Project 1a: Basic Modeling

Goal To introduce you to tools and methods for creating basic polygon meshes as well as build experience using Maya's interface.
Prerequisite Exercises

Relevant Hotkeys/Tools ← Click!


  • Alt + Left-click and drag - Rotate the camera.
  • Alt + Right-click and drag - Zoom the camera in and out. (This can also be done with the scroll wheel.)
  • Alt + Middle-click and drag - Pan the camera.
  • f - Focus camera on the selected object. The camera will now rotate around that object.
  • 4 - Display objects as wireframe.
  • 5 - Display objects as solid.

Object/Component Selection

  • q - Select Tool. Also useful for "canceling" out of another tool.
  • F8 - Object selection mode.
  • F9 - Vertex selection mode.
  • F10 - Edge selection mode.
  • F11 - Face selection mode.
  • Tips:
    • Double click an edge to select the corresponding edge loop.
    • While doing either a single click or marquee selection: Hold Ctrl to deselect, hold Shift to toggle selection, or hold Ctrl + Shift to select without deselecting other components or objects.

Object/Component Manipulation

  • w - Move Tool
  • e - Rotate Tool
  • r - Scale Tool
  • + (the plus key) - Makes the tool size larger (affects all manipulation tools). Bigger tool handle sizes make small adjustments easier.
  • - (the minus key) - Makes the tool size smaller.
  • x - Grid Snap. Hold while using the Move Tool to snap the selected component or object to a location on the grid.
  • v - Vertex Snap. Hold while using the Move Tool, and hover the mouse over a vertex to snap the selected component or object to that vertex's position. Works for both single-axis and multi-axis movement.
  • Tip:
    • Red tool handles correspond to the x-axis, green to the y-axis, and blue to the z-axis. Remember this color scheme, as it is used consistently throughout Maya for easy axis identification.

Mesh Editing Tools

  • Insert Edge Loop Tool - Inserts a continuous loop of edges perpendicular to the edge specified. Left click, hold, and drag to choose where exactly the new loop goes.
  • Extrude Face - "Extrudes" a face or set of selected faces . Be careful not to extrude a face more than once without moving the extruded face first, as that will result in overlapping faces and tricky to fix geometry. There is also an exquivalent for extruding edges.
  • Split Polygon Tool - Select points on the edges of a face (or faces) to split the polygon. While the tool is active you can hit Delete to go back one and Enter to finalize.
  • Append to Polygon Tool - Connects two edges together with a new face. The edges being connected must be open (adjacent to a hole, not on a closed surface) and part of the same object.
  • Ctrl + d - Duplicate the selected objects.
  • Mesh → Combine - Combines the selected meshes into one. Disconnected pieces of geometry will stay disconnected, but they will still count as part of the same object.

The Most Important Hotkeys You Will Ever Learn ...Ever!

  • z - Undo. Undoes the last thing you did. Applies to selections and deselections as well. Does not apply to camera movement by default. Maya's undo queue is initially set to only allow 50 undos in a row, so go to Window → Settings/Preferences → Preferences, select Undo from the list, and set the Queue Size to something like 500. You can set it to Infinite, but that may increase the likelihood of Maya crashing. Note for later in the year: importing resets the undo queue, so be careful.
  • Z (Shift + z) - Redo. Undone things are reverted. Be careful not to select or deselect anything if you are doing of bunch of redos, as that will reset the redo queue.
  • g - Repeat last action. If you need to perform a single action multiple times (such as extruding) but do not want to repeatedly dig through Maya's menus, just hit the g key.

In this project we will create a boat using a polygon mesh. Shown below is our reference image as well as the final output. Create a new Maya file to begin.

yacht reference the yacht you will create

Before you start, make sure you are using the "Polygons" menu set, as you will frequently be using commands from this menu set. Also verify that Edit Mesh → Keep Faces Together is checked. This will affect how faces are extruded.

  1. Create a cube.

    Move and scale the cube so that it resembles the cube below. The size of the cube is not as important as its proportions.

  2. Add edge loops in the shown locations. When activating the Insert Edge Loop Tool through the marking menu, make sure the boat is selected in Object Mode.

    edge loops
  3. Go to the top camera to view the boat from above. Select each row of vertices in the front of the boat and scale them inward to create a tapered point.

    inward scale of boat
  4. Go to the side camera. Select the bottom vertices and move them up to create the slope of the hull in the profile.

    move the boat vertices up
  5. Right now the hull will only appear curved from the top and side views. However, the perspective view reveals that there are very sharp creases going down the sides of the boat. Using the a combination of the perspective and front views select the edges along the bottom of the boat and move the them up to create a curved hull.

    front and perspective view of the hull
  6. Select all of the top faces of the hull and extrude them upward.

    Immediately after extruding, use the Scale Tool to shrink them inward and then move them up slightly to create the deck of the boat.

  7. In the top view, move the edge loops specified in the picture outward so they create a border of uniform width on the sides of the deck.

    move edge loops out
  8. Add an edge loop to the front and back of the deck to complete the border.

    add edge loops
  9. Select all the faces in the border and extrude them straight up slightly to create a rim around the deck.

    boat lip
  10. Select the faces toward the back of the deck and extrude them, then scale them inward.

    back of the boat
  11. With the same faces selected, extrude them upward three times to create the cabin. However, before doing so, you should be introduced to a very important and useful hotkey if you have not been already: the g key. This hotkey activates the last action/tool used so you do not have to repeatedly navigate the menus. Use the g key to complete the extrusions.

    cabin is a basic cube
  12. Using a combination of the scale and move tool adjust the vertices to give the cabin a sleeker look. The front faces of the cabin should slant and curve backwards. Add the edge loops shown in the picture once you are done.

    new sleek cabin
  13. Select the top faces of the cabin, extrude them out and then move them down as necessary to create the lip of the roof.

    cabin root lip
  14. Use the Split Polygon Tool to create the lines shown in the picture on each side of the cabin roof.

    edge tool
  15. Since the previous step created triangular polygons, create the following highlighted lines so the mesh stays in quads.

    edge tool
  16. Extrude the newly created quads up twice and slant them slightly backwards.

    roof fins
  17. Scale and move the vertices as shown and then delete the inside faces of the fins.

    roof fins deleted
  18. Activate the Append to Polygon Tool.

    Select one of the edges on the border of the deleted face, then select the corresponding edge on the other fin. This should create a face that bridges the gap. Do this this for the other 3 edges.

    roof fins attached
  19. Create a cylinder.

    Move, scale, and rotate the cylinder until it is in the shown position. In the Channel Box, click polyCylinder1 in the Inputs section and make sure "Subdivisions Axis" is equal to 12.

    propeller cylinder
  20. Using the Insert Edge Loop Tool, add an edge loop toward the end of the propeller shaft. In groups of two, select every other group of faces and extrude them outward to create the basic propeller shape.

    propeller blades
  21. Scale and rotate the vertices on the edge of the propeller blades to give them a more turbine-like shape.

    new propeller blades
  22. Select the newly created propeller and duplicate it (Edit → Duplicate). Move the new propeller over. Do this one more time so you have 3 propellers.

    duplicated propeller
  23. In object mode select all three propellers and the ship. Combine all four objects into one mesh to create the final boat model (Mesh → Combine).

    combined boat
  24. Now for a bit of clean up. With the boat selected, delete its History (Edit → Delete By Type → History). In the Outliner or Channel Box, rename the boat to "poly_boat". You can change its name by double clicking on its current name, which should be something like "polySurface1".

    final renamed boat

With that, you should be finished.

Turn In You will be graded on the following: Turn in the following into Collect-It on Catalyst: