The field of digital design covers a whole lot more than just interfaces. Graphics creation and 3D modeling are becoming incredibly popular, both of which can apply to digital animation like After Effects projects.
One of the best 3D modeling programs is Maya by Autodesk. Learning Maya requires a lot of patience and practice, but it’s definitely worth the effort if you want to do 3D modeling or digital rendering.
This post will cover the best Maya tutorials for beginners getting started with the program. Some tutorials cover more intermediate subjects while others stick to the absolute basics. The key is to just get started and never stop learning. You’ll be surprised how much progress can be made in just a few months’ time.
Related reading: Blender Tutorials for Beginners
The YouTube channel AnimationMethods offers this great maya tutorial for beginners. The video spans just over 1 hour so it’s definitely a commitment.
However this video is also newer and uses Maya 2015. It teaches only fundamental concepts and caters to absolute beginners who want to learn the software from scratch. Again this is highly recommended if you have the time and patience to see it through to the end.
Tuts+ is an incredible resource for video material, and this tutorial is a compilation of video content for learning maya. It covers a basic introduction to the software through numerous tutorial videos from their CGI Tuts+ archive.
These videos focus more on specific topics and may not be the perfect intro for an absolute beginner. However you can glean plenty of info from the videos if you follow along and perform research on the side.
If you’re more into reading then get started with the basics of lighting by Sean Hewitt. This tutorial hosted by 3DTotal is completely free and covers the basics of lighting effects in Maya.
3D rendering is a detailed process with so many factors at play. It will take months(if not years) of practice to fully understand these features, but the sooner you start the sooner you’ll grow more accustomed to the terminology.
An easy-peasy starting point is to learn about text in Maya. This basic tutorial shouldn’t take more than 10-20 minutes and covers the absolute basics of 3D text rendering in Maya.
Boolean Modeling in Maya
Here’s another great intro tutorial for beginners. This covers the basics of 3D objects and shapes, but with a focus on boolean modeling which covers subtraction/addition of shapes to form a new shape.
You’ll learn about basic shape anatomy and boolean commands that can be used to merge shapes together properly.
Rigging is another big topic for Maya users. This hour-long video tutorial by 3DTotal covers the basics of rigging a human torso in 3D.
It does require some patience and lots of practice, so if you don’t get it right away just keep trying. 3DTotal also uploads other tuts to their official Vimeo account which you might want to check out.
Finally we get to an incredible tutorial that teaches you how to actually build something from start to finish. Tuts+ author Alan Monroig teaches how to create a photorealistic USB cable from scratch with Maya.
You’ll learn about modeling, textures, lighting, and other effects needed for that photorealistic look.
For a more advanced modeling tutorial check out this example by Sansar Tripathi. You’ll learn how to model a temple in Maya with shadows and blocking techniques. This may be a little more complex for absolute beginners but it’s a great way to learn through project work.
Animation is another form of creative expression that can use Maya in the workflow.
This fantastic tutorial by Abed Ibrahim covers how to create animated particles that dissipate from a logo. It’s surprisingly quick and easy to learn once you get the hang of common Maya tools.
The nDynamics framework is used for simulation to create realistic effects that would take a long time if you made them manually. This tutorial introduces you to the nDynamics framework by creating a flag animation with realistic-looking cloth.
Those who are moving beyond the basics may learn about Maya tools like V-Ray. This is a method of rendering light, shadows, and materials without customizing everything from scratch.
This tutorial delves into V-Ray by showing how to create a realistic electric guitar. It’s a 25 minute video tutorial covering the entire workflow start-to-finish.
Another V-Ray video tutorial by Tuts+ covers modeling and rendering robot droids. These are built from very simple shapes but use some advanced lighting techniques to replicate certain materials. This is one of the better tutorials for advancing from a novice to a competent Maya user.
Those who want to learn 3D modeling should familiarize themselves with other programs in the workflow. ZBrush is a good example which can add features or help with rendering forms.
This tutorial covers how to build an entire character simulated in Maya and ZBrush. It’s a lengthy process and comes in 5 individual parts. If you have the drive and tenacity then you’re sure to learn a lot from this tutorial series.
Game developers will love this tutorial explaining how to build props with Maya and the Source 3D game engine created by Valve.
Props are often the simplest to create, but still take a lot of time and practice. Following through this video tutorial will explain how props are created in Maya and rendered with the Source game engine for real-world video game projects.
Creating Natural Light
Natural lighting is very tricky and often requires some knowledge of real-world photon behavior. This tutorial attempts to introduce natural lighting by rendering realistic items in a 3D space. It’s great for modelers of any background and should explain the basics of lighting effects.
How Maya Shaders Work
Shadows are another big part of lighting which both go hand-in-hand. This tutorial covers Maya shaders and how they fit into a typical workflow. You’ll learn about surface materials and how they interact with shaders, also known as shader networks.
Digital information is growing and visual expression has become the top choice for showcasing data online. This tutorial explains how to create animated information graphics in Maya. It’s both a simple tutorial and interview with Graham Roberts covering his premium course about animated information graphics.
To learn you really just need to practice and try out many different techniques. This tutorial explains how to render a coin using Maya in the clearest manner possible.
Note this does require scanning a coin into your computer for reference, so if you can’t do that just find a photo reference online.
This is one of the most detailed tutorials for a beginner, but it’s also a great learning experience. It teaches how to render a full cheese platter through reference photos of different materials like strawberries and crackers.
Those who want to learn Maya really need to put in the time and effort. Follow along with each of these tutorials at your own pace until you fully understand the techniques provided within them.
Over time you’ll develop a keen sense of intuition and pretty soon you’ll be rendering like there’s no tomorrow.
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