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Maya: The Complete Guide to Using Sweep Mesh - Techniques and Tricks

Category: Maya
May 09, 2023

Sweep Mesh tool will create a polygonal mesh from a curve in few clicks.

In previous tutorial I showed you how to Extrude Along a Curve. Sweep Mesh tool will do this a lot quicker with a lot more procedural options.

Sweep Mesh was introduced in Maya 2022. So if you are using earlier version of Maya, you will need to use Extrude Along a Curve instead of Sweep Mesh.

With Sweep Mesh you can quickly create cables, wires, ropes, tubes, pipes, trims and molding.

Let's cover Sweep Mesh tool in detail...

Video Tutorial

Creating the Curves

To use Sweep Mesh you need a curve or multiple curves.

To create curves go to Create > Curve Tools: use CV, EP or Pencil Curve:

As mentioned in Extrude Along a Curve tutorial, there is no difference between any of these curves once they are created. Only how you draw them and how you control them that is different. But in the end, Maya sees them as the same curve.

I prefer using EP Curve. It is the simplest curve to create and the easiest to control.

  • Left-Click to place the first curve point
  • You will need at least 3 curve points to make a curve
  • Once you have 3 or more points placed, press Enter
  • All curves drawn will be created on top of the grid

Curve pivot point will always be at the world origin, regardless where you've drawn the curve:

You can modify the curve's pivot point by using the same shortcut keys for polygon objects:

  • Hold D then X and Middle Mouse Click Drag = Snap Pivot Point to the Grid
  • Hold D then C and Middle Mouse Click Drag = Snap Pivot Point to Curves/Edges
  • Hold D then V and Middle Mouse Click Drag = Snap Pivot Point to a Vertex

Right-Click on the Curve to see Component Mode for the curve:

Select Control Vertex to modify the curve points and reshape it:

Go back to Object Mode once done.

If you ever need to make a curve linear or straight go to Curve Tool Options and choose Curve Degree to 1 Linear:

Pencil Curve Tool

If you are using Pencil Curve Tool, just simply Left-Click and Drag to create a curve:

Curves/Surfaces Tool Shelf

You can get access to a lot of Curve tools right from Curves/Surfaces shelf:

This is a default shelf that comes installed with Maya.

Open vs Closed Curves

If you have an open curve you can close that curve and make it solid by going to Curves > Open/Close Curve:

Combining Curves

If you have multiple curves that you want to combine and make as one, select all the curves, go to Curves > Attach:

Sweep Mesh

Select the Curve then go to Create > Sweep Mesh:

You can Sweep Mesh on one or multiple curves. If you do it to multiple curves, they will all be edited as one.

You will already have a polygonal mesh created along the curve. But there are many options to control. Go to Attribute Editor and under SweepMeshCreator tab you will have ability to change everything about the created geometry.

Sweep Profiles

Sweep Profiles is the polygonal shape that is extruded along the curve:

  • Poly
  • Rectangle
  • Line
  • Arc
  • Wave

Each profile chosen will have different options to control for how it looks, from segments, to number of sides for a circle to width and height. Everything is interactive so you can just push the sliders and change the values to see what they do.


Distribution will take an existing Sweep Mesh and duplicate it around the curve:

Enable Distribute and change its options.Change Distribution to Radial, Square or Linear then adjust Number of Instances, Scale and Rotation.


Transformation allows you to change the shape of the Extrusion such as scale, rotate the profile extrusion, Twist it and Taper it.

Most useful options here are Twist and Taper. Twist will coil the extruded geometry and taper will pinch or expand on of the ends.

Taper Curve allows you to define different thickness at different parts of the curve. Some can be thicker then thinner then thicker again.

Place your own points by left clicking  and dragging or remove points by clicking the X icon:

Interpolation will create low poly or higher poly of the Sweep Mesh.

Enabling Optimize will simplify the Extrusion along the curve by removing unnecessary edges:


Sweep Mesh will automatically unwrap your geometry and lay them out in 0-1 UV space:

Modifying or Moving the Extrusion

As long as you keep History on the object you can modify Control Vertices on the curve and update the extrusion.

Select the curve and go to Control Vertex, then drag any vertices to change the shape:

If you need to move the extruded Sweep Mesh, move the entire Curve.

Custom Mesh Along the Curve

Create custom polygon shape. Polygon shape must have border edges, not a closed polygonal shape. For this it's best to use a plane.

This custom shape will be your profile that Sweep Mesh will use to extrude.

Steps to Extrude a Custom Shape

  • Select Curve
  • Apply Sweep Mesh
  • Select Custom Sweep Profile
  • Type: Polygon Object
  • Profile: Select the Polygon Object
  • Click Ok

It will now use the Polygon Object shape to extrude along the curve.

Modify the Polygon Object to update the shape.

Lock and Unlock Length

There is a very useful option for modifying the shape of a curve organically by dragging one of the end points. This allows you to move the entire curve and it's extrusion to reshape it without having to edit points one-by-one.

Select the curve and go to Curves > Lock Length:

Select one of the end Control Vertex points and drag it around. If you want to maintain alignment of the curve to the grid, do this in one of the orthographic viewports. Reposition the curve and auto-reshape it.

To go back to normal, select the curve then go to Curves > Unlock Length.

Convert Edges to Curves

You can take any existing edges on a mesh and convert those edges to a curve so you can Sweep Mesh.

This technique is great for trims, borders, molding and any detail that needs to be aligned to the original mesh.

Select Edges you want as a curve then go to Modify > Convert > Polygon Edges to Curves:

If you want these curves to be straight lines for things like borders, frames, molding then go to options in Polygon Edges to Curves and choose Degree 1-Linear:

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My name is AlexG. 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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