Main > Curves and Surfaces > Surfaces > Types of Surfaces
Maps from R2 into R3.
Parametric vs. Implicit Surfaces can be defined by parameters or implicitly.
Different Coordinates Some surfaces are easier to represent in other coordinates.
Smooth vs. Non-smooth Smooth surfaces have nonzero normal vectors.
Regular vs. Non-regular  
Abstract Surfaces Surfaces defined without any ambient space.
Locally vs. Globally Defined A curve can be defined by local or global properties

Parametric vs. Implicit

Some surfaces, like the torus, are defined in terms of two parameters (often called u and v) that, when varied over a region of the uv plane, create a set of points from equations of the form

Other surfaces, however, are defined implicitly. That is, they are simply equations in three variables whose solutions form a surface in R3. Although it can also be defined parametrically, the sphere is an example of such a surface.

Different Coordinates

Although many surfaces are specified in xyz (rectangular) coordinates, it is occasionally more convenient to define a surface in cylindrical, spherical, or other coordinate systems. Plücker's conoid is one example of a surface that lends itself well to cylindrical coordinates. In cylindrical coordinates, one identifies a point by its distance from the origin in the xy plane (denoted r), the angle a line between that point and the origin makes with the positive x axis (denoted by the Greek letter theta), and the point's height above the xy plane (denoted z).

Smooth vs. Non-smooth

A surface with nonzero surface normals everywhere is said to be smooth. Because the surface normal is the cross product of the u and v tangent vectors, this means that the tangent vectors to the surface must also be nonzero. A paraboloid is an example of a smooth surface.

Regular vs. Non-regular


Abstract Surfaces

An abstract surface is one which is not embedded in Rn, but can still be analyzed with the tools of differential geometry. Any abstract surface comes with a metric that makes this possible. All of the surfaces currently in the library are embedded in R3.

Locally vs. Globally Defined

Surfaces often have global properties that depend strongly on their behavior as a whole, rather than their behavior in a specific region on the surface. One example of such a property is orientability; can we define a positive direction for the surface normal that works for the whole surface? When the surface is, say, a sphere, we can. We can make all the normals point either outward or inward. But what if it is a surface like the non-orientable Möbius strip? It is impossible to assign a consistent direction to the surface normals.