The Modeler WorkspaceWhen you open the Modeler program, you will see nine task-related tabs across the top (Create, Modify, Multiply, Construct, Detail, Map, Setup, Utilities and View). Each tab determines which menu buttons and tools are visible. Many of these tools have built-in settings (presets) for common tasks or you can customize any tool as needed. LightWave has a tool for just about any task, whether it is beveling a table edge or animating a cartoon character. Common to all the tabs are the Viewports in which you create your model. These Viewports have several camera views and display modes. Because the Viewports are interrelated, when you make a change to your model in one, the other Viewports update automatically. Also common throughout the program is the Numeric Panel where you can customize the properties for many tools.
In the Create workspace, you can start a new model. As with most 3D software, you can begin with several built-in Primitives (Box, Ball, Disc, Cone, Capsule and more). Besides these preset shapes, LightWave also has some very nice features for modeling 3D text. You can load any of the fonts installed on your system from within the Manage Fonts dialog box and easily start your 3D text model in the Logo Maker dialog box. Besides primitives and text, you can also create models from points, curves, edges and polygons including Metaballs and Metaedges. These special polygons remain separate in the Viewport until placed close together. Then they combine into one polygon in a "clay-like fashion". A new feature in version 9 is Cutmull-Clark Subdivision Surfaces, for modeling polygons with more than 4 sides (N-Gons).
You also have the option to work with layers. Layers in LightWave are much like layers in 2D programs such as AdobeR PhotoshopR. You can organize parts of your model onto different layers and work with the contents on one layer without affecting the rest of the model. You can also use layers to "hide" certain parts of the model as you work on other areas. This is very helpful when working with complex models.
Once you get a start on your model, you will use the extensive variety of tools in the Modify, Multiply and Detail workspaces to sculpt and refine your model further. Besides the many single-task tools, you also have multi-task tools to ease your workflow such as the Rove (move and rotate) tool. As your model progresses, the number of points and polygons can accumulate. Your goal is to create a model with the fewest number necessary to lessen the drain on your system's resources and rendering time. In the Construct workspace, you will "optimize" your model using many types of tools including several Boolean operations which "automate" reducing the geometry of your model.
Screen shots used by permission of NewTek, Inc. LightWave 3DR is a registered trademark of NewTek, Inc.