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3D Modeling I

Goals for Week 1, Tuesday August 27th and Thursday August 29th

-    introductions

-    my teaching philosophy

-    assessing goals and student knowledge

-    discussion of Syllabus and upcoming Assignments/ Projects

-  Lecture/ Class Discussion: Getting Started in Maya

•    Maya - description

•    User Interface Basics

•    Camera Manipulation - "zoom", pan, rotating the camera, toggle between viewports

•    Anatomy of a Polygon - vertices, edges and faces

•    Creating polygons

•    Moving, scaling, rotating, making a selection

•    Understanding basic perspective and orthographic views in Maya

•    Hotkeys/ Shortcut keys

•    Local and World Space

•    Saving scenes & projects

•    Hotbox

•    Duplication

•    Basic Poly Manipulation: extrusion techniques

•    Moodboards as part of concept development

-    Demonstrations: accessing viewports, creating polygon primitives, moving scaling, rotating, making selections, extrusion

-    Class Assignment: experiment with the manipulation of the polygon primitives, have fun, and develop skills and confidence

-    Assign Project 1:  due Week 4

The following information is a combination of resources provided on the internet (citations provided) as well as my personal course notes on 3D Modeling in Maya.  I hope that you find it helpful. 

Maya Description

What is Autodesk Maya? (description provided by Edulearn website)

Autodesk Maya is an industry leading 3D animation software application developed by Autodesk that enables video professionals who work with animated film, television programs, visual effects, and video games to create highly professional three-dimensional (3D) cinematic animations.  Maya 1.0 was originally developed and released in 1998 by Alias Wavefront and seven years later in 2005, Autodesk, Inc. acquired Maya and renamed it to "Autodesk Maya". Since its original release, Maya has become widely used in the film industry to create graphics for Academy Award winning films such as Rango and Hugo. Maya is also becoming more widely used in the video game industry to create visual effects for games such as Call of Duty and Halo. Maya includes MEL, short for Maya Embedded Language, and Python scripting, which both allow you to take advantage of its open architecture by programming complicated or repetitive commands. These programmed commands help to save valuable time and also offer a method of sharing them with others who might find them useful. In the film and television industry, Maya is the de facto standard for 3D visual effects, computer graphics, and character animation.

Different types of modeling:


NURBS stands for Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline. NURBS curves and surfaces can be a good way to create organic models (see Figure 2.6). NURBS models are resolution independent (sort of like the vector graphics in Illustrator and Flash), which means your surfaces are defined mathematically to look good when rendered, no matter how close your camera gets. 

All renderers in wide use today, including Maya’s native render engine, must convert your geometry to polygons right as they begin rendering. So why don’t you see telltale polygonal facets? The trick involved here is that the sphere, for example, is described by the NURBS surface parameters as being perfectly round. When the scene is rendered, Maya can use as many facets as necessary to make the surface appear smooth.


Polygonal geometry is made up of facets - called faces. These polygonal faces are the result of connecting the dots of at least three points – called vertices. The lines used to connect each vertex are called edges . Polygonal geometry can be great for creating hard surfaces like buildings and machines, or if you use enough polygons, organic characters and props. 

Unlike NURBS surfaces, polygonal geometry doesn’t easily adapt its resolution to remain smooth looking in close-ups. Polygonal objects are made of a finite number of facets regardless of proximity to the camera. But polygons can be quicker to render as a result. And polygonal objects can support branching topography (such as fingers or spokes), with which NURBS surfaces have a hard time. 

Subdivision Surfaces 

Subdivision surface objects act as a sort of hybrid between the other two surface types . They are resolution independent, like NURBS, and yet they allow arbitrary topology, like polygons. They are the bee’s knees. With sub-d objects it is possible to add localized detail where you need it, punch holes through the surface, and define hard creases and smooth curves in the same model.


Functions of Maya. (information provided by Autodesk website)

1. Character rigging. Most animations involve “characters,” articulated models such as a person, an animal, robot, or anything else that moves by articulation. Maya lets you define internal skeletons for characters and bind skin to them to create realistic movement with deformation.

2. Animation. Just about everything you can think of in Maya is keyable or able to be animated.

3. Dynamics, fluids, and other simulated effects. Maya includes a comprehensive suite of tools for simulating real world effects such as fire, explosions, fluids, hair and fur, the physics of colliding objects, and more.

4. Painting and paint effects. Maya includes an incredible system for using a graphics tablet (or the mouse) to paint 2D canvases, paint directly on 3D models, paint to create geometry, scriptable paint, and virtually limitless other possibilities.

5. Lighting, Shading, and Rendering. When you want to render a still image or movie of you scene or animation, you can create them using your choice of renderers.

Screen Shot 2019-08-18 at 2.31.33 PM.png

Maya Classic  Workspace


Information Provided by Autodesk Maya help site

1. Menu Sets 

Menu sets divide the type of menus available into categories: Modeling, Rigging, Animation, FX, and Rendering. Maya's first seven menus on the main menu are always available, and the remaining menus change depending on the menu set you choose. 

