Teapot: Origins in 3D

3d animation freelance

Why is there a 3D teapot?

Have you ever noticed the render button in 3DS Max is a 3D teapot? Some people have assumed this is because rendering takes so long that the artist would usually leave their computer to render while they go and have some tea. This is certainly a fitting answer to the question. However upon further research, this was not the case.

3d animation freelance

The teapot actually dates back to 1975 when 3D polygon modelling was fairly new and a computer scientist named Martin Newell was undertaking a PhD thesis at the University of Utah. His thesis was to show how mathematical curves rather than polygons could be used to create designs in 3D. During this era, 3D modelling programs did not exist and everything was digitized by hand using numbers and values on a text editor. Because of this, Newell’s thesis on the teapot quickly became popular as a benchmark model for computer graphics.

There was actually a physical teapot which the design was based on. The original teapot was white in colour and was manufactured by Melitta (Creators of Melitta coffee). It became a part of Newell’s thesis from his wife’s suggestion. Eventually, it was donated to the Boston Computer Museum and then relocated to the computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Nowadays it has become a norm within computer graphics and is used in almost every rendering program for self-tests and benchmarks. Pixar as well, has a habit of paying tribute to the teapot as a promotion for RenderMan and has even included the teapot in Toy Story.

newell 3D teapot


The Utah Teapot (2004) Holmes3D.net. http://www.holmes3d.net/graphics/teapot/ [Date Accessed: 14.08.2015]

Why is there a teapot in 3DS Max? The origin of common 3D test models. (2015). SimplyMaya. https://simplymaya.com/sm-news-articles/74/why-is-there-a-teapot-in-3ds-max?/ [Date Accessed: 14.08.2015]

Anonuevo, M. (2013). The Origin of the Teapot Symbol for Rendering in Revit. AECbytes. http://www.aecbytes.com/tipsandtricks/2013/issue65-revit.html [Date Accessed: 14.08.2015]