Organic jewelry texture Design?

Hi, my apologies this forum seems a bit confusing, maybe I just didn’t click through enough areas . . .

Anyway, I am contemplating getting Rhino for 3D CAD jewelry design and a resin printer. I have been wholey unsuccessful in getting a casting company to work with me on my orders despite telling me they CAN and then never responding back after I send the work request. I’ve tried 2 and a few others that quoted me absurd pricing likely to KEEP me away.

I am fairly adept at most design programs, having a heavy background in web-coding, Adobe Photoshop (photo-editing and manipulation), Adobe Illustrator (Vector graphics) and Adobe Premiere (Video editing) and a few others that have since kicked the bucket.

I’d like to use Rhino to CAD my photoshopped designs, but not sure what the ease of ability is. For instance, my designs have wings in them. In photoshop I can cut out photos of wings and manipulate them into the side/shape I need and work into my design. Would this have to be created from scratch and COULD it be created from scratch?

How complex would that be (sterling silver and maybe also gold)? I had one company try, and instead of wings they gave me ONE SINGLE FEATHER.

Could I “build” the wing then “wrap” and transform it to lay in the design?
Does this program offer templates too?

I realize it does have a 90 day trial, but I just would like a bit more understanding of it since it IS a generalized program ALSO used for CAD jewelry design.

Also if you know any casting houses with EXCELLENT turnaround times, PLEASE let me know. I started this 2 months ago with a late October deadline to give to my customers and I’m getting burned left and right.

Thankyou all!

ok, well I will answer my own question here, lol, and you can fill in any gaps!

It does appear you CAN trace jpg type images by breaking them down into sections depending on desired image overlap. It’s actually very easy and if you can create vector images in Adobe, this will be VERY similar.

I watched a few videos by PJChen on YouTube and I am super impressed with how straight forward it seems to be with rendering.

It might be helpful if you could show a picture of the sort of thing you want to model. It isn’t clear to me whether you want detailed 3D wings or if they are simplified. If you want detailed, organic wings, Rhino is probably not the best choice. Rhino is great for precise geometric shapes, smooth flowing surfaces, and so on, like you find in product design and architecture, but not so much for richly detailed organic stuff. For that, you’d be better off using something like ZBrush ($$$) or Blender (free and easier to use than ZBrush, but less powerful). You could combine things you do with a sculpting program with the more ideal/simple shapes that you create in Rhino, as Rhino can handle the mesh data that you create with a sculpting app. You could place sculpted wings on a precisely modeled ring base, for example. (Clean and precise surfaces are hard to create in a sculpting app.)

There is a lot to learn! But if you really want to do it, don’t let that stop you. If you approach it systematically with a few good courses, you can get pretty far fairly quickly. I have been using Rhino for only a few months (obsessively) and can do a lot with it now. It’s pretty empowering! But I also use and know ZBrush and Blender, and also 2D apps like Illustrator and Photoshop. I hate to say it, but 3D apps are a lot more involved and technical than 2D apps. But you can do it! I’ve found this cheap Rhino course on Udemy quite helpful (frequently on sale for under $20):

McNeel’s Levels 1 and 2 training manuals are quite helpful and good too.

You might look them over to see if this kind of software feels attractive to you.

Bear in mind that applications like Blender and ZBrush approach 3D modeling differently than Rhino’s core tools. Rhino and other CAD programs are mostly based on NURBS curves and surfaces, which is a mathematical way of specifying very smooth forms (if you avoid too many control points). The way the form is described is very nearly mathematically perfect, and lends itself to manufacturing. Apps like Blender and ZBrush, on the other hand, are based on polygon meshes that are less precise and smooth in general. Denser meshes give more detail. Usually, they are used more for rendering, special effects in films, computer games, and so on. In Blender, you can use subdivision surfaces, where you model a low resolution control mesh that is smoothed by a way of subdividing it. Rhino, in more recent versions, also added SubD surfaces, which offers tools similar to the basic non-sculpting modeling tools in Blender. But for really detailed organic modeling, sculpting is the way to go, which Rhino doesn’t do. And you’ll want a pressure sensitive tablet for that.

Personally, unless we are talking abstract wings, I wouldn’t even consider modeling wings in Rhino. Rhino is a fantastically powerful and versatile tool, but it’s just the wrong one for such things. If you want a lot of curvy wire-like forms or simple sweeps along curves, Rhino is perfect for that, far better than a sculpting app. Maybe if you have simple feathers in a wing, you could model those in Rhino. But if there is a lot of 3D textural detail, no.


Hopefully those images will attach ok. One is a pendant, the other is a ring.

Thankyou, I appreciate the resources you sent, I will bookmark them in my browser so I don’t forget them!

This is the YouTube video I watched on Rhino:

The scrollwork seemed straightforward at first and I didn’t understand why he broke it down. But then I realized he was layering it, which was pretty genius.

In theory, wouldn’t these same steps be applied for the wing/feather shapes?

I have definitely heard of Blender . . . if I remember correctly MineCraft YouTubers use it for their animations and character designs.

