Rhino #7: Import Models (Furniture, People…)

This tutorial will show you how to add 3D objects such as furniture or people from other files into your model.

Very often you will need to add more content to your 3D models in order to achieve particular effects, atmosphere or give your renderings a sense of scale. These 3D models can be things such as furniture, vehicles or even people, and although you can always add things in Photoshop, by using these 3D props in your scene you can achieve better perspective and lighting on them.
In this tutorial we will be making this image:

render-webPlease note that all furniture and people are 3D models, which make them all fit the perspective and lighting perfectly. Additionally,  slightly rough 3D models of people give the image a nice “cartoonish” effect.

So let’s get started.


Finding 3D Models Online?

There is an abundance of free (and paid) 3D models online. Unfortunately, it’s a chaos out there, and not all models are good, both in terms of model quality, and in terms of “style” : you’ll find thousands of terrible sofa designs, but it’s hard to come by one that looks modern and nice.

Download Model Collection I Prepared For You

In order to get you started quickly, I prepared a small library of 3D models (furniture and people) that you can start working with right away. Download it here:

Click here to download 3D Model Collection.

When you unpack zip file, you’ll see the models are organized by folders.
For most models (except for people), I converted them to .3dm (Rhino’s file format) so you can work with them easily. Plus I’ve made a quick render of the model so you can see what’s inside the file without having to open it.

Each file contains one piece of furniture:


Some Sites To Download 3D Models

This website has a collection of very nice models of designer furniture. Unfortunately, there are not many models, and I mostly already took many of those when making a collection for you.

Design Connected  has a collection of really good models, but most of them cost money. There are some free models, though, and I assume they will keep uploading more.

This is a huge collection of thousands of free 3D models. Most of them are just aweful kitchy furniture that you’ll never get to need (I hope so!), but if you patiently search their vast library, you may find something nice.

A lot of models, and some of them not so bad really. See the navigation side bar on the left side of the website to search for categories such as “Modern Furniture”, etc…

This is the world’s biggest marketplace of 3D models. All of them cost money, but also most of them extremely well done to highest professional standards. Unfortunately, this often means they will come in formats that you will not be able to open in Rhino, such as 3D Max or Maya, but still worth knowing about this.

Look At Furniture Companies Websites

Finally, most of the furniture design companies will have a section on their website where you can download detailed 3D models (and 2D CAD drawings) o their furniture. Obviously, they would love them to use their designs, so why not take advantage of that?
Some examples:




… to name only a few.


What File Formats Can Rhino Import?

3D models online come in huge variety of 3D file formats, and good thing about Rhino is it can open many (most) of them. However, not all file formats are created equal, so here are the ones that you probably will use the most (best options first).
Please note that most of these file format (all except 3dm) do not contain images/textures, just the 3D geometry of the model.

This is Rhino’s native file format, and it’s always a best choice if you can find. You will usually have no problems importing models in .3dm format.

This is most widely used file format for importing/exporting 3d models between programs, and most of the files you find online will be in .3ds format. One common problem that you will have with models in 3ds format is that they will be out of scale (too big or too small) so you have to resize them on import.

Another widely used file format, and another one that will give you issues with scale.

This file format usually has the information about scale/ units  inside, however often the models will not import correctly – objects will be moved out of place. So watch out!


Insert Rhino Files (.3dm)

As I told you, it’s best to have your model library in .3dm file format. Even if you download models from internet in other file formats, it is usually worth the effort to clean up stuff in Rhino and save them to .3dm (as I did when preparing this model collection for you).

Ok, without any further ado, let’s add an armchair.

Inserting Arm Chair

In order to add arm chair to this model, I did the following:

Adding Sofa And Shelves

I added sofa using exactly the same method as above. Then I copied and rotated and moved it to make a “L”-shaped corner composition with two sofa modules.

Then the shelves, same thing, copying them 3 times:


Bonus: Modifying Shelves Model To Add Variety

Now the issue with shelves is that they all of them have exactly the same distribution of books, so it looks very unnatural. It would be good idea to modify the model to add more variety to book distribution.

The following video is slightly longer than the other ones (3 minutes), and here’s the gist of the things I’m doing there:

The rest of the video is selecting points and moving them around, or copying (press ALT key while moving to create a copy). This is something you should be very careful about as it’s very easy to mess up the model.


Import Other File Formats

Very often unfortunately (almost always) you will not have .3dm files to import, but some other file format. Most of them Rhino will import, but have in mind that some proprietary file formats (such as .max, file format of 3D Max) are not available – which is a shame because there is a lot of high quality 3D models in .max format.

Import and Scale A Person .3ds Model

Here’s the gist of the process:

How do we know the correct scale?
Well take a look at 0:38 of this video.
I used “Distance” command to measure the height of the 3D person, it was around 6.2m (to be sure that you are looking at 2D dimension, look at only DY component of the distance, as I did).

Then a slight calculation. If a person is now 6.2m, and I want him to be 1.8m, that means I need to rescale it using 1.8m/6.2m ~ 0.3 scale factor (all calculations are in the video).


Adding Missing Texture To 3D Model

Very often the models will come with texture files (image files, such as JPG or PNG). However, by default, Rhino may not be able to find the texture files, so we need to add them manually. This is very often the problem with .3ds files, and usually the model with missing texture will render in pitch black.

Here’s what I did in the video:


Adding A Seated Person

I repeated all the steps above to add a seated person model.
Please note that in this case Rhino found the texture file automatically, probably because I already pointed to where the textures could be when I added texture for the other model in the previous step.


The Difference Between Import And Insert?

As far as I’ve seen there are several differences, but basically Import gives you less options, while Insert lets you:

I found that usually working with .3dm files is better to use Insert, while I use Import for other file formats. The reason? Usually other file formats will have wrong size, so I prefer doing everything manually.

Pro tip: Even if you use Import, it’s a good practice to group objects you just imported, so you can manipulate them easier.


Post- Production In Photoshop

I will not get into post production details because it’s covered in other tutorials. However, if you want you can download the .PSD file with all the layers so you can use it as a reference.

Click here to download .PSD file.

Here’s the final image again:










Any questions?

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