How to Maintain Sharp Edges When Using Subdivision Surface Modifier in Blender

Featured image for a blog post explaining how to retain sharp edges when utilizing the Subdivision Surface Modifier in Blender. The image depicts an object without the subsurface modifier on the left. As you progress to the right, the object has the subsurface modifier applied, resulting in a smooth appearance with sharp edges. The title "SUBSURF WITH SHARP EDGES" is displayed at the bottom.
Blender subsurf with sharp edges

Table of contents

How can I use the subdivision surface modifier to create higher poly meshes without ruining sharp edges? This is a question asked by most beginner sculpting artists using Blender.

In this post, you will learn a few tricks you can use to maintain sharp edges while using subdivision surface in Blender.

Here is an example of a mesh with a Subdivision Surface Modifier with the edge distorted

Before and after applying Subdivision Surface Modifier
Before and after applying Subdivision Surface Modifier

In the above image, the sphere should be subdivided but the rim of the cylinder should stay the same because it is a sharp edge. However, after the subdivision surface, the edge is distorted.

Tricks you can use to maintain sharp edges on a mesh even when you apply subdivision surface in Blender

Below are some tricks you can use to maintain sharp edges on a mesh even when you apply a subdivision surface in Blender.

Method 1:  Add supporting geometry (Loop cuts Ctrl + R or beveling Ctrl + B both work well)

How to add supporting geometry to a mesh with loop cuts in Blender
How to add supporting geometry to a mesh with loop cuts in Blender
  • Add the subsurf modifier and set the levels to your liking
  • Add loop cuts to areas you want to maintain sharp edges

Method 2: Use Creases (Shift + E)

How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh with subsurf using Creases in Blender
How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh with subsurf using Creases in Blender

Weighted edge creases for subdivision surfaces allow you to change the way Subsurf subdivides the geometry to give the edges a smooth or sharp appearance.

The crease weight of selected edges can be changed using Transform Properties (N) and change the Median Transform slider. A higher value makes the edge “stronger” and more resistant to subsurf. Another way to remember it is that the weight refers to the edge’s sharpness. Edges with a higher weight will be deformed less by subsurf. Recall that the subsurfed shape is a product of all intersecting edges, so to make the edges of an area sharper, you have to increase the weight of all the surrounding edges.

Creases tend to produce a sharp, hard edge which tends to look less realistic (and also tends to require an Edge Split modifier if used with smooth shading), while supporting geometry tends to give a subtly rounded edge that looks more realistic and does not require an edge split modifier. However, using supporting edge loops also tends to add a lot of extra geometry.

Method 3: Add a Bevel Modifier before a Subdivision Surface Modifier in the modifier stack

How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh by adding a Bevel Modifier before a Subdivision Surface Modifier in the modifier stack in Blender
How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh by adding a Bevel Modifier before a Subdivision Surface Modifier in the modifier stack in Blender
  • Add a Bevel Modifier
  • Add a Subdivision Surface Modifier
  • Set the desired number of levels on the Subdivision Surface Modifier
  • Go back to the Bevel Modifier and play with Amount and Segment settings until you get the sharp edge you desire

Method 4: Use an Edge Split Modifier

How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh by adding an Edge Split Modifier before a Subdivision Surface Modifier in the modifier stack in Blender
How to maintain sharp edges on a mesh by adding an Edge Split Modifier before a Subdivision Surface Modifier in the modifier stack in Blender
  • Add an Edge Split Modifier
  • Add a Subdivision Surface Modifier
  • Set the desired number of levels on the Subdivision Surface Modifier
  • Go back to the Edge Split Modifier and play with Edge Angle and Sharp Edge settings until you get the sharp edge you desire
A Blender interface screen recording demonstrating the utilization of the Product Rendering Tools Addon in Blender.
Get Product Rendering Tools Addon

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