Maya: Getting Started (๑˃ᴗ˂)ﻭ

***Please take all of this with a grain of salt as I am writing this up as a solo project on the side to then go into further detail with my process.***



UI & Hotkeys

  • Hold Alt & Left Click to tumble camera

  • Tool shelf on left hand side shows different options

  • Select tool is Q but you can also use move tool

  • Move Tool or W

  •  Rotate Tool or E

  • Scale Tool or R

  • Double Clicking any of these allows you see the options such as snap settings, axis orientation and soft selection.

Getting Started

Different shelf set ups/panel layouts

  • Normal all one screen

  • 4 view panels to view all sides/top down

  • Outliner (very important!!!)

Grid size! Display - grid options

  • Set at 1000, 100, 1 For scale each box is approximately 1 meter per grid line

  • important to set scale before you begin

Heads up display - poly count

  • Important to keep track of what you’re doing & makes it easier to check for multiple verts in one place

Different tabs & options

  • Upper left has options for Maya’s different modes




- FX


These tabs change the top UI tabs to be tailored per subject.


  • The options for the actual categories are also available in the tabs/types you can see near the top

HOT TIP: Maya is mostly 3 different ways to show you all the same things.

  • The tabs at the top show the tools you can use

  • The tabs close to the top show you the same tools in UI

  • Hot keys (shift  & right click or control & right click)

The most important tools are under MESH, MESH TOOLS & MESH DISPLAY

On the right side there are two very important tabs that give you info on whatever you are selecting. It also gives you options to edit.




  • This shows you information on the selected mesh such as transforms & rotation as well as the history of the mesh


  • I mostly use this to figure out what material is on the selected mesh


So you want to make 3D things

( ˙꒳˙ )

  • There are a few different ways to get started

  • Make sure you are in the POLYGON tab in the upper left

  • There are several different primitives in the UI menu shelf

- You can use these to create a 3D primitive of your choice

  • Whenever you create a mesh, it appears in the outliner

  • Be sure to name your meshes as you go!

  • In the channel box you can do some base edits to your mesh such as changing the subdivisions, transforms, or radius.

  • Use QWER to then edit your mesh in different ways


  • When selecting a mesh, there are several different modes you can edit your mesh in

  • Hold Right click and drag to select an edit mode

  • The main modes you’ll be using are Edge, Object Mode, Face and Vertex.

These modes are exactly what they sound like

  • Edge mode allows you to select & edit edges

  • Face mode allows you to do the same to specific faces

  • Vertex mode allows you to edit vertices

  • Object mode allows you to go back to normal selecting an object/multiple objects.

- If you Left Click & Drag you can select multiple meshes, though if you want to multi - select in edit mode you’ll need to turn on SELECT BY COMPONENT or combine your mesh:

(F8) Modeling Toolkit  

- When you create a mesh, the mesh “remembers” what you’ve done to it/ what tools you’ve used. You can see this history inside the channel box as you’re working.

Healthy tips for modelling:

  • As you’re editing a mesh it will also track the translate, rotation and scale as you go.

  • In order to “reset” or clear this information you must do a few steps:


  • Edit

  • Delete by Type

  • Delete History or Command + Shift + D

- Doing this will "reset" the mesh


  • Modify

  • Freeze transforms

- Doing this will reset the translation, rotation & scale of the mesh.



You want to make sure the history doesn’t mess with any of the tools you’re trying to use on the mesh.


When you select a mesh, the pivot automatically places itself at the centre of your mesh when you create it.

  • It can change as you build out your mesh

  • In order to change/ specify where your pivot is select an object in object mode and hold D

  • Holding D enables “edit pivot” mode, the move controller should change to show rotation as well.

  • If you want to snap the pivot to a verticy, hold down D & V (for vertex) and middle mouse over where you want the pivot.


  • There are a few different options to snap meshes including:

  • Snap to grid (X)

  • Snap to curve (C)

  • Snap to Vertex (V)

- Holding one of these buttons down allows you to snap a selected mesh to one of these options

- You can always reset your pivot by double clicking the rotations tool/tool options and hitting reset pivot.

- You can also type in the rotation values and toggle on/off edit pivot mode here.


  • Soft selection is a selection option in which Maya will attempt to select multiple vertices/faces to varying degrees that you can specify.

  • You can tick on soft selection mode in the tool options, or by hitting B

  • You can edit the fall-off radius of your soft select in tool settings, or by holding middle mouse & B and moving your mouse left/right


  • When modelling I mostly use the Polygons UI tool shelf which keeps all the primitives & most used tools/UV tools in one place

  • You can add tools you want to the shelf with Shift + Control Click from the top menu

  • You can also set up hot keys or shift/right click & drag to see a mini menu

I’d like to go over several of my most used tools:


  • This allows you to add an entire loop around your selected object

  • In the tool settings you can set up:

- Equal distance from edge

- Relative distance from edge

- Multiple edge loops (can add how many)


  • When you delete a face on your mesh and need to re-append (close the gap) you can use this tool to draw a face in


This allows you to cut in your own edge loops by hand

- Make sure you don't have 5 sided faces, triangles are ok!


  • One of THE most powerful tools, this tool allows you to take one face, multiple faces or even an entire mesh and “grow” it

- You can use this tool to make A LOT