A "naive" user's plea

I’ve been trying to use Rhino for quite a while (I started with V3). I’ve got V5 and I’ve purchased V6 but I’m not using it yet because of a crash issue that McNeel is working on.

I am not a heavy CAD user, I’m not an engineer or someone who has knowledge of advanced mathematics, I’m a hobbyist who doesn’t use the software very frequently. Where can I find the elusive “best practices for Rhino modeling” instructions or tutorials that don’t presume a massive amount of background knowledge in a novice user? I’ve got an Infinite Skills video set for V5 which has been good for “here’s a command and an idea of how to use it” instruction, but I really don’t understand the “why?” of Rhino.

I read comments here and many comments that others appear to find helpful are often having me think “I don’t have a degree in topology/maths, I don’t have a clue what a lot of those arcane mathy-sounding terms mean and they aren’t explaining anything to me”.

I’m not looking for a “here is your construction plane” level of intro. I can model some not too complicated things but when I get stuck it is often clear that I don’t have any understanding of what Rhino would like me to tell it to do, or why it wants that instead of something else. Where do I go to get past the “monkey see monkey do” stage? I’m frequently feeling like I’ve shown up for my first class which is class number 5 and the instructor presumes everyone knows what was in the half semester I missed, and half the class period is being taught in a language that sounds kind of like English but isn’t.

I’ve got no problem buying a good book if someone can point me to one. But it needs to be “Rhino for non-mathematicians” or something similar for Joe or Jane Average User.

Dealing with software that is so powerful it can only be used for good or evil gets very frustrating for me. :smile:


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I would recommend you to start using it for “self-dares”, starting checking out how to model something you want to model, and research about how to do so. That way you can go at your own pace.

Infinite Skills is good, it’s not hard to follow, I am self-taught with Infinite Skills.

introduction to NURBS: Help

golden rules of NURBS design: Help

good free video tutorials:

and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRBjWaXSeqTP89FWVv26QxA/videos

good commercial video tutorials:
Rhino 4 video tutorial | basic | made by Brian DiNola: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 4 video tutorial | advanced | made by Brian DiNola: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 4 video tutorial | basic and advanced bundle | made by Brian DiNola: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 5 video tutorial | basic | made by Rob McCulloch: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 5 video tutorial | advanced | made by Rob McCulloch: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 5 video tutorial | basic and advanced bundle | made by Rob McCulloch: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 5 video tutorial | advanced | made by Kyle Houchens: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training
Rhino 5 video tutorial | advanced | made by Rob McCulloch: O'Reilly Media - Technology and Business Training

industrial design process (part 1 of 4): Digital Tutors is now Pluralsight | Pluralsight

continuity = bends, degree is higher by 1 | good curve or surface = single span curve or surface = Bezier curve or surface | optimal number of control points = degree + 1

A span of a NURBS curve is a portion of the curve which has the same continuity as the degree of the curve: each span of a degree 3 NURBS curve has G3 continuity within the span, degree 5 has G5 continuity, etc. The number of spans in a NURBS curve (without multi-knots) equals the number of control points minus the degree of the curve. A NURBS curve (without multi-knots) has continuity between spans of one less than the degree of the curve: G2 continuity between spans of a degee 3 curve; G4 continuity between spans of a degree 5 curve; etc.


Pamela, it think many of my projects fall into your “self dare” category. I use Rhino for mechanical modeling and with RhinoCAM for CNC. Some of what I do is taking an existing part and modeling it and I have a moderate amount of success with that – up to the point where I have a “the tutorial said to use XXXX and I did, but that doesn’t work, I don’t know why it doesn’t work and I don’t know what I should do next”.

I paint myself into a corner or wind up with a section of the model on the “when I find the magic solution create missing part here” layer.

It might be characterized like music lessons I had as a child. “Go home and practice the fingering and come back and play it”. I could often do that, but since I was given zero information on music theory it was all rote work, I had no idea about diminished 7ths or why a B flat scale wants me to use those keys instead of others. Or maybe a paint by the numbers kit with several colors missing, and no one explained how I could make those colors by mixing several others that I do have.

