Marvelous Designer Beginner Tutorial (2015)

This video tutorial is for beginners new to Marvelous Designer. This is a project based video that will have you creating content immediately. In the process of creating garments, you'll learn the basic tools in the program and how to use them properly.

Download the Marvelous Designer Beginner project file.

Marvelous Designer Beginner Tutorial Script (Video Time)

I've had several requests for a Marvelous Designer Beginner tutorial. The trickiest part of making this video is addressing everyone in my audience. I know that some of you are familiar with 3D, such as Blender, Maya, Poser or Daz. Some of you know 2D CAD like AutoCAD or QCAD. Others are people that sew in the real-world, that don't have any 3D or 2D experience.

I've been all of you at some time in the past. I learned how to sew very early in life and then I played around in the 2D CAD programs. About ten years ago, I did a lot of work in Maya and that was my 3D introduction.

As I introduce different parts of Marvelous Designer, I will address each of these groups when appropriate. I want you to be comfortable in the software and able to equate it to what you already know. I don't think anyone has ever done a tutorial like this, but I think it will give all of you the confidence you need to tackle the program.

I watch a lot of tutorials, both paid and free. I'm a subscriber and their videos are extremely professional. I also watch YouTube tutorials made by people that don't have the best equipment and not a lot of experience. They all have their merits, but there are some things that really bug me and I'm going to do my best to avoid them.

First, I am not going to tell you what the shortcut keys are. When I'm learning something new, shortcuts are the last thing on my mind. I never remember them and they just serve to confuse me.

Second, I'm not going to say Control something on Windows and Command something on Mac, over and over again. You're not stupid. Mac users know to hit Command and Windows users know to use Control. My computer runs the Mac operating system, but I use a Windows keyboard. I will most likely refer to Windows commands. I know that a majority of my audience are Windows users, so that should work out fine.

Starting Marvelous Designer (02:39)

I have a subscription to MD and that's the process I will describe. Your initial startup process may differ, if you have the stand-alone or Linux node licensing.

When you first open the program, you will be presented with a Graphic Options Dialog. You have the options to Show the Shader, Use the Shader and set Antialiasing. All of these take computer resources. If you have a pokey machine, you may consider turning off the Shader options and selecting a low antialiasing option. Your first time out, I would suggest you keep both shader options checked and select 8 on the antialiasing. If the program runs terribly, you can always change the settings next time.

Subscription Licensing (03:26)

Next, the MD logo splash screen will display and you'll get the License Manager box. Enter in your ID and Password. Check the boxes to save these, if you don't want to enter them every time you start the program. I would strongly suggest you check the Auto Deactivation box, too.

For those of you who are new to subscription software, I'll explain what deactivation means. The deactivation process ensures that you are only running one instance of the program for your assigned ID and password. This is how the software company makes sure you don't run their program on multiple machines concurrently or share it with friends. If you had two machines, you could deactivate the software on one machine and then you could activate it it on the other.

The Auto Deactivation is supposed to deactivate the software automatically when you close the program. I will tell you from experience, that it doesn't always happen. I downloaded a new version of MD, installed it and was instantly locked out for four days. It said that I had exceeded my licensing and I always leave the Auto Deactivation box checked.

The moral of this story is that you should understand what deactivation is and use it appropriately. I will also show you how to deactivate the software in the program, which is what you should always do before upgrading and loading a new version.

Click the Activate button to authenticate your credentials and open the program.

You will be presented with yet another dialog box titled Avatar Editor. You can change the avatar properties, like hair and shoes. We'll just close this for now. You can also reopen it from within the program.

Before I forget, the deactivate option is located in the top tool bar under Settings. Before upgrading your software, open the program and manually deactivate it to be safe.

Marvelous Designer Interface (05:26)

The program gives you a default avatar wearing a default garment. We'll leave this here as we look at the interface.

The majority of the interface is two windows. On the left you have the 3D window and on the right is the 2D window.

3D Window

For the 3D folks, you will have no problems with the 3D window. You'll feel right at home here. Also, you should understand that Marvelous Designer is not a 3D modeling program. I would better describe it as a physics program. It applies gravity, mass and wind to planes that are draped or pinned on the avatar. The avatar is simply a collision object. You can not sculpt, extrude or manipulate the geometry like you're used to. This is a whole other ball game, so be prepared.

