Ornamental Work

What’s the best way to model this kind ornamental work? I’m always frustrated when try one of these and end up settling for something less than perfect.

I would like to layout the outline curves, add some profile curves, then sweep/loft/networksrf my way to being done. But it never works out that way.

I sometimes use tsplines and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, until I get a shape that kinda matches my outline curves. But I can never get a scroll like the one in the picture. I am aware of Brian James’ tutorial (http://tips.rhino3d.com/2011/09/modeling-scroll-with-rhino.html), but it doesn’t quite match the look of the scroll.

Any help is appreciated.


Hi Eric- the scroll thing you can do… BJ’s tutorial and similar- I’ll attach some examples I have. The rest is a litte too short on info to know what you really want but I generally get your point- and it is pretty fiddly to make these types of things from surfaces.

Scrolls.zip (1010.4 KB) l


Hey @pascal, I have to do this stuff often enough that it is pretty painful. I’m making patterns to flow along a surface (body of a ring).

I need to convert the 2d shaded artwork into 3d shapes, varying their height from 1mm to .25mm, using different shaped profile curves to give them depth. Most importantly they need to be fluid.

Thanks for the scrolls. Could you please explain this step in a little more detail? I’m confused by the 3 inputs to the arc tangent command.

HI Erica,
I’ve modeled quite a bit of this type of stuff and for me there usually is no quick answer. Especially if you making a model for RP.
I saw this product Rhino emboss that might help I haven’t tried it.

Many years ago I spent days modelling a coat of arms in Rhino, it looked good, but a bit basic.

Then the Mastercam guy showed me it in Mastercam ART - so easy and so much better looking result.

Rhino on its own isn’t really the tool for ornamental stuff. Artcam is the right sort of tool for that. Rhinoemboss looks like a similar concept, though I’ve also never used it.

Those tools all seem to work by inflating a high resolution mesh, or even a voxel grid. You can do some of that in Blender, though I’m not sure you can inflate from a curve.

IMO, T-splines is being dismissed way too early. If you’re using T-splines in total beginner mode; merely pushing/pulling a shape into submission, then there’s not much that can be done to help until there’s an understanding of various advanced techniques (pivot extrude, pivot scale, etc)

Advanced users would probably make a habit of previsualizing where certain key splines need to be laid in. Sometimes done to emphasize & bolster certain topology features (crease build-up).

An additional approach might be to obtain a quick & dirty mesh, then use T-splines’ retopology function to create a watertight asset.

The Retopo function is described here:

Two ways I might obtain the mesh:

  1. Use the freebie Sculptris software to sculpt the shape, then import into Rhino as an OBJ mesh.
  2. Manually shade the sketch with the intention of using the grayscale drawing to roughly generate a heightfield mesh in Rhino.

Using Retopology to create a watertight T-splines asset would then bring about a laundry-list of benefits:

  • Additional advanced deformation techniques would permit numerous variations that would all still remain native T-splines and thus inherently watertight
  • Use as a 3D object, or scale to flatten it for relief, convert to Rhino Nurbs, and flow along a surface. Multiple uses for the effort put into making it.

I think for a shape like this you should consider a sub d modeler. Blender is free but complex and difficult, Silo is very basic but inexpensive and simple. Then you have more expensive programs - modo, Lightwave on up to Maya.

Gut instinct - I’d download a trial of Silo and try it out.

Thanks everyone.

@CarterTG, I’ve had TSplines for a couple years, but I use it less and less because of frustration. I haven’t been happy with my results or the usability. I am in total beginner mode. If you could point me to some advanced tutorials/training materials, I would be happy to invest time in learning it. Here is where I am now (built using 5 sided axial symmetry):

But at my current skill level, I prefer NURBS with point editing. An example of my frustration would be laying out the curve for a scroll:

I took the time to layout my curve to have a nice and smooth curvature. If I use Pipe, it looks exactly the way I want it (although self intersecting and quite useless). With tsPipe, I get a shape, but in order for it to have a passable scroll it requires fiddling.