2. Menus 

The menus contain both tools and actions for working in your scene. The main menu is that the top of the Maya window. There are also individual menus for the panels and option windows. You can also access the menus in the main menu in the hotbox, which you can open by holding down the space bar in a view panel.

3. Status Line 

The Status line contains icons for some commonly-used general commands, such as File > Save, as well as icons for setting up object selection, snapping, rendering, and more. A quick Selection field is also available for you to set up for numeric input. Click the vertical dividers to expand and collapse groups of icons. 

4. User Account menu 

Log in to your Autodesk account. Click for more options, such as to manage your license or purchase Autodesk products. Trial versions also show many days are left.

5. Shelf 

The Shelf contains icons for common tasks, organized by tabs based on category. The real power of shelves, however, is that you can create custom shelves, and then make tools or command shortcuts that are quickly accessed from there with a single click. 

6. Workspace selector 

Select a custom or predefined arrangement of windows and panels designed for different workflows. Shown here is the Maya Classic workspace.

7. Sidebar icons 

The icons at the right end of the Status line open and close tools that you will use frequently. From left to right, the icons display the Modeling Toolkit, the HumanIK window, the Attribute Editor, the Tool Settings, and the Channel Box/Layer Editor


In the Maya Classic workspace, these tools open as tabs in the pane below, except for the Tool Settings which open in a floating window. Use the tabs to switch between open tools, or click the current tab to collapse the whole pane. Click on any tab in a collapsed pane to restore it. You can also drag the tabs to change their order, or right-click on the tabs for more options.

8. Channel Box 

The Channel Box lets you edit attributes and key values for selected objects. The Transform attributes are shown by default, but you can change which attributes are displayed here. 

9. Layer Editor 

There are two types of layers that are displayed in the Layer Editor

  • Display Layers are used to organize and manage objects in a scene, such as for setting their visibility and selectability. 

  • Animation Layers are used to blend, lock, or mute multiple levels of animation. 

In all cases, there is a default layer where objects are initially placed upon creation. 

10. View panel 

The View panel offers different ways of viewing the objects in your scene with a camera view. You can show one or several view panels, depending on the layout you're using. You can also display different editors in the view panel. The Panel Toolbar in each view panel gives you access to many of the frequently used commands found in the Panel menus

In the Maya Classic workspace, 

11. Tool Box 

The Tool Box contains tools that you use all the time to select and transform objects in your scene. Use the QWERTY hotkeys to use the Select tool ( Q), Move tool ( W), Rotate tool ( E), Scale tool ( R), and Show Manipulators ( T), as well as access the last tool used ( Y) in the scene. 

12. Quick layout/Outliner buttons 

The upper three Quick Layout Buttons below the Tool Box let you switch between useful View panel layouts with a single click, and the bottom button opens the Outliner

The following refer to animation controls within Maya with the exception of the Help Line which pertains to all aspects of the program.

13. Time Slider 

The Time Slider shows you the time range that is available as defined by the range slider, below. The time slider also displays the current time, and the keys on selected objects or characters. You can drag the red playback cursor in it to "scrub" through animation, or use the playback controls at the right end. 

14. Range Slider 

The Range Slider lets you set the start and end time of the scene's animation. You can also set a playback range if you want to focus on a smaller portion of the whole animation. 

15. Playback controls 

The Playback Controls let you move around time and preview your animation as defined by the Time Slider range. 

16. Anim/Character menus 

The Animation or Character menus let you switch the Animation Layer and the current Character Set. There are also icons for Auto Key and Animation preferences

17. Playback options 

Use the Playback options to control how your scene play backs animation, including setting frame rates, looping controls, and auto keying, as well as gives you quick access to the Time Slider preferences

18. Command Line 

The Command line has an area to the left for inputting single MEL commands, and an area to the right for feedback. Use these area if you are familiar with Maya's MEL scripting language. 

19. Help Line 

The Help Line gives a short description of tools and menu items as you scroll over them in the UI. This bar also prompts you with the steps required to use a tool or complete a workflow.

Starting in Maya

When you start Maya for the first time, the workspace displays by default in a perspective window, or panel. There are the other components of the default perspective view panel:

  • The panel is labeled persp at the bottom to indicate that you are viewing the Maya scene from a perspective camera view.

  • The panel has its own menu bar at the top left corner of the panel. These menus allow you to access tools and functions related to that specific panel.

  • The grid is displayed with two heavy lines intersecting at the center of the Maya scene. This central location is called the origin.

  • The origin is the center of Maya’s 3D world, and with all object’s directional values measured from this location.

Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 7.18.27 PM.png
  • In Maya, like many other 3D applications, the three dimensions are labeled as the X, Y, and Z axes.

  • The origin is located at X, Y, Z position of 0, 0, 0.

  • The grid also lies along the X, Z plane. We refer to this as a plane because you might visualize an imaginary, flat, two-dimensional square laying along this 3D position.

  • Maya labels the X, Y, and Z axes with a color scheme: red for X, green for Y, and blue for Z.

  • Many tools that you use in Maya use this color scheme to indicate that you are accessing a particular item that relates to X, Y, and Z in some way.

Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 7.21.32 PM.png
  • The axis indicator shows in which direction, X, Y, or Z, you are viewing the Maya scene.

  • The axis indicator is color coded in the red, green, and blue color scheme and appears in the lower left corner of a view panel.

  • This is extremely useful if you are new to 3D, as many of the instructions in this manual and the Maya Help assume you know where you are viewing the scene in relation to the X, Y, Z axes.

Viewport Menus


Local and World Space

Here are some important notes about the Maya interface.

  • First, 3D modeling is vector based -- all of the shapes you make, no matter how complex, are mathematically based.  3D models exist in World Space.  

  • World Space is a set of three axis (x,y,z) that allow you to move in length, width, and depth.

  • Object space is the coordinate system from an object’s point of view. The origin of object space is at the object’s pivot point, and its axes are rotated with the object.

  • Local space is similar to object space, however it uses the origin and axes of the object’s parent node in the hierarchy of objects. This is useful when you haven’t transformed the object itself, but it is part of a group that is transformed.

  • The surface of an object is considered to be Local Space.  Local Space is a set of two (u,v) axis that give the object's surface length and width.  All 3D objects lack depth.  They are skin only.  All 3D objects are paper-thin.  They appear to have depth because their (u,v) coordinates exist in (x,y,z) space.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 12.12.02

World Space

Object Space

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 12.12.08


Changing from World to Object Space

Switch between spaces, for example World and Object space by double-clicking the Transformation tools and then changing the setting in the Axis Orientation menu in the Tool Settings that appear. Further instructions provided later in additional notes.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 1.14.18 PM.png

Navigation in Maya

  • Navigation in Maya requires a three button mouse.

  • let's go ahead and take a look at how to use those three buttons. 

  • Navigation in Maya is a combination of one keyboard key (alt/option) and one mouse button. 

In Maya, you will find yourself using a large number of shortcut keys.  Here are a few that pertain to navigation:

  • Alt/option+left-mouse-drag will rotate the camera in the Perspective View

  • Alt/option+right-mouse-drag will "zoom" the camera in all views. The right click is actually a camera truck. So basically, it moves the camera towards, or away, so if you were to truck all the way out, you can see the scene here. Now this is not a zoom. A zoom, actually changes focal length. This is a camera truck, we're physically moving the camera and keeping the same focal length. Now if you want, you can also use a middle mouse wheel to perform the same function. So if you hold down the Alt or Command key and roll the middle mouse wheel you can also truck the camera. 

  • Alt/option+middle-mouse-drag will pan the camera in all views

  • tap of the space bar will toggle you between viewports

  • be sure to practice in order to become more comfortable with navigation 

Polygon Modeling

When discussing polygon modeling, one uses these terms:

•    Vertices are points which define the corners of polygons.

•    Edges are lines stretched between two vertices.

•    Faces are polygons created by three or more edges.

•    Normals are invisible lines that are used to denote face direction.

•    Triangles are polygons of three sides.

Quads are polygons of four sides.  Quads are the basic unit of polygon modeling, as quads generate good edge flow for animation. 

Edge flow is present when edges wrap all the way around a model in easy-to-follow direction.  Triangles and n-gons break edge flow, and thus are less than optimal for animation.

N-gons are faces of more than four sides.  n-gons always break edge flow and are detrimental to the modeling process when modeling for animation.

While many primitive shapes are available, it is advised that one starts a polygonal model with a cube as a base -- the cube has a base model that is formed of quads, and is thus easy to edit.

Create Polygonal Objects

  • typically, you'll start off with a very simple object, and then add detail and refine that object into the shape you want

  • we usually start with what's called a primitive. And that's just a simple object such as a cube or a sphere. 

  • we can create these in one of two places. 

  • we have a create menu at the upper left of the screen, which allows us to create just about any type of object.

  • we also have those primitives mirrored in the polygonal modeling shelf as icons 

  • to get a closer look at the create menu, we can tear off the menus by clicking on the dotted line and moving the menu

  •  one of the most important options on this menu are the ones down at the bottom.

  • interactive creation is probably the most important. 

  • this allows us to either create it interactively or just have Maya create it by scratch.

  • there are also boxes next to the primitives, if you click on them, you will see a menu that allows you to input information about the primitive such as radius, axis divisions and heigh division

  • if you want to be a little bit more interactive and maybe a little bit more precise, we can use interactive creation . 

  • selecting iterative creation allows you to drag the primitive on the grid and then drag up for height

  • be sure to uncheck iterative creation if you would like Maya to create your primitive

  • feel free to explore the shapes available in the polygon primitives

  • we will be learning about how to modify them using the input section of channel box

How to Make Selections

selecting and deselecting objects in Maya

  • the select icon is on the left side of the screen (it looks like a white arrow)

  • select by clicking on the object

  • deselect by clicking outside the object

  • hit shift to select multiple objects - the objects may have different colors based on the order of selection

  • the last object selected will be green while the others will be white

  • can deselect individual objects by using shift

  • marquee selection - draw a box that encapsulates the object

  • lasso tool - left click to draw out the lasso

  • can also select objects using Outliner - the Outliner icon is below the icons for the viewports on the left side

  • can also use the Select menu

To open the Outliner

  • In the main menu bar: Windows > Outliner

  • In a panel: Panels > Panel > Outliner

  • Click the  icon under the Quick Layout buttons on the left side of the interface. 

