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Save time, mirror those meshes!

By on March 1, 2017

Introductory Image

Animal anatomy is more or less symmetrical from the center line. While working on the Apex Veterinary simulation, this concept was actually an enormous time saver.  Here is a quick overview of how I modeled one-half of the dog skeleton, and was able to simply mirror multiple meshes to reduce work time. Let’s get started.

First, it is important to understand the Mirror modifier works by copying a mesh over a specific axis of your choosing.  The axis you use will be based on the orientation of your model. It is important to ensure your entire mesh is centered on the axis you plan to mirror over.  In my case, the center of the dog skeleton has no translations.  It’s completely centered at 0,0,0.  Mirroring can still be done if your model isn’t centered, but it makes steps down the line a little more challenging.  Because the dog’s orientation is along the x-axis, that is the axis I will use to mirror.

Grouping Meshes

Select all meshes

I identified all the meshes that would need to be duplicated.  I am working with 250 named, individual meshes in this process. Now, mirroring can certainly be accomplished one piece at a time, but again, this about saving time!  So, I multi-selected by holding SHIFT and clicking each mesh (you can also use marquee select!)

Next, I want to group everything I’ve selected.  Grouping allows for temporarily combining the selection into one.  Temporary is key, as I don’t want to lose all that hard work that went into labeling every mesh in my scene (as one should ALWAYS do!)  So, I can treat all 250 meshes as one object.  This is found under the menu conveniently called Group > Group…  I chose a name that made sense, though, eventually I’ll remove the grouping.

Time to Duplicate

Keyboard shortcuts are my friend, so I simply select my group, hold down SHIFT, and use the translation gizmo to move my group. That will effectively copy everything in the group, labels and all, as another group. In the Clone Options box, choose the “Copy” radio button under Object, and “Copy” under Controller.  I gave it a different name from the other group, so to identify it. The naming of each mesh in the group won’t be completely right, as 3DS Max requires unique labels for each mesh in the scene.  Worry not, there is an easy way to correct that too. I’ll get to that later.


With the newly created group selected, I go to the Modify rollout and choose Mirror from the Modifier list.  Since my skeleton is symmetric over the x-axis, the default chosen x-axis is correct.  The orange arrows also indicate which direction the mesh was mirrored.  Now that the mirror has been successful, I can collapse my modifier stack by converting to an editable poly.  Again, ever the shortcut user, I choose the mirrored group, right-click and choose Convert To: > Convert to Editable Poly.

Orienting the Mirror

Now, the group is oriented correctly, but not in the right position.  Well, the other handy aspect of symmetry and centering on an axis, is I can check the position of the first group, and use that same translation on the other side (except in the opposite value, in my case, it’s the negative x-axis.)  Matching those values will make each group in the proper location.  Once I have my mirrored mesh group in the correct position, I ungroup the original side and the new, mirrored side by going to Group > Ungroup.

I need to change the naming labels on the newly created grouped meshes.  All of them were automatically changed to the same name as the original, but with a “001” tacked onto the end (see figure 1), so as to keep naming unique.  However, this is no longer the “left” side of the body, either.  I need to change it to “right” and remove the “001”.  3DS Max has a very robust renaming tool, so that will be my friend.  With the new side selected I go to Tools > Rename Objects…  In the Rename Objects box (see figure 2), I make the following adjustments:


The prefix is set to “right” to correctly identify which side of the dog it’s on.  “Remove First” is set to 4, as that will remove the first 4 digits, which happens to be “left” on the copied meshes.  Finally, “Remove Last:” is set to 3 to get rid of the “001” that Max added.  Clicking on Rename will change all of my labels how I want them (see figure 3).

Finishing Up

There you have it!  Mirrored meshes are a complete time saver.  In summary, make sure you model your object centered on an axis, and you can mirror to save time all day.

Sarah Aken

Sarah Aken

Sarah joined the group in 2014. She is a 3D artist with a focus in medically accurate human and animal simulations.

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