I suppose I could download the 90 day trial of Rhino, see if I can produce the design and when/if that fails try it into Blender. I had been hoping to avoid learning any new programs . . . but if casting houses won’t take the time to work with me I don’t know if I have a choice…

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I have been a lapidary/jeweler since 1977. Been doing 3D design since the mid 90’s. I did tons of research for what I thought was the best 3D software for me to use in my jewelry designs. Bottom line I chose Rhino and have been using it since Rhino 4. There is quite a learning curve but I feel for me it was time well spent. I also played with blender which is a fine tool. I recommend getting the 90 day trial to play with and also get blender (It is free). Danny


So do you prefer to design, print and cast instead of welding/soldering parts and pieces together? And that’s a LONG TIME for 3D design! You were there for alllll the programs like Flash and Fireworks! I came in at 2001 and dabbled before hitting heavy into Photoshop for many many years.

I suspect, based on the images, that you are going to want to do some sculpting, assuming that you want some of the small textural details as are present in the gray patches in the wings. Rhino could certainly be used for the underlying ring shape, and also perhaps for the basic feather shapes, as it does an excellent job modeling smooth, curvy shapes. And it is the best program I have ever used for drawing 2D curves and shapes, far better than Illustrator, in my opinion.

The approach I would probably personally use would be to create the base ring shape and stone in Rhino. I would also maybe create the basic overall shape of the feathers/wing in Rhino, but flat, and then convert these to a mesh using QuadRemesh in Rhino. You could create each feather by drawing 2D curves and then making a trimmed surface from these and then adding some thickness. You could then basically arrange them, layering them each at a slight angle relative to its neighbor. Once you have all the basic shapes, you could try to make a boolean union of them and then QuadRemesh, or use the new ShrinkWrap feature in Rhino 8 (should be released by the time your trial version expires). Or you could keep them separate and convert to meshes, to be combined later.

I would then take this mesh data into ZBrush or Blender as an OBJ and add details/texture, if you want that, and then place the wings and bend them into position in Blender. Blender is the best tool of these three for manipulating the mesh and bending it into position, in my opinion. ZBrush is rather hard to bend things nicely with. But if your mesh is very dense, you will need a fast computer to manipulate it in a smooth and fluid manner in Blender’s edit mode using the proportional edit mode. ZBrush can handle denser meshes on less powerful hardware for reasons I don’t fully understand.

It isn’t entirely clear what you want to happen three-dimensionally with the wings. A 3D modeling app (or even modeling clay or wax) can help you to explore that and solve problems that maybe aren’t apparent in 2D. I would guess that the casting houses might have been reluctant to work with these designs because they are 2D and it isn’t clear how the wings should lay around the stone and one another and what should happen on the backside. It seems like it could be challenging to make the design work with two wings only. If you solve these problems in 3D and present the design as a 3D file, it would much better communicate your intent, which would make things far easier for them. Otherwise, they would have to do most of the design work for you.

Sometimes, when in only two dimensions, you can imagine that something should work that actually turns out to be problematic in three dimensions, and once you try to make it in 3D, you immediately see the problems. That’s one of the beautiful and powerful things about CAD and other 3D apps. You literally learn to think with them about 3D problems and to solve them. Such tools aren’t only tools to realize ideas you already have, but also tools to think with and to solve problems with. Our mental visualization ability is only so good, and we can only keep track of so many things at once in our minds. It is similar to how working out math problems on paper helps you do much more complex things than you can do mentally. If you can make it work in 3D on the computer, it will make sense also in 3D in the physical world. But there are other problems still with actually realizing something, as it needs to have a shape that can be cast, depending on the casting method, unless you are going to 3D print everything.

It will take a little while to develop the skills to realize your ideas in 3D software. But don’t be deterred! While you are learning, I would seriously consider using a stiff clay or wax to further explore your ideas. I have enjoyed using Monster Clay in the past, the hard version.

If you have a late October deadline, I don’t know. Sufficiently learning all this software and 3D modeling principles and techniques in general in that amount of time if you have zero experience with 3D is unlikely. You might want to hire some help!

I hope this helps! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Another option is that you could buy a 3D model of a wing from an online marketplace and then repurpose it, bending into position, duplicating as needed, and then integrate with a simple ring or whatever.

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I do all of my design work in Rhino not just jewelry. 99% of my work is hand made no printing. I have not cast since prior to 2000. Now days I make larger hard stone beads that are quite complicated. I use Rhino so I can see what I want to make so I can see if my design is exactly what I am wanting. The image is a design rendered in Brazil for a bead I was getting to make from very rare and expensive jadeite. I did in fact make the bead … It had about 50 hours in it from start to finish.

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OK, interesting I never would have thought to move the file back and forth between both programs.

yes, I was planning to 3D print them using castable wax and a special high def jewelry printer. THE ONLY REASON I was in a huff right now, WAS because i DID hire a company to do this, and eventhough I talked to them on the phone, explained the project and sent my files the next day, it’s been over 2 weeks with no response from them. The first company I contacted took OVER A MONTH to not understand what I was looking for (they honestly didn’t read ANY of what I had written OR looked at my design), and they were not upfront with any of their costs. According to their website it should have cost $90 max, but it cost $160.

