Faster Modeling in modo
Modo is a brilliant all-around application and it’s currently my favorite 3D app out there. It started out as a modeler and as such, that’s one of its strongest elements. However, it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s missing features, hotkeys or it takes too many clicks to perform a certain operation.
I’ve been using modo since 203 and it’s my primary modeling tool, so I have spent quite some time customizing it to be as efficient as I can get it. That said, I’m by no means a modo master and my techniques are probably not the most efficient ones in all cases. If you’re reading this and you have a better way of doing something, I’d love to hear it.
Before we look at how we can optimize modo for modeling, we first need to know how you can actually customize it: Setting up pie menus, hotkeys, installing scripts and all that good jazz. If you already know this, skip this. Skip along now. If not, keep on reading!
Some scripts do have custom install instructions, but most are installed the same way:
Copy the script file into this directory on a PC
After the script has been copied here, you should now be able to access it in modo. To fire off a script, simply type
An example of this could be
To test this, type it into the Command port in the bottom right corner.
If you don’t know the suffix of the script (meaning which format it was made in; Perl, Python or Luxology Macro), simply look in the Windows Explorer. I now immediately know that msp_50_50 has LXM as a suffix.
Changing hotkeys in modo is very easy – if you know how to. If you don’t, it’s a little less straight forward to figure out than in, say Maya.
This is perhaps the quickest way:
1. Hit F5 or go to Layout – Palettes – Command History. This brings up all the commands which are being fired. Very useful. Here you can see the names of all the commands. This becomes very useful later when setting up Pie Menus.
2. Activate the tool you want to map to a key, here the Thicken Tool. You will now see the command “tool.set Thicken on”.
3. Right Click on it – Map Command to Key
4. Hit the hotkey combination you want. In my case, I have Thicken set to Shift + T. If there’s already a hotkey assigned to the command, it will ask you if you want to overwrite it. Hit Yes.
And that’s the fastest way of mapping commands to hotkeys!
This method is preferable in some cases, particularly if you want to map commands to various mouse clicks. It’s also nice if you want to have a good overview of which keys are assigned to which command. We’re going to use the Input Editor for this, found under System. When you first open it, you might be overwhelmed by the wall of text with commands. It all makes sense if you take a moment to look at it.
To the right, you have the Trigger. This basically means which hotkeys is assigned to which command. In the middle, you have the Command. This is exactly what you think it is – it’s the command used to trigger certain tools, like we discussed above.
I use this in conjunction with the Command History. Again, let’s say I want to add Thicken to the hotkey Shift + T. First we need to know which command triggers the Thicken Tool. Hit F5, go to Polygons – Thicken to activate the thicken tool. The command “tool.set Thicken on” pops up. Click on it in the Command History to make it editable. Copy it to the clipboard. All repetition so far.
This is the new part.
Click on the button which says Shift. This will show all the key combinations which includes the Shift key. Shift + T currently doesnt have a key assigned to it. By default it will then be hidden. You then have to click on Show Unmapped Keys to make it visible.
Double Click on the key combination you want – here Shift + T. Paste the command you previously copied and hit OK.
Hit Shift + T to try out the freshly cooked hotkey!
Pie Menus are extremely useful for quick modeling (or rather, quick anything) in modo. It’s basically a concept which is very similar to Marker Menus in Maya, though not as powerful. In short, it’s a radial menu where you can add up to 8 commands.
Example of a pie menu
To make a pie menu, you need to familiarize yourself with the Form Editor, another seemingly scary and technical editor. You find this beauty under System – Form Editor. This is not going to be a tutorial on the Form Editor; there are other resources for that. I will only go into how to make a Pie Menu. I’ll show how to make a pie with various modo commands and scripts.
If you’re an observant chap, you will see that there’s a group here called Pie Menus. As you’re a clever person, you’ve now realized that this is where we put our Pie Menus. Open it up and you can see all the various pies. Some of these are my own custom ones, so you won’t have all of them.
This is how you make your own pies:
1. Either you can make a form (basically the name for a group here) from scratch, by going to Create – New Form or by duplicating an existing form. I personally prefer the latter. If you make a new form, it will be created at the bottom of the list and you have to drag it up, which is tedious.
