Modeling Freeform Surfaces through 2D Sketching

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At Sketchfab, we’re always keeping a close eye on developments in 3D, AR and VR. And in particular we’re excited to see developments that put 3D creation tools into the hands of more people in an intuitive, approachable manner.

Here’s one that caught our eye recently from our friends at Microsoft Research Asia, The University of Hong Kong, and University of British Columbia. It’s called BendSketch, and it’s a two-dimensional line drawing approach to defining three-dimensional objects in space.

By laying down key lines that define the outer boundary of a form and then a series of lines, including mostly surface bending strokes (thus the name BendSketch), ridge/valley and sharp features, to define curvature, users can “draw” complex three dimensional shapes in seconds.

Of course, this is very much about academic research more than a consumer-facing product at this point, but even at this early stage, the approach looks very promising for making 3D creation more accessible than ever. And at this point, BendSketch is simply an early interface into the ongoing research that underpins the tool.

Here’s a video overview of how the approach works:

The simplicity of the method betrays the complexities under the hood. Complex curvature patterns are generated using algorithms that analyze user strokes to determine the smooth flow across convex and concave surfaces. Sketching on multiple views are combined to form self-occluding shapes. This research commenced in 2015.

If you’re interested in learning more about BendSketch and the underpinning methodologies that drive the tool, you can follow along here. We certainly will.

About the author

Paul Chambers

Artist Evangelist & Community outreach at Sketchfab, freelance CG Generalist, render-farm tinkerer. Zelda worshipper.


  • This is similar to this student project I saw over 10yrs back. It was done in java.. think it still works! Was called Teddy –

  • Actually, Teddy was first introduced at SIGGRAPH in 1999. It has been around a while. But this one has a newer interface that looks like it uses colors for some of the shaping

  • Alias used to have all those features waaaay back in the SGI days. You could immediately paint (for shaders etc) onto to the model too. Super fast, especially for back in the early nineties. Of course all the hardware was proprietary and insanely expensive, so that would account for a lot of the speed. I never understood why when Alias became Maya it lost all that functionality. I think maybe they split the IP for off into Alias Designer of something, but it’s really too bad that no one’s pursued more of this approach.

  • twite_king says:

    where can i get a copy and play with it?

  • Paul says:

    Unfortunately this is currently a research paper only.

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