onno van braam
computer graphics, webdevelopment


Polygon Modeling 9: Car Tyres


Modeling car tyres is a polygon eating exercise (you end up with quite a few in the end), but definately worth it if you want to make a realistic looking car: using bump maps for threads is a bit too obvious.

Reference and Interpretation

So what tyre will we make. Of course there's only one brand that comes to mind: Pirelli. Once again, any tyre would do... this is all about the concept.

After having a quick look at the Pirelli site (through Google most you find is Pirelli Calendar images... ah what a shame! :) I chose the Pirelli PZero Direzionale tyre:

More than this you don't need as reference. When you look at this tyre you can see the simplicity with which we are dealing: it's a repeating pattern! And this one is symmetric through the middle too so it's even more easy (on my Alfa Romeo SZ I have Pirelli PZero Asymmetrico's... they're as their name suggests asymmetric).

So what part of this tyre are we going to model? Well only the part highlighted in the next image, that will be all! This part we will then mirror (with the Symmetry modifier) and then Array Rotate it (this will be explained in a short while). Having a quick look at the reference image I can guess that there will be around 30 parts (in the Array Rotate) needed to complete the whole tyre. 30 parts for 360 degrees is 12 degrees per part (remember!).


It's quite obvious that a tyre resembles a tube and therefor it would be logical to start modeling from a sliced tube. Yet we won't. The way I do it, is make a tube as a basis (a sort of background / underlying model) and over it model the thread (only one part) which will be 'glued' on.

So first the underlying tube. Nothing fancy, I just created a tube (1) (100 Radius 1, 90 Radius 2, 70 height, 1 Height Segment) and posistioned it at (0, 0, 0) which will be the basis. After that I applied an MS modifier with 2 iterations (2). This is not good so far, it's way too smooth and thin. So I chamfered some edges and sliced some stuff using Slice Plane (3) to make it more defined and retain its shape after MS (4). All this is just rough modeling, no measuring or thinking but all by feeling.

The Thread

So now that the basis is there, we will start modeling the thread. First some guidance modeling is need to create virtual boundaries and then the actual modeling can be done.

The reference will be a sliced cilinder. So create a new cilinder with a radius of 110 (the rest of the settings, other than the slicing, aren't important) and set the slice from 96 to 84 (12 degrees centered around the middle top, see the previous tutorial). So the part we will model is roughly the size of this cilinder (1 + 2).

We will start out the thread by making a simple box, which will serve as a rough start, give it a height of 35 (half the height of the cilinder) and convert it to an EP. Now move it to the logical position from where we can start modeling (1 + 2).

Delete the innert part of the box (1) and add a Symmetry modifier (2). Now move and rotate the Symmetry gizmo (so in the Symmetry sub-object) so that it mirrors the box, (probably move -35 in the y-direction and rotate 90 degrees in the z-direction from the top view) (3).

Very good. Now we're almost done with laying the basis. Only two more steps to go: adjusting the Pivot Point and the Array Rotating.

Go out of the Symmetry SO and to the side view (1) go to the Hierarchy tab (this is next to the Modifier Tab, at the right top of your screen). Then you should see the Adjust Pivot options. What we will do here is change the Pivot point of the box, so that it can rotate around a different center, namely the center of the tube. Click 'Affect Pivot Only' (2) and move the pivot to (0, 0, 0) (3). Click the 'Affect Pivot Only' button again to go out of the editting.

Only thing left is the Array Rotating. So either click the Array button, use your short-cut to Array or go to 'Tools' > 'Array...'. Array can make copies of your selected object(s), either normal copies, reference copies or instance copies. We will use Instance copies. Instances are object that have a two way information stream between itself and the object from which it was created. So suppose I make one object, instance it and then edit the new one, then the old will change too and vice versa. Very useful.

So set the 1D Count to 30 (remember?), and the z rotation to 12 (360 degrees / 30 parts), Type of Object: Instance and click 'OK'. Excellent, most of the hard work is done now. We have 30 parts which are all identical and remain identical (they're Instanced!), so we once more only have to edit one part and the rest will come along.

I think the rest of the tutorial isn't as important. I will go through it more quickly, since all you have to do now is just edit your original box to make it look like one part of the Pirelli tyre. Only screenshots of what I did to make my thread look the way it did will be shown.

Almost done with the modeling now, mainly smoothing it (by hand, no MS) and making all the parts fit each other is to be done. After I have done that, I unhide all parts (I usually work at one part alone, only the matching I do with three parts (the top center and the one left and right of it)) and test render it:

More detail can be added if you want (I made it very sloppy now), chamfered edges do make it look better but you will get a high poly count. It's one or the other. :)

The following tyre (of my latest model, the Alfa Romeo ES30 / SZ) is made with the same technique, the rim with the technique of the previous tutorial. Only now with some custom made textures added. I am quite proud of it and think it looks quite fancy.

I hope you liked these tutorials and learned something! Happy modeling!


