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I want to subdivide a mesh so that it won't become all round, but I also don't want to apply a subdivision. I am open to all ideas. Is there any way to subdivide part of a mesh, and keep the hard edges?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is wrong with applying the modifier? You can always add another one on top of it. $\endgroup$ – GiantCowFilms Jun 19 '15 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ @GiantCowFilms, one reason to not want to use a modifier is to retain more direct control over exactly what gets subdivided, and how. Using a modifier sometimes makes reduces the human involvement in the process, and transfers a bit of the control from the human to the software algorithm. $\endgroup$ – brasshat Jun 19 '15 at 2:16
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The Subsurf modifier has no controls for limiting it to only part of a mesh. So if you want want to use that modifier, instead of some other techniques listed below, you are left with the top two options.

  • Split the mesh. In edit mode, select the part you do not want to have subdivided and press P > Selection. Now just add the modifier to one of the two objects.
  • Keep hard edges. There are many ways to achieve that, holding loops (just edge loops added near important edges) are a common option, but you may be able to use edge creases. This question is a good resource for those methods.

If you don't need to use the subdivision surface modifier then you have more options left open to you though modeling.

  • Add loop cuts with CtrlR
  • Subdivide only selected parts of a mesh with the Subdived operator. It is can be found in the tool shelf, from the 3D view header Mesh > Edges > Subdivide, or in the specials menu W > Subdivide.
  • Knife tool. you can use the knife tool to selectively add more edges where needed (also very useful for controlling edge flow).
  • Bevel. Can be immensely useful for adding holding loops. It is a great tool any time you need more detail in a specific spot.
    animated gif of bevel tool
  • Vertex connect Path J is a less common but still useful tool that adds new edges by simply connecting the selected vertices.
    animated gif of vertex connect
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There are almost as many ways of subdividing mesh parts as there are mesh parts to be subdivided. The almost is because you can't subdivide a vertex. One way is to select one or more individual edges, and subdivide the edges. YOu can select a loop of edges (an edge loop) or planes, and subdivide the planes. If the set of planes selected contains one or more that are not quadrangles, however, you may not be able to cut through the non-quad. You can use a loop cut, activated by pressing the CTRL-R key combination to cut edges around a column, or around an island. And there are at least two (there may be more; I stopped looking at two) tutorials on Youtube at [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fitq_YyJvk0] and at [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dhsxV6wxOc] that might give you more ideas..

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You can select the parts of the mesh you want to subdivide in edit mode. Then use the subdivide tool from the tools panel, or hit W to find it in the specials menu.

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  • $\begingroup$ to avoid n-gons, I usually use the subsurf mod, but also mean crease where I don't want smoothies. $\endgroup$ – Scalia Jun 18 '15 at 23:38

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