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In this simple model I first rounded the corner edges of the shape using bevel, with 16 segments (1st pic). Then I selected everything and applied a second very small bevel of 1 segment, to give the hard edges a softer look (2nd pic).

I am happy with how it looks, but is there a better way to do it? By better I mean more efficient, and looks as good or better.

I know I could use the subsurface modifier for rounded edges as well, but read that bevel is more efficient and gives more control. I guess the efficiency will be lost if I use too many segments. But I don't know at which point this becomes true; is it something I need to worry about, or is bevelling so much more efficient that it is not realistic that it ever becomes more costly than sub-surfacing?

Is there an even better way to handle the two types of rounding in this model?

Bevel for the big rounded corners Bevel for softer edges

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    $\begingroup$ maybe my eyes are deceiving me but it appears that the internal edges are not consistently smaller than the outer edges by some factor. there seems to be some movement.. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 10 '13 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think that is because I bevelled every edge for the edge softening, including the segments of the corner bevelling. When I redid it bevelling only the outer edges the effect went away. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 10 '13 at 14:02
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There is no most efficient way to effectively round edges, this is highly dependent on what type of object you are modeling, how much detail you want, how close you plan to render, the environment your model will be in etc.

There are several ways to go about this, all highly effective depending on the situation they are use in. I would recommend to continue beveling your edges.

Why? Beveling is much more efficient and cheaper than subsurf, you also have better control of your geometry and topology. What you are doing above is using it inefficiently, that shape could be just as rounded with fewer segments, You don't need more than a few or so segments on any edge at a time. It is also worth noting that since it is a modifier, any mistakes you make can be easily undone.

Here are is an object duplicated twice and bevelled with different amount of segments, one has 12 segments and the other has 6, can you immediately tell which one is rounder?

enter image description here

Here are the wires..

enter image description here

As you can see it is highly efficient, it's all in how you use it. As you have it above is overkill for such a simple object, you don't need more than a few segments to round out your edges depending on the complexity of your mesh.

Note: Also using Shade Smooth on your hard surface models can help to make them appear more smooth/round and less faceted as I have done on the objects in the images above. You can also just smooth certain parts of your mesh by selecting the vertices/faces and using the same method.

Also, feel free to use a mixture of modifiers to achieve your final shape or effect, for some objects it is better to use subsurf with edgeloops and for others, subsurf with creases etc. There is no one good or most efficient way to go about it, It all depends on what you need, the model being used and how well you as the artist can determine what the best way to go about it is.

Additionally, you can get more tips here:

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, in your example I agree there is no real difference, but in rendering my model with 16 segments I still see clear faceting. Are you doing anything else to smooth that? Point taken though, I will experiment with less segments. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 10 '13 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean all I did was use shade smooth. Use the W menu in edit mode. I will add it to the answer. $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Jun 10 '13 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I just figured out I can smooth shade more selectively than the whole object, so this presents more options. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 10 '13 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean also check out the modifier "edge split" which can help you fine-tune precisely how the smooth shading should work. It allows eve more control than just selecting what faces are smooth. You can set, over what edges they should be smooth. - However, it should always be after all mesh-deforming modifiers, else you might get disconnected meshes. $\endgroup$ – kram1032 Jun 12 '13 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ @kram1032 I mention it at the end, it is the last link in the answer or here blender.stackexchange.com/questions/734/… $\endgroup$ – iKlsR Jun 12 '13 at 12:48
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I get the impression that you are capable enough to reason about which approach benefits you in the long run.

Using the sub-surf modifier has the drawback that it creates extra geometry for every face in the mesh, it also requires that you make extra control geometry or set the crease value of edges that need to be sharp. So there is some hidden work in this method.

Using the mesh bevel tool (not the modifier) is a bit more hands-on but you end up with geometry where you want it. Unfortunately it's destructive so changes in the long run can mean redoing some work.

I know I could use the subsurface modifier for rounded edges as well, but read that bevel is more efficient and gives more control. I guess the efficiency will be lost if I use too many segments. But I don't know at which point this becomes true; is it something I need to worry about, or is bevelling so much more efficient that it is not realistic that it ever becomes more costly than sub-surfacing?

Plan, do some tests. Ultimately if you are happy with the results, it doesn't really matter what method you use, as long as you don't have piles of excess geometry that don't contribute in a meaningful way to the geometry or the end render.

If you have close-ups and side-views where the edges will be noticeably faceted, you will need extra geometry along those curves to make it believably round. Setting the surface shade method to smooth won't always mask these things at certain angles. The amount of bevel segments will therefore depend on things like that.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I forgot the bevel tool is also a modifier, I had been using the mesh tool. Being able to undo the modifier later would be really useful, I'll give that a go. You are right on the sub-surf modifier, it's very impressive, but I have been frustrated by the lack of control (because I don't yet understand exactly how the geometry I add controls it). Bevelling otoh is much easier to understand immediately. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 10 '13 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ At times the involvement of a sub-surf modifier can present tricky issues, even for people who are familiar with it. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Jun 10 '13 at 13:43
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You can also use the Spin tool to create rounded edges with AltR.

Use the Spin tool to create the sort of objects that you would produce on a lathe (this tool is often called a “lathe”-tool or a “sweep”-tool in the literature, for this reason). In fact, it does a sort of circular extrusion of your selected elements, centered on the 3D cursor, and around the axis perpendicular to the working view…

  • The point of view will determine around which axis the extrusion spins…
  • The position of the 3D cursor will be the center of the rotation.

The spin tool will spin the selected vertices around the cursor (on the view axis). If you set your cursor to the center of the spin and spin 90 degrees, you'll get a rounded corner.

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Aside from beveling.You can also fake the look of a smooth surface using the smooth tool. If you have some good beveling, with few segments, then you can add some smooth shading and get a better smoother look.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I didn't actually realise until just now that I can apply smooth shading in edit mode to some edges only. Till now I only changed smooth/flat at the object level. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 10 '13 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I only resantly figured that out $\endgroup$ – Owen Patterson Jun 10 '13 at 21:19

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