How to use Shapes in MagicaVoxel

Shapes are a powerful feature introduced in MagicaVoxel that allow you to change the default cube used for voxels and replace it with a different shaped object in your voxel model. In this tutorial we will show you how to change the shape of your voxels using the Shape window in MagicaVoxel.

Lego shape in MagicaVoxel

If you had the opportunity to see our last Mega Voxel Jam, you may have noticed that one of the challenges required artists to use the Lego shape in MagicaVoxel. You might have asked, how do I change the shape of a voxel in MagicaVoxel. By default the shape of your voxel in MagicaVoxel is a standard 3D cube. However, there is a great feature in MagicaVoxel located in the Shape window under Render model that allows you to use some alternative shapes instead of a cube. We will walk you through the steps on how to change the Shape inside Render mode.
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What is a shape in MagicaVoxel

A shape in MagicaVoxel is the visual representation of a voxel on your model. For most voxel editors available today, the cube is the only way that a voxel is represented. However, for quite some time MagicaVoxel has given artists the abilities to change this shape into something other than a traditional cube. As of this writing the available shapes include:
  • Cube - Standard 3D cubes (used by most voxel editors)
  • Lego - Cubes with a circle on top similar to a lego brick
  • MC - Cubes with chamfered edges
  • Clay - Cubes with smoothed edges
  • Sphr - Spheres instead of cubes
  • Cyli - Columns of cylinders instead of cubes
So if you have seen models in MagicaVoxel that look like like Lego models, it is because they are using shapes to transform the visual element of a voxel. This allows you to create some very creative looking voxel models with the touch of a button.

Getting Started

To begin let's fire up the MagicaVoxel editor. For this tutorial we will be working with the "castle" sample file that comes with MagicaVoxel.

Castle sample file

The purpose for choosing this file is because we've noticed that models that stay within this size display nicely using the Lego shape. However you can technically use any size model that is supported by MagicaVoxel. For this tutorial we will use the castle, just keep in mind that you can use any model that you want.

Once you select the file, the main editor window should display a model of a castle similar to the one below:

Voxel castle in MagicaVoxel

One other thing we like to do is to turn on the Iso camera view which can be found at the bottom right of the main editor window. This gives the model a nice isometric perspective. Next we will change the shape, but first we have to switch from Model mode to Render mode.
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How to Turn on Render Mode

To turn on Render mode in MagicaVoxel click the button labeled Render at the top right of the main editor window. 

Render mode button

After you click this button, some of the windows in MagicaVoxel will change including the main editor window. Now keep in mind it is perfectly normal for the window to appear blurry at first. That is because the render engine in MagicaVoxel is rendering the final image with lights, shadows and other effects. This process takes a few seconds to complete. 

Change the Shape of the Voxel

To change the voxel shape, go to the window named Light and scroll down until you find the sub-category called Shape. When there, you can choose from 6 shape types: Cube, Lego, MC, Clay, Sphr, and Cyli. Click any one of the six buttons to change to that shape.

Light window

Shape options in the Light Window

For this tutorial we are using the Lego shape, but as we mentioned before, go ahead and select a shape you would like to apply to your model. For this example we will go ahead and click the button titled Lego.

Lego shape in MagicaVoxel

Since changing the shape is modifying a property under Render mode, the scene will have to render itself  again. After a few seconds though you should see your model with the shape you selected. Here is a final render of the castle using the Lego shape we chose.

Voxel model rendered using the Lego shape

And that's how you change the shape of a voxel in MagicaVoxel. The best part is that you can literally switch shapes just by clicking a different option under the Shape window. There are lots of possibilities for adding some zest to your voxel models.

Saving a Photo of your Model using the New Shape

When you switch back to Model mode, the shape that you selected will temporarily disappear because the shape is considered a Render property. Also if you try exporting your voxel model it will come out as standard cube voxels. At the moment MagicaVoxel only supports cube and marching cube voxels as an export option. All other shapes are considered Render effects and will only display inside of Render mode. 

Fortunately, MagicaVoxel has a great screenshot feature that allows you to save your voxel model as an image. So if you would like to save an image of your model using the shape you selected, you can take a picture of it very easily.  To take a picture simply click the button with a camera icon at the bottom left of your screen.

Snapshot button

Wrap Up

The shape feature in MagicaVoxel has created some unique opportunities for voxel artists to take their voxel models to the next level by changing the default voxel cube with an alternative shape. If you have a question about the tutorial please ask below in the comment section. Also if this tutorial has helped you, please consider sharing it.

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