How to make particles follow a path in 3ds max?

A detailed tutorial to show how to make particles follow a path for both, event and non-event driven particle systems.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to make particles follow a path in 3ds max. We will discuss two ways to achieve the effect, one for non-event driven particle systems and the other one for event driven particle systems, so, let’s get started with the first technique.

For Non-Event driven Particle systems

Step 1

Creating Parray Emitter

Let’s first try it with PArray (non-event driven particle system). To create a PArray emitter, go to Create panel and select Particle Systems from the dropdown menu. Now, click on PArray and create a Parray emitter on the grid.


Creating a Path

Now, we need a path that our particles will follow, so, go to Create panel again then click on Splines and choose the shape that you want or you can manually draw the shape using Line tool.

Step 3

Picking an object emitter

Since, PArray is an object based emitter, so, we need an object to be served as particle emitter. Create any object of your choice (I am using Sphere) then select the PArray emitter and under Basic Parameters rollout, click on Pick Object button and pick your object. Scrub the time slider to see the particles emitting from the object.

Step 4

Tweaking Particles Parameters

Before going further, we have to tweak some settings of the PArray, so, with the PArray selected, go to Modify panel and under Basic Parameters rollout, set the Viewport Display to Mesh, so that we can see our particles as we see the mesh objects or geometry directly on the viewport.

Now, under Particle Generation rollout, set the Rate, Emit Stop and Display until to 100 and Life to 20. You can also tweak the size of the particles under Particle Size group.
Under Particle Type rollout, set the Particle Type to Standard Particles and choose Sphere from Standard Particles group.

Step 5

Adding Path constraint to the Object

Let’s select the sphere then go to Animation > Constraints > Path Constraint and choose the spline object as path. It just constrained the object to the path but the particles are still moving freely.

Step 6

Binding PArray to Space Warp

In order to make the particles follow the path, we have to make use of Path Follow space warp. Go to Create Panel > Space Warps and create a Path Follow space warp from there. With the Path Follow space warp selected, go to Modify Panel and Under Basic Parameters rollout, click on Pick Shape object button and pick the path. Set the Travel Time value to some maximum value (I am using 20000) and Last Frame to 100.
Now, bind the PArray icon with the Path Follow space warp with the help of Bind to Space Warp tool. That’s it, you should have something like this:

This technique is applicable to all the non-even driven particle elements. If you try the same trick with Particle flow, it might not work as it is an event driven particle system. Let’s learn how to achieve the same effect with event-driven particle system.

For Event driven Particle systems


Creating PF Source Icon

Go to Create Panel > Geometry > Particle Systems drop down and create PF source icon from there.


Adding Speed by Icon operator

Now, press 6 on your keyboard to pop up the Particle View. Select and delete the Speed operator and add Speed By Icon operator in Event 1 . Now, we have a speed icon on the viewport and the speed of the particles will depend upon the movement of the speed icon.

Step 3

Applying the Path constraint to the Speed icon

Now, create a shape or path, whatever you want and path constrained the Speed icon to that path using Animation > Constraint > Path Constraint. Go to Motion Panel and under Path Parameters rollout, turn on Follow and set the axis to z axis.

Step 4

Aligning PFlow icon to Speed icon

Select the PFlow icon and align it to the Speed icon. That’s it. Scrub the time slider to see the particles following the path. Here is the final result:

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. For your queries and suggestions leave your comments below or throw me an email. Good luck.