Select a form – Right Click – Duplicate. I duplicated the Modeling form.
Select all the commands, Right Click – Delete.
2. We now have a clean form we can use to make our own menus. Now we need to populate it with awesome sauce. Remember how we found the commands for the various tools earlier? This is useful now as well. Hit New Control and then – Add Command
You will now be asked to add a command or arguments, meaning a modo command or an external script.
I’ll add the following to this Pie Menu:
- Topology Pen
- Perfect Circle Script
Let’s start with the Topology Pen. I know that the command for it is “tool.set mesh.topology on snap:true“. You can now simply paste that into the Command and Arguments popup.
If you press the Preview Form, this is what you’re going to see. It’s working, but it’s not sexy.
Let’s give it a name. To the right, you can now type the name of the tool under Label. You see the nice, friendly letters saying “NAME HERE”? That’s where.
Congrats, you’ve now made your first item in your first pie menu.
To add a script to a pie, the procedure is almost exactly the same:
1. New Control – Add Command
2. To have a script, we go back to what we learnt earlier on how to fire off scripts. Let me quote myself.
To fire off a script, simply type
You can now see that it says “Run Script”. This means that it’s recognizes that it’s an installed script. Give it a new name under Label and you’re good to go.
Alrigth! A wonderful little pie. So how the heck to we use it? Well, we simply assign it to a hotkey. Right Click on the Form (not the individual commands, but the group) and select Assign Hotkey
Now you’ve made your beautiful pie and it’s stored in the default config. This is a problem. If modo messes up and you have to delete the default config, you’re screwed and you have to remake it. To save it, simply use the Save Form command, found when you right click on the form.
Keep populating the pie menu until you’ve reached 8 slots and you have a shiny new pie menu ready for work.
Also notice how I didn’t make a single bad pie joke or pun in this entire section. Kudos to me.
Super Useful Scripts & Commands
Some of these scripts and macros might seem redundant, but if you’re modeling all day, it’s the little things which save you time in the end. Most of these are scripts I’ve collected online and while I try to give credit where credit is due, I might have lost the source over the years. If you know who made a certain script, email me and I’ll update the tutorial ASAP.
I’ve put all the scripts listed here in a .zip file which you can download:
Duplicate Selected Polys
This is basically just a macro I’ve created. Normally when you want to duplicate polys and move them around, you have to hit Ctrl + C, Ctrl +V and W to copy, paste and activate the move tool. Three commands and quite a lot of finger work over the day. This macro does it all in one go. If you fire it, it will duplicate the selected faces and activate the move tool. Handy! I’ve mapped it to Ctrl + Shift + C
I frequently want to select loops of polys or edges and then move them around. This macro selects the loop and activates the move too.
I don’t use this script too often, but when I do, it’s very handy. As the name implies, it’s making perfect circles. Making circles in 3D can be a PITA, so this is a very welcome script.
A useful macro I’ve put together. Allows you to quickly bridge edges together without activating the Bridge Tool. I use this very frequently.
This script selects the adjacent polygons, verts or edges. Handy in some situations.
Set Position to Zero
Select That Mesh
The way you normally select meshes in modo is to use the Item list, clicking on them in Item Mode or Middle Mouse Button-Clicking on the different items in poly mode. All of those are indeed very handy, however, I find this script to be far more handy. Not only will it allow you to quickly change the active item, but you can select models within the item itself. This definitely saves you a lot of clicks in the long run. Just by single clicking instead of double clicking, you’re saving yourself some work.
I’ve assigned Select That Mesh to LMB + CTRL. This makes it very fast to select the various meshes. Assigning it to this key is very easy.
Open the Input Editor and change the settings to match the screenshot below. Add the script to Ctrl – Left Click. Remember to check Show Unmapped Keys.
Stretch Snap to Zero
Yet another Seneca Script. Text shamelessly stolen from this wonderful guy’s website:
This script will look at the stretch tool and snap any values that are not 100% to 0%. It’s just
nice, because you can now easily perfectly stretch stuff to 0 in any axes without having to
type in 0 in the Tool Properties window. It’s great for modo2′s new ability to bind keys to
specific tools. I went and bound it to “S”, and it’s cool because that key is only used for
this script when I’m using the stretch tool.
