Rhinoceros Introduction


Rhinoceros 3D is a NURBS Modeling Platform, allowing Users to directly develop and edit Curves, Surfaces, Solids or Meshes; within a 3D or 2D Work Environment. Using various Commands, Users begin to realize Creations more fluently, and the input gained becomes an essential part of their Work Method. More in-depth discussions, covered in future tutorials, will improve your understanding on how to use this platform efficiently, and the role 3D Modeling plays within several relative Creative Workflows.

DropDown Menus

Every Rhino Command, Macro, Preference, and Setting can be accessed from these menus. For beginners, it is very useful to get acquainted with these.

Command Prompt

The Command Prompt allows you to call commands or macros via text. Simply type in the Command, and press ‘ENTER’, ‘SPACEBAR’ or ‘RIGHT-CLICK’. The autocomplete option is very useful. If you partially type a command, Rhino will give you a listing of every command similar to your entry. Fuzzy Auto Complete is also useful, for those Users who begin to become more familiar with the Software. Enabled by default, fuzzy autocomplete suggests the most used candidate. For example, ‘LI’ most likely autocompletes to Line rather than something like LimitReferenceModel, and the autocomplete menu contains best partial and inexact matches.


Viewports are the majority of your initial view within Rhino. By Default, FRONT, TOP, RIGHT, and PERSPECTIVE Views are activated. Your Mouse Scroll Wheel will allow you to Zoom In and Out within all Viewports. CTRL and SHIFT Keys will activate different functions within these Views. For example, Right-Click and Drag within the TOP, RIGHT, or FRONT Viewports, will allow you to PAN; whereas SHIFT + Right Click within your PERSPECTIVE Viewport will allow you to PAN. You can Double-Click any Viewport Title to maximize the Viewport. Alternately, Double-Clicking a maximized Viewport will return you back to your default set-up with all (4) Views.

Top Dock – Toolbar Groups

The tabs positioned along the top of your screen, directly underneath of the Command Prompt, are Toolbar Groups. Toolbar Groups are groupings of commands that are affiliated with similar workflows. You can Right-Click on any Toolbar Group Tab, to edit the properties, or show/hide specific groups.

Left Dock – Toolbars

When we select certain Toolbar Groups, the Left Dock (Sidbar) Icons will change. These are some of the most common commands you will use in Rhino
You can customize your default toolbars by visiting the ‘Tools’ DropDown Menu and Selecting Toolbar Layout, or by entering Toolbar in the Command Prompt.

Right Dock – Panels

Panels are located within the Right Dock. By Default, some of the more common Panels are loaded. The Properties Panel allows you to edit Object/Geometry Properties. The Layers Panel will allow you to organize your geometry onto Layers. Display Panel will allow you to depict the specific nature in which your geometry is represented on your screen. Finally, the Help Panel contains information on anything and everything Rhino Related.

Bottom Dock – Snaps and Misc Settings

The Bottom Dock contains checkboxes pertaining to Object Snaps. These are only viewable if you have the ‘OSNAP’ setting activated (located at the lower-most center of your screen). Object Snaps are extremely useful for successful and correct 3D Modeling involving Post-Processing (i.e. 3D Printing, Injection Molding, Architecture etc.). By selecting the checkbox affiliated with ‘End’, any geometry we create will automatically gravitate towards existing geometry end points.

Below Object Snap, we have various quick selection settings. Your Grid Snap Settings are helpful when you prefer to use the Grid Lines for Reference Points. Ortho, will lock anything you create, to rotation limits (i.e. every 90 Degrees, 45 Degrees etc.). Planar will limit your geometry to Planar Locations, a setting best understood through experience, rather than explanation (try drawing a Polyline with the Setting OFF, and once with it ON)

Getting Started – Options

Before you begin any Creation, you should tailor your workspace to your needs. Take for instance, Units of Measure- we can change our Units, (depending on your preference, or an outside entity) by entering Units into the Command Prompt. A new window will appear, and a DropDown Menu will allow you to change your Units to anything you desire. You can also access this setting by entering Options into the Command Prompt; or by visiting the Tools DropDown Menu, and selecting Options.

Another custom setting that will change depending on the Project, are your Grid Settings. The ‘Grid’, is featured in each one of your Viewports. The Grid is made of Major, Minor, and Axis Lines. Your Axis Lines are depicted by their bold Red and Green Colors. Your Axis Lines will change depending on your View- in the TOP View, Red is your X-Axis, and Green is Y-Axis. In your FRONT View, X-Axis remains Red, but your Green Axis Line is now corresponding with the Z-Axis. The point at which these two Axis Lines meet, is your Origin Point. This point is defined by the values X=0, Y=0, Z=0. Measurements from this point, can be referenced by your Major and Minor Grid Lines. Major Grid Lines appear in a bold dark-gray color; whereas your Minor Grid Lines appear as a thin, dark-gray line. While it may seem silly to think of these lines as tools- they will prove extremely useful when used properly with the Grid Snap Setting. You can specify the spacing of your Grid Lines by entering Grid into the Command Prompt. However, for beginners, it may be more suitable to enter Options into the Command Prompt, and browse to the Grid Options in the next window.