For those who sew, with little or no 3D experience, this window will be a challenge at first. Think of it as your sewing room with your dress form in the middle. You can walk around the form, make adjustments to your garment and step back to take a look at your progress.

Gizmo (06:32)

If I click on a part of the garment, this brings up the Gizmo, often called a manipulator in other programs. I'm going to select Preferences > Gizmo > World Coordinates. Now the Gizmo will stay oriented to the 3D window space.

The Gizmo will help you to understand the directions in 3D space. The green arrow pointing up is the Y axis, which moves up and down. The red arrow pointing to the side is the X axis, which moves side to side. The blue arrow is the Z axis, which moves front to back.

I can move pattern pieces using these arrows in the 3D window and constrain them to one direction. This is very helpful for those just starting out. If I click the yellow box on the Gizmo, now I can move the piece in any and all directions at the same time. This will get you into trouble fast. You can easily move a piece way out of alignment with this without intending to. I would keep it's usage to a minimum.

I'm using Ctrl-Z to undo and move the pattern back to it's original position.

Pan, Zoom and Rotate (07:56)

You can pan, zoom and rotate in the window. This allows you to navigate around the avatar and see things from every angle. On the top main toolbar, select Settings > User Settings. Now select the View Controls.

There is a small dropdown list in the upper right. I have changed my settings so it shows User Preset, yours will be set to the Default Preset. You'll see that there are presets for Maya, 3dsMax and Style CAD. If you have experience in these other programs, select one of these and MD will behave in a manner you are more accustomed to.

If you forget how to do any of these things, just open this dialog box to get a refresher. You may want to jot down the settings for each item now. I'm going to put my settings back and close the box.

The action of panning locks you in the X and Y axis. By default, this is the done by holding the Middle Mouse button. You can move up and down, and side to side. You see a little hand icon when panning.

Zooming is the left and right mouse buttons depressed, or your scroll wheel. The action of zooming locks you in the Z axis. You can move forward and back. The funny thing with zooming is that QCAD works the exact opposite direction of MD. If you watch my videos closely, you'll see that I start to zoom in the wrong direction and then correct myself all the time.

Rotating is done by default using the right mouse button. Rotating spins the floor plane, which is the grid at her feet. The center of the plane is the rotation point. You can also tilt up and down while rotating.

All the buttons you see in the 3D window and directly above it apply to functions of the 3D window. You can also right click in the window to bring up more functions.

When I first started out in 3D, I was constantly losing my place. I'd zoom or pan too far and completely lose my object. This resulted in complete panic and I'd move around even more, which did nothing but compound the problem.

If you lose your avatar, right click in the 3D window and select Zoom Extents All. This will bring your avatar back to center view.

You can also lock your view to various planes. Right click in the window and select Front for front view. You can do this for Back, Left, Right, Top and Bottom views. For the 3D people, you will not use these views as much as you do in other programs. Your pattern manipulation is not done here, so you won't find it necessary to lock orthographically as much.

2D Window (11:05)

To our right we have the 2D Window. All the buttons at the top of the window pertain to functions in the 2D space. For those of you accustomed to CAD, you will love the 2D window and be right at home here.

For those in 3D, this window is very much like a UV editor. The Z axis is gone and all you have is X and Y.

For those that sew, think of the 2D window as your cutting table. You lay out your patterns here and make changes to them.

You can zoom and pan in the 2D window. Obviously, you can't rotate without a Z axis.

Starting a New Project - The Sheet (11:45)

Let's get rid of this garment to make our own. You could select all the garments by holding down the left mouse and drawing a box around them and hitting delete. However, all the custom fabrics and other settings associated with this garment would remain. I think it's best to start fresh. Select File New from the main menu.

MD provides a silhouette of the avatar in the 2D window and gives us one basic default fabric. Let's do a quick simulation to get a feel for the program.

Select the Rectangle tool on the 2D side. Many of the tools have two methods of using them. I can click and drag in the 2D window to create my rectangle. I can also just left click to get a dialog box. This Create Rectangle dialog allows me to enter exact dimensions.

