Measuring Distances

3ds Max provides several options for measuring various aspects of your scene. The tape, protractor and compass helpers measure distance, angles and direction respectively. The Measure utility has a floater to display various measurements of any selected object.

You can quickly measure the distance between two points with the Measure Distance tool.

Helper Objects for Measurement

Tape Helper

You can create a Tape helper by dragging between any two points in 3D space, much like using a physical tape measure. You then read the length on the Parameters rollout.

If you turn on Specify Length, the length field lets you enter a value in current units. This is like locking a tape measure to a set length. You can position the tape object and snap to its ends.

The pyramid icon is the tape helper object; the cube is the helper object's target.

  • To display length and angle settings, select only the tape helper object (the pyramid icon).
  • To move the entire tape including its target (the cube icon), select the connecting line.

Two sets of World Space Angles give you current readouts to the three world axes (X, Y, Z) and the three world planes (XY, YZ, ZX).

TipWhen measuring with precision, it is helpful to use snaps to force the ends of the tape object to exact locations. If there are no specific points to snap to, you can use dummy or point helpers to set points.

To measure with a tape helper using snaps:

  1. Locate points in the scene to which you can snap to accurately make a measurement. If no points like this exist, create point objects at measurement extremes.
  2. Choose 3D from the Snap Toggle flyout.
  3. Right-click the Snap Toggle button to display the Grid And Snap Settings dialog. On the Snaps tab, set the snap type to the type you will use for measurement. For example, if you are going to use point objects for measurement, check the Pivot option so you can snap to the point objects' pivot points. Close the dialog.
  4. On the Create panel, activate (Helpers), then click the Tape button. Move the cursor over the first measurement point until the snap cursor appears, then click and drag to the other measurement point.
  5. Read the length of the tape on the Parameters rollout.


The Protractor helper measures the angle between pivot points of two objects and the protractor object.

As with the tape helper, point objects and snap tools can be used to aid in precise measurement of angles.

To measure an angle with a protractor:

  1. On the Create panel, activate (Helpers), then click the Protractor button. Click in a viewport to place the protractor object.
  2. On the Parameters rollout, click Pick Object 1 and then click an object in your scene. The name of the selected object appears above the pick button. A line connects the protractor to the center of the object.
  3. Click Pick Object 2 and click a second object. The angle between the protractor and the two objects appears on the rollout.
  4. To move either object while watching the Angle readout, turn on (Pin Stack) below the modifier stack. This locks the stack to the Protractor's Parameters rollout.


The Compass helper establishes an orientation for your scene. You create this object with a single click and drag to define the radius, usually in a Perspective or Top view. On its parameters rollout, you can adjust the apparent radius of the compass rose. Like all helper objects, this object is for reference only and does not render.

Measure Utility

The Measure Utility provides measurements of a selected object or shape.

To use the Measure utility:

  1. On the Utilities panel, click Measure to display the Measure rollout.
  2. Select any shape or object and read out the measurements. If you select multiple objects, the sum of the measurements is displayed.
  3. Click New Floater to display a modeless Measure dialog with all the same information.
  4. Use the Measure dialog to display the length of a spline, like a line or circle, as you create it.

Measure Distance Tool

The Measure Distance tool quickly calculates the distance between two points.

To measure the distance between two points:

  1. Choose Tools menu Measure Distance
  2. Click in the viewport where you want to start measuring.
  3. Click in the viewport where you want to measure to.

    A distance is returned in the Mini Listener. Additional information, detailing the distance along the X, Y, and Z coordinates is displayed in the status bar.