To close the Outliner

If the Outliner is docked, click and drag the panel into the Viewport and close it. 

The Outliner shows a hierarchical list of all objects in the scene in outline form. You can expand and collapse the display of branches in the hierarchy; lower levels of the hierarchy are indented under higher levels. It's one of two main scene management editors in Maya: the other is the Hypergraph

The Outliner also displays objects that are normally hidden in the view panels, such as the default cameras, or nodes that don't have geometry, such as shaders and materials. You can control which nodes appear in the Outliner using the items in its Display and Show menus. 

You can use the Outliner for these tasks. See also Using the Outliner for more details. 

Tip: If you find Outliner performance slow when selecting or expanding, particularly in large scenes, activate the Outlineroption in the Interface preferences.



Note: To pan in the Outliner, press Alt + middle-click (for Mac, Opt + middle-click). To fast pan, press Ctrl + Alt + middle-click (for Mac, Ctrl + Opt + middle-click). 

Select Polygonal Components (vertices, edges, and faces)

  • when we model, we need to take our primitive objects and reshape them into the forms that we want.

  • in Maya, we do this by manipulating what are called components.

  • as we discussed earlier, there are three types of components in Maya.

  • these are Vertex, Edge, and Face. So, let's take a look at those, one at a time by selecting an object, and then by clicking and holding RMB, a menu will emerge that allows us to select individual components of the object

  • in Vertex mode, you'll see that these are the points that define the object. 

  • And we can select these vertices (verts) by marquee selecting or individually selecting them

  • if we right-click again and go into edge mode, you'll see that we get now the lines that are between the vertices, so this is an edge. 

  • If we right-click again, we get faces. Now, faces are actually the geometry defined by the edges, and so usually they are four-sided or three-sided shapes. They can be more, but typically most models try to limit to three or four. 

  • Now, we can select, move, and manipulate any one of these or any combination of these in Maya. 

  • So, for example, we could select all of these faces and hit the move tool

  • there are a number of tools for selection. The first one is just selecting the components, themselves, so we can select them one at a time, or, if we hold down shift, we can multiple-select them. 

  • We can also continue to hold down shift and de-select them.

  • another way to select is to select between two rows of vertices or faces. So, for example, if we click on a face in one spot and and shift double-click, it selects everything in-between those two faces. 

  • And that works for just about anything.

  • if I go into Vertex, I can select that one and double-click here, and it'll select all of these vertices. 

  • And if we go into Edge mode, we can do the same. Select this one, double-click, and it selects all of those in between

  • Edges are a special case, so if you select an edge and double-click on it, it selects what's called an edge loop. 

  • Now, these are important for modeling, because they really define the outline of an object.

  • if we were to click on an edge and double-click on it, you'll  see that we can select those edge loops.  

  • we can also hold down shift and double-click to select multiple edge loops. 

  • when you're working with vertices and faces, you can also select loops

  • be sure to spend a great deal of time practicing manipulating objects as well as their polygonal components

Manipulating Objects

Move (Translate)  


use hotkeys or use toolbox



Q - selection

W - move

E - rotate

R - scale


Axis Indicated by Color planes


Red for X    =   R

Green for Y    =   G

Blue for Z    =  B

  • the center box is on the move tool is used to select multiple axis at the same time

  • the squares represent the axis that we are moving perpendicular to

  • for example: green is perpendicular to Y, red is perpendicular to X, blue is perpendicular to Z

  • the planes allow you to use the move tool with pairs of axis 

Can change the axis from world view to align to other settings such as object

Go to tool settings menu by either:

  • double clicking on the move icon on the left side of the screen 

  • or by clicking on the tool settings icon at the upper right of the screen 

  • a tool settings box will emerge, change the axis orientation to achieve the desired effect

  • object would b the most commonly selected allowing you to change the axis for any object you select

Note: Can discuss soft selection in the tool settings in the future

  • Modify for modeling - Falloff mode and falloff radius

  • turn off after use to prevent it from affecting future sculpts



use rotate tool icon in toolbox or hotkey E

color circles indicate axis 


Red for X    =   R

Green for Y    =   G

Blue for Z    =  B

  • the cyan or light blue circle always goes perpendicular to the camera

  • switching the camera views can be very useful while using rotate

  • every object has its own coordinate system and its own center or pivot

  • can also go to tool settings and change the axis rotation to object mode in order to more easily rotate the object accordingly to its own pivot instead of the world

  • be sure to change the tool settings back after you're done



select scale tool icon or hotkey R

color boxes indicate axis


Red for X    =   R

Green for Y    =   G

Blue for Z    =  B

  • when we select in the middle box, we basically do a global scale that makes the entireobject bigger or smaller

