Maya Day 0 – the what, why, and how

Okay I’ll come clean. This is not my 1st (or 0th) day learning Maya. I’ve been playing around with the software for the past month (spent about 5 hours on it), but from here on out, I want to create a more formalized learning path for myself. Why? Well two main reasons:

Firstly, I am interning for Warner Media in the 3D Motion Design department in 12 days. I got the internship largely off of my experience with Blender, however I know Warner mainly uses Maya, so I want to prepare myself for it as quickly as possible. Beyond these next twelve days I don’t know if I’ll continue this blog. I’ve found it very helpful to keep a blog to learn Python, so maybe a similar thing will happen here with Maya.

Secondly, I’m likely going to go into the 3D industry and Maya seems like a kinda necessary tool to know. I’m familiar with Blender and Unreal Engine, and I want to expand that to Maya (and perhaps Houdini one day).

Keeping this blog makes it feel a lot more like a school course. It keeps me accountable. Granted I am still a student, so my timing may be limited and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to keep it up, but why not try? Am I right?

What have I done so far?

I am nearly done with this fantastic 4 hour tutorial. It has covered the bases of modeling, texturing, and I’m just getting to the lighting/rendering portion. I have taken extensive notes on the video which I’ll copy below:


  • basic shortcuts
    • A
      • Zoom to view all objects in scene
    • F
      • Frame selected object
    • G
      • Opens content browser
    • Middle mouse
      • When using transforms, middle mouse applies transform in whatever axis you drag the mouse in
    • J
      • While transforming object this will snap it to increments 
    • Spacebar
      • Splits viewport to 4 views
    • Control E
      • Extrude
    • G
      • Bring back last tool used
    • Control G
      • Group objects
      • To select table, open windows>outliner>select group
      • Or select an object, press up on keyboard, and then it will select all objects in the group
  • Selecting
    • Hold Tab – click and drag to select multiple
      • Like C!
    • B
      • Toggles soft select on and off
      • To change area of influence… hold B left click drag to change size 
    • Shift + ‘.’
      • Expands selections (like control+ in blender)
  • numbers:
    • 1 – Non smooth preview
    • 3 – Smooth mesh preview 
    • 6 – textured mesh preview

General tips:

  • Switch to modeling standard
    • Hides some animating tools to make it easier to focus
  • Make sure to save your scene first, so autosave will kick in
  • Control A to open channel box, then drag it to have it always on right side
    • Use this for general manipulations (sub divisions, etc)
  • Use layers as folders for objects
    • V is visibility
    • P is playback visibility
    • Last one controls click ability/visibility of objects
  • Use ‘duplicate special’ to easily transform duplicates like an array 
  • When imported image
    • To increase visibility > attribute editor > texture filter > minMap trilinear
  • Double click to select parallel edges
  • Modify > freeze transformations
    • Like reseting scale, transform, etc in blender
  • Turn on screen space ambient occlusion
    • Helps visibility in viewport
  • To reset origin to geometry…
    • Modify > center pivot
    • To edit the origin (this is cool!)
      • Hold D, select origin and move
      • Also hold V while moving to snap to vertices
      • Can easily move origin to bottom point of object
  • To add edge loops
    • Use multicut tool (top toolbar)
    • Hold control to add edges while hovering over mesh
  • Crease tool
    • Helpful for smoothing objects and selecting which points to keep sharp
  • To have both sides of mesh render (not one side black!)
    • lighting>two sided lighting
  • Modeling
    • When creating mesh from spline,
      • After creating spline, object mode, surfaces>resolve
    • To retopologize
      • mesh>retopologize
    • To apply modifier (like retopologize)
      • edit>delete history


  • To open panel, windows, hyper shade
  • Make sure to clear workspace of nodes every time you create a new material
    • It’s the three star button thingy in the top bar of the node workspace
  • To add texture image
    • Add textures to ‘sourceimage’ folder
    • Click checkered button next to sockets and add ‘file’
    • Then load in texture from file node
    • For bump map
      • Change ‘use as’ to ‘tangent space normals’
    • Press 6 to view textures on objects in viewport

UV mapping:

  • Select object in object mode
    • Click ‘UV’
      • Planar (if you click check box next to the button it will open up more options)
        • Check ‘keep image width/height ratio’
    • Make sure to modify>freeze transformations>before automatic UV unwrapping


  • Click off SRG transform in top bar (small circular icon)
    • This lets you see it closer to how the final image will look
  • In render settings
    • Arnold renderer
      • Camera (AA) samples is main one for quality, change this down to 2 while testing

Oh dear lord the formatting on that copy paste was horrible. I had to make many a changes. Maybe one day I’ll write this up into a formal document. This will have to do for now.

What am I trying to learn?

I want to get a general sense for how to use the core basics of Maya (including modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering, physics simulations, and the animation tools that the software is apparently known for).

I also know there are some specific aspects that I’ll be using regularly in my internship at Warner. From what I understand, it would be useful to be familiar with:

  • asset preparation for use in Unreal Engine
    • applying textures
    • baking lighting
    • some animation stuffs
  • motion channels (curves for animation)
  • render layers
  • Arnold rendering/texturing

I think for the most part I understand the concept of these things, however I definitely don’t know how to do them in Maya yet.

Additionally, I am at heart a filmmaker, and I would love to one day make some animated short films with Maya. So long term I know I’d like to be more familiar with rigging and more complex animation tools.

How will I structure my learning?

I need a course structure. With my school semester starting I will likely only be able to spend 15-30 minutes a day learning, so it needs to be efficient and goal oriented.

Here are the dates by which to cover each subject matter (which roughly gives me 2 days/subject):

Jan 14 – finish YouTube tutorial (lighting/rendering)
Jan 16 – Arnold rendering/texturing
Jan 18 – render layers
Jan 20 – exporting assets to UE
Jan 22 – motion channels
Jan 23 – render something for fun!

I also have plans this Saturday with my friend who’s interested in learning Maya. We’re going to just sit for a couple hours and practice together. Hopefully I’ll be able to use that to practice some Arnold stuffs.


Well I think that pretty much covers it! I know no one will read this but it comforts me internally to have something written out. I hope to also be able to adapt, as unexpected things will happen, but I’m happy to have some rough schedule for this.

Let’s go live this life to the fullest! Whoo Whoo!

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