SO, my next step is to CALL the current company and SEE what the hold up is (and HOPE they have been busy working on it). I would honestly probably prefer to fully design and CAD my own items (and SPEED UP THE PRODUCTION), but for this deadline I’d really like them to complete it!

In the long run, I think it would save me a LOT of $$$ since all my gems are non standard sizes.

Do any of you CAST your own items? What are the pros/cons of that? or do you prefer to just send your items out? What companies do you like most?

What a very neat idea! Why a bead and not a cab? Out of curiosity! Was it for a specialty necklace?

It is a single bead that most would hang on a high carat gold chain there is a 4 mm hole so you can use a quite large chain. The value of this single beads is 4 K. Again this is very rare jadeite.

Hello Suzanne,

Perhaps looking here:

will help.

Thank you,


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That’s a great suggestion! I get quite a few free STLs off of

I am also a jeweler/designer also, and am SOOO glad I got Rhino! For working with precise measurements, as we need with gemstones requiring precision areas for easy and quality stone-setting, Rhino is excellent and almost always where I begin designing. I use it literally everyday. I also recommend you get Grasshopper Gold as a plugin for it; that works inside Rhino and gives a bunch of useful tools for jewelry specific purposes.

I also have ZBrush, though if you can manage to learn Blender, you’ll thank yourself. That is excellent for organic sculpting…however Rhino has SubD modeling which is also excellent for organic shapes, just not quite as readily made for something like wings, where you might want to ‘freehand’.

Then you can save your roughly sculpted piece as an STL or OBJ file in Rhino, then export it to a sculpting program like ZBrush or Blender (I think) has where you add height or subtract height/form texture with every mouse stroke.

I will say that within Rhino itself, using SubD, I was able to create a very freeform leafy thistle bracelet. Practice practice practice, that’s all. And ask forums :smiley:

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Hi Suzanne,
While you may be competent in 2d programs, 3d is an entirely different creature. You don’t know enough about 3d modeling or jewelry. The reason these casting houses wont deal with you is that they haven’t got the time to teach. They’re busy. They’re professionals and they expect you to be. As someone who has been teaching this stuff for over twenty years,(and still feels like a beginner) my suggestion is 1) Take the time to take a Rhino class either online or at your local junior college.I think Alexander Galin on Udemy is a good choice. 2) Take a jewelry making class that includes professional stone setting. Jewelry making at a professional level is highly technical and you should have a good idea of how this is all done. There are many extraordinary modelers on this site, many of whom have spent decades honing their skills. I have no doubt you are a talented person . . .I really liked your wing ring, but you gotta pay your dues.


Hi Steve, the casting houses I have tried working with all say they only need a rough sketch of a design to work from. I make sure at the start to explain the details and scope of my project so neither they nor I have any unexpected issues. They also suggest I DON’T try to learn Rhino as “it’s a very complicated program”, although one casting house encouraged me to try to, and suggested I learn on the side and send them my sketches to CAD in the meantime as I perfect the program.

PJ CHen on YouTube has excellent videos on Rhino that cover many basic issues people have with it, but I’ll take a look at the others you mentioned too.

We don’t have any jewelry courses or classes in my area (or within a 3 hr or more driving range), but I think there are a few “academys” online I could learn through.

This is a beautiful pattern! Well-done!

Hi Suzanne,
Sorry about the delay, I’ve been quite busy. It sort of depends on what casting houses you’re using. Your piece looks pretty self-explanatory to me. . . although definitely not inexpensive to have modeled properly. I would contact Greg Faulkner at Carrera Casting in NYC. I think you should most definitely learn Rhino.It is complex, but I have no doubt you can do it… PJ is good, but what I’ve seen from her are projects that offer fairly advanced techniques without reference to the basics. On the other hand, I’ve just seen them on YouTube. I would try to do a course (if ;PJ offers one) that starts with the basics and brings you along logically step-by-step from simple to complex. Consider a few months of study at the very least. That’s all I’ve got. Have fun.

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Hi Steve, thankyou for the casting house suggestion. Carrera was on my short list, although I don’t recall if I DID manage to contact them or not. Perhaps they were a few months out and it wasn’t going to work for my deadline.

Daniel Baer Casting has been a true disappointment thus far . . . project was due on the 18 with absolute latest possible the last weekend of October, but they never bothered checking their e-mails and never started the project UNTIL the 18th, and now it’s the 28th with no response on delivery. Nearly all my customers have come and gone, and I’ll have to spend more $$ to have their items shipped. A bit harder to gauge response on an item when you have to HOPE they can send you their thoughts on it after getting it in the mail.

All because the hold-up is on the CAD designers end . . . so I think after this massive headache, it’s WELL worth my time to learn Rhino and cut out one chance at failure.