Surfacing... just a nightmare

Each question is preceeded by an hour of trial and error, then an hour of google searching like for example BLENDCRV… another complete mystery…

Either you’re exaggerating or these kind of programs aren’t your logic. Either way, if you want to learn Rhino, start by going through AT LEAST the Rhino Level 1 training manual. The hours spend on this you will gain back in no time.


Well thanks for your opinion, as a developer, I think that I can safely say these kinds of programs are aligned well with my “logic”. I suspect that you have forgotten how steep the learnign curve is for 3D geometry applications.
There is a a LOT going on under the hood of nurbs based modeling that is not easy to grasp, and very difficult to explain without a good grasp of complex math. Surfacing is where the rubber meets the road in this regard.
Rhino is a fantastic application that is just easy enough to get started with and yet at the same time, presents these challenges.
I just represent the experience of many others that do not say what I am saying here because this is a Rhino forum, full of Rhino evangelists.
On one thing we do agree, the hours spent on this will result in gaining a working understanding of the paths to sucessful surfacing. My questions, like those of others before me, leave a searchable trail for those that follow and to suggest that they or me should give up because its “not their thing” is a little disingenous dont you think?
The very helpful comments about surfacing in this thread are eye opening. Perhaps you could add to that instead of criticizing me )

@mercury1978kevin: So you don’t have any personal experience with Rhino? It seems you came here to promote FormZ
Please, don’t compare mesh modellers like 3DS Max or Maya with nurbs modellers like Rhino.

Great to hear, because you didn’t give that impression in the opening of this thread.

I am helping out on this forum a lot, also regarding surfacing questions, if they are specific. So if you post a specific issue you’re dealing with I am sure it will bring you faster and closer to what you want to accomplish.

Btw: I never said to give up but to go through at least the L1 manual. I teach Rhino at an art school and can safely say that - while it might be a struggle for some - with enough effort everyone is able to learn. The biggest problem of this day and age is that many people aren’t willing to dive deep. They see the work of a skilled person, and then look for a shortcut to heaven. But with any art or profession, it takes years of experience and perseverance to master. And even after the 20+ years I’ve been using Rhino, there is still a lot to learn. But that’s part of the beauty in my opinion.

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But with any art or profession, it takes years of experience and perseverance to master.

You are making my point : /

surfacing questions, if they are specific

Well that was the point of this thread. Specific questions dont weigh the pros and cons of surfacing methods as a topic.

Even tangency is opaque under the hood. There is no description of the Rhino methodology, no algorithms to decode, no underlying precepts explained.
You are just told tangecy is calculated based on inputs given.

Finding the tangent point of where a curve hits a another curve without changing the geometry of either as a result of that tangency is not possible in Rhino

When we come to surfacing the resulting geometry, the resulting surface is not surprisingly undesirable. I have spent a week on this problem alone.

When it comes to surfacing the corrected geometry, I still have no idea wether to use loft, sweep 2, curve network or Edge curves. A discussion of the relative merits and limitations of each would fantastic if you have the time )

This is spot on!
The following relates to surfacing, not all the other stuff.
I have done lot’s of teaching of Rhino and know so well how difficult it is for newcomers to understand what tools to user where and when. Some classes and some schools have students on average that pick it up and runs with it, while other schools have students who struggle a lot with grasping the logic.
And some of those who struggle the most are those who know other logics and workflows well as they always compare Rhino’s logic to their acquired ones.

Those who are easiest to teach are smart, handy, practical people with mathematical minds, since Rhino is best though as a hands on practical modelling app where curves makes surfaces and edges are hand filleted.

The biggest problem with Rhino is that you need to know a handfull of commands well, so well that you know when to apply what, and that requires experience. For each problem to solve there are many ways to a good result, but also many roads to unwanted results since Rhino is good at making crap results from crap input, where other apps would refuse to make anything at all with crap input. So as long as you know that the input is well suited for the output then you are good to go… easier said than done in other words.

Your goal to surface vehicles should be well within reach, BUT you need to know where you are heading. Do NOT expect to sketch consept art in nurbs as a newbie. So start off with modelling existing cars from blueprints and let your self gain the experience to know when to apply what in later situations. And remember that for concept art good enough is good enough. Photoshop is an ally until your skils are high enough to do it right the first time.

And check out the xnurbs plugin, it is developed for car design to make smooth nurbs patches out of difficult situations.

