10 top 3ds Max tutorials

Autodesk's 3ds Max is one of the most popular 3D packages around, but learning how to make the most of its extensive toolset and powerful features is a serious challenge, especially if you're just starting out in 3D.

That's why we've put together this collection of brilliant 3ds Max tutorials that'll provide you with plenty of useful tips for creating show-stopping 3D art. Whether you're new to 3ds Max and could use advice on getting started with it, or if you're a more advanced user in search of professional solutions to tricky problems, you'll find help here.

01. Getting started

3ds Max tutorials: Getting started

New to 3ds Max? Learn the basics with Autodesk

If you're just starting out with 3ds Max then where better to go for helpful tips on familiarising yourself with the basics than to Autodesk itself? Its guide to the basics – from getting to grips with the interface and planning your project workflow, through to the essentials of building, lighting and rendering your scene – is a great, no-nonsense way to learn all about what you can do with 3ds Max.

02. Using normal maps in 3ds Max

3ds Max tutorials: Using normal maps in 3ds Max

Normal maps give you extra detail without the geometry overheads

When you're making static scenes or animations you don't need to worry too much about adding as much detail as you want to your build. But if you're building for games or interactive playback, too much detail can really clobber performance, so the best way to give your builds that extra layer of detail is by using normal maps, and this tutorial from Autodesk will take you through the basics.

03. Animate a car path

3ds Max tutorials: Animate a car path

Avoid animation pitfalls by nailing all the little touches of realism

While a package like 3ds Max makes it relatively easy to create incredibly lifelike renders and animations, failure to pay attention to the little details can completely wreck the illusion. This tutorial from Autodesk is a perfect example; following on from an earlier guide to animating a car, this one tackles all the things you need to do to make it look like the real thing, such as making the wheels spin at an appropriate rate, and turning the front wheels and rolling the body of the car when turning a corner. 

04. Master large-scale environments in 3ds Max

3ds Max tutorials: Master large-scale environments in 3ds Max

Here's how to build massive worlds without crippling yourself or your workstation

The most impressive use of 3ds Max can be to create massive, detailed landscapes that look indistinguishable from a photograph. The downside, though, is that they can take an age to build from scratch, and if you're not careful then your beautiful scene will prove to be too much for your renderer to handle. Here you'll learn how to use a pair of 3ds Max plugins, Forest Pack and Railclone, to make a scene with hundreds of thousands of objects and procedural geometry, that won't bring your workstation to a standstill.

05. Sci-fi ships in 3ds Max

3ds Max tutorials: Sci-fi ships in 3ds Max

You know you want to build a big sexy spaceship; here's how

If there's one thing that's likely to give you the urge to become a 3D artist, it's seeing an epic spaceship do its thing on the big screen. And if you follow this three-part tutorial from Victoria Passariello, you'll learn everything you need to know about building your own stunning spacecraft from scratch, from building the base model through to adding all those essential details, creating suitable textures for it and finally rendering the finished piece.

You also also check our tutorial by Passariello: how to sharpen your hard surface modelling in 3ds Max.

06. 3ds Max 2017 Essential Training

3ds Max tutorials: 3ds Max 2017 Essential Training

This nearly 10-hour guide from Lynda.com covers 3ds Max 2017 from the ground up

This nearly 10-hour guide from Lynda.com covers 3ds Max 2017 from the ground up, providing an overview of the entire package as well as essential skills that 3D artists need to create professional models and animations.

07. Lighting and rendering in 3ds Max using Mental Ray

lighting in 3ds max

Lighting is key to a realistic scene

In this tutorial from 3D Total, learn how to light and set up some materials in 3ds Max using Mental Ray that gets good results while also having a fast render time.

08. Create amazing 3D type 

3ds max type

Who wouldn't want to create some 3D type like this?

3ds Max has some amazing and creative ways to make your type look absolutely beautiful. In this tutorial. Jeya of Media Militia reveals how to extrude text, tweak it out, manipulate the mesh, and then export it out to Photoshop to add in some extra elements. 

09. How to create a chrome material

3ds Max tutorials: How to create a chrome material

Discover how to easily create one of the most used 3D materials, Chrome

From the team at Florence Design Academy, discover how to create a chrome material, one of the most used materials in the 3D design field. 

10. How to model a hand

3ds max hand

Replicate this hand by Hatice Bayramoglu

3D artist Hatrice Bayramoglu's free tutorial over on CGArena shows how to model a hand from a sketch. Using polygonal modelling technqiues, the process start using the hand sketch as a blueprint. 

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.