Beginners Guide to Maya: Robots




Introduction: Beginners Guide to Maya: Robots

About: I love making tutorials on my hobby projects :)

Autodesk Maya is a great tool for creating complex models. If you know what you are doing, you can pretty much design anything with Maya. In this instructable, I will be your guide to simple polygon modelling in Maya. Even with basic tools you can create appealing models, as i will do so in this instructable.

So i will be giving a brief introduction to Maya for those who have never used Autodesk Maya. I will be breaking apart the above shown model that i designed in Maya, and show you how i created it step by step and what tools i used in the process.

I will be using Maya 2012, but you may use any other version of the software as you like.

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Step 1: Basic Tools in Maya

I will give a brief introduction of the tools that i will be using to construct the model.

These are all simple and basic tools anyone can use. The user interface of Maya can be a bit intimidating to a complete beginner, but once you know how it works, its pretty easy.

For starters:

To move in the viewport (The big screen you see with the grid), you use

Tumble Tool: ALT+ Left Mouse Button (Move around a point in space)

Track Tool:ALT+Middle Mouse Button (Move Parallel to the view)

Dolly Tool: ALT+Right Mouse Button / Mouse Wheel (Zoom in or out)

Selection: See Figure (A)

Object Creation: You can immediately select primitives in Maya and start creating, to make a primitive, go to the shelf of your choice or under the 'Create' option in the menu bar.

(1) Menu Sets-Maya has six menu sets available for each particular purpose,

Animation- Options and settings for animating stuff, rigging etc. Polygons- Set of options for operations on polygons. Surfaces- Dealing with NURB's surfaces. Dynamics- Dealing with collisions, particles etc. Rendering- Options for rendering animations and other stuff.

(2) Menu Bar- currently selected Menu from the available menu sets.

(3) Shelf- Quick launch for tools in the Menu bar, it can be customized as per your requirements.

(4) Polygon Primitives- These are the basic shapes available in Maya, they can also be accessed from the shelf,

Sphere, Cube, Cylinder, Cone, Plane, Torus (Shape like a doughnut),

Prism, Pyramid, Pipe, Helix (Shape like a spring).

Their properties (such as height, length etc.) can be modified in the channel box (12).

Lights-Lighting is one of the most important features in Maya. It make or break your scene. You can use lighting to create pretty amazing scenes.

Ambient light: It is the light reflected off any object, Ambient light is used to modify the light coming off the surface of any object in Maya.

Directional Light: It is similar to light coming from the sun to the earth surface i.e. the lights are almost parallel in direction to each other.

Area Light: Imagine a plane emitting light from its surface, this is what an area light is.

(5) Shelf- As discussed previously, It contains quick launch to some of the options available in the menu bar

(6) Selecting the object in Object Type or Component Type. (DISCUSSED IN NEXT STEP)

(7) Same as (6), Discussed in next Step.

(8) Snap Options- When you need to place an object at a point relative to another point, that is for example if you want to place a cube at the vertex of a line, or of another cube, you will use these options to 'snap' the object to its correct position.

Snap to Grid: Place an object at a point on the grid.

Snap to curve: Place an object along the path of a curve.

Snap to point: Place an object on the vertex of another object.

The shortcut keys for the above three are X, C and V

(9) Render/Options- These are the options that you will use to Render, set render options, IPR (Interactive Photorealistic Rendering),

Render: This will show you the final render of your scene.

Render Options: This option will be discussed in later steps.(Step 3)

IPR Render: This option will let you render your scene, and it allow you to view your changes in real time in the final render. IPR rendering will not work with ray tracing (Reflections) so you will have to turn it off (from render options) when using IPR.

(10) These are for entering the absolute or relative values of the selected object.

(11) These are the various tools you will use to manipulate objects in your viewport,

Basic selection: The single mouse icon tool provides with simple selection.

Lasso Select: Allows you to select objects with free hand.

Move, Rotate, Scale: Pretty much what the name says.

So at this point i should mention the selection and object duplication system in Maya:

Select: use SHIFT to select multiple objects and CTRL to deselect an object.

Duplicate: you have two options CTRL+D or SHIFT+D, the former duplicates without history but the latter remembers the object transformations after the last duplication, for example if you duplicated a cube and moved it 50 units in Y direction, the next time you duplicate, it will automatically move the duplicated cube 50 units to Y direction.

(12) Channel Box- This is where you will edit the properties/ transformations for the selected object.

(13) Tool Settings- This is where you modify the settings for various tools such as the move tool for example, how it should behave if a rotational transformation is applied to the object.

(14) Attribute Editor- This is where you will find every setting for any object selected, be it a texture, polygons, utility nodes etc.

(15) Layers- I usually stay in the 'Display' section for basic modelling. In this box, you can create different layers, and to each layer add objects and control their visibility. (16) View- The view option has many controls for the camera and will be explained as we progress.

(17) Film Gate- This option clips the viewport to the size that will be rendered in the final render output.

(18) Panels- It has the different options to modify the viewport, that is the following are the options for different views,

Perspective: it has the list of the different cameras you are using in the current scene, right now you should just see 'persp' camera, your current camera, the one you are using to see your scene in the viewport.

