Introduction to Maya: General Tools
Get to know the basic main tools so you can work flexibly and efficiently in Maya.
Hopefully you are now pretty comfortable navigating in Maya. At this stage, we are going to look at some of the general tools we can use and how we can use them efficiently by using the keyboard hotkeys. Again, it's important to note that there are many different ways of doing the same thing in Maya, so I urge you to experiment to find a style of working that suits you.
Step 1: World v Object Translation
Firstly go Create > Polygon Primitive > Cube so we have an object to manipulate. Now hit W on the keyboard to activate the Translate tool.
By default, the Translate tool move axis is set to World mode. This means that when using the manipulator, the Y axis will always be up and down, X will be left and right, and the Z axis will be back and forth.
If you rotate the cube (shortcut key for Rotate is E) and then go back to the Translate tool, the manipulator handle will still be set to World space and the axis will be aligned as we left it.
Now double click the Translate tool icon to bring up its tool settings. Change the move axis to Object and you will see that the axis has orientated with the rotation that we added. We can now push and pull locally, as opposed to in World space. Very useful.
Step 2: Gimbal Orientation and Rotation Order
You can also do the same for orientation. Changing from World to Local can give you a better representation of what the axes are doing. But, if you want the true representation of what the axes are doing, you should set your rotate mode to Gimbal.
Try rotating the Y axis by about 80 degrees. As you do, you will notice the X axis and the Z axis are now sitting one on top of the other. Rotating in X and Z will now give you a similar motion, which is not good for animation. This is caused by the Rotation order; this dictates the order in which these orientations will happen.
With your cube selected, hit Ctrl + A to bring up the Attribute Editor. Scroll to the left-most tab (pCube1) and you will see a parameter called Rotate Order and a dropdown menu. By default, it is set to XYZ. This means that the Z axis will carry both the X and Y. The Y axis will then carry the X, and the X will have no effect on the Y and Z. Try and read it from right to left as opposed to left to right. I find it's a little clearer in that manner. Have a play with changing the setting and seeing the rotational results.
Step 3: Translating Along a Specific Axis
Sometimes you may want to translate along only one or two axes and lock off the third. To manipulate one axis only, just grab the desired axis on the manipulator as opposed to grabbing the manipulator from the centre. Easy.
To disable a specific axis, hold down the Ctrl key and click that handle. This will allow you to manipulate the remaining two. To return the manipulator to its default state, Ctrl + click the center of the manipulator.
Step 4: Moving Pivots and Centering Pivots
Sometimes as you work, you will want to orient around a different location than the one you're in, or move an object from a different point in space. To do this, we will need to edit the pivot for our tool.
There are a couple ways to do this: the first is to hold the D key down on your keyboard. As you do, you will notice that the manipulator has changed and you are free to edit the pivot. Letting go of the D key will allow you to edit the object once more.
Another method is to press the Insert key on the keyboard. This method does not require that you keep the keyboard button held down and can be easier to use when also using other keyboard shortcuts. Just press Insert to edit the object again and come out of edit pivot mode.
Sometimes playing with the pivot can result in the manipulator ending up in some random place or other. To bring it back to the object's center, go Modify > Center pivot.
Step 5: Snapping Tools
We know how to manipulate our objects and edit the pivot. Sometimes, actually on many occasions, you will want to snap the pivot or the object to a specific location, for example, to a point on another model or a position on the grid. Luckily, the snapping tools will help us do this. You will find them on the Status Bar (the four icons with magnets on them, or five icons if you are using 2014).
Working from screen left to right, they are as follows: Snap to Grid, Snap to Curve, Snap to Point, Snap to Projected Center (2014 only), Snap to Grid Planes and Make Object Live.
Instead of having to switch them on and off using the icons, you can also hold down the following keyboard shortcuts for grid, curve and point snapping, which are X, C, V respectively.
Top Tip 1: Marking Menus
Using marking menus is an excellent way to speed up your workflow and get you to the tools that you constantly use without all the kerfuffle of popping to the main toolbar and then navigating through the dropdown menus.
As well as using the default marking menus, such as Shift + RMB to access some of the Edit Mesh tools, and Ctrl + RMB to edit your selections sub-component type (you will need a polygonal object selected to access these marking menus), you can also create your own custom marking menus by going to Window > Settings > Preferences > Marking Menu Editor.
Click HERE to see the previous tutorial in this series.
Want to start from the beginning? Click HERE to see the first tutorial in this series.
To see more by Jahirul Amin, check out Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
and 3ds Max Projects