I had to look three times at the last picture to see that it is a model...
This may be a more complex method, however it creates a much nicer tire. Thanks Onno!
Ugh, this method for tire creation is WAY more complicated than it needs to be. I used the technique shown at the link below to create a detailed tire tread without tons of polygons, in HALF the time and with FAR LESS hassle!


Your tutorials are changing peoples life, your tutorial make people respect us.

Thank you and please remember us and keep adding more automobile related tutorials, no matter however busy you are into.

Thanking you once again
hi, i have tried to follow the tutorial to create a tyre. i made the tube, sliced cylinder, box, symmetry and array, i then modelled the original to create the tread but when i unhide all, all the copies are still boxes, have i missed something.? great tutorials. thanks.
hi , i hav started following ur tuts, going through this tyre building tuorial i am only able to achieve this see these 2 links


pls help me what shud i do in this , may be i m too dumb to model but what u did next at end i cant get it.
how many polys is too many? I have 100,000 on one tire! without the rim too... *faint*
Would it be possible to model the tyre as a flat rectangle and then bend the rectangle into a tube? hmm\r\n\r\nAdmin Edit: It sure is possible, yep. :)
could not comprehend it........it shud have been more elaborate
Thanks you so much!!
very good
Harold Reese
How did you cut the largest part of the tread,in the third picture above this box.i tried (cut) and then (break) on the vertices.i couldn't seem to get it seperated correctly,i have like eight hours trying to get this figured out.
sometimes things seem harder than they are,its just between the knowing and not knowing.and i'm not knowing in how to accomplish this!

thanks and waiting patiently:

The tutorial is great ,my expertice is not!
can you make this more detailed, cuz you dont really explain how the seams remain attached, i mean yeah you have to weld, but could you go more in depth?

Admin Edit: The seams remain attached? What exactly do you mean with that?
The idea is that you model one n-th part and array rotate it. Nothing more to it, I think. There isn't any welding, you just end up with a lot of parts and if you modeled carefully you won't see any space between the parts. Add the detail you need to a single part to makes things look more smooth, but that will add significantly to the poly count.
Excellent! 3dsMax rocks!
Congratulations, you are an expert.
Why don´t you publish a complete tutorial of making a car? I´m fresh at 3dsMax
all i can say is God bless you on behalf of us who are trying to learn 3d max and you short cut the way for us
Very Nice Tutorial.
i like ur work .its easy method 4 new people>
hey i like your work, and im and im trying to learn modeling. i just have one question. do you have to link the parts? such as the tire to the rim or do they just sort of levitate in the position you have put them in?
Sudhir Gulati
thanks!!! you help me alot. u please give me tutorials coz. i m fresher in 3dmax
Sharvil Patel
hey how did you go about putting the text into the tire i have no idea.
Mad Devil
Cool tyre man.
dear sir:
we would like to have un idea about kinda tyres and we interduce our selves as one of big co,. for import & distruibute tyre around syria so please advise us the avaliable brand of tyres and we would like to be un agent here in syria

best regards

Thank you I'm araby

learning islam

PIMP MY RIDE who doesnt watch it its kinda interesting but nice tut anyway but instead of meshsmoothing it you coulda just created a cylynder and beveled out the threads but your method is quite simmilar NICE JOB:)
Hi.How to make the tyre of military vehicle.I hav tried many ways but no use.Please send me an extensive tutorial for this.
thank u
Car Tyres
Want to know more about car tyres and the history of some major tyre brands?

Visit http://www.bestbuytyres.co.uk and check out the brand pages to find out more.
Hi, love the tut great job!!!

the tread texture looks great on the last picture, can you tell me what kind of settings did you use on the rubber material?

you 'r the best
???? ?????
I took a look at some of your modelling work, and I must say that the modelling itself is relatively good and quite exact but the light, the reflections, there's life misssing!

The lights simply crappy maybe it's just a simple small thing but I don't know why you've missed that part.

Admin Edit: That's personal taste I suppose. I make my work as good as I can, and work on it until I am satisfied, which usually means I actually like what I have made. :)
And besides: you're commenting on a WIP render of one of the tyres I made... It's a tutorial!

Say that this (see below) image is without life, and I would start to worry, but otherwise: it's just an example work in progress render.

I wouldn't call this without life:
show me hom to create dashboard.
show me how to install musicbox

hi gyes do like this tv program PIMPmyRIDE
lol chinese man

Bedankt Onno :)
Thanks Onno, great site you have here.
chinese man
wow, i live in a little village in China, and i dont even have a computer... i dont know why you want to create a tire on the computer if you can instead by one for real?
you help me alot!!!
Excellent stuff, thanks. It's a real help for us beginners when the pros put their time in to produce high quality tutorials. If you haven't checked out the other tuts on this site then make sure you do, they've helped me out a lot.

Keep up the good work onno!
impressed dude
thx onno for this :]

it will be useful for every 3d modeling package.
i want to learn about 3dsmax