Orthographic: In this list, you have three options, the front view, side view or the top view. if you want to see your scene from any of these views you select one of these.

Saved Layouts: Here you can get different split view options, that is for example if you want to see your scene in all four views in the same viewport, Perspective, front side, top, you select the 'Four view' option.

(19) These five icons allow you to choose different view options for your objects in the scene, that is

The first option will switch the view to wire frame, you will see only the mesh structure of your models (bones for example).

The second option if selected will give you basic shading on your objects (skin on bones for example).

The third option you won't need for now. The fourth option will give you textured shading for your objects in the scene (tattoos on your skin for example).

The fifth option you will select if you don't see any lights in your scene (Light falling on your computer for example).

The shortcut keys for above are:

First Option: Key 4;

Second Option: Key 5;

Fourth Option: Key 6;

Fifth Option Key 7;

You might want to remember these, they do come in handy.

(20) View cube: A little graphic cube which reminds you what is the front, side, top view.

(21) The Grid: You can change the dimensions and colors in Display>Grid>(The little cube on the right). The grid is for your convenience, if you are building an object and need a scale of measure for its size, you use the grid.

(22) Shows where the X, Y, & Z coordinates point at a particular point in perspective.

(23) It has the list of options for modifying the various functions of Maya example: How it Undo's, What size the view cube be, etc. you can customize Maya to your taste so i recommend you give this a look.

Step 2: Hypershade, Hypergraph


This is the window you will use if you want to apply textures, use different materials, etc. Hypershade is for more than just applying materials or colors, you can make use of utility nodes to create sort of 'programs' which can govern how the object will behave when it is subjected to some transformation or is affected by another object.

That is, for example imagine you were creating a model of The Earth. You want the city lights in the dark side to light up when the area of the earth (the sphere) rotates away from a light source (say a Directional light), automatically. You would use utility nodes such Blend Utility, Surface luminescence node etc. to give that effect.

(5) and (6)- These are your work spaces, (5) gives you the info of all the nodes and their associated properties you are using, and (6) is your work area, where you make connections, apply textures etc.

Figure (A) shows Hypershade in action, The Work Space is being used to make three connections between three different nodes namely, Place2DTexture | File10 | blinn5,

The first one controls how the file texture will be mapped over the object

The second one is the file texture,

The third one is the surface of type 'Blinn' (These are all named according to their properties)

Figure (B) shows the texture as applied to a polygon sphere.

(3)- These are for making connections, we will come to that in later steps.

(2)- These are all the nodes Maya has to offer, the options under the 'Maya' Tab will be used in this instructable.

(4)- For every option in (2), has a list of nodes that you can use and are available here. To use them you just drag and drop to the Work Space.

(1)- This is for collapsing or expanding the tabs (5) and (6).


Hypergraph is for managing all the objects in the scene, every object you create is available here

As you can see in (7), The model in the scene has several different objects it is made up of. All of these objects are available in the hypergraph.

You can make hierarchical groups in the hypergraph, for example consider Figure (C)

PSphere1 is the parent node and PCylinder1 is the child node ( Just middle mouse drag and drop the cylinder node onto the sphere node to make the hierarchy), that is if I move the sphere, the cylinder moves along with it. But if you move the cylinder, the sphere won't follow because of the hierarchy.

If you want, you can group several items to one, so they behave as if they were a single entity. Observe Figure (D), In the Hyphergraph, the cylinder and the sphere nodes come under a group 'group1' ( Just select both the nodes and press CTRL+G ). If you look at the objects in the viewport, both the objects are selected and have green selection and observe the move tool has changed its position to the center of the grid. Now if you try to move the objects, both of them move. (NOTE: If you accidentally click somewhere else, just select an object which is part of the group and press the UP ARROW key ). If you want the move tool back in the center (of the group), go to Modify>Center Pivot

Step 3: (Cont.) Object/Component Type Selection

Object Type Selection-

Look at Figure (A), area in selection (2) has the options for object type selection and its properties. When enabled, you will see these properties.

The 8 options in object mode control the selection of different objects depending upon their type. For example, if i don't want to include curves in my selection, i would disable the 3rd option, and the next time I select my objects, curves will not be selected.

Component Type-

Select (3) to change to component mode, you can immediately see the (4) options have changed.

Figure (B) shows component type selection, you can see the object selected changed from green to Blue and all its vertices are select able. you can select its vertices and move around to change its shape. Since it is a polygon, it would not be 'organic' but rather straight and 'geometric' type.

I will cover component mode in more detail as we progress through the instructable.

For Now, these are all the basics you need to know to start Polygon modelling in Maya, if you need any help checkout or download the official Maya Help here:

write any problems/suggestions in the comments, I would be happy to help.

Step 4: The Feet

I started the model from the legs to the head, look at Figure (A)

The foot is pretty easy to make here's how I did it:

Step 1:

Take two rectangles and arrange them as shown, the angle of inclination and the length of the rectangles can be set as you need them be.

