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  • Writer's pictureMichael

Tutorial: Maya Basics and keys.

Interface and screen layout.

Maya has a standard menu bar like many other programs. But there are soo many tabs that they cant all be displayed at once. Instead, just underneath is a pull down menu where you can select different menu options for modelling, rigging, animation etc.

Next to this dropdown box are a number of commonly used buttons, for saving scenes, for rendering, snapping tools, and finally 4 buttons for selecting different attribute menus (right hand side of screen)

These menus in order are: Modelling tab, Character animator, Attribute Editor,Tool settings, Channel box (default)

Underneath this is a long toolbar containing most of the common tools used in maya, split into tabs based on their role, for example Modelling, rigging, animation etc.

At teh top right of the screen is the Workspaces dropdown, which allows you to quickly customise the UI layout based on teh task you are currently doing.

Down the left side of the screen are our selection, move rotate and scale tools. Underneath here there are also some viewport setting buttons for one, four or two views. There is also a toggle switch for the Outliner, which displays all objects currently in the scene.

Along the bottom is the animation timeline. Note that this has a slider to zoom in and out of particular regions of the timeline. There are playback buttons including a framerate dropdown box.

Underneath is the MEL command line textbox, used for more advanced features, and underneath that is the help bar, which provides tooltips when you hover over buttons etc.


Files in Maya are saved as ‘Projects’, which are folders containing other folders designated for source images, sounds, scenes, and rendered images.

To open a project choose File > Open Project.

To set a new project choose File > Project Window and adjust the options from there.

By saving files in project folders, it is much easier to move whole projects between machines etc, without losing file links.


Alt + L Click – orbit Scene.

Alt + M Click – Pan Scene.

Alt + M Wheel – Truck the camera back and forward.


Viewports in Maya contain a number of buttons and options.

Shading Menu: Here you can choose how the scene is rendered in the viewport.

You can also quickly select between common options with some Shortcut Keys:

4 – Wireframe

5 – Shaded

6 – Shaded and Textured.

Lighting menu allows us to toggle different lighting options to improve out performance whilst working.

Show allows us to toggle on and off different types of obects in the scene.

Renderer allows us to choose the renderer which displays the scene in teh viewport, as well as letting us change its settings.

Underneath these menus are a line of buttons, most of which are the same as the menus themselves. There are also Film Gates to show the renderable area of the viewport etc.

Hotbox and Marking Menus

Hover your mouse over an element in the scene and press the Space bar. A menu will appear around the mouse.

Right Clicking on an object will open a context sensitive menu. For example on a poly object at the top is a radial section where you can choose to select the vertices, edges or faces of a particular object. Choose ‘Object Mode’ to return from these subselections.

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