How to Create Character Teeth and Gums in 3ds Max
Making the teeth and gums
Making teeth is a good opportunity to learn about the power of instances. Instances are when you make copies of an object and then any changes that you make to either the original or the copies happens to all of them. There are also just a bunch of little modeling tips and tricks sprinkled throughout this movie that will help you in all kinds of ways, not just when modeling these specific body parts. First thing I want to do is hide the eyes and the head, just to get them out of the way so they are not bothering me while I am trying to make the teeth. Go ahead and select them all and go to Object Properties and click Hide and hit OK.
Let's start by making a base for the gums. I am going to go up to the Create panel and create a tube. I want to create this tube right at the center, so let me hit S to turn on Snaps. Now, when I create this it's going to make it right at the center, and I will just make a rough shape, kind of like this. It doesn't have to be exact. Snaps is still on, and so it's making the height snap either really high or really low. So I am just going to hit S again to turn that off and just make something that's roughly about this shape. So I will just click once more and then right-click to lock that in.
From this polygon tube, I will be creating the gums and extracting the teeth. First, let's turn on Edged Faces so we can see exactly what we're doing, and let me go to the Modifier and make sure the settings are exactly the way I want. I want the Sides to be 20. By default, it might be 18. Go ahead and change that to 20. Also, the Height segments might be 5 by default. Go ahead and change that to 1. In order to keep modifying this, I need to make it an editable poly, so go ahead and right-click on it. Go to Convert To > Editable Poly.
Let's delete some of the polygons that we don't need. So go into Polygon mode. I am just going to rotate this round, so I can see this better. I want to select all of these on the back side and delete them. I also don't need any of the polygons that are underneath. If I just click one and then Shift+Click one next to it, I'll get entire row of polygons, and just go ahead and delete those. Now it's easy to make a tooth based on the gums. Let's look at this from the top view. Select one of these polygons here at the back, and we are going to separate it out into a separate object by going in the Move mode and then Shift+Moving it up a little bit.
This breaks it out as a separate object. Make sure Clone to Objects is turned on, and we will just name this tooth. I want to work with that tooth now, so let's get out of Polygon mode for the gums and go ahead and click on the tooth. I also want to make it white, so that's easy to see it separate from the gums, so go ahead and click on this box up here. It might be a different color on your computer, but we just want to change that to white. Now, we need to give the tooth some size. Go in to its Polygon mode and just simply extrude upwards, and right-click to lock it in.
Okay, let's get out of Polygon mode. Notice that the pivot point is still right in the center of the grid. That's very important, because we are going to make instances of this tooth that are rotated around the z axis. In order to create those instances, let's go up to the Tools menu and click Array. Let's move this off to the side, so we can see both things at once. Now this panel looks kind of intimidating, like the instrument panel of a jumbo jet, but it is really not so bad. Down here we can select what type of object we want to make.
It's by default set to Instance. That's good. That's what we want. Also, by default it's set to 10. We want 10 teeth, so that's good. So what we want to do is rotate around the z axis. So it's kind of like a grid up here. You see Rotate, so it's the second row, and then Z is the third column. So right here is the numbers that we want to play with. Now I've already set it to -18, because I've figured out 360 divide divided by 20 is 18. So let me just set that back to 0, like you're likely to see by default, and I also want to turn on Preview so we can see what the result is going to be before we lock it in.
Now let's see what happens as we scroll this slider right here. All of those instances fan out around the z axis, depending on how many degrees I input into this box. So it looks like -18 is exactly what we want. Go ahead and click OK. Now let's start adding some shape to the teeth. These are going to be simple cartoony teeth, but if you want realistic teeth, it's really the same approach. You just have to keep adding detail and tweaking it for anatomical accuracy. Let's put a TurboSmooth on this to make it all nice and round.