  • the planes allow you to use the scale tool with pairs of axis 

  • can select and scale multiple objects simultaneously

  • can scale around the object's axis

Listing of the Shortcut Keys

Shortcut Keys

In Maya, you will find yourself using a large number of shortcut keys.  Here are a few:

Alt/option+left-mouse-drag will rotate the camera in the Perspective View

Alt/option+right-mouse-drag will zoom the camera in all views

Alt/option+middle-mouse-drag will pan the camera in all views

A tap of the space bar will toggle you between viewports

Holding down the space bar will pull up the Hotbox, which contains all of Maya's menus

'q' is the shortcut key for the Selection tool

'w' is the shortcut key for the Move tool

'e' is the shortcut key for the Rotate tool

'r' is the shortcut key for the Scale tool

'f' is the shortcut key to Frame an object in a viewport.  

Shift+f will Frame an object in all viewports

Command z to go back, you can go back 50 times in Maya without haven't to reset the number

Control/Command+d will duplicate a selected object.

The '1' key on your keyboard will show you the true shape of your object.  The '3' key will show you a "smooth preview" of your object -- "smooth preview" previews what would happen if you subdivided all of the faces in your model to generate a soft, smooth output.  The '2' key shows you "smooth preview" with an overlay of your true shape.  It looks like your object is in a cage.

4 will activate Wireframe display mode, useful for seeing inside your objects

5 will activate Smooth Shade mode, useful for seeing the skin of your objects. 6 activates shaded display with texture.

Configuring Viewports

  • When we navigate in Maya, we're navigating in what's called a viewport. 

  • A viewport is where we can see our 3D scene and manipulate it.

  • when we first open Maya, we are looking at the perspective viewport

  • if we hit one of the icons on the side panel we can switch to there viewports

  • we can also click the spacebar in order to get an orthographic view - a view from multiple angles such as perspective, front, side and top

  • while in the orthographic view, you can click on a viewport, hit the spacebar, and you will go to that view as your main view.  You can easliy switch back and forth to different viewports as needed

  • You'll notice that each view port here has a menu as well as a number of iconic buttons along the top. 

  • Among these is the shading option. This allows us to choose between wire frame.Smooth shaded. Flat shaded. As well as turn on or off texturing.

  • the easier way to do this is to just use keyboard shortcuts/hotkeys.

  •  And let's take a look at what some of these menus and buttons do. Probably the most important one is the shading menu.  

  • The '1' key on your keyboard will show you the true shape of your object.  

  •  The '2' key shows you "smooth preview" with an overlay of your true shape.  It looks like your object is in a cage.

  • The '3' key will show you a "smooth preview" of your object -- "smooth preview" previews what would happen if you subdivided all of the faces in your model to generate a soft, smooth output. 

  • 4 will activate Wireframe display mode, useful for seeing inside your objects 

  • 5  will activate Smooth Shade mode, useful for seeing the skin of your objects.

  • And 6 gives us shaded with textures. 

  • we will cover more of these viewport menus in future lessons


Manipulating Pivots

  • When you rotate and scale objects in Maya, you rotate and scale them around the object's pivot point. 

  • Now that pivot point is determined by how the object is modeled, but you can also manipulate those as well. 

  • sometimes an object is centered in the world and so the pivot point is the same as the world

  • if the pivot on a symmetrical object isn't centered, it's easy to fix it

  • make sure the object is selected, go to the modify menu and select center pivot from the dropdown menu

  • then you can scale based on the center pivot of the object

  • what if you have an object that is asymmetrical - using modify, center pivot won't work

  • to change the pivot, press and hold the d key while you have scale selected as well 

  • the d key allows use to enter into a special mode where we can move the pivot whoever we want

Channel Box

  • There will be many times when you'll need to move and position your objects very precisely. You may have to type in numbers to align them exactly the way that you want. Now we can do this in what's called the Channel Box.

  • the Channel Box/Layer Editor icon is at the upper right of your screen or can be found by pressing the tab on the extreme right of the screen

  • the Channel Box essentially shows us where the object is at in space

  • in the Channel Box, we have the name of the object, we have its position in x, y, and z as well as rotation and scale. We also have another variable here called Visibility which we could turn on or off. Now through the Channel Box, we can change all sorts of information about this object. If we wanted to, we could move it in any position. So if I don't want it to be here, in X I could maybe type in "0" and it would jump over there or I could type in say "-2" and it would move back the other direction. I could move it up in Y by say maybe typing the number "3" and that would move it vertically. 

  • we can also do rotation.

  • we can change the name of the object

  • and turn visibility on and off

  • another use for the Channel box is as a slider so if I select the name of one of these attributes and then middle click (MMB - stands for middle mouse button) and drag in the interface, it will allow me to slide and dial that number up or down 

  • you can make multiple selections and change multiple values at the same time

Additional Notes related to Channel Box:

When starting a new model remember some basic rules --

1.    Use the Channel Box to rename your object.  If you do not see the Channel Box, use the Windows menu at the top of your screen -- Windows>>General Editors>>Channel Box/Layer Editor. Or locate the icon on the upper right of your screen.