If I were to make the leaf pattern, I would:

  1. Start with a flat, 4 grid plane
  2. extrude, fiddle, extrude, fiddle, ad nauseum until I get the basic shape with a good topology,
  3. Thicken
  4. switch to point editing and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle until I get back to the shape of the curves I started out with.

Retopologize a mesh is a good idea, however I would use VSR. If I knew TSplines better, I would love to have the option because I realize it would open up more options down the road.

You might give Zsurf a try. it will make a low relief surface that can be applied to a ring
Here is an example from. your image. Better quality images produce better quality
surfaces. leaf.3dm (977.6 KB)


RhinoEmboss will do that very easily. Although all the tutorials I have seen for RE use planar curves you can get more control by using non planar curves or even control point editing after initially using them in RE.

RE is still pretty buggy so save often both your project within RE and the Rhino file. Not sure if it was just me but I had to turn of Rhino auto save because it was causing problems with RE.

The surfaces that RE create are really heavy on my computer (i7/16Gb) so if I create a part in RE I usually leave it in another file and bring it into the project at the last point.

Clean curves, the Smooth tool and the layer blend options are the secret to getting best results out of RE IMO.

Once I had the curves done the relief in the attached photo took about 5 minutes to create in RhinoEmboss.

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I devoured every webinar TSplines freely made available not for the sake of learning how to model a dolphin, clothes iron, or utility knife rather to learn the core rules TSplines uses to shape its topology:

  1. Closer splines pack detail or sharpens creases
  2. Box mode is congruous to viewing Bezier curves in Illustrator. Crucial to monitoring how much force is pulling on a vertice.
  3. Good chunk of Rhino Transform tools will work when TSplines is either in Edge or Vertice mode.

This portion of the ornament was done in the time it took lunch to warm up…

If it were done for a client, additional time would’ve been spent learning how they’d want topology of the inner region done. In any case, the effort isn’t just wasted on one application. You’d have an object that could be repurposed for a potential follow-up.

Having T-Splines for a few years but staying with its basic push’n’pull workflow is a waste. If you haven’t gone through the webinars, use the pull-down filter to watch the beginner stuff first. Every tip, trick, workflow, and procedure I learned came from the gurus that contributed:


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@CarterTG, I’m trying, but it comes out looking like crap. I watched 4 hours of TSplines videos and thought, “sure I can do that.” Then I get in there and the more I try, the more I fiddle, the worse it looks. The curvature of my splines are crap. No way to smooth them out without fiddling, and the more fiddling I do the worse the curvature gets.

If I would have tackled this with straight surface modeling (like I did the scroll), I’d be done by now.

Hi Eric

It looks like you need to use the TS make uniform command on your t-spline object. It will relax and smooth out all the star points.

Quite honestly, I don’t think tsMakeUniform is the culprit… at least at this stage it isn’t the solution. The problem again is that the edges or faces are only being tugged at in a WYSIWYG manner entirely in smooth mode. Since it’s never been mentioned, I’ll presume box mode has been entirely ignored.

Box mode is to T-Splines as Bezier curves are to Adobe Illustrator. It’s there to help you understand what’s pulling on the surface and at what strength. Bunch up vertices together and it’ll pull on a spot with greater strength and sharpness. If the T-Splines box-mode view looks like an unordered mess, tabbing into smooth-mode isn’t likely to look much better.

I spend half my time modeling by repeatedly observing (and working in) box mode. Showing the box mode is akin to revealing the Wizard behind the curtain in demonstrating where the real vertices are that result in the smooth-mode display…

I still love to use plain-Jane Rhino for certain things where appropriate, but there are other other smooth-flowing organic stuff where T-Splines is a far better fit…

Showing your box mode will reveal a lot, I suspect.

You might wanna check out the following tutorials, which are poly/subd related, but same workflow applies to t-splines aswell: