Curved Pipe and Pelt Unwrap Tutorial
Create a line in whatever shape you want. I had the idea of a curved pipe - but whatever works! (Fig.01 - 02)
If you need to change the shape, go to the Modify Tab, expand the + next to Line, and choose Vertex (Fig.03). Then you can move stuff around.
Now we're going to make the shape that we'll loft onto the first path. Go back to create and make another line. This one will be enclosed. I made a simple 5-sided shape ... I could have just made a circle instead of the line tool, but whatever! When you click the last point onto the first one it'll ask you if you want to close the spline - choose Yes (Fig.04).
Go back to Create > Geometry and from the drop-down menu choose Compound Objects (Fig.05).
Make sure you first path is selected and click the Loft Button. Then click the Get Shape button and click on the second shape you made (the wonky hexagon in my case) (Fig.06).
Bam! You've got a pipe (Fig.07)! Or whatever it is you're making ... But it's got way too many subdivisions!
Adjust the Shape Steps and Path Steps to your liking (Fig.08).
Now go back to the Modify tab, right-click on "Loft" and choose the Convert to: Editable Poly option (Fig.09).
Go to the Modifiers drop-down menu, scroll down and pick Unwrap UVW from the list (Fig.10).
Expand the + and choose Face. Scroll down and click the Point to Point Seam button (Fig.11).
Click on one end of a long edge, then on the other, and it'll highlight all the connecting edges between (Fig.12 - 13). We are creating a seam for the pelt mapper to use in a minute.
Select any one face on the tube and click the Exp. Face Sel To Pelt Seams button (Fig.14). Weee! That's so much faster than selecting it manually. Nice button!
Click the Pelt Button (Fig.15). You can adjust the initial planar map that it throws on by clicking on the Align X, Y and Z buttons, but it's not totally necessary. Then click the Edit Pelt Map button.
In the edit window you'll see the initial planar map, but you'll also see the Pelt Stretcher (Fig.16). Click the Simulate Pelt Pulling button a few times until it's close to what you want. You may need to scale the stretcher a few times, depending on the complexity of the pelt.
Close the pelt window, go to Tools > Relax Dialog (Fig.17)
Set it to Relax by Face Angles and click the Apply Button a few times (Fig.18 - 19).
Yay! That's so much easier than doing it manually - enjoy!