Populate:Panels is a scripted plugin for Autodesk 3ds max. It assists in designing and modeling geometric patterns that are distributed over free form surfaces.

You can easily scatter a source object over each poly face of the target surface, scale it per face to populate the area without gaps and change the appearance of the source object by using different kinds of “mutations”.

For example, you can use a map to control the height (z-scale) of the source panel object, randomly change it’s properties, like diffuse color, morph any value in its modifier stack, or alternate multiple source objects.

Many operations can be done in real time. It is also possible to calculate a large array of panels and collapse them to a single mesh.

The generated output is always standard 3ds max geometry, so there are no issues with future 3ds max versions, exchanging scene files or using 3rd party renderers.

Torus knot as a target surface for a complex panel object

Populated result


User Interface

Populate:Panels dialog

When opening the Populate:Panels dialog you will be asked to load a panel preset, or pick a custom object.

The second step is picking a target surface, where the panel object(s) are distributed onto.

Panels can be any geometric or spline objects.

A target surface can be either a NURBS surface, or a poly/mesh object with quad faces.


Fig 1: Target surface and panel object

Fig 2: Panel object populated on target surface

Fig 3: Distribution options of picked objects

After picking a panel object there are different options to control how the panels are distributed on the target surface.

Distribution options can be set independently between multiple panels.



Fig 3: Mutations stack

Panel Variation

In this example two panel objects are alternated over a single surface.

In (Fig 2) the tube objects height (Z-Scale) is randomized, as well as its number of sides.

(Fig 3) shows the Mutations Stack for the result.

Fig 1: Populate/Skip Mutation

Fig 2: Randomized panel object properties

Fig 6: Randomize Color Mutation

Morphing Properties

In the following example a simple box is used as a panel element.

After randomizing it’s height (Random Z-Scale Mutation) and diffuse color (Morph Property Mutation), the result gets a lot more interesting.

Fig 4: Box as panel element

Fig 5: Randomized Z-Scale and color


Fig 9: Morph Property interface

Texture maps

Bitmaps, procedural maps and vertex colors can control panel color, or any other property.

Fig 7: Procedural checker map

Fig 8: Panel color from map


Example: Radius of the panel openings is controlled by painted vertex colors.



 Free Download for 3ds max

This installer detects your 3ds max version and creates menu entries.
It also comes with an uninstaller.

Populate-Panels Setup v0.88.zip

About Virus Warnings when downloading: I don’t know what I can do. There is no virus inside this file as far as I know. Some Antivirus software doesn’t like the installer it seems. It comes clean through Windows Defender.

Please use the Update Notifications service to get informed about new releases.


Autodesk 3ds Max 2010 to 2014 (32 and 64 bit).
You don’t have to uninstall previous versions of Populate:Panels in order to upgrade, just download the new installer and run it.

Version History/Change log:

3ds max 2014 support

Fixed 2013 expiration problem and removed future expiration dates. Beginning from now Populate:Panels will never expire again, even if it’s beta.

3ds max 2013 support

Changed: Product renamed from “Populate” to “Populate:Panels”
Fixed: Crash with Japanese version of 3ds max

Added: Copy & Paste support for mutations
Fixed: Precision issue with flat 2d Panels
Fixed: Mutations: “Affect RGB channel” buttons not working

Fixed: UI/Status bar temporarily frozen when doing heavy calculations.
Fixed: Morph modifier wasn’t working with mutations.
Fixed: Bug in “Morph property” mutations pick dialog.
Fixed: Crash with “Merge to Single Object” distribution and “Morph Property” mutations.
Fixed: Bugs with Framing System.

Initial release.