2.    The Channel Box also contains Inputs -- commands that have been run on your object. In the case of a new cube, you should only have one input -- makePolyCube, or simply, 'polyCube.'  The input will allow you to adjust the amount of geometry in your object, so you can add subdivisions to the width, depth or height, as appropriate to your object. You can also change the basic width, depth and height of the primitive to make it more appropriately  shaped.

3.    The '1' key on your keyboard will show you the true shape of your object.  The '3' key will show you a "smooth preview" of your object -- "smooth preview" previews what would happen if you subdivided all of the faces in your model to generate a soft, smooth output.  The '2' key shows you "smooth preview" with an overlay of your true shape.  It looks like your object is in a cage.

4.    Use your component selection modes to add detail to your petal.  The right-click marking menu will allow you to move into Component Selection modes, like Vertex selection mode.  In Vertex selection mode, you can use the Scale ('r') tool or the Move ('w') tool to adjust individual vertices or groups of vertices.  This will allow you to make your object less square and more organic if needed.  Edge selection mode will allow you single-click to select and edit edges, or double-click to select and edit edge loops.

5.    In Object selection mode, the 'd' key will toggle you into and out of Pivot Manipulation mode, which will allow you to adjust your object's pivot to a place more appropriate for rotation.

6.    Pressing and holding down 'x' will allow you to snap to the grid.

7.    Control+d will duplicate. After duplicating, you can rotate your new object to place additional petals.  You can also use Edit>Duplicate Special to generate a number of automatically rotated duplicates.  Simply enter the number of duplicates you want to make. You may need to divide   Enter the result of your division into the appropriate Rotate box -- remember that the three boxes correspond to the X, Y, and Z-axis.  The Apply button at the base of the window will allow you to run the command while keeping the window open for you to make changes.

8.    You can Group objects by selecting the objects you want and pressing control/command+g.  This creates a group node, which you can see in your Outliner

(Windows>>Outliner).  The group node allows you to affect all objects nested within the group simultaneously.  This is a good way to move, rotate or scale all of your petals at the same time.  You can also turn off a group node's Visibility channel.  This will turn everything inside of the group invisible, giving you a clean viewport to start a new model.


Attribute Editor

  • to open, use tab on right side or icon on top right

  • if you ever have difficulty finding one of your editors, go to windows, general editors, and then select what you're looking for

  • the attribute editor is blank  blank when nothing is selected

  •  if you select an object, you'll see that the contents of this change depending upon the object that you have selected

  • consists of several nodes, the first one is very much like the info found in the Channel Box

  • can use translate to move the object

  • if you  hit Display Handle, you can see that that's the handle for this object. And that's really where the pivot point is for the object. So, if you were to move this object, that's the pivot

  • So, this is our main node, which basically determines the position of the object.

  • The second node is typically what's called the shape node and that's actually the node that has the geometry and controls how the object itself looks. 

  • Nodes change based on the type of object and any modifiers that we've used on the object

  •  we can change all sorts of things about the object's shape. We have things such as Tesselation Attributes, so we can basically add more or less detail. We can turn on Mesh Component Display, which allows us to display this object a little bit better. We can actually smooth the mesh. So, if you turn on Smooth Mesh Preview, notice how that gets a little bit smoother. We can also go down into rendering, so we can actually make this object cast shadows, receive shadows, do all sorts of rendering tricks. 

  • We also have what's called an Arnold tab, which allows us to manipulate the object for the Arnold renderer. Now, any sort of geometry in Maya will have this shape node.

  • there may be additional nodes besides this. If we've added modifiers to the object, if we've changed the shape of the object, or manipulated it in any way, additional nodes or additional tabs here will show up, and we can actually step through those to further manipulate the object. 

  • Now, we're going to be using the Attribute Editor throughout the course, so this is mostly an introduction to it, so hopefully you'll understand a little bit about the Attribute Editor when we get to it further down in the course

Reset and Freeze Transformations

  • When we organize objects by moving, rotating, and scaling them, we will basically change the values of where those objects are in space.

  • Now there are many times when we'll want to have kind of a home, or a default position for an object. And so for that, we can use what's called, reset and freeze transformations. 

  • For instance, if we have two objects in a scene. And we want to put one object on top of another - we will have actually changed the values of its attributes for x, y, and z

  • Now if this is where I really want these objects to be, I can basically reset those to zero, by using what's called freeze transformations. 

  • we have in our modify panel, a "Freeze Transformations" command.

  • when we do this, all of the values go to zero in the Channel Box

  • Now if I were to move it, and rotate it around, and change it around, we can always get back to that default position just by highlighting all of these in channel box, and typing in zero. And that brings it to zero.

  • Now another way to do this, is to use what's called reset transformations.

  • So if I do Modify, "Reset Transformations". Again, it zeroes everything out, but it does one more thing. It moves the pivot of the object to the origin. Now you may, or may not want this to happen. But if you don't, then you can always do something like a center pivot to reset it. So if you want to lock down the positions of objects in the scene, you can use freeze transformations. And then reset transformations allows you to put an object back to its original location, and also reset the pivot.

