Modelling Resources and Tutorials

Posted on: Sep 30th 2011 by Pogo

Making items for TF2 may seem a daunting task, and finding help is half the battle. We’ve put together this list of over 30 guides, resources and tutorials to help you get started in making your own weapons, hats or props.

Things you will need:

1. A 3D Modelling Program

Your 3D Modelling Application is the first stop when you begin making a new item. In order to make anything 3D you’re going to need one of these. Preference is usually down to personal choice and they all have a trial, so make sure you find the program that’s right for you. In order to use your models in game, you will need to export a .smd file which can later be compiled into a working in game model.

  • Common examples are 3DS Max, Maya, XSI (Softimage), Blender
  • Some cost more than others, XSI (Softimage) Mod Tool and blender are free, Autodesk software (including maya and max) is available for free on a 3 year licence to students at
  • You will also need an smd exporter (and optionally an importer) plugin for your application of choice.
  • For Blender (depending on your version), 3DS Max and XSI (Softimage) (Valve Source Add-on)

2. A 2D Art program (and the means to create .vtf files)

Once your model is complete, it will need a texture. Photoshop,, GIMP or any program able to create .tga images will work. It is recommended to use VTFEdit to convert these files into game ready .vtf images, but a .vtf plugin is generally faster though this lacks the more advanced control of VTFEdit.

3. Source SDK

Source SDK is a collection of tools for creating, viewing and compiling within the Source environment. At it’s face are the Hammer Map Editor and Half Life Model Viewer (HLMV). In order to compile any models, you will need to install this.

Useful links/resources

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to start building! Below are tutorials for doing everything you need from learning to model through to testing your new items in game.

General use

3DS Max Tutorials

Blender Tutorials

XSI (Softimage) Tutorials

Compiling Guides

Texturing Guides

Misc Guides

Modding Communities and Discussion Threads

Where to show off your creation, or get advice and critique from other modders.


My model exported and compiled fine but I can’t see it in game or Model viewer

If you have exported and compiled correctly and there is geometry data (select wireframe from the dropdown box in HLMV) then your polys are probably inverted. This is more common in blender. Select the faces you can’t see and invert normals

My Team Colours don’t work D:

Ensure that you have named all the vmt files correctly, all vmt files point to the correct vtf texture, and that you haven’t loaded a weapon (File>unload weapon)

Pink/Black checker pattern on my compiled model

The engine can’t find your vmt and or vtf files. Check that your smd exported from your modelling package is assigned to the correct texture name, your vmt and vtf are named and located correctly, your qc points to the correct directory, and your vmt points to your vtf.

My Jigglebones are funky

Play with the numbers, test and play with the numbers some more. Use pitch/yaw/roll constraints and damping to stop your model from “spazzing out”.

Common Compiling Errors

Error opening c:\program files\…\model_name.mdl! (Check for write enable)

The compiler can’t create folders for you, so make sure all the folders and subfolders exist and are spelled correctly in the qc.

ERROR: cannot find bone ValveBiped.Bip01_L_Toe0 for bbox (or hbox)

If you’re making a weapon or hat this isn’t a problem, hbox and bbox are used for bullet collisions and simple npc navigation, and really aren’t needed. Just remove any $hbox lines from your qc.

ERROR: c:\…\model.qc(1): – could not load file ‘C:blah\blah/model.smd’
WARNING: Leaking 1 elements

As it says, could not load the specified file – make sure that the file is in the correct location and has the correct name, and that your $cd command is pointing to the right folder.

A few miscellaneous tips:

  • Have Model Viewer open when you compile – this will ensure that the content and dll’s are up to date.
  • Make sure you launch TF2 at least once before launching Source SDK


List Compiled by Pogo
Cleaned up and styled by Hideous

Thanks to all those who have created these fantastic resources, and those who have helped me to find them.





Holy cow this is awesome!! Cheers very much to Pogo, Hideous and the Kritzkast guys for getting this togther. Much appreciated!!



Was hoping for some maya tutorials, but I guess Blender will have to do, thanks for all the info 🙂



Let it be known there’s a VTF plug-in for the Gimp,



I’m using Maya and I’ve exported the object files alright but I cant seem to figure out how to export the .tga texture map. any takers?



Can u use zbrush for this?



@bob ZBrush is primarily a sculpting tool, as such it isn’t designed to create good geometry. You can create items in ZBrush and then retopologise in another tool, but directly zbrush isn’t designed for realtime models.



I think some of these might be outdated and needed of an update



Thanks for the heads up. Will look into it after the break.



I have downloaded the Frontline supply drop. How do I access it in the world editor.

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