Subpatch Keep Selection
Another awesome script from Seneca Menard. When you hit the TAB key with geometry selected, it only converts the selected geometry to subdivisions. This is seldom what you want and will in most cases only cause problems. This is where this script shines. You can select one polygon, vert or edge and if you now hit tab, the entire model will be converted to SubDs. An absolutely MUST HAVE. Whenever I’m working on a clean install of modo without my scripts, this is the one thing which makes me lose my mind the quickest.
A really handy script which allows you to toggle symmetry on and off. Ive mapped it to Ctrl + Shift + X
Lasso Partial Select
601 allows you to change the way your selection work in your preferences. This might seem like a small thing, but it really is extremely useful in the long run. Map the following command to a pie menu, hot key, the UI or whatever you prefer. More info about this in the Uber Pie Section.
pref.value remapping.lassoSelectPartial ?(true|false)
Again, a 601 update. This allows you to basically have a proper isolate mode, similar to Maya, 3ds Max or any other 3d app. We’ve been lacking this for a long time and 601 finally delivered. I’ve mapped it to Alt + Q. Sure, you could change this under your Display Options (Hotkey O), but it’s significantly faster to have it set to a key.
When doing retopo, this is essential. I’ve have it set to a pie menu, direction east.
Loop Move :
1 (not numpad)
Join Averaged (verts)
2 (not numpad)
LMB + Ctrl + Shift
Select that Mesh:
LMB + CTRL
Ctrl+ Alt + X
Shift + B
Shift + T
I’ve remapped grow and shrink selection as the default keys require that I use two hands. As this is something I do all the time while modeling, I can work faster and with less pressure on my body if I move my fingers less.
Shift + X
Shift + Z
Shift + G
Toggle wire overlay
Alt + Q
Alt + Ctrl+ S
Stretch Snap to Zero
Ctrl + Alt + S
Shift + P
Ctrl + P
Ctrl + Q
Select In Between
It may sound boring, but trust me, this is sexy stuff. Have you ever needed to select, well, anything? If so, this will make tears of joy crawl out of your over caffeinated eyes. In short, this selects the range between two selected elements, be it polygons, verts or edges.
This is one of the most useful scripts you can find for modo, in my humble and slightly sleep deprived opinion. It’s something which has been available for modo for a couple of years now, yet a lot of people don’t know about it. By default, it’s mapped to Shift + G, but I find that to be unintuitive while modeling. Also, the default command select.inbetween requires one extra click compared to this script. I’ve mapped it to Shift + Left Mouse Button.
Here is the command you need. Copy it into a note pad document, save it in the Scripts Directory and name it selectBetweenByClick.LXM.
Type the command @selectBetweenByClick.LXM. Hit OK and you’re good to go.
This is my holy grain for modeling. I’ll go over every single entry here. The pie menu is mapped to Ctrl + Q, but feel free to map your equivalent to whatever you prefer. This is the current state of my menus, but they are constantly changing based on new features or scripts I find.
Topology Pen -
A true beast of a tool. If you’re not intimately familiar with it, go and read everything you can on it in the docs right away. It’s my primary tool when doing retopology and it’s doing a mighty fine job. Link to the Docs
In short, what you need to know:
LMB = Move
RMB = Move Edge Loop
MMB = Split
Shift+LMB = Duplicate
Shift+RMB = Duplicate Loop
Shift MMB = Add Loop
Ctrl+LMB = Slide
Ctrl+MMB = Remove
Does exactly what you would assume: It centers the pivot (or rather, center). Handy. You can find this under Edit – Center to Bounding Box – Center or the command. The center in modo is what other apps refer to as the pivot. The reason I call it “Center Pivot” is because “Center Center” sounds like a mediocre pop song from the eighties.
Allows you to see the model in Topo mode. Essential when doing retopo.
Pretty self-explanatory: Gives you a soft selection. Extremely handy when doing modeling in general.