Soft Select

  • Soft select allows users to adjust components of their model with a fall-off.  Instead of selecting and adjusting a single vertex/edge/face, soft select allows you to affect your selected component most strongly, but to also affect the surrounding components.

  • To turn soft select on or off, use the 'b' key on your keyboard.  You do not have to hold 'b' down -- a tap will turn soft select on, and another tap will turn soft select off.

  • You will know when soft select is turned on, because the edges surrounding your selection will turn yellow, then red, then black.

  • Yellow edges will be affected most strongly by soft select, then red, then black will be affected very weakly.

  • To adjust the soft select radius, hold down the 'b' key and middle-mouse-drag side-to-side.  You should see a circle form around your mouse and enlarge as you drag to the right, and shrink as you drag to the left.  This circle forms the radius of your soft-selection.

Insert Edge Loop

  • The Insert Edge Loop tool allows you to add more geometry to your mesh where ever you want.  It will always insert edge loops, meaning that it will not allow you to create triangles or n-gons.  This will keep your geometry clean and workable.

  • You may want to insert edge loops in areas where you need additional detail.  Having three or more loops close together will allow you to add creases to your model.

  • To access the Insert Edge Loop tool, select your model in object selection mode.  Hold down the shift key and right-click. This pulls up a marking menu designed to access all of Maya's modeling tools.  The contents in the menu changes depending on your selection mode, so make sure you are in object selection mode. 

  • You can also go to mesh tools and click insert edge loop if the other method is not to your liking

  • Once you have accessed the shift+right-click menu, move your mouse to "Insert Edge Loop" and start inserting your new edge loops.  Click on an edge perpendicular to the direction in which you would like to insert.  Drag until you've found your desired location.  Let go of the mouse and your new edge loop will be inserted.

  • The Insert Edge Loop tool will keep running until you move into another tool.  When you are done inserting edge loops, press 'q' or 'w' or 'e' or 'r.' That will move you into the select tool, the move tool, the rotate tool or the scale tool.

Setting Up Your Project

  • When working with reference images, best practice dictates that you take some steps to manage your files.  Remember that Maya will never embed image files.  Maya will only ever link to image files.  You are responsible for making sure that your images load into a Maya file properly.

  • For that, the first thing you want to do is open Maya, and create a project directory.  A project directory is a group of folders that Maya uses to figure out what goes where.  The project directory will include a scenes folder for your .ma and .mb scene files, and a sourceimages folder in which you will put your reference images.

  • To create a project directory, use Maya's File menu -- File>>Project Window.

  • This opens the "Project Window" window.  In the Project Window window, click the "New" button to create a new directory.

  • Browse for the location in which you want to put your directory, then say "Okay."  Back in the Project Window window, name your new directory, and press "Accept."

  • Use your computer's file browser to locate your new directory.  Put your image files into the sourceimages folder.  Go back to Maya.

  • You can create an image plane in any of Maya's cameras.  I would recommend using the Front and Side orthographic views for this project.

  • At the top of the selected view's panel, there is a View menu.  Under the View menu, you there is an Image Plane option that will allow you to import an image -- View>>Image Plane>>Import Image.

  • That will allow you to browse for your reference image.

  • Once the image is in the viewport, you can move/rotate/scale it like a normal object.

  • The Channel Box will allow you to adjust your image plane's alpha gain, or its transparency.  I like to keep mine around .5 -- halfway between 1 (solid) and 0 (completely transparent).

  • You can add image planes to a layer to turn them on and off, and to lock their selectability. Setting your image plane layer to "R" (for "Reference") is a great way to keep Maya from trying to give you image plane editing options every time you right-click.

  • You can also use the Show menu at the top of a given panel to hide or show all image planes at once.  I like to use the Show menu in my Perspective view to hide all image planes.  This allows me to view only my model in the Perspective view.

  • Once your image planes are set up, you are okay to start modeling.

  • As a final word on project directories -- you only need one.  You only need to run the Project Window command once per project.

  • Once you've generated a project directory, you are all set up.

  • If you move from computer to computer, make sure you take your project directory with you -- the whole thing.  Before you open the scene file you want to work on, open Maya.  In the File menu, run the Set Project command (File>>Set Project). 

  • Once Set Project is running, browse for your project directory.  Once you have found the directory, say "Okay."  Maya will locate your workspace.mel file, and will automatically update to ensure that your images link in correctly.

  • So -- when you first start a project, you File>>Project Window. 

  • When you move a project directory to a new computer, you File>>Set Project. 

Create, open, or save a scene file

To start a new, blank scene file

  1. Select File > New Scene. 

You can select to always create new scenes with default content by choosing File > New Scene >  and turning on Enable Default Scene in the New Scene Options

To open an existing scene file

  1. Select File > Open Scene. 

    The Open dialog box appears, open in the scene folder of the current project. 


    To open a file that was created in a earlier version of Maya, ensure the Ignore Version preference is turned on in the File/Projects preferences. See Files/Projects preferences

To save the current scene file

  1. Do one of the following: 

    • To save the scene with its current name, select File > Save Scene. 