It can be helpful to be told “use XXXX” but it is more helpful to be told “use XXXX, and this is why you want to use XXXX in this instance but not over there and if it doesn’t work then look at this (and here is why you look at this instead of that)”.

The Rhino online help seems at times to presume that the user has a solid understanding of the maths behind NURBS. The folks here are very helpful, but I wonder “why does it sound like there’s 3 important steps they aren’t telling me in this explanation?” which I presume is the common problem of people who are far removed from their days of struggling with things that are not intuitively obvious.


Thank you Andrew, I’ll take a look at those references, starting with the info on NURBS.


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A good place to start is with the Rhino Users Guide includes a tutorial section. http://docs.mcneel.com/rhino/6/usersguide/en-us/index.htm

The Level 1 and Level 2 training manuals are a series of exercises which teach concepts and basic modeling techniques. https://www.rhino3d.com/tutorials

In addition to the others, I might add that that is what this forum is for - when you get yourself into one of those “corners” this is the place to ask, including a post of your “work-in-progress” model or at least the part of it where you are stuck.

If someone gives you a too-technical explanation, just say “I still don’t understand… can you break it down further for me?”

That may be true, and it’s definitely helpful in some circumstances. That being said, I don’t believe it’s essential to know everything there is to know about NURBS to become a reasonable modeler with Rhino. There are also people here that will tell you “this is the only way to do this” or “you have to only use this or that type of objects…” I don’t believe things can be generalized that way, it really depends on your specific circumstances and application.

It is important to understand how Rhino creates and edits objects - once you get beyond the beginning stages, the most important operations end up being modeling things accurately to begin with and then splitting/trimming/joining them with each other within tolerance. If you master those to a reasonable degree, you will find that 90% of your modeling problems will just disappear.

There will always be situations where Rhino will throw you a curve or make your life difficult… again, that’s where you ask questions here.


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Rhino is very good for mechanical models to be ported to CAM and then CNC. That’s what I use it for. You might think that Rhino’s Solid tools are ideal for this work. You might think that all you need to do is create some basic solids, do some booleans, add some fillets and ‘Bob’s your uncle’, you’ve got something ready to machine. Bit that will only work if what you want to model is very trivial. If you take that approach to learning Rhino most of the time you will find yourself stuck and completely unequipped to get yourself unstuck.

I’m guessing that XXXX is one of the Solid tools.

There is nothing in the solid tool menu that you can’t do yourself using Rhino’s manual surfacing tools. The biggest advantage of learning to model without the solid tools is that you will have far more options for geometry creation and you will have more options to get unstuck when you get stuck.

If XXXX is not a tool from the solid menu look it up in the Help you should be able to figure out what you need to do to make it work


I’m guessing XXXX is a tool from the solid menu and your best bet is to find tutorials that do not use those tools. Learning to do it yourself is the only way you will quickly come to an understanding of what makes the solid tools work (or what makes them fail).

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The main thing Jim means by “do it yourself” is building the individual surfaces of your solids and trimming them with curves and other surfaces. Then join them into your solid. If they won’t join it’s easier to troubleshoot in the surface domain.

OK, I’m not sure why people forget to mention The LinkedIn Learning / Lynda.com course I authored. We passed one million views not too long ago, so c’mon you guys!

I purposely designed it to help the first time user. I felt that most training (and ESPECIALLY the manual) used what I call a “dictionary approach.” This is where they cram a dozen commands into a single demo … when you could have built that same part with three or four commands, and it would be far easier to change. Workflow, people!

Check it out at Rhino 5 Essential Training

If you’re not a member of LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com, ask me for a free pass.


@schultzeworks has some great tutorials :slight_smile:
Dave you requested a while back ideas for new new tutorials, I suggested one on curves, and creating surfaces from them. I use Rhino most days on a professional level, mostly furniture and interiors, 3d perspectives and layouts, so very little in the way of curves/surfaces for more industrial/product design applications. Its something my thirst for knowledge and improving overall skills wants to learn :slight_smile: There is a thread over on the Mac side, a door handle, I’d love to see the workflow and commands to create this in a video, you can see the thread here

I think I’ve seen Jim mention his “avoid solids” (and possibly Boolean operations) advice before, but that is one of those bits of advice that have me wondering “why would I do that?”