Let's go back to Editable Poly, so we can add some more edge loops to give it some shape. I am going to turn on Show End Result, so we can see what it looks like smoothed. And let's just zoom in on one of these teeth here. I want to insert some edge loops, so I will go up to Edit and Swift Loop. Now let's add a loop. It's kind of hard to see, because it doesn't show you where the original edges were, but you can kind of guestimate by looking at where the new loop is going to get inserted at. I just want to add some more edge loops because that's going to help add some harder edges to the shape of these cartoony teeth. I will just add another edge here and another one here. All right! And I just lock that in by right-clicking.
Let's go to Polygon mode. I just want to edit the shape of these teeth just a little bit. I will just click this one polygon here in the middle and just lift it up a little bit. It kind of rounds out the shape a bit. All right! Looking pretty good. Now to work on the gums. I want to create kind of a wavy shape, kind of an undulation where the gums raise up in between the teeth and then sink down in the middle of each tooth, so let's give it some more geometry that we can do that. I could go in and add edge loops by hand, but let's put a TurboSmooth on that and let Max do it for us.
So one TurboSmooth, and then what we can do is go to Convert to > Editable Poly. That will lock in all those extra subdivisions we just created. Now, I want to select every other edge loop along these gums and move it upwards. Go into Edge mode and then let me hit Q to go into Select mode. Now I want to select every other edge loop, so that I can move it upwards to form some gum shape in between each tooth. So select one edge and then Shift+Select an edge right next to it. That will select the entire edge loop.
Then Ctrl+Click this next edge here and then Shift+Click the one next to it. Go ahead and keep doing that all the way around: Ctrl+Click to add to the selection and then Shift+Click to select the whole edge loop. Now, if we go into Move mode and pull this up, well, we might not actually want that jagged edge on the bottom, so let me undo that and then deselect some of these edges along the bottom. So I am going to hold down Alt to deselect and then just drag across the entire base here.
Now when I move them up I only get the part on the top of the gum and not the bottom. Okay, another thing I want to do is expand the size of the gums a little bit, so let's get out of Edge mode and go put a Push Modifier on. What the Push Modifier is going to do is expand the shape of the object out in all directions. That looks like it might be about right. I also want to put another TurboSmooth on to see what this looks like when it gets all smoothed out.
Let's turn on Isoline Display, set the Iterations to 2. Let's have a look all the way around. Yeah, that's looking pretty good. Now let's link the teeth to the gums. This will make it so that moving the gums will make all the teeth move along for the ride. Let's select all the teeth. So I am just going to get into view where I can select the teeth without selecting the gums. Now, I want to click the Link button up here. If I click and drag from the teeth to the gums, it makes the teeth be connected to the gums.
What that means now is if I move the gums, the teeth are going to go along with it. Okay, so that's done. Now, let's make an upper set of teeth and gums. Let's select everything, the teeth and the gums, and go into Rotate mode. Now, let's just rotate this around. Actually, let me undo that. If you hold down Shift while you rotate, it will make a duplicate of everything. So let's get around to exactly 180. Now, it wants to know if you want to make a copy or an instance. Let's go ahead and make an instance, so that changing any of the bottom teeth will change the top teeth as well.
Now, go onto Move mode and select these upper gums and move them up a little bit, so we get the teeth nice and together. Okay, now we need to bring back the head that we had hidden earlier. We can just right-click anywhere and click Unhide All. Let's zoom out to see where that is. Okay, so these teeth are maybe a little on the big side. Go ahead and Ctrl+Click both gums, and we'll hit R to go into Scale mode, and we'll just scale those down.
We will move them up as well. Let's see, it looks like I need to move them back too. I hit Z to zoom in. Still maybe a little big. All right! Pretty good! This method of making teeth works really well for clean regular cartoony teeth, but it's also a solid foundation upon which to build realistic teeth.
From here, all you do is tweak and add complexity to create different types of teeth. It would also be a good idea to get reference images of skulls and dental diagrams to help position everything. We also learned a lot about some cool modeling tricks that come in handy anytime you need a lot of objects to be the same as, or at least based on, a single object. Using Array and instancing will make your life a lot easier when you have many objects in your scenes.
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