For now, we'll just draw out a big rectangle over the silhouette. Please note that I still have the rectangle tool active. I can keep drawing rectangles all over the place. To release a tool, select the Edit Pattern tool. This is the equivalent of a neutral state and will keep you out of trouble.

Even though I changed tools, my rectangle is still selected. That's why it's yellow. To deselect it, click anywhere outside the rectangle in the 2D window.

We have four points connected with lines in between. In the MD documentation, they use point line terminology, not vertex edge, face, so that's what I will use. All points are connected to lines in MD. You can't just create a point hanging out by itself.

I can select a line and drag it anywhere I like. Notice that as I drag, MD is giving me very useful information. It shows me the length of my lines and the distance from my old points to my new ones connect with a dashed purple line.

If I grab a point and drag it, I get the same information. You can manipulate your patterns by dragging lines or points.

Those line lengths are very helpful, so let's turn them on so we can see them all the time. Right click in the 2D window and select Show Line Length.

Many times when you are moving a point or line you want to constrain it orthographically. That means we want to move locked at a precise angle to it's start position. To do this, you hold down the shift key while dragging. You can't press the shift key, then left click drag. You have to left click drag a little bit, then hold the shift key down. I know, it's a little strange, but that's how it works.

This brings up purple dashed lines showing exact angles to guide you. I can do the same thing moving points. See how the point is snapping to those purple lines? You'll find that useful, so remember that one.

By default, your 2D patterns are not in the 3D window. You have to synchronize the two windows. Select the double arrow Sync toggle and it will turn orange.

You'll see that MD automatically applied the Basic Fabric to our pattern in the 2D window. It turned a blue grey color to indicate the fabric has been applied.

Now we have a big piece of pattern in the 3D window. 3D users please note, patterns are always planes. You don't get spheres, cylinders or cubes in here.

Select the pattern in the 3D window to display the Gizmo. As we discussed, you can move the pattern up/down, side-to-side or forward and back using the arrows on the Gizmo. You can also rotate the pattern using the circles of the Gizmo. The colors are coordinated the same as the arrows. Click the red circle to rotate in the X axis and so on.

Let's use the Gizmo to put this pattern over the top of the avatar. Now let's simulate by clicking the grey downward facing arrow in the top left. The arrow will turn orange and the simulation will begin. When the pattern is where you want it, click the simulate button again to stop.

For those into 3D, the 2D patterns are primitives with a very minimal amount of geometry. The 3D window applies a subdivision surface modifier automatically. You can adjust the density of the subdivision.

Now our avatar has a sheet over her head. If we want to reset the position of the pattern to start over, select the blue Reset 3D Arrangement (all) button. It goes back to where we started.

Avatar Penetration (17:29)

If you wanted her head to poke out you may think to drop the pattern to her neck and simulate. This is a very bad idea. What you've done is caused the avatar to penetrate the pattern, which can result in all kinds of problems.

To see what we have, click the Show Avatar toggle. Now she has disappeared. You'll see that the pattern did not rip, it's still there and complete. Never penetrate the avatar or any other model with the pattern intentionally.

Cutting out Shapes (18:15)

We can put a hole in our pattern for the avatar's head. There are three buttons here with red icons. All of these are internal shapes. They can only be drawn within the confines of a pattern. You can't use them by themselves.

Select the Internal Circle and create a circle in the middle of the pattern. Since the Sync button is still toggled on and orange, we can immediately see the circle in the 3D window.

You can use the Edit Pattern tool to move lines, arcs and points, but you can also use it to move the entire shape. As I move around the shape with the tool selected, you'll see a little crossed arrow and a big crossed arrow. Also, pieces of the shape will highlight. When the entire shape is highlighted and the big crossed arrow is showing, click. Now we have the whole shape and we can drag it anywhere we want.

Watch the outline in the 3D window and put it at her neck. This is simply a reference circle at this point, it's not a cutout. With the circle selected, right click and choose Convert to Hole.

Click the Show avatar button and the Reset 3D Arrangement button. Move the pattern above her head and click simulate.

The hole isn't really the best size, we need to change it. Over in the 2D window, select the Transform Pattern tool and click the circle. This tool allows you to move, rotate and scale the select shape.