AND if you still find that Rhino isn’t your cup of tea then try V7 with sub-d modelling. It isn’t complete yet, but might be a workflow that matches you better than ordinary nurbs.

Oh, and keep on posting and keep on pushing, Rhino’s surfacing tools has hardly been developed since V3, so we all need to hear it and remember that much can and should be done to ease the workflow for new and old users. (If you don’t count Sub-D that is being developed now though, that’s a HUGE thing, but is a whole different ballgame, so not directly related to nurbs surfacing per say)


Use the help in Rhino and read up, it explains and shows:

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I learned about the various surface commands and which to use when by experimenting. All that is needed is some time and a computer with Rhino. Sit down, start creating curves and then see what each surface tool does with those curves as input. Change the curves, create new surfaces and see how the surfaces change.

A free resource for introduction to the math used by Rhino is:


Ha! I’ve tried at least three different versions of FormZ, and it had many bugs, a few of them pretty serious, including one related to blocks that made working with blocks impossible and this was version 8, so stop claiming non sense.

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Pressing each individual icon and observing what it does in the viewport is exactly what I did when I tried Rhino 2 for the first time at the company where I worked about 18 years ago. In a few hours I built my first 3d NURBS house model. Couple of days later and thanks to following the tutorials included in Rhino (the duck, the flashlight and a few others) I was able to build a Pagani Zonda 3d model using 2d blueprints. Pagani Zonda is one of those cars that are relatively easy to model with NURBS. The designer of Saleen S1 also did some clever use of 4-sided surfacing to design the car in Rhino 1.
Modern cars, however, have too many complex shapes (mostly added for the sake of complexity) that are a big challenge to Rhino’s surfacing tools, because they require advanced point editing and surface matching tools, along with proper analysis of surface edge deviation and curvature.


Similar story, very late '90s I downloaded the rhino 1.0 trial, after using autocad for some years (to do 2.5D CAM work), and failing miserably to draw anything in 3D (I still remember the tutorial model). Within about 6 hours I had drawn some semblance of a cylinder head in Rhino and was dreaming of doing 5-axis head porting. Obviously not any sort of advanced surfacing, but as you say, just pushing buttons got me a result, and gave me confidence, very quickly.


Well, FWIW, you don’t necessarily need to have a good grasp of the underlying complex math.

Math was never my thing. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages - my interests never went much beyond the basics.

Yet I do some of the most complex surfacing in design, and have millions of parts going through molds. Go figure… :wink:

Is professional level surfacing hard - YES. Do you NEED to understand the math - NO. Maybe that desire is the pinch-point? You may free your mind of the math, if desired. Different strokes for different folks, perhaps.


I remember my last boss and many of my previous coworkers saying we do “mathematical surfacing” … This is funny, because I never saw them ever calculate something. Not even by code. Most of them couldn’t even code or understood any math involved. You get only exposed to this, when you need to create your own surface tools, and sadly they never understood the real challenge of the job I did for them. I mean you can learn how to read a surface and how it behaves just by pure trial and error. Its really just experience and practise and no rocket science.


Well, you (the designer that is) are doing ‘it,’ but some coder with a penchant for math ‘did’ that heavy math lifting for you…

Top designers who are also top coders and mathematicians… Renaissance people, perhaps! (What would Leonardo be doing today???)

Some jobs require you to know many different things on average, others just being a pure specialist. The reason that many of them did not do coding or trying to understand the math however is rather being unmotivated to learn. You don’t have to be top tier expert, but its quite useful to look around the edge. Math books in particular are horrible, but I was just pointing to the fun fact that people claim doing things mathematicaly , but actually having no real clue about. And although I own books about Nurbs, I admit not to fully understand the math involved. :slight_smile:

I smile when I read that with Rhino you can make automotive projects. Why automakers don’t use Rhino instead of relying on software that costs 20 times more than Rhino?
Let’s not say heresies!

The main reason is that programs like Alias and ICEM have more advanced tools for control point manipulation, surface matching, edge approximation, etc. If Rhino had the capabilities of the “Align” tool of Alias (this is how they call the “Match surface”), this single tool would make it perfectly suitable for Class-A surfacing.

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A dream… :relieved: :roll_eyes:

Well thats not a fair comparison. Dedicated software is probably more difficult to learn and I note that even with all that precision, door gaps and hood gaps are still 4-5mm on US models and 1-2mm on high end Jap models.
Rhino is very accessible, its the surface modeling techniques that present difficulty