A new feature in 701 which I love. It allows you to merge layers without copy-pasting. This is an extremely welcome feature which you will learn to love. You can also Right Click on a mesh item in the Item List and selecting Merge Meshes. The command is
Select Style Toggle
This is not an essential part of modeling, but it is a very useful one. It basically toggles between lasso and rectangle selection modes. You can change this in the preferences, but frankly, I find that to be far too tedious, so I’m rather using it in the pie menu. The command is
This command will select any N-gons (5 sided or more polys) you might have in your model. Very handy when cleaning up. You know the drill: Here’s the command.
select.polygon add vertex bezier 4
One of those things which it seems like nobody really knows exists. By default, you have to select the entire polygon or edge in order for it to be selected. In most cases this is all fine and dandy, but in some, it’s extremely cumbersome. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could select a polygon simply by selecting parts of it? Well, you handsome reader, this is exactly what this command does.
Where you normally have to drag out a selection for the entire polygon, you now only drag over an area of it. Handy!
pref.value remapping.lassoSelectPartial ?(true|false)
And that’s it for this pie menu.
Time for another menu I use all the time. This contains a bit of everything really. Mapped to Ctrl + F
The first section covers my most frequently used primitives. I very rarely use any other primitives than the Cube, Pen, Sphere, Cylinder or the Plane.
Next, there’s a Light-button. I get up all the different lights if I click it.
Symmetry in modo is notorous for breaking. This tool will try to fix the symmetry. It won’t always work, but it is handy at times.
If you’re modeling in modo, you need this script. It will fix corrupted geometry and all kinds of issues. This script has been available in modo since the dawn of time, and in 601, they integrated a similar script into the program. You can find it under Geometry – Mesh Cleanup. It offers more control than the script, but frankly, the script is good enough for my uses.
Set Pos X 0
A very simple macro. The only thing it does is to set the vert positions to zero in the X-axis. When modeling, I always use instances scaled on -100 in the X. However, this means that the center verts will be off center. Having this as one button is very handy.
vert.set x 0.0 false false
Just a quick way of changing between the most used viewport modes
A quick way of bringing up the item list.
Info & Stats
You gotta love this menu, as it gives you a lot of info about your model.
Found under View – Ruler Tool. I use this all the time for checking the scale of my model.
If you do, well, ANYTHING, in CG, you have encountered situations where you need to export geometry out of modo and into another package. The file exporter in modo currently only supports LXO files, and as a result you technically cant export your selected objects as an OBJ. Huge hassle. How do we fix this? Of course, some clever people have already scripted this.
There are two main scripts here. Use whatever you prefer. They both work with 701.:
This does exactly what you want. The current selection will be exported as an OBJ. Neat. I’ve put this in the File menu, right under Export. This is extremely useful and it’s something which will save you a lot of time. Also the chance of you having hair by the age of 40 just doubled.
A more fancy script as it has more options. You access it by right clicking on the layer you want to export. Very handy too.
This was a relatively quick modeling task; it took me around 1 hour sharp. It shows my preferred way of retopologizing a model: I start out with big, clean shapes and then I connect everything.
An absolutely wonderful script from Cristóbal Vila! In short, you have a bunch of presets which determines how much to slice a loop. Instead of constantly going to the Loop Slice tool and changing it there, you can now save time by simply using this script. Amazing stuff.
You can find installation instructions here.
Use the sculpt brushes!
This probably seems like an obvious one, but in reality, I don’t see too many people actually using the sculpting brushes while modeling. I pretty much only use one sculpting brush: The Move brush. I find it to be infinity useful when moving polygons around and smoothing them out. When modeling, it’s very common that your mesh becomes messy. This is where there smooth brush truly shines. If you hold down shift while using the move brush, the smooth brush is being activated. This is one of the features which really separates modo from maya, in my opinion: Being able to quickly move points around and getting a clean mesh. Without the move and smooth brush, you have to use soft selections, the tweak tool and the smooth tool. While it works just fine, it’s a very slow process.
A good resource from Cristóbal Vila about scripts in modo. In spanish, but should be easy enough to understand if you throw this baby into Google Translate.
Congratulations on getting to the end, you fine person! Lift your right hand up with your left hand. Now, place it on your left shoulder. Move it slowly up and down. A well deserved pat on the back.
Feel very much free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at henning.sanden [at] gmail.com if you have any comments, feedback or you generally feel like chatting.