3D Artist

Maya: 12 ways to improve your modelling

Tips & Tutorials
Steve Holmes

Master 3D modelling with the help of Autodesk Maya and our panel of experienced industry pros

Maya: 12 ways to improve your modelling

01 – Study anatomy carefully. Learning about the bones and muscles that affect the surface forms will help to sell the idea that your characters have an internal structure. This will inform your decisions as you create the topology. Jahirul Amin

02 – The adjustment of overall shape and structure is very important in the coarse modelling stage. Getting the muscle anatomy correct at this stage is key for later rigging and painting skin weight. Lifeng Xu

03 – Use quads as much as possible. You may have to use the odd triangle, but stay away from Ngons. Quads subdivide predictably, are easier to envelope when skinning and give better results during the UV/texturing process. Taking a model from a 3D package, such as Maya, to a sculpting package, such as ZBrush, will also be a doddle if you’ve stuck to quads. Jahirul Amin

04 – You might notice that when you import very dense geometry your scene will slightly lag due to all the geometry currently shown in the viewport. If you want to speed up your viewport turn on Backface Culling in your Shading options. This will eliminate the drawing of backfaces in your scene and greatly improve the overall speed of your viewport. Dan Roarty

05 – Use the Text tool to create some curves and interesting shapes. Place these curves in front of simple NURBS primitives and project them on one or more NURBS primitives from various angles. Use these curves as trim edges to make holes or duplicate the surface curves and lift new surfaces between the curves. Eric Keller

06 – Leave the camera at a standard focal length (35) or Orthographic view. Try to use perspective cameras with an appropriate focal length. By modelling in Orthographic view you lose the perspective present in a photo. Dan Roarty

Maya: 12 ways to improve your modelling

07 – Design complicated models by cutting them into smaller parts. My aim is always to minimise the poly count and maximise the details. Also, it’s good to keep that in mind that Boolean tools can sometimes help create complex models much more easily. Turuğshan Turna

08 – A creative way to model a repetitive shape along a path is by using the Animation Snapshot command from the Animate menu. By animating a piece of geometry travelling along a motion path, the Animate Snapshot function will create a duplicate copy of your model every other frame. This can be a great way to create chains, or street lights along your city street network. Jonathan Berube

09 – A quick way to get a base mesh is by using the Texture to Geometry tool. Create a plane with the same aspect ratio as your projected image, assign the texture to the plane, select your plane geometry and go to Modify>Convert> Texture to Geometry. Browse your input image and then apply. Jonathan Berube

10 – Prepare for deformation, because good deformation is completely reliant on a model with excellent topology. Pass the model to the riggers at different stages of the development to enable them to test it for deformation. If there are any issues, you can make the changes early on as opposed to on a final model. If it won’t be deformed, then you have more room to manoeuvre regarding the topology.
Jahirul Amin

11 – The Create Polygon feature is great for retopologising a mesh inside Maya. I do this by importing the high-resolution mesh then making it Live by selecting the magnet icon. From here I use the Create Polygon tool and draw over the top of the high-res mesh to create my new low-res version. Dan Roarty

12 – It’s relatively easy to bring a Photoshop shape or line as geometry in Maya. Make a selection from your painted shape and create a working path from it. Export the path as an Adobe Illustrator curve (AI curve), then import it into Maya and start creating with it. Use the path as a base for extrusions or as a Snap Align guide for existing geometry. This is a great method for modelling 3D logos or accurate meshes. Jonathan Berube

Our experts

Jahirul Amin

Eric Keller

Lifeng Xu

Dan Roarty (Second image)

Turuğshan Turna

Jonathan Berube

Main image by Dawid Cencora

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