How to Make Car Headlights in 3DS Max

Written by darrin koltow
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How to Make Car Headlights in 3DS Max
Make a car headlight with 3ds Max (a car in a car show image by Gary from

3ds Max is a CAD (computer-aided design) program used to create and render virtual three-dimensional objects. One of the program's predefined objects is a light. With their default settings, lights themselves are not visible in rendered scenes. However, 3ds Max lets users turn any object into a light source that does render. This capability makes creating custom light sources, such as car headlights, a straightforward process.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 3ds Max

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  1. 1

    Open 3ds Max and click anywhere in the "Perspective" pane. Press the pane's "[+]" symbol, then select "Maximize viewport" to maximize the viewport.

  2. 2

    Create a box to represent a dummy car, in front of which you'll attach a headlight: Press "Create," then "Standard Primitives," then "Box." Click and drag on the home construction grid to create the box.

  3. 3

    Create the headlight: Press the "Cylinder" button at screen right, then click the "AutoGrid" checkbox. Hover the mouse pointer over the right side of the leftmost visible face of the box (car).

  4. 4

    Click and drag on the face just mentioned to begin creating the headlight's (or cylinder's) circumference. Release the mouse after forming the circumference. Then, pull the mouse left slightly to define the headlight's depth. Click again to end the light's creation.

  5. 5

    Begin creating the left half of the car: Right-click the box and select "Convert to editable poly." Then, click the "Edit Geometry" rollout at screen right to expand that rollout.

  6. 6

    Press the "Attach" button in the "Edit Geometry" rollout, then click the headlight. 3ds Max will attach the headlight to the box. Any changes you make to the box will now affect the headlight.

  7. 7

    Press the button with the rainbow icon (the Modify button). Then, type "sym" and press "Enter" to begin duplicating the car's right half to its left half.

  8. 8

    Click the "Y" option button in the "Parameters" rollout, then check "Flip" to correct the duplication described in step 7. You'll now see two headlights on the car.

  9. 9

    Press "M" to display the material editor, which is where you'll make materials for the headlight and the car.

  10. 10

    Enter "100" in the "Self illumination" frame of the "Blinn Basic Parameters" rollout. Then, click the "Diffuse" colour swatch and choose white. These changes create the material for the headlight.

  11. 11

    Click the second sample sphere in the material editor to begin creating the car's non-illuminated colour. Then, click the "Diffuse" colour swatch and select any dark colour (e.g. maroon). These changes create the car's colour.

  12. 12

    Click "Editable Poly" in the modifier stack panel, then click "Polygon" to enable selection of the headlight. Click the right headlight to select it.

  13. 13

    Click the material editor's first sample sphere--the headlight material you created in step 10. Drag the sample sphere to the selected headlight polygon.

  14. 14

    Press "Control-I" to invert the selection. This deselects the highlight and selects the remaining polygons of the car.

  15. 15

    Drag the material editor's second sample sphere to the selected polygons. This colours the car.

  16. 16

    Press the second from left button below the modifier stack. (It looks like a test tube). Then, select the "Rendering" menu heading, followed by "Render." You'll now see the car's lighted headlights.

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