Maya Lesson 1.1: Introducing the User Interface

Once you’ve chosen Autodesk Maya as your favorite 3D graphics software, there’s always something to learn. If you’re still looking for the right program, you can download a 30-day trial of Maya directly from Autodesk.

In this guide we will give you a general overview of the request and how it is used.

Maya user interface (UI)

Open Maya and take a moment to study the layout. The following landmarks can be used to understand basic operations.

  • Toolbox: These icons allow you to switch between object editing tools. Moving, scaling, and rotating are the most important ones at the moment, but there are also some useful keyboard shortcuts.
  • Menus and shelves: At the top of the screen are Maya’s menus, of which there are seven, allowing you to control and implement virtually all of Maya’s tools, settings, and abilities.
  • Channel Panel/Attribute Editor/Tool Settings: This space is mainly used for setting and adjusting geometry parameters. There you can dock other input windows, mostly the attribute editor and tool settings.
  • field of view: The main window is known as the “viewport” or “panel”. The viewport shows all elements of your scene and will be where most of your interactions will take place.
  • Layer Editor: The Levels Editor lets you manage complex scenes by assigning groups of objects to levels in the scene. Layers allow you to selectively show and hide model sets.
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    Navigate in the viewport

    Once you get a feel for Maya’s layout, you’ll want to learn how to get around. Navigation in Maya is “alt-centered,” meaning almost all viewport movement is centered around the Alt key. It is also important that your mouse has a middle button or a scroll wheel.

    Click on the left button of the main window to make sure it is active. Here are the three most common navigation commands:

    • Old Left mouse button: Holding this combination allows you to “tumble” or rotate the camera around a central pivot point.
    • Old Right mousekey: “Dolly” or move the camera. You can also use your mouse wheel, but the Dolly command is more precise.
    • Old Middle mousekey: Allows you to follow the camera by moving the viewing window horizontally or vertically while maintaining a constant angle of view.

    You can also access an advanced set of camera tools by following the path below:

    Play around with some of the camera tools to get a feel for how they work. Most of the time you’ll use satellite navigation, but sometimes your advanced camera movements come in handy, especially when composing.

    You can cancel any tool at any time by pressing q.

    Switch from one panel to another

    By default, Maya’s viewport displays a perspective view of the scene. Perspective panel uses a camera that is close to human vision, allowing you to freely navigate your 3D scene and view your models from any angle.

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    However, the perspective camera is just one of many panels available to Maya users. Keeping the mouse pointer positioned in the display window, briefly press the spacebar.

    • Your screen should change to the configuration shown above. What you see here is Maya’s four panel setup, typically containing the perspective camera and three orthographic views: above, in frontetc side.
    • Maya’s panel layout is fully customizable thanks to the red underlined menu. These tools allow you to switch between them 4 plates, 3 platesetc 2 panels (either up/down or left/right).
    • Finally, to maximize one of the four overview windows, move your mouse to the window you want to maximize and press the button. spacebar. Try switching from your four panel layout to each of the orthographic cameras to familiarize yourself with the subject, as this is a common operation in Maya.

    Change the camera of a panel

    You can customize the camera used in each of the four layout cameras. By using the function panel menuAs in the image, we can switch from our current camera to any orthographic view, create a new perspective camera, or bring up other viewports like Hypergraph and Outline.

    When you think you’ve mastered the art of harbor navigation

    Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can read our guide to Maya’s file management and project structure. Knowing how to properly organize your project will save you many headaches in the future.

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