Step 2:

Select the rectangle on the bottom THEN the rectangle on the top, and go to (Remember in the polygon menu) Mesh>Booleans>Difference and there you have it, it should look just like shown in Step 2 Figure. Remember the order of selection is important, whenever using Booleans, the object last selected will affect the operation.

If you are using a more advanced or deprecated version of Maya than I am (2012), then the menu set could be different but the names are the same.

Step 3:

Use boolean tool to finish the rest of the modelling, in Step 3: A I took a couple of rectangles and used Booleans to make the stair case design. The rest of the steps you can take a look at the pictures (Step 3: A, B, C, D, E, F).

Think of the Booleans tool like welding and cutting, you Weld using Union and Cut using Difference.

Step 5: The Feet (Cont.)

The back foot is pretty much the same.

Figure (A): You can see the mid section highlighted in the foot,

Figure (B): The mid section's detailed view, In this figure, the key parts are numbered, for each parts' construction, look for the picture with that number.

Figure 1: The suspension system simply consists of three cylinders and a torus,

The Second part is divided as

2:1, 2:2, 2:3, 2:4, 2:5, 2:6, 2:7, 2:8- Steps for making the lights on the joint The tool used is the Extrude Tool

2:9, 2:10, 2:11, 2:12- Steps for making the shield for the joints S

teps 4 and 5, you should be able to do them by yourself (Hint: use Booleans...lots of it), pretty easy (If you followed along...).

And Sorry for the lots of pics.

Step 6: The Legs

I used Bevel tool (Explained in the next step) in Figure (D) to get plane edges on the rectangle.

Step 7: The Leg (Cont.)

Figure (A:1, A:2, A:3, A:4) These show how to use the bevel tool, you can use extrude on the bevel edges to produce interesting results.

NOTE: If you use the scale tool, as I used in Figure A:2, know the difference: Scale tool changes the scale of the object, whereas the actual length , breadth or radius of any object is available in channel box>INPUTS.

Figure (B:1, B:2, B:3, B:4, B:5, B:6, B:7, B:8) I made the back panes, click the image to see the details.

Step 8: The Body

Figures A:1 to A:11 explain the structure and development of the body.

Step 9: The Body (Cont.)

Figures A:1 to A:11 are the instructions for the support object.

The rest of the components have already been discussed, and to keep the instructable from becoming very long, I will not show them. But please ask me in the comments if any problem arises.

Step 10: The Head of the Robot

Figure (B:2): I used the gear set to make a rough model of the space, the gear set was going to occupy in the head. of the robot.

Figure (B:6): Here to demonstrate the making of eye of the robot, I have divided the whole process into different steps, at each step, the blue line indicates where the tool operation is to occur, and the red line indicates the area where the operation occur'ed.

Step 11: The "Mini" Gun

The machine gun.

In Figure (C1): I explain how to build the various stages of the gun building,

In Figure (C2): I explain building the hood of the machine gun.

Step 12: The Laser

Figures A:1 to A:7 Shows the making of the barrel of the laser.

So this is the end of the instructable for now, i will try to make another one for rendering the model in Maya as shown on the intro page of this instructable.

Comment if you are having any problems with Maya or with the instructable.

Thank you.

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    18 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Great tutorials . I really like your step by step method. Your get featured in our maya tutorials collection. See it here

    This is inspiring me to learn animation. How much time does it take to understand the basics of maya?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Learning Maya can be divided in two parts:

    1) The tools in Maya, this will probably take about a week or two to perfect. They are easy (and fun) to learn and give you a lot of insight on how Maya functions. Like for example, to make the above model, I used most of the time, Extrude, Booleans and bevel tools. So they are pretty basic and at the same time powerful.

    2) Second comes the 'logic' part of creating objects in Maya. Like for example, if you want the robot from the instructable to, say, change color to a 'glowing' texture when in no light, you would have to create sort of 'programs' in Maya to do so automatically. They are, once you get a hang of it, sort of like any logic you design in programs of C, Java, C++. It's like solving a problem like a programmer, but in a 3D world with 3D objects. So it depends on how much deep you are willing to go.

    like any other programming language, It takes time to perfect in Maya.

    And it all comes down to 'going that extra mile' when creating in Maya, which like anything, is worth it.

    Hope that helps you.

    Please feel free to ask if you have any further doubts.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Im familiar with C but not with java and C++. Do I have to learn other languages to make animations similar to this?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    If you are keen on learning animation, I would recommend learning the tools, all it takes (animation) is practice, and no other specialization.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry the link is not working,

    Its not necessary to know programming in any language to get started.

    Animation can be done independent of any programming language.

    You only need to know C for a little programming even that's not necessary, I brought up programming because making connections using utilities (Like in Step 2 ) is similar to the concept of programming :)


    5 years ago

    Could you help design spaceship. Where can i get the software.


    5 years ago

    an excellent effort. Extremely useful. Thanks.


    5 years ago

    Nice tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

    amin asghari mokh
    amin asghari mokh

    Reply 5 years ago

    hello! could you please learn us how we can render the project? thanks.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah like i said in the tutorial, I will try to make an instructable for rendering in Maya.


    5 years ago

    A useful tutorial. Thanks a lot.


    5 years ago

    11/10 would make a robot penis gun again.