Maya is a versatile 3D platform which offers numerous cutting-edge tools to pull off the desired model effects. If you are a beginner in Maya, you will surely be wondering - how to use Maya for beginners? Your basic instinct would be to gain expertise of all the tools available. Trying to do so initially would not be a wise decision. In order to improve your efficiency, you need to gradually work your way through simpler tools that can speed up your productivity significantly.

Among the plethora of tools available on Maya’s dashboard, usage of 5 selected tools can help you master various Maya modeling techniques. The tools are being dwelt upon below.

  • Lattice Tool

    Maya streamlines the process of lattice modeling with feature-packed lattice tool which can come in handy for beginners. If you are working with a high-resolution mesh, you often have to grapple with the challenge of tweaking scores of vertices and edges to get the perfect outcome. This is strenuous and time-consuming. Steer clear of the drudgery with lattice tool which allows you to tweak the overall shape efficiently in a collective manner.

    The lattice tool is clustered with animation tools. You will not find it on polygon tool panel. Just try your hand on the tool for minor modeling requirements and you would be amazed to find that particular shapes can be modeled quickly with perfection. You may, however, run into bugs and abnormal behavior rarely. To overcome this, the creation of a new save point is recommended prior to tool usage. Once you are done with the lattice tool, delete the history.

  • Soft Select Tool

    If you are a novice to Maya’s organic modeling, you might have experienced the monotony associated with individual movement of each vertex. You can surmount this with the Soft Select function which facilitates modification of the shape of created mesh in a fast and efficient manner. The function imparts a controllable fall off radius to each edge, face selection or vertex. As soon as the soft selection is activated, selection of a single vertex becomes possible. As the vertex would be translated in space, the adjacent vertices would also respond to your action to a limited extent because they would be pushed some distance far from the selected vertex. You can browse through YouTube videos on this subject to get practical insights into the functioning of the tool.

    The transitions accomplished through Soft Selection function are smoother compared to other methods. Hence, they are perfect for organic character modeling particularly for the seamless building of shapes that require more subtlety such as facial expressions, muscles, etc.

  • Duplicate Special Command

    You can easily replicate shapes, as many as you wish, and individually translate, rotate, scale or execute other function on the instanced copies using ‘Duplicate Special’ command. The problem that you come across while modeling regularly spaced elements, fence or circular patterns, can be alleviated with this command.

    Suppose you are trying to model an architectural masterpiece that would feature a number of columns equidistantly placed in a circular pattern. You need to just set the pivot of the first column at the origin and then invoke the duplicate special command for creation of the required number of duplicates in a single stroke. Each column would be spontaneously rotated by 10o pivoted along the origin. You can browse YouTube videos to get practical insights into the efficacy of the command. The command can help in pacing up your modeling in Maya by painting attributes on a large number of duplicates set along a patterned shape.

  • The Relax Brush

    The models created by novices in the field of organic modeling often turn out to be blobby i.e. lumps are evident in shape after being smoothed. Dedicated tool panel for sculpting is not available in Maya 3D modeling software. However, this deficiency is made by sculpting brushes among which ‘Relax Brush’ is highly useful.

    With the application of this brush, the surface of an object can be normalized through averaging of the spacing parameters amidst the vertices. The model’s silhouette would remain intact. Just stroking once with a relax brush, the lumpiness and irregular shaping of the organic model would be eliminated.

    In order to access the relax tool, you need to select the polygonal shape in object mode. Keep the right mouse button pressed till a menu pops up. From the ‘Paint’ option, choose ‘Sculpt’ and then navigate to the ‘Sculpt Parameters’ tab for selecting the relax brush. The radius of the brush size and opacity or strength of the brush can be changed from brush tab. For normalizing the mesh, you need to move the brush atop the surface of the chosen model. In a Wacom graphics tablet, this is accomplished fairly easily and swiftly. But, on other devices too, the stellar effect can be achieved.

  • Quick Select Sets Tool

    Often, you have come across a peculiar situation with custom 3d modeling in Maya. After a complex set of faces has been selected with much effort for carrying out some mesh related functions, you have moved on to concentrate on the subsequent task. Suddenly, the realization strikes you that a minute tweaking needs to be done on the previous work. As the selection set is no longer available, you have to carry out the tedious process all over again. You can avoid this by saving your selection sets so that adjustments on them can be done rapidly in easy manner at a later period.

    Saving the selection set is really easy. After selecting the edges, vertices or faces that you have to work on, navigate to the Create menu for choosing ‘Quick Select Sets’. Name the set and click OK. You can also use ‘add to shelf’ if you choose to access the set by clicking shelf icon. In order to select the set later, you have to navigate to Edit menu and then select ‘Quick Select Sets’. From the list, choose the desired set. The process would save your time and cut tediousness out of repetitive work.

  • Walk Tool

    With the help of ‘Walk Tool’ in Maya, you can exercise control over the perspective camera. This would be similar to the settings in games wherein first-person camera can be intuitively controlled.

    You can press the hotkey Alt + X to arrive at the Walk Tool. Alternately, you can navigate to the tool by clicking on View menu and selecting Camera Tools from the dropdown within which Walk Tool is available in panel menu. You would notice that the shape of the cursor has changed into a multi-directional arrow when Maya is switched to walk mode. Also, a heads-up display message would show up at the lower part of the viewport.

    It is important to note that after you have activated the walk mode, the speed of movement would be controlled by the mouse wherein the camera movement’s direction would be controlled by the keyboard. For walking through the scene, you have to use the keyboard and mouse at the same time in tandem. Middle click with W key would allow you in moving forward at a slow pace.

After mastering the tools, you will be able to effectively leverage various 3d common modeling techniques. You can utilize these techniques to increase your productivity while creating models. Gradually, you will get efficient enough to make the perfect models according to the client’s requirements.

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