3d modeling

An introduction to primitives in 3D modeling

3D modeling is great fun. It takes us back to simpler times, where we could look up into the sky and see things like rabbits, mountains, and even human faces in the clouds.

3D primitives require a similar sense of imagination. Instead of a simple block, the primitive form could easily be transformed into a toaster, a camera or even a robot. There’s no limit to what you can do with the perfect set of primitive shapes.

What are primitives in 3D modeling?

Primitives are the most basic elements in the world of 3D modeling and design. They are used either in tandem with each other, forming much more interesting compound shapes, or as a base for something you would like to sculpt.

These are your standard shapes, rendered only in three dimensions instead of two. What makes the use of primitives in 3D modeling so efficient and versatile?

Why are primitives used in 3D modeling?


Some primitive shapes in 3D modeling.

The use of primitives for 3D modeling has two major and essential advantages:

  1. They are super simple and undemanding on your system.
  2. It’s easy to take something like a sphere or a cylinder and adapt it to look like any number of subjects, both natural and industrial.

If you look around you carefully, you will notice that much of our world is relatively confined to a few natural, regular types of patterns and shapes. Primitive modeling is nothing more than a matter of breaking down your subject of choice into a few simple parts and adding more detail accordingly.

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You can turn a cylinder into a tree trunk and then sculpt the leaves from something like a heavily modified sphere, or even just a flat plane, for example. The possibilities are limitless.

What are the different primitive forms?

Every 3D modeling program – Blender, Maya and the others – all offer fairly comprehensive libraries of basic primitives, both broad and general shapes, plus a few branded exclusives like the infamous Blender monkey primitive.

In all these 3D applications, professional, free or not, we guarantee that you will find at least the following primitive 3D models, no matter what you are working with:

  • Cubes, perfectly regular six-sided blocks.
  • Spheres, globular beach balls that aim to mimic a smooth, continuous surface.
  • Cylinders, from big soda cans to long, flexible hoses.
  • Cones, which are exactly what they sound like.
  • the noble Torus, a round donut or ring with a perfectly smooth hole in the middle.

Yes, we also get flashbacks from our middle school geometry class. These are the most widely used primitive 3D models covering all 3D modeling applications, and they are super simple.

Related: How to Get Started with 3D Modeling: Tutorial for Beginners

Geometric primitives: points, lines, planes and 3D depth


The geometry of primitive forms.

Along with these basic primitive shapes, some consider generic geometry to be “primitive” modeling elements.

  • Points are a single iota, a position in the field.
  • Lines are the distances between two points.
  • planes are any region bounded by at least three points and lines.
  • Volumetric regions are any three-dimensional space enclosed completely inside several intersecting planes.

If something you’d like to create doesn’t look exactly like one of the most common primitive shapes in 3D modeling, you can use these simpler elements to define your mesh more clearly.

With these four types of primitive geometry in mind, you’ll be able to create literally anything. Moreover, you can also use other tools like NURBS curves to give you even more control over the character of your 3D model.

Importing photos and reference plans is a very useful way to follow more closely the design you are trying to copy. you can trace the pattern of something like a lathe spun ramp pin and get an almost identical end result.

Related: An Introduction to Physics in Blender

Primitives in 3D Modeling: Shapes are Fun

Once you find something cool to create, it won’t take long once you get the ball rolling with some basic primitive shapes. 3D modeling then becomes an unhealthy obsession, which forces you to design 3D models of every interesting new object you come across throughout your week.

Primitives are really everywhere. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.


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