Wings3D Soccer Ball Tutorial
Part 1: Modeling

Wings3D is a wonderful mesh modeler that can be used to create and manipulate almost any object with ease and precision. It is well suited for organic modeling (creatures, faces, and free-form objects), but even more suited for geometric modeling (soccer balls, golf balls, space ships, and geometric forms). Wings3D has an extensive and incredibly powerful range of selection tools, as well as support for Catmull-Clark Subdivision Surfaces (which can be found as Smooth on the menus). These features will come in handy as we go through this tutorial.

Let's begin by looking at a good example of a geometric model—a standard 32-panel soccer ball, which was modeled entirely with Wings (my first model), and rendered with Blender. Follow the easy steps below to model a soccer ball. Jump to Part 2.

  1. Create an icosahedron, then select and bevel all vertices to a value of 0.7 (press the ctrl key while you drag). We now have a basic shape that needs to be rounded and brought to life. Note that this truncated icosahedron is not 100% accurate; the chord lengths are not exactly equal, but they are close enough for our purposes.
  2. Choose Extrude->Normal and extrude all 32 faces to a value of 0.01 (press ctrl-shift while you drag, or press TAB to enter the exact value). Before you do this, you may want to assign one color to all pentagons and another color to all hexagons.
  3. Now we have to subdivide these selected faces without rounding them. Wings doesn't support this type of subdivision, but I found a way around it. Select all 450 edges and set them to hard. Select one pentagon and one hexagon, then press 'I' to automatically select all 32 panels. Press 'S' three times—this subdivides without rounding because the edges are hard. Select all edges and make them soft again.
  4. So now we have a more detailed mesh, but it still looks flat. The solution is simple: Inflate the ball (pun intended). Select all 4,322 vertices and choose Deform->Inflate, set the amount to 100%. This blows up the mesh to a perfect sphere. Now all vertices lie on the surface of the sphere and, as a side-effect, we lost the extrusion in step 2. But the "extrude" information is still contained in the mesh. You'll see what I mean later.
  5. Press 'X' to view along the x-axis and you should see two hexagons side by side, one pentagon above these two, and one pentagon below them. At the exact center of the window there should be a vertex (there are actually three, if you zoom in very close). This is the "extrude" info I was talking about. Zoom back out and select one of the vertices at the bottom-most corner of the pentagon directly above the two hexagons. Choose View->Align to Selection. I use this feature so frequently that I've assigned it to the asterisk on my keypad
  6. Now this vertex should be in the center of your screen. Zoom in until you see a Y-like shape with four vertices at the center. Select the three edges that form the Y in the center. Now press 'L' then 'I' and you should have exactly 720 edges selected. Press 'R' to restore the view. You should see that you have selected all the edges that will form the groove between the panels.
  7. Choose Scale->Uniform and set the value to 98% (press the ctrl-shift while you drag, or use the TAB key and enter the value). We now have the groove between each panel.
  8. We are now almost done. Still not impressed by the results? Even when you are in smooth preview mode? You shouldn't be impressed because this is just the support-cage that will be used as an input mesh for the Catmull-Clark subdivision algorithm.
  9. Here is where you decide to export your mesh or continue in Wings. If your renderer supports Catmull-Clark Subdivision Surfaces (and most do even though they use different names for it), then just import the low resolution mesh and subdivide from there. This is what I did.
  10. You can also do the same thing with Wings by selecting the whole object and pressing 'S' once or twice. But be prepared to wait for a while because the implementation is somewhat slow and seems to use a lot of memory.

So there you have it: a high resolution soccer ball mesh. I do not release my image maps or other sources, so it's up to you to create your own textures and lighting. If you manage to make a nice rendering, send me the url.

There's an old version in the BMRT section that was done without modeling the actual geometry; it just uses a single spherical bump-map. Compare it to this one to see the difference.

This is my first tutorial for Wings. If you found it useful, I would appreciate any comments or suggestions. And let me know if there are any errors or omissions.

This page was last revised on February 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Anthony D'Agostino
All rights reserved.