Project 2a: Hand Modeling

Goal To introduce you to the subdivision surface modeling paradigm.
Prerequisite Exercises
Relevant Hotkeys/Tools ← Click!


  • Alt + b - Cycles the background color.
  • Ctrl + h - Hides the currently selected object[s]. The object can still be selected in the Outliner, though its name will be grayed out.
  • H (Shift + h) - Unhides the currently selected object[s].

Mesh Editing Tools II

  • Mesh → Extract - Makes the selected faces their own separate object.
  • Edit Mesh → Merge - Merges selected vertices within a certain distance threshold together.
  • Edit Mesh → Merge to Center - Merges selected vertices to their center.
  • Mesh → Smooth - Puts a "smooth node" on the selected mesh, subdividing it.

In this project we will create a subdivision surface hand using polygon tools. There is a variety of hand reference available at O:\unix\projects\instr\production1\REFERENCE\Humans or you may take your own. Only use human hands as reference. The instructions below will guide you through how to make a general hand. You will want to make your hand closely match your reference. For this project we will be working in the Polygons menu set. Create a new Maya file to begin.

(Note that most of the images below are from an older version of Maya. However, the gray background can be access by pressing Alt-b a few times and cycling through the various options.)

  1. Create a new cube and resize it to the proportions below. This will be the palm of the hand. Add two edge loops around the width of the palm using the Insert Edge Loop Tool.
  2. Use the Split Polygon Tool to add some edges around the end of the palm. Make sure the edges wrap under the hand. We will use these faces to build the fingers from.
  3. Extrude one of the newly created faces to create a finger. Add several new edge loops around the finger near the joints.
  4. Add an edge loop along the top and side of the finger to add more complexity.
  5. Scale and move the position of the vertices to round out the finger and accentuate the joints. Add additional edge loops as necessary to support the shape of the finger. Check the different smoothing modes to see how the hand looks in each.
  6. Extrude the faces near the end of the finger to form the fingernail.
  7. Adjust the vertices to add definition near the base of the fingernail. Be sure to also pull out the vertices at the end to form the actual nail. Add edge loops as necessary.
  8. Select the faces of the finger and Extract them (Mesh → Extract). This will separate the finger into a separate polygon mesh. Select the finger and duplicate it three times (Edit → Duplicate). Move the copies over to the positions of the other fingers.
  9. Hide the fingers for the time being (Display → Hide → Hide Selection). Delete the faces where the other fingers will attach and add new edges using the Split Polygon Tool.
  10. Unhide the fingers (Display → Show → All). Adjust the fingers size and position so that they look like real fingers. This will require a lot of vertex tweaking. Once you are done, select all the objects and Combine them into one mesh (Mesh → Combine).
  11. To remove the gap between the palm and the fingers, Merge the vertices together (Edit Mesh &rarr Merge). You can select the vertices in pairs of two and merge them, or you can snap all of the appropriate vertex pairs together and then merge them all at once. The Threshold attribute in the Merge Vertices options box shown below determines how far vertices must be from each other to merge. If merging many snapped together vertices at once, the Threshold should be set to a really low value (such as 0.0001).
  12. Extrude the thumb and form it into the approximately correct shape. Add new edge loops to add complexity.
  13. Move the vertices to round out the thumb. Add an edge loop for the base of the thumbnail.
  14. Create the thumbnail in a similar manner as the fingernails. Note that the thumbnail is on the side of the thumb, not the top.
  15. We have been neglecting the back of the hand. Use the Split Edge Tool to start filling in some details. Remember the importance of keeping the mesh in quads.
  16. Now for the bottom of the hand.
  17. Now that we have a good mesh layout, we can adjust it to follow the curves of the hand. The shape of the hand will vary depending on your reference, but be sure to emphasize certain features such as the tendons along the top of the hand as well the shape of the palm. Nothing on your hand is completely flat, so be sure to add curvature where necessary.
  18. Congratulations, you're almost done. Be sure to delete History, clean up your Outliner, and rename your hand to something reasonable. To create a render of your hand, first Smooth your model (Mesh → Smooth). Click the Render button to render the current view (). In the Render View that appears go to File → Save Image... and save the image as a PNG. Make sure that in the Maya file you turn in, your hand is not smoothed.
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