For an irregular polyhedron, cutting all edges incident to a given vertex at equal distances from the vertex may produce a figure that does not lie in a plane. A more general approach, valid for arbitrary convex polyhedra, is to make the cut along any plane which separates the given vertex from all the other vertices, but is otherwise arbitrary. This construction determines the combinatorial structure of the vertex figure, similar to a set of connected vertices (see below), but not its precise geometry; it may be generalized to convex polytopes in any dimension. However, for non-convex polyhedra, there may not exist a plane near the vertex that cuts all of the faces incident to the vertex.
Cromwell (1999) forms the vertex figure by intersecting the polyhedron with a sphere centered at the vertex, small enough that it intersects only edges and faces incident to the vertex. This can be visualized as making a spherical cut or scoop, centered on the vertex. The cut surface or vertex figure is thus a spherical polygon marked on this sphere. One advantage of this method is that the shape of the vertex figure is fixed (up to the scale of the sphere), whereas the method of intersecting with a plane can produce different shapes depending on the angle of the plane. Additionally, this method works for non-convex polyhedra.
Many combinatorial and computational approaches (e.g. Skilling, 1975) treat a vertex figure as the ordered (or partially ordered) set of points of all the neighboring (connected via an edge) vertices to the given vertex.
For nonconvex polyhedra, the vertex figure may also be nonconvex. Uniform polytopes, for instance, can have star polygons for faces and/or for vertex figures.
By considering the connectivity of these neighboring vertices, a vertex figure can be constructed for each vertex of a polytope:
Since the dual polytope of a regular polytope is also regular and represented by the Schläfli symbol indices reversed, it is easy to see the dual of the vertex figure is the cell of the dual polytope. For regular polyhedra, this is a special case of the Dorman Luke construction.