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          1. Fundamentals
          2. Keyboard Shortcuts
          3. Interface
          4. Tools
          5. Tutorial #1: Pre-modeling
          6. Tutorial #2: 3D Modeling
          7. Tutorial #3: Unwrap & Texturing



  The Maya interface includes ten main areas:

  1. The Menu Bar
  2. The Status Line
  3. The Shelves
  4. The Workspace
  5. The Toolbox, including Transforms
  6. The Workspace controls
  7. The Channel Box and Attribute Editor
  8. The Animation Controls
  9. The Scipting Controls
  10. The Markup Menus (press and hold spacebar)

Click for larger view Click for larger view


The Menu Bar contains controls for all the Maya tools and work environments. many of these controls are repeated elsewhere in the interface. The Polygon creation and Edit menu items, for example, are repeated (mostly) in the Polygon Shelf and in the Markup menus


The Status Line is a grab-bag for various useful tools. It starts with an indicator of the current Work Module, and includes buttons for Component Modes (for manipulating the vertex, edge, or face levels of a model) and Rendering controls. On the far right are buttons for switching between the Channel Box and the Attribute Editor.


The Shelves provide the user with quick visual access to creation and manipulation tools.Rather than sifting through the Create and Edit Polygon menus, for example, an experienced user can efficiently do most of their polygon modeling work right from the Polygons shelf. Users can also create their own shelves by clicking on the triangle at the far left and populate it with items from the menus by holding down [Shift]+[Ctrl]+[Alt] (just [Shift]+[Alt in Linux]) before clicking on the tool names. Commands from the script editor can be middle-mouse dragged to the shelf to create new buttons as well.Custom buttons can be deleted from a shelf by middle-mouse dragging them to the trashcan on the far right. Custom shelves can be saved and distributed between copies of Maya.


4. THE WORKSPACE Click for larger view
The Workspace provides multiple visualization tools to help the artist imagine their work in 3 dimensions. The main views are divided into Orthographic and Perspective cameras. Perspective cameras show the object with the distortion of real space, and are best for final visualization. Orthographic views (top, front, and side) show the object without distortion, and are best for modeling. Tapping the Space bar will toggle the workspace from one view to multiple views. Individual views can be customized by clicking on the Panels rolldown (shown below). A display for polygon count can be found in the menus at Display/ Heads Up Display/ Poly Count.


The Tool Box includes buttons for the Transforms (selecting, moving, rotating, and scaling) as well as options for viewing the tool gizmo (useful when applying deformers) and a button for the last activated menu tool for quick re-use.


Users are not limited to the single or four views available by simply tapping the space bar. The lower half of the left bar includes multiple screen arrangements. Many of these include other interfaces as their default, such as the Outliner (scene organization) in the 3rd option and the Hypershade (texturing) in the 5th option. These can be further customized in the individual Panels rolldown.


The top four buttons in the left-side Toolbox column are Select, Move, Rotate, and Scale.
Choosing these tools activates different gizmos for manipulating objects or their components.

MOVE (translation)
To move an object, click on the move tool, select the object, and click on one of the three colored axis to translate the object in that direction. Red = X axis, Green = Y axis, Blue = Z axis, Yellow = selected axis.

The rotation transform tool is a gimbal ball. Click a circle to rotate the object in that direction. Notice the color of the hemisphere circle is the same as the vertical axis on the move tool. The rotation is AROUND this axis.

The Scale gizmo provides access to two kinds of scaling: uniform and non-uniform. If the user clicks the central square on the gizmo and moves the mouse side to side, the object will scale uniformly. If the user grabs only one of the end-axis squares the object will stretch only on that axis, non-uniformly


The Channel Box offers the user access to transform attributes (move, rotate, and scale) as well as the History of the object currently selected. If the history gets very long the user must delete it or risk crashing the program.

At the bottom are Layers where models can be organized. Items stored in layers can be made:

  • temporarily invisible (first column),
  • frozen and wireframe (second column), or
  • frozen and shaded (second column).


    The Attribute Editor provides access to all changeable (and usually animate-able) attributes for each of the nodes of the selected object.

    In the example to the right, the object is the cube and the node currently on display is the Shading node, giving the user access to color, specularity, opacity, etc.

    Hitting [Crl]+[a] toggles between the Channel Box and the Attribute Editor.


    At the bottom of the interface, Playback controls are on the right. The time is by default set to 24 frames/sec. Instead of a time scrubber, the user increases and decreases the total time visible with the Range Slider (2nd bar) and clicks on the Time Slider (first bar) at the frame they want to set a keyframe.

    Keyframes can be set both by turning on the Auto Keyframe Toggle button (key icon, lower right) or, for more precision, by right-clicking on an attribute in the Channel Box and choosing “Key Selected”.


    Mel Scripting is not critical for modeling and texturing work in Maya, but can come in handy and is extremely important for animation and effects. Clicking on the Script Editor button on the far right opens up the editor and displays all the last actions taken with the program. These can be middle-mouse dragged down to the editing area just below. Non-programers can easily use this to create shelf buttons of complex commands by highlighting and middle-mouse dragging commands up to their custom shelves to become action buttons.


    Holding down the space bar will bring up the markup menus. For many experienced users of Maya this is the favored method of accessing most of the menus in Maya.

    Everything from object creation, to animation, to the Workspace panel controls can be accessed here.

    When an object is selected, the markup menus provide easy access to the component modes of that object.

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Introduction to Maya Interface, Modeling, and Texturing:

    1. Fundamentals   |   2. Keyboard Shortcuts   |   3. Interface   |   4. Tools
    5. Tutorial #1: Pre-modeling   |   6. Tutorial #2: 3D Modeling   |   7. Tutorial #3: Unwrap & Texturing

    These materials were created for a 2005 class at Pixar University, to teach the basics of Maya modeling, texturing, and animation to the Layout team.
    The version of Maya at the time was Maya 5, but most of these notes should apply to all versions of the program.