[3ds Max Tutorial] Basic operations / User interface [Part 2]

This is a tutorial for those who try modelling with 3dsMax for the first time to learn the basics of the tools.

※Windows10 is used for this tutorial.


Before learning the basic operations of 3dsMax, let’s check if you are ready to start the tutorial.

Install 3dsMax

If you completed the previous tutorial, you should have already installed it.

If you haven’t read the previous tutorial and have not installed 3dsMax by yourself, finish the previous tutorial here.

User interface

Firstly, let’s learn where the tools are and how they are used.

In this series of the tutorials, we sometimes review the frequently-used tools and operations. So you can follow the tutorials smoothly by referring to them, but you would progress more smoothly if you learnt more operations.

In particular, master the tools introduced in this article because, in all the tutorials in future, I will assume that you have already mastered them.


User Interface

The interface shown above is very familiar to me. As you follow this tutorial and start using 3dsMax, you will also be familiar with it sooner or later.

Now, in the screenshot above, the screen is divided into several windows and they are numbered 1 to 4.

I explain how each window works.


① Main Toolbar

As the name suggests, it contains the tools used frequently.

It’s hard to see the details in the screenshot above, so let’s scale it up to have a closer look.

By the way, you can also learn more about each tool on the official site.

Main Toolbar


① Undo / Redo

Let’s start with a well-known operation, ‘Undo / Redo’. 

It allows you to undo most of the operations until you save the project.

There are some exceptions but you won’t see them in this tutorial. If you are concerned about them, learn more about them on the official site by yourself.

The shortcuts are ‘Ctrl+Z’ (Undo) and ‘Ctrl+Y’ (Redo).

Many of the tools in the main toolbar have their shortcut. Remember them first if you want to operate efficiently.


Move / Rotate / Scale

The second group contains very basic operations: move, rotate and scale.

I will explain the detail of those tools later.

Those three tools do not have shortcuts.


Reference Coordinate System / Use Center Flyout

‘Reference Coordinate System’ allows you to specify the coordinate system used for ‘Move’, ‘Rotate’, ‘Scale’ etc. And, you use ‘Use Center Flyout’ to set the geometric centre for ‘Scale’ and ‘Rotate’ operations.

They are frequently used when you move or rotate an object associated with others.


④ Snap

Regarding the ‘Snap’ operations, there are ‘Snaps toggle’ (Shortcut: ‘S’ key), ‘Angle snap toggle’ (‘A’ key), ‘Percentage snap toggle’ (Shift+Ctrl+P) and ‘Spinner snap toggle’ (No shortcut).

You will get used to their behaviours while using it, so just remember where they are, for now.


Material Editor

Simply put, it’s a tool to paint. You can apply highly-refined material and texture by using it.

Did you find my explanation too simple? Please read the one in the official site if you want to learn more about it.

The shortcut is ‘M’.


⑥ Rendering

Those tools are used to output the created models and animations as images and videos.

You will learn more about their settings and operations in the future tutorials, so just remember that there are such tools, for now.

The shortcut is ‘F10’.



Scene Explorer

It displays the object placed in the scene. In it, you can select, hide/unhide and freeze objects, and can switch layers.

Let’s take a closer look.

Scene Explorer

In the screenshot above, each marked line shows how the object is shown in Scene Explorer when applying the following operations:

▶ Freeze

▶ Hide

▶ Group

▶ Container

▶ Rename

If you draw illustrations, you might have been familiar with those operations.

③ Viewport

Whenever you use 3dsMax, you deal with ‘Viewport’, which displays the objects you created.

Roughly speaking, Viewport has eight styles.

① Perspective

② Orthographic

③ Top

④ Bottom

⑤ Front

⑥ Back

⑦ Left

⑧ Right

Once you get used to those eight Viewports, you will be able to do modelling works smoothly.

In addition, Viewport has various layouts with 1 to 4 panes.

Please find your easy-to-use layout.


In Viewport, there are also various operations to control how objects are displayed.

You will eventually learn all of them, but for now, let’s remember the function shown here.




It’s a tool for you to operate the view intuitively.

There should be in the top right corner of Viewport. But, don’t worry if you couldn’t see it. You can unhide it by clicking ‘[+]’ in the top left corner.


Command Panel

‘Command Panel’ is the one used not only to place a primitive but also to apply various operations to it.

Command Panel

In the screenshot above, you can see ‘Command Panel’ consists of six elements.

Let’s look into them one by one.


① Create

In most cases, you create an object from here.

This panel has seven controls.

But, I intentionally skip them in this tutorial.

That’s because you use this panel very frequently in the next tutorial, so you won’t miss opportunities to get used to it!

② Modify

Use this panel if you want to modify the object you created.

It’s also used frequently in the next and subsequent tutorials, so let’s remember it.

③ Hierarchy

Use this panel to manage the child-parent relations between objects.

As I myself have not used this operation so often, it might take a while until I actually introduce it in a future tutorial.

④ Motion

It has the tools to adjust the motion of objects.

⑤ Display

According to the Autodesk Knowledge Network, it controls the display of objects in the scene. If you thoroughly read the tutorial so far, you would remember that Scene Explorer also does the same.

However, this Display panel has some operations that Scene Explore cannot handle easily.

It doesn’t mean you need to use them so often. In general, only a difficult task requires advanced functions.

You wouldn’t use this panel as this series of tutorials won’t involve such difficult tasks.

⑥ Utilities

The ‘Utilities’ panel will greatly help you to create your work.

Yes, it does indeed.

The panel itself is very useful and, in addition to many standard tools available in the panel, you can also set your favourite plug-ins by yourself.

Honestly it’s difficult to introduce all of them here and, in fact, some tools are hard to learn until you actually use them.

Therefore, I will explain the ‘Utilities’ panel when we use it.


This is the end of this tutorial.

In the beginning, I said that I will assume that you have mastered the contents of this tutorial for the following tutorials. However, I understand it’s hard to master everything at first glance.

So, at the beginning of each tutorial in future, I will place the link for you to come back to this tutorial.

Let’s master them in a solid way through your hands-on experience.

In the next tutorial

We finally start creating the model in the next tutorial. It starts with a simple modelling work by using geometrical primitives.