Common Mistakes for Maya Beginners
I’ve been teaching for a few weeks now and my class just started to learn Maya. I keep seeing the same mistakes from my students. And they are the same mistakes I made when I first started. I decided to compile list of the mistakes I’ve seen and write down how to fix them. If you don’t want to read everything, I have a summary at the bottom.
1: Extrusions – Extruding your mesh is one of the best ways to start shaping your model. It is also one of the best ways to screw it up. If you don’t pay attention when using the extrude tool, then you can create a mesh with poor topology. Many times, I see new users hit the extrude tool, but then click off of the mesh immediately. Not seeing any change, the user reselects the faces and extrudes again. What these users don’t realize, is that they have layered on the extrusions, and they have multiple edge loops lying on top of each other. Depending on what you select and extrude, this can create a nightmare. A quick way to check how your mesh looks, is hitting the 3 key on your number line. There are a few ways to fix this:
- Undo. If you catch your mistake early, you may be able to undo back.
- Delete Edge/Vertex. This one is an easier fix. If your mesh continues on wards towards another edge loop, this is usually what you would do. Double click on one of the edges in Edge Mode, then go to Edit Mesh > Delete Edge/Vertex
- Append to Polygon Tool. To use this tool, you have to first delete the faces that you created with the extrusion. From there, go to Edit Mesh > Append to Polygon tool. Click on one edge, and then a bunch of purple arrows should appear. These arrows tell you where you can connect the face. Click on the edge you want (usually the face opposite of where you clicked) and a new face should appear. (Note, make sure you click exactly on the edge. Otherwise the face will appear where you don’t want it.)
- Start over. Depending on how bad the mesh is, it could be easier to start over and pay more attention to what is extruded.
2: Delete – The Delete Edge/Vertex is an essential tool, and one that not enough new users know about. You can delete faces by hitting the delete/backspace button on your keyboard without any problems. If you select an edge and then hit backspace/delete, it looks like it works, but, you are being deceived. Hitting delete with an edge selected takes away the edge, but it does not take away the vertices. These vertices mess with your edge loops and topology. You will no longer be able to create a full edge loop around those faces with the Insert Edge Loop tool, and you will have n-gons all over the place. It is important that the Delete Edge/Vertex tool is used when deleting edges (found under: Edit Mesh > Delete Edge/Vertex). If you found that you have made this mistake, here are some fixes:
- Undo. Hopefully you will catch the mistake early and you have time to undo it.
- Append to Polygon Tool. Delete the faces where you have the extra vertices, and then use the Append to Polygon tool to match up the edge loops.
(Note on using the Delete Edge/Vertex tool: It isn’t always wise to use this tool on one edge. The face that remains will be an n-gon (a face with more that five edges. I would suggest selecting the entire edge loop and then using the tool. But like every rule, there are always exceptions.)
3: Rotating with the view cube – The view cube is a great tool, but not a tool that should be constantly relied on to move around your object or scene. I find it is used best when you want to orient yourself to the front/back/side of the object, or to right yourself up when you are upside down. I wouldn’t use it for everyday rotating, because it will always rotate around the origin of the scene. If you are working up close to a few faces, and want to see it from another angle, you can easily lose your view when rotating with the view cube. If you forget you are in an orthographic view, and you use the view cube, then you will change the perspective and still not be able to rotate normally. (To fix this, hover over the view cube, and hit the home button just above it.) You can’t go wrong if you rotate/pan/zoom with the alt button and the mouse buttons.
4: Two hands – While this isn’t necessarily a mistake, it is something that makes life easier. Working in Maya is a two handed affair. Your work will be slow and tedious if you don’t start to take advantage of the hot keys and the alt button to rotate/pan/zoom. Here are some of the most basic hotkeys:
- Q – Select Tool
- W – Move Tool
- E – Rotate Tool
- R – Scale Tool
- Y – Repeat Last Tool
- G – Repeat
5: Save. Always save your work, but you should save it more often in Maya. In addition, it is best to save in increments. If you are modeling a person and you got the basic shape completed save it as person_01. Then you go work on the face. Save that as person_02. And the next one as person_03. This way, when you realized you made a huge mistake in file person_03, you can go back to person_02 and not start over. Other people will have different ways of naming things, but the most important thing to get out of this section is to save incrementally.
TL;DR. Make sure you save often, you only extrude once, delete edges with the Delete Edge/Vertex tool, you take advantage of the hot keys, and you use the view cube to reorient yourself around the scene.
These are the biggest things I’ve seen so far. I’ll add more to this as I go. I would also like to add, my suggestions on how to model and move in Maya are based off of my own practices. There are multiple ways of doing things, and ways that may be better than what I write down. If you know of a better way, please let me know. I always like to learn.