Once you have the shape how you want, you can hit simulate again. You don't have to reset the patterns, if you don't want to. On complex garments, I often do the work in stages. I'll add pockets to simulated pants without resetting, for example.

Use your 3D navigation tools to check out your work from all angles. You'll see that we have some penetration at the hands. Her fingers are poking through. Let's fix that.

MD allows you to interact with the pattern while it's simulating. Turn on the simulation, then left click drag on the pattern. See how I have a hold of it? I think MD calls that blue dot a picking point. I usually just call it the blue dot.

I can pull and tug all I want to get those fingers out. Don't get too aggressive with your pulling. Physics are at play here. Think about what would happen if you pulled really hard on a real piece of fabric. It's going to pull back when you release it and that's exactly what will happen here in MD.

Saving Your Work (22:28)

I think that's about as much fun as we're going to have with a sheet. There are several ways to save your work in MD. Select File > Save As to see your options. For the most part, you will save as a Garment or a Project. The Project save includes everything, including the avatar in the saved file. The Garment save includes the patterns and everything associated with them. I typically save as a Project, so I have everything later and don't have to worry about which avatar was used.

You may want to save just a Garment file and bring it in to a new avatar for resizing. Do whatever makes sense for each save.

Let's start sewing. Select the pattern and delete it.

Creating a Top (23:21)

We're going to draw out a little top for our avatar. Whenever you are creating patterns with two sides, draft out only one. You'll see the advantage of this in a moment. Those of you who sew already know all about this.

We're going to select the Polygon tool and click to place points around the silhouette. Make sure you leave plenty of room, because this has to wrap around the avatar's body.

Start at the base of the neck in the center front, click then hold down the shift key to place the next point at the waist. It's very important that this line is straight and true. Click to place key points around the body and end by clicking on your first point.

All shapes must be closed. Rectangles and circles are automatically closed, but you must close the polygons by clicking on the first point.

Use Control C to copy your pattern. Right click and choose Symmetric Paste. The pattern will be hanging off your mouse. Hold down the Shift key to constrain your movement and place it right next to the original.

Symmetric paste is a relatively new feature in MD and it is a powerhouse. For 3D folks, we just added a mirror modifier.

Whatever we do to one of the pair will automatically happen to the other. You'll have a beautifully symmetric garment when you're finished with your modifications. Even if your final goal is to create something that is asymmetric, you should always start out this way. It will save you a lot of time.

Now we need a back for our top. Select the first front and copy it. Paste it to the far right with Control V. Now right click that pattern, copy and symmetric paste. Put that copy to the far left.

All of our patterns are over in the 3D window now. There is a bit of a problem though. If I rotate around, you'll see that the front, right side for those who sew, is a light grey. The back, or wrong side, is dark grey.

Our two back patterns are facing the wrong direction. To fix this, right click the pattern and select Flip Horizontally. Now they are correct.

Arrangement Points & Bounding Volumes (26:14)

We could select each piece and use the Gizmo to place them around our avatar. That's going to take awhile. Instead, we'll use arrangement points. Hover your mouse over the avatar head icon and more options will slide to the right. Click the first one, Show Arrangement Points.

Now our avatar has lots of little dots surrounding her. There are invisible shapes placed strategically around the avatar that define her shape with an offset. Hover over the avatar head icon again and select the Show Bounding Volumes. Now you can see the shapes. The little blue dots are drawn on the shapes and they represent key positions. The blue dots inherit the underlying shape of the bounding volume it is drawn on.

Turn off the Bounding Volumes, so all you have are the dots. Select the back pattern on the far right. Rotate around the avatar and click the second blue dot down at her left shoulder blade. See how the pattern just jumped into place? If we rotate around we can see that the pattern is not flat. It is conforming to the bounding volume that belongs to that dot.

If we turn the bounding volume back on, this becomes very clear. These dots, called arrangement points, will help you place your patterns in the perfect starting arrangement and give the simulation a jump start. Always take advantage of them.

I should mention that you aren't stuck with the MD avatars. You can load your own models to use. MD will allow you to create custom bounding volumes and arrangement points for your models. We won't cover that in this tutorial, just remember that you can do that.

Use the arrangement points to position the rest of the pattern pieces around the avatar. Keep the pieces high, don't put them where they sit after simulation. You want to give MD time to sew before the pieces collide with the avatar.

