Cloth and Garment Overview

- Jul 25, 2017 -

Cloth is an advanced cloth-simulation engine that lets you create realistic garments for your characters and other creations. Cloth is designed to work in concert with the modeling tools in 3ds Max and can turn just about any 3D object into clothing; it also allows you to build garments from scratch.

Before you begin working with Cloth, we recommend that you read this overview. It provides background information on cloth-simulation technology, so you can begin to grasp exactly the way Cloth works. It will give you a better overall understanding of how to set up Cloth scenes, the way the cloth behaves, and the array of advanced controls you will have at your disposal.

As an artist and creator, you can use this knowledge to tailor (no pun intended) how Cloth will affect and interact with your scenes, and how you can best take advantage of this software.

Cloth-Simulation Technology

Cloth simulation is the process of replicating the movement and deformation of a piece of fabric or clothing to mimic how cloth would react in the real world. To make cloth simulation work, first you need a cloth object, such as a tablecloth or a pair of pants. Next, you need something for the fabric to interact with. This can be a collision object such as a table top or character’s leg, or a force such as wind or gravity.


While Cloth is designed to help you create clothing for your models, you should be aware that, by its very nature, cloth simulation is only an approximation of how real fabric would react under certain circumstances; this system does have some limitations.

One of the most important aspects of working with Cloth is the amount of time it can take to create a simulation. If you're looking to create a fully physically correct simulation, you might run into problems. Even with a fast computer, cloth dynamics at that level of accuracy (and geometric detail) could take virtually forever. So you must learn to scale your simulations back to a reasonable level. This doesn't mean you can't get believable clothing; it simply means that there are tradeoffs you should be willing to make.


In order to create a believable simulation, you need to balance time against quality and accuracy. The more time you have, the more accuracy and quality your simulation can have. There's no reason to make a model with 10,000 polygons if you can define the form equally well with 3,000. The same rule applies to cloth simulations.

Internal and External Forces

When simulating cloth, different forces come into play. Some internal forces like bend, stretch, and shear allow the fabric to deform in a realistic manner. External forces such as gravity, wind, and collisions make the cloth interact with its environment. To obtain a good-looking simulation, most or all of these things need to come into play. Without these forces, a piece of cloth will remain a flat, lifeless plane.

Collision Detection

When putting a shirt or pair of pants on a character, you don't want any part of the body to protrude through the fabric. The desired result is to have the garment deform around the mesh (rather than through it) so there are no intersections. This is done with collision detection; with Cloth, you tell the simulation system which objects will act as cloth, and which ones will act as collision objects.

Basically, virtual feelers are sent out from the vertices of the cloth objects to see if there are any other objects that they might collide with. When one of the feelers hits something, the simulation knows that it must deform the fabric. It is important to remember that a cloth mesh with more vertices has more feelers and can do a better job of collision detection. This is critical, because if you are working with a high-poly character (collision object), you will need to increase the density of your cloth, or the high-poly mesh will protrude through the lower-poly cloth object. The reason is that there aren't enough feelers to detect all of the detail in the collision object.

The alternative to this is to add one or more low-polygon proxy meshes for the character so there doesn't need to be such high density cloth objects that will slow down simulation. We'll cover the mesh density a bit more in the next section.

Lastly, if you are simulating with fast-moving cloth objects, you might need to increase the Density value to give you the benefit of more feelers. You also might adjust the Step size to check more often for collision objects in the way.

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