    • To save the scene with a new name, select File > Save Scene As. 

    • To change how Maya saves the scene, select File > Save Scene >  and set the Save Scene Options

When you use Save Scene As you can select whether to save the file as Maya Binary (smaller) or Maya ASCII (human readable). To save in a different format, use File > Export All. 

You can optionally lock a file to prevent the file from being edited whenever it is referenced from other scene files using the Lock file option.


  • Combine allows us to turn multiple pieces of geometry into a single piece. For example, if I made a finger out of a cylinder. I could duplicate it four times, and then combine my five cylinders into a single object forming a hand.

  • Remember when you are combining that you are adding history to your object!  When you are certain that your combined object works properly, use the Edit menu -- Edit>>Delete By Type>>History.

Merge To Center

  •   Merge To Center takes selected components, moves them to the center of a selection, and turns them into a single component.

  • To access Merge To Center, select a pair of vertices (be very careful with your selection), then use shift+right-click -- Merge Vertices>>Merge to Center.  Or, use Edit Mesh>>Merge to Center.

The 'g' key

  • The 'g' key on your keyboard will restart the previous command.  If you have just run an Extrude, and you would like to run a second extrusion, simply select the desired components and press 'g'.  If you have just merged some vertices to center, and would like to merge others, select the desired vertices and press 'g'.

File Organization

Here are a few notes for you as you organize your files and scenes:


  • Sure, you know what this thing is now, but what happens if you open the file a month from now?  Or a year from now?  Or share it with your friends?  NAME YOUR OBJECTS.

  • You can name objects in the Channel Box.  You can name objects in the Outliner.  You can find the Outliner in the Windows menu of the top menu bar.  Windows>>Outliner.  

  • If you need to change a bunch of names all at the same time, you can do a Search and Replace Names in the Modify menu of the top menu bar -- Modify>>Search And Replace Names.

  • Make sure you have the objects you wish to rename selected.  Make sure Search and Replace is searching within your selection.


  • Grouping and parenting makes your scene navigable.  For example, instead of having three dozen objects named "petal," you can have a single object called "flower," but you can still tweak each petal individually.

  • Grouping will create a new node with its own pivot point.  You group objects together when you don't want one object to be hierarchically dominant, like your flower petals.  To create a group, you select your objects and press control/command+g.

  • Parenting will cause one object to become hierarchically dominant over other objects.  This is great for when you want to attach your petalsGrp (the group node of your petals) to the flower's center.  That will allow you to click on the center of the flower and select both the center and all of the petals.  To parent objects, you select the child first, the parent second, and press the p key on your keyboard. 

  • The shift key will allow you to select multiple objects.  The control key will remove objects from your selection.

  • In the Outliner or the Hypergraph, you can edit the contents of your groups and parent/child relationships by middle-mouse dragging.

  • The up and down arrow keys on your keyboard will allow you navigate up and down the hierarchy of your selection.  

Hard Surface Modeling commands

  • BEVEL -- Beveling an edge creates new edge loops parallel and very close to the selected edge.  A beveled edge remains sharp when smoothed.  You can find the Bevel command in your shift+right-click menu when in Edge selection mode.

  • TARGET WELD -- Target weld allows the user to drag one vertex to another, merging the two.  You can find Target Weld in your shift+right-click menu when in Object selection mode, or in the Mesh Tools menu. Target Weld is also available when in Vertex selection mode -- shift+right-click>>Merge Vertices>>Target Weld.

  • MIRROR -- Mirror uses an axis of symmetry to generate a symmetric half to your model.  Mirror can be found in the shift+right-click menu in Object selection mode. 

  • When Mirroring, an option box will appear on the screen.  This option box will allow you to set the axis of mirroring -- X, Y, or Z.  You can also set the direction to either - (negative) or + (positive).

  • MODELING TOOLKIT -- You may also find that you enjoy the Modeling Toolkit. You can find the Modeling Toolkit by using the Mesh Tools menu -- Mesh Tools>>Show Modeling Toolkit or, if the Modeling Toolkit is currently on the screen, Mesh  Tools>>Hide Modeling Toolkit.

  • The Modeling Toolkit generally lives in a tab at the right side of the screen, along with the Channel Box and the Attribute Editor.  You may find it there.The Modeling Toolkit contains all of the tools one will need for hard surface modeling.

  • CLIPPING PLANES -- Clipping Planes are designed to prevent the camera from displaying unnecessary data.  They are designed to optimize your scene.  Sometimes, they get in the way.

  • As an example, sometimes when you zoom in close to a vertex, the camera cuts out and you look inside your model instead of at the vertex you wanted to see.  This is because your camera's Near Clip Plane is too large to let you see your vertex.

​Coming Soon: Snap Objects, Extrusion, Curve based modeling, Booleans

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Topology is the organization, flow and structure of vertices/edges/faces of a 3D model. It is how well you can organize your vertices in your 3D model such that it is efficient, clean and detailed.

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