If any of the pieces overlap, use the Gizmo to pull them apart. If you have two patterns that will overlap on purpose, stack them in the correct order when arranging. Try to make sure none of your pieces penetrate other pieces. Patterns are collision objects, just like the avatar. You can cause a mess with penetration during simulation, if they overlap with other patterns or even themselves.

Make sure your patterns are up off the body a bit, so that MD has time to sew the seams before they drop and hit the avatar.

Turn off the Arrangement Points to clear the scene.

Sewing Seams - Segment Sewing Tool (29:35)

There are two tools that are used to sew the seams. Seams are simply the joining of edges between two patterns, a pattern and internal shape, or two internal shapes.

The first sewing tool is the Segment Sewing tool, which is a sewing machine with a straight green line under it. Segment Sewing joins two edges, with each edge consisting of two points and a line connecting them. The lines do not need to be the same length.

We select the tool and then select the two edges. We'll start at center front. In the 3D window, we can see our seam visually and it shows how MD will pull the seam together during simulation.

If you look closely at the seam in the 2D window, you can see that there are small lines that run perpendicular to the seam line. These are called notches and they are always placed on the seam line closest to the starting point. Right now the notches are lined up properly.

Let's sew the back seam next. If we look over in the 3D window you can see that the seam is not correct. Looking at the notches, you can see that I have one at the bottom of the seam and the other at the top. I've crossed the seam. This would be a disaster, if I tried to simulate this.

It's very easy to fix. Select the Edit Sewing tool, which is the sewing machine with the arrow. Click the seam line pair, right click and choose Reverse sewing. Now the notches are in the same orientation and the 3D window shows the correct sewing direction.

Use the Segment Sewing tool to sew up the shoulder seams and side seams. If you get confused as to what is sewn to what, click the pattern in the 3D window. A blue dot will show up in the 2D window showing exactly where you clicked. You can do this to get the correct orientation for sewing.

Remember that you don't want to sew the armholes or neck closed. When all your seams are sewn, hit the Simulate button.

Pressure Points (31:52)

MD is extremely forgiving and will stretch fabric as much as it can to avoid penetration. This results in garments that are far too tight on the avatar. They will ride up and not look natural at all. This is the most common mistake I've seen people make, beginners and even advanced users.

After you have your garment on the avatar, select the Show Pressure Points icon. It's part of the slide out next to the Show Garment button.

This tools shows you visually how much stress the pattern is under. If the points are red, that means that the garment is pulling tight against the avatar. Garments that are made too tight will not animate well nor will they drape properly. Adjust your patterns so that the pressure points are blue, which indicate no stress to the garment.

Curving the Neckline (33:12)

The neckline and armholes are really square looking. Let's make them curve. Select the Edit Curvature tool. It's the one with two orange points and a curve between. Click on the necklines and pull them down. Do the same for the armholes. Now you see the advantage of the symmetric paste. We only have to modify one side.

If you curve a line and don't like the shape, it's easy to fix. Select the Edit Curve Point tool. You'll see lots of little orange dots in the 2D window. For those familiar with CAD, those are bezier curve control points.

To change the shape of our curve, hover over the dot until it turns yellow. Then click and drag it wherever you like.

Creating a Sleeve Cap (34:17)

I'm going to shorten the shoulder on my top. I just use the Edit Pattern tool to click a point and drag it in. But now I have a problem. My front pattern looks great, but my back pattern doesn't match up any more. Those two lines need to be the same length to create a flat, smooth seam.

My front pattern is now 68.67 at the shoulder. If I grab the back pattern point and move it around it will take forever to get it right and I'll probably mess up the angle of the line in the process. There's an easier way to accomplish this.

Select the Add Point / Split Line tool, which is the one with a big orange dot with an X in the center. Hover over the back shoulder line until it turns blue and right click. This brings up the Split Line dialog box. This box allows us to split any line between to points. You can Split into two lines, Split by length or Uniform split in to multiple lines.

Enter 68.67 in the Length #2 box and hit enter. Now we have a new point that is right where we want it. Select the old point and hit delete. The line is the perfect length and we didn't change the angle. The point we deleted did define the curve, so we lost that, but that's easily fixed. We also lost our seam line pair, so we need to sew those back together.

