the centre of the mesh would achieve the desired effect.

Wheel Exercise 8

After numerous attempts and countless loop cuts to tidy the curves made by the subsurf modifier, I got as close to perfect as I was going to get. I spent a long time adding proximity loops to tidy the tyre, but in future I would like to find a way to quicken this process. Perhaps if I hadn’t of applied my mirror modifier early, or if I used the array to begin with, I could have avoided time spent doing this. The below screenshots show some of the attempts creating the tread. One time I accidentally bevelled into the smooth indent. Another time I thought the tread looked a little too dense and made the choice to start again as I wanted a cleaner, simpler design.

I started this exercise with the objective to create a wheel  (spokes, rim and tyre), to understand the importance of modifiers, and to complete it without the aid of a modelling a wheel tutorial. I accomplished it! I’m going to submit my exercise to CG cookie and see what the feedback. Fingers crossed for a pass!

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