Your comment that making the individual surfaces is easier to troubleshoot may give a reason for that, though it also makes me wonder then how many other commands I should be avoiding. If a command like cylinder etc automates several lower level commands (circle, extrude planar curve) why would it be any less likely to work than manually executing those other commands? Is there something in them that occasionally causes an imperfect solid to be created?

I can appreciate that the software might get confused at times, such as with a complicated intersection flummoxing the fillet command (I see that in Alibre Design too) but I presumed that those primitive solid tools are doing things so basic that they should be as error free as anything could be.

I don’t know of any reason to avoid the solid creation tools like Cylinder, Sphere, Cone, Box, Pipe, etc. I’ve never seen a bad object from those commands. My frustration with them is when I select a wrong option for what I want to do but that is usually obvious.

It is difficult to make money in the video tutorial business… The greatest flaw of these videos is that is not always clear which command is used because command names quickly disappear from the command prompt window. I believe that these videos need lots of post-editing. For example, when the instructor draws a circle, big, red text “circle” should appear on the screen. When he holds down Ctrl and Shift keys, big, red text “Ctrl+Shift” should appear on the screen.

The question you asked and I was answering was how much of the internal workings of Rhino you need to know. You should be able to make a cylinder manually. If you want to understand how things work that’s the type of thing you need to know and the best way to learn that type of stuff is exploring the curve and surface menu and ignoring the solid tools.

Perhaps you should post an example of where you are getting stuck. I seriously doubt that you ever got stuck making a cylinder so its a puzzlement why you brought that up. Wouldn’t it be more useful to discuss the commands that have been causing you trouble.?

Jim, I don’t have a current project so I can’t give you a current problem. Simple stuff is generally not an issue, though I wasted 30 minutes not long ago having a trim fail until I moved the trimming plane by .0001 inch. It sure looked like it should have worked.

I was prompted to start this thread from seeing a recent thread

where someone who has been using Rhino for a decade or so was saying that he had ongoing issues, and someone offered a suggestion to use some command that he was unfamiliar with, which sounded like it resolved a large amount of the difficulty he was having.

If I read about someone who appears to be far more experienced and familiar with Rhino than I am having significant ongoing problems due to not being familiar with just one or two commands (that may be an obvious choice to someone else) then I start wondering how much hope I have of reducing my own “stuck” moments.

I mentioned the cylinder in response to your comment that I read as advising avoiding using those primitive solids. Perhaps I took your comment wrong.

I looked at a couple of schultzeworks videos on Youtube and they were helpful in that there is more explanation given for “why you should do it this way instead of that way” so I’ll look into his other offerings. The advice to make the objects overly large and then trim them back to get good intersections was new, I’ve generally tried to snap directly to other geometry, and maybe, as with my “move it .0001 inch” issue mentioned above that is creating problems for me when it only looks like I’ve got things properly placed.

Please don’t get me wrong, I generally like Rhino (since I keep paying to upgrade it and RhinoCAM and the software is not generating any income) and there are some things that it makes very easy (I like the PIPE command a lot for tube structures) but it does spike my frustration level sometimes.

I’ll spend some time investigating the other tutorial materials that have been mentioned. If I can get some more helpful practices as with the schultzework videos I’ll probably be able to reduce the frequency of feeling stuck.


Spending 30 min. is not wasteful if you learn why the trim fails so that you can avoid wasting time in the future. In order for trimming to work Rhino has to calculate an intersection curve that makes a complete cut that divides the surface into at least 2 parts so that user can pick the part(s) that they want deleted… If that fails to work then you can run the Intersect command and find out where and why the intersection is not dividing the surface into at least 2 -pieces.

Moving the cutting plane might be a good solution or it might create even greater problems down the toad.

I would recommend not falling back on work-arounds such as this, it will almost always come back and bite you at some point. A failed trim is a perfect example of something that you can get help with on a forum such as this, or from tech@mcneel.com.


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