Display Options

Different workflows will require different visual preferences. The ability to change the way your geometry is represented visually, can be accessed in a multitude of ways. To begin, let’s discuss the available choices:

Wireframe: Default Display Mode, Unshaded, IsoCurves and Exterior Curves.

Ghosted: Shaded, Objects appear translucent.

Shaded: Shaded, Opaque, Minimal Processing Power.

Rendered: Shaded, Simulation of Materials, Lights, Scene, and Camera; Medium Processing Power.

XRay: Shaded, Wireframe+Ghosted.

Technical: Objects appear as Technical Drawings are defined; w/ hidden lines etc.

Artistic: Soft lines, simulated Pencil Drawing effect.

Pen: Hard lines, simulated Pen Drawing effect.

To set your display mode, you can use the DropDown Menu affiliated with any one of your viewports. Alternately, you can enter SetDisplayMode into the Command Prompt. More commonly, Wireframe, Shaded, Ghosted, and Rendered Display Modes are used- thus, you may use Keyboard Commands to switch through these Display Modes: CTRL+(‘S’ = Shaded),(‘W’=Wireframe),(‘G’=Ghosted),(‘R’=Rendered). Go to the Help DropDown Menu, Select Help Topics, and type ‘Display Modes Options’ for more information.


The ability to organize your geometry onto Layers, will prove useful with any workflow. It is a universal convenience!  The Layers Panel, in your Right Dock- will allow you to create as many layers as you like, organize, and access geometry as needed.

To create a layer, right-click in an empty space, and select New Layer. You are given the option to title the layer immediately, or you can double-click the text name and re-title the layer later on. Layers can also have SubLayers, and SubLayers can have add’l SubLayers, etc.

The Column Field immediately to the right of the Layer Name, is the Current Layer indicator (Check Mark). You may have only one Current Layer. When creating geometry, all objects will be saved to this Layer; so it is important that you place the check mark, next to the Layer you would like your geometry saved. If you forget to do this, you can always select the geometry you would like to transfer, then right-click on the Destination Layer, and select Change Object Layer from the DropDown Menu.

To the right of the Current Layer Column, we see the View Indicator (Light Bulbs). This Column controls whether the Layer is ON/Viewable, or OFF/Hidden. *Note: You cannot turn OFF your Current Layer.

In the next column, we have our Lock feature. If you lock a layer, the affiliated geometry will remain visible- but cannot be edited. This is useful with Object Snaps. Following the Layer Lock, a square color box, indicates the Layer’s Color. This will change the color of any geometry saved to the layer.

Lastly, we find the Material, Print Width, and Linetype Properties. Materials are affiliated with Rendering Workflows, and discussed in a separate Tutorial ([RHINOCEROS] Rendering Link *wip). Print Width and Linetypes are discussed in the next tutorial, [RHINOCEROS] 2D Modeling.

Universal Tips

i. Typically, the ‘ENTER’ Key is used to activate the Command called from the Command Prompt. Several Commands in Rhino require multiple steps, and you should reference the Command Prompt frequently for instructions. The ‘SPACEBAR’ Key, and the Right Mouse Button will also function as the ‘ENTER’ Key. Use whatever is most efficient!

ii. You can Zoom with the Mouse Scroll Wheel in ANY Viewport.

iii. CTRL+Z will undo your previous command. Type Options into the Command Prompt, visit the General Setting Area, and you can adjust the max memory for the Undo Command. This will allow you to undo several operations.

iv. Commands can be called in (3) Ways: 1. Drop Down Menu Selection; 2. Entering the Command in the Command Prompt; 3. Calling for the command via Toolbar Icons/Buttons. Regardless of your selection, the Command will always appear in the Command Prompt History, above the Text Entry Area. You should begin making notes of the Text Format of the Commands, to become more efficient with your Modeling Technique.

v. Selecting any Geometry, and typing ZS into the Command Prompt, will Zoom to the Selected objects. Additionally, Left-Clicking and Dragging to your right, will create a solid outline window; any Geometry that is COMPLETELY within this window’s bounds, will be selected. Left-Clicking and Dragging to your left, will create a dashed-outline window; any Geometry that is within any portion of the window, will be selected.

vi. The Help Panel in Right Dock is extremely helpful. This Panel will AutoUpdate, when you call a command, this Panel will immediately display relative information on how to successfully carry out the command. Included are short videos (3-10 Seconds).