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Focus On These 11 Modeling Tools to Get Started with Maya for Beginners

Category: Maya
September 27, 2022

You only need to know 11 modeling tools to get started modeling in Maya. With these you'll be able to model most of environments and props.

Focus on mastering these 11 first.

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1. Extrude

Extrude will create additional geometry from faces and edges.

  • Select faces or edges you want to extrude
  • Edit Mesh > Extrude
  • Ctrl + E = Extrude
  • Adjust Thickness, Offset and/or Divisions
  • Keep Faces Together Off will extrude each selected face separately

2. Bevel

Bevel will round out corners of your geometry.

  • Select edges you want to bevel
  • Edit Mesh > Bevel
  • Ctrl + B = Bevel
  • Fraction = size of the bevel
  • Add segments for smoother rounded corner

3. Multi-Cut

Multi-Cut tool cuts geometry with edges and inserts edge loops.

  • Mesh Tools > Multi-Cut or access through Modeling Toolkit
  • Left Click Hold and Drag to start; start at a vertex or start on the edge
  • You must end your cut on a vertex or an edge
  • Left Mouse Click = Insert Points
  • Escape = Start Over, Remove All Previously Placed Cut Points
  • Enter = Complete Cut
  • Backspace or Delete = Undo Last Placed Point
  • Left or Middle Mouse Click Hold and Drag = Edit Last Placed Point
  • Hold Ctrl + Left Mouse Click and Drag = Insert Edge Loop
  • Hold Ctrl + Middle Mouse Button = Insert Centered Edge Loop
  • Hold Shift and Left Mouse Click = Snap Point Along an Edge Midpoint
  • Hold Shift + Left Mouse Click and Drag = Snap Point Along an Edge
  • Left Mouse Click and Drag = Slice
  • Middle Mouse Click and Drag = Quick Slice
  • Hold Shift and Left Mouse Click and Drag = Snap Angle and Slice

4. Connect

Connect Tool inserts additional edges between selected edges.

  • Select 2 or more edges you want to insert extra edges in
  • Mesh Tools > Connect or access through Modeling Toolkit
  • Enter = Complete Connect Tool
  • Slide: defines where the edge is inserted. 0.50 (default), edges are inserted in the middle
  • Segments: defines the number of connected segments that are inserted into the mesh
  • Pinch: defines the distance between the outer edges and the connected segment

5. Circularize

Circularize will create a circle shape from selected faces or verticies.

  • Edit Mesh > Circularize
  • Select 4 or more faces
  • You can circularize a single face but you'll need to add divisions
  • You can Circularize faces or vertices

6. Combine/Separate/Extract

Combine: combines selected objects.

  • Mesh > Combine

Separate: separates combined objects.

  • Mesh > Separate

Extract: creates a separate, individual object from selected faces.

  • Edit Mesh > Extract

7. Bridge

Creates geometry between faces or open border edges. Great for pipes, curved roads, arches or anywhere you need to create geometry between faces or open border edges.

  • Edit Mesh > Bridge or access through Modeling Toolkit
  • Meshes being bridges must be combined into a single mesh
  • Number of selected edges or faces on both sides must the same
  • Divisions: number of segments to insert
  • Twist: rotate the bridge

To create arches or curved pipes:

  • Select open-border edges or faces
  • Bridge
  • Curve Type: Blend
  • Add divisions

If you are getting inverted Bridge result then adjust the Direction Source or Target to plus or minus.

8. Target Weld

Target Weld merges vertices or edges. Great for optimizing, cleaning up and reflowing topology of your mesh.

  • Mesh Tools > Target Weld or access through Modeling Toolkit
  • Works on Vertices, Edges but not Faces
  • Left Click and Drag to Target Weld vertices or edges
  • Middle Mouse Click Drag = Merge to Center

9. Booleans

Booleans allow you to merge 2 or more objects creating more complex shape that would be difficult to model otherwise.

There are 3 primary Boolean operations:

  • Union = merges two objects (different from combine)
  • Difference = subtracts one object from the other (Difference A-B and B-A subtracts first object from the second or vice versa)
  • Intersection = keeps the geometry that is intersecting
  • Booleans will require cleanup as it often leaves n-gons and stray vertices
  • Line up your edge geometry ahead of time to minimize cleanup
  • Booleans can be edited in real-time as long as you have history
  • Delete History to finalize it
  • Use Attribute Editor for additional Boolean control such as changing Boolean operation, visibility and changing Boolean layer stack

10. Soft/Hard Edge Control

Soft/Hard Edges are not so much as a modeling tool but they control how to display your model properly.

Maya will automatically set hard/soft edges for you when you model but sometimes it has a hard time figuring out if an edge should be soft or hard.

Here is an example of a cylinder with all edges set to hard:

  • Select Edges
  • Mesh Display > Harden Edge or Soften Edge
  • You can have both hard and soft edges on the same model

Display visibility of Hard/Soft Edges:

  • Select object and go to Attribute Editor
  • Under Mesh Component Display, change Display Edges: Soft/Hard
  • Dashed Edges = Soft
  • Solid Edges = Hard

11. Reverse Faces

Face Normals control which direction the face will render. Sometimes the face normal will be inverted (will be seen as black) and you may need to Reverse the direction of that face.

  • Select the face you want to reverse
  • Mesh Display > Reverse

These Modeling Tools Are Just the Beginning

This was just an introduction into most commonly used Modeling Tools in Maya. I spend a lot more time with each of these tools and more addit9ional tools in "Maya Foundation Home Study Course".

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My name is Alex Galuzin. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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