Clothing Design and Techniques

- Jul 25, 2017 -

One way to create clothing is to lay out a pattern and put it together with Garment Maker. Garment Maker is a modifier that is used to make seams, lay out cloth panels and define fabric densities. You can use Garment Maker to create seams for the pattern either in a traditional, flat layout or in a visual, easy-to-use 3D layout.

In the real world, clothes are made by cutting out shapes from pieces of cloth and sewing them together along seams with thread. Garment Maker emulates this approach. First you must create a pattern that will define the shapes of the panels. Clothing patterns typically use shapes that we don't encounter in everyday life. Those of us who aren't an experienced clothing designers might have a hard time creating these shapes from scratch. It's often best to start out with a pattern made by somebody else. Cloth includes a variety of patterns for shirts, pants, jackets and so forth. You can also buy software that will generate these patterns in DXF format.

One program that does this is PatternMaker, available from When you want to move beyond editing the patterns included with Cloth, it's often helpful to use such applications to help create patterns and familiarize yourself with the process .

Shirt pattern and shirt sewn together with Garment Maker

Modeling Clothing

Garment Maker is a useful tool for putting together patterns and adjusting seams, but you can also achieve good results by modeling with the standard 3ds Max tools and using Cloth on top of these meshes. You can create clothing with polygons, patches, or NURBS.

Attention: Keep in mind that modeled clothing must not have any overlapping vertices or interpenetrating faces. This type of geometry can cause the simulation to fail. Using Garment Maker; you will not run into this problem. If you are careful in creating your mesh, then this is an easy rule to follow.

Pros and Cons

When designing clothing, Garment Maker is usually the best way to go. It lets you define seams, seam strength, pleats, and other clothing parameters that cannot be defined with clothing modeled via other methods. Either methods lets you define separate portions of your clothing with different fabrics, but Garment Maker gives you greater control over this. The advantage to using modeled clothing is that it can sometimes be a faster setup with familiar methods and it’s a great way to repurpose older clothing models you have made in the past. Using polygon-modeled clothing can result in overly regular creases and folds. Garment Maker uses a Delaunay mesh, which tends to avoid this problem. However, the irregular triangulation can result in rendering artifacts for low-resolution clothes, so it is advisable to apply the HSDS modifier after Cloth on garments created with Garment Maker and subdivide all the triangles once.

Note: MeshSmooth does not give good results with Garment Maker meshes.

Left: Garment Maker Delaunay mesh

Right: Modeled quad mesh

How Cloth Works

Cloth exists within 3ds Max as a pair of modifiers: Garment Maker and Cloth. Between these two, you can turn just about any 3D object into a cloth object, or you can create clothing in a more traditional method from 2D patterns, and then sew the panels together. However, before getting into the specifics of the two modifiers, it's useful to discuss how to preplan for using Cloth. This includes how geometry affects Cloth behavior as well as the density of the meshes you use as fabric.

Effect of Geometry on Cloth

Ideally, the way you model your cloth should not affect how it behaves. However, in practice, the nature of the cloth geometry impacts the simulation. First of all, the density of the mesh defines how fine the folds are that can develop. If you create a plane with only nine vertices, when you drape it over a sphere, you are obviously not going to get much detailed folding.

In addition to this aspect, there is the nature of the edges in the mesh. Folding can occur only at edges between triangles, so the regularity or irregularity of the mesh also dictates the resulting deformation. For example, a plane all of whose triangle hypotenuse edges are aligned will result in a cloth with folds aligned along those edges. Garment Maker creates meshes with an irregular layout (but with fairly equal-sized and close-to-equilateral triangles) that avoids this folding bias. However, this can also result in rendering artifacts with low-resolution cloths, so it is advisable to apply the HSDS modifier after Cloth on garments created with Garment Maker and subdivide all the triangles once.

Note: MeshSmooth does not give good results with Garment Maker meshes.

Left: A low-density shirt

Right: The same shirt with HSDS applied, above Cloth in the modifier stack

Note: There should never be any modifiers that can alter topology between Garment Maker and Cloth. For example, you can use Unwrap UVW, but not modifiers such as Edit Mesh, MeshSmooth, or HSDS.

The type of geometry you work with can have a great impact on how the cloth will react. You're probably accustomed to using triangular and quadrilateral polygons for modeling. Garment Maker uses a Delaunay mesh subdivision that promotes non-uniform deformation. When using quad polygons for cloth simulation be careful of getting uniform or symmetrical results.

Left: A quad mesh

Right: A Delaunay mesh

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