Now we'll add a little sleeve cap to the top. Using the Add Point tool, I'll click on the armhole line on the front and back. I'm not worried if they are a little different in length.

The distance to my new point on the front and back totals 98.78. The new cap will be ruffled, so I'll make it twice that wide. Select the rectangle tool and create a rectangle that is 200 wide and 90 mm high. Select the pattern, copy and symmetric paste.

We don't want these sharp corners on the edge of the cap. If I try to delete them, there will be nothing left and MD will delete the whole thing. Using the Add Point / Split Line tool select Uniform Split to put a point in the center. Now I can delete the two corner points.

We can use the Edit Curvature tool to round the cap, but the Edit Curvature Point tool also works for this purpose. I prefer the Curvature Point tool because it will visually show me where the new point will be placed before hand. Mouse over the line until the point is where you want it and then drag out the curve.

This looks pretty good, but the two curves are different. I want it to be perfectly symmetric. To do this, use the Uniform Split on the Add Point tool to create a center point on the top. Now delete the right end point. Change the curve using the Edit Curve Point tool until you like the shape.

Now right click on the center line and select Unfold. Now we have a piece that is exactly the same on both sides. If you don't like the curve, delete the end point and try again.

Use the arrangement points on the avatar to place the sleeve cap at the top of the arm. Then we'll scoot it up closer to the armhole.

Using the Free Sewing Tool (40:34)

This time when we sew, we'll use the Free Sewing tool. It's the little sewing machine with the squiggly green line under it. This tool allows us to sew two edges together, but it lets us decide where the seam starts and ends. We don't have to sew from point to point. We can also sew multiple patterns together all at the same time.

Use the blue dot method to get your orientation. With the Free Sewing tool selected, click the left point of the cap drag all the way to the right point and click. Now click the point we made in the front armhole, hold down the shift key and click the point at the top of the armhole. Keep holding down shift and click the top of the back armhole and then the mid point of the back armhole.

Using the Edit Sewing tool, we can select both of the new seams that were created. You can see that MD automatically divided up the sleeve cap seam and connected half to the front and the other half to the back. If you make a mistake, just use the Edit Sewing tool to select the seam line pair and delete them.

When you have everything sewn, simulate over in the 3D window.

This was a advanced seam and it was pretty easy. We attached three pattern pieces all at the same time. We attached a longer line, the sleeve cap, to much shorter lines, the front and back armhole. That resulted in these nice gathers.

Making a Circle Skirt (44:01)

Let's make a simple circle skirt for our avatar. Create a circle that is 1200 mm in diameter. Draw an internal circle in the middle. This is just like we did with the sheet earlier.

Position the circle in the 3D window using the Gizmo. The arrangement points aren't going to help you with this one. Adjust your internal circle until it's close to the avatar's waist size. Right click and Convert to Hole. Now simulate.

Our skirt is not staying up on the avatar. Right click the skirt in the 3D window and select Reset 3D Arrangement (selected). We can reset any pattern we want without disturbing the work we've already done. This is very handy.

In the 2D window, select the inner circle. To the right we can see a panel called Property Editor. We haven't used this up until now. The Property Editor provides a list of all the properties associated with whatever you have selected. Right now, it tells us information about our curves.

Click the arrow next to Elastic to open more options. Turn elastic on by checking the box. We want this elastic to be pretty tight and keep our skirt up, so set the strength to 15 by using the slider or typing in the box. Set the ratio to 70. Now simulate.

The elastic property takes over and pulls our circle tight. Click on the skirt and pull it out of her hands where we have penetration. Play with the top and make everything look the way you want while the simulation is running.

Now we have a nice little top and skirt. In the process you've learned how to use many of the tools available in MD.

I think this is a good place to stop for this beginner tutorial. You have enough information to play with the program and not become frustrated with the interface.

Obviously, there is much more to MD and this is only the beginning of your adventures with the program. I have lots of other tutorials that are more advanced and you should check those out when you feel you are ready.

I'm confident that you can master MD. If you happen to know 3D, 2D or how to sew real-world, all three skill sets are used in the program, so being familiar with any of them gives you an advantage. Thank you for watching.


marvelous designer md project files