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How do I use the subdivision surface modifier to simply soften the cylinder, not create a new shape?

sphere created by subdivision surface modifier

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Two things;

Edge Crease

If you would like to tighten up the edges of a cylinder, you can look at the second and third meshes below;

enter image description here

The first one is unmodified (other than making it taller than a default cylinder, which is why yours is more of a sphere).

The second one was created by selecting the edges and using shift+e, which adjusts what blender calls the "edge crease".

The third adds two edge loops near the top and bottom (which can be added with ctrl+r)

Poor subdivisions and ngons

But what do we do about the odd tops? These are poorly subdivided because the top is a non-regular face (called an ngon, which is any face with more than 4 edges). The simplest fix for this is extruding the face, then merging all the faces into the center;

Extrude the face with e;

enter image description here

Right click to drop it back in place;

enter image description here

Then hit alt+m and select "At Center";

enter image description here

enter image description here

Roughly the same process can be applied to the edge loop version. You'll notice that the results are a lot cleaner in rendered view;

enter image description here

enter image description here

Note: I didn't fix the bottom of the cylinders in these examples

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  • $\begingroup$ Apologies, hit submit too early. Updated my answer with the rest. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2020 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ You're a gem! This is exactly what I needed :) $\endgroup$
    – hex368d8b
    Apr 7, 2020 at 3:09

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