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15 Maya Techniques That Boost Productivity for Architects

Get More from One of the Most Flexible Digital Design Software Packages

Have you tried using Maya for architectural design?

Yes, it is one of the more general digital design packages. People use Maya to design everything from computer games through to film scenes. But the software has a great deal of power, which makes it a great choice for architects. You can build great models using Maya.

In fact, Maya is one of the best digital design software packages because it offers flexibility and freedom in design.

Of course, this comes at the cost of some of the useful constraints other packages apply to architectural work. But you get a powerful renderer that’s also capable of creating animated models. It’s a trade-off, but one it’s worth it, as long as you’re careful.

Perhaps you’re new to the software, and you’ve come here to learn Maya online.

Whatever the case may be, this article will help you. Productivity is key in architecture. You have deadlines to meet and workflows to maintain.

This list will offer you 15 great productivity tips that will speed up your Maya workflow and help you get even more from the software. Let’s get started.


Tip #1 – Quads are Your Friend



You’ll have the choice of a lot of shapes when modelling in Maya. By and large, quads are more suited to most of the tasks you’ll need to complete. Sure, you can use the occasional triangle. But quads work better when you’re subdividing. Also, they produce much more attractive results when you’re adding textures to your model.

Quads also seem to be a fairly universal shape. For example, you can move a 3D model you’ve built using quads from Maya to your sculpting software quite easily. Other shapes tend to cause a few problems, which adds to your workload.

And, whatever you do, don’t use N-gons if you want efficiency in your workflow.


Tip #2 – Create Custom Shelves

You’ll use all sorts of tools to create your Maya models. That takes up a lot of time spent looking for the tools you need.

That’s where custom shelves come in. You can create shelves to give yourself access to the tools you use most often. Think of it as a favourites bar. Fill your shelf with the tools you need to use to complete your model you’ll cut down on time and shorten the process.

Of course, you need to know how to create one. It’s simple. First, highlight the tool you want to add to your shelf with your mouse. Hold down CTRL+Shift and click on the tool using the left mouse button. That’s all it takes. The tool is now on your shelf, and you can access it far more quickly than you normally would. This works well for tools found in sub-menus.


Tip #3 – Use Lattices

A lot of Maya newbies look past the Lattice tool. Perhaps they think it’s too complicated so they want to save it for later. That’s not a good idea because the tool is very powerful. You can use it to make big changes to your model, all in one go. Compare that to the usual technique of messing around with individual edges and vertices, and you’ll see the benefits.

You’ll find the Lattice tool mixed in with Maya’s animation tools. Perhaps it should be on the polygon shelf, but that’s an argument for another day. Take some time to get used to the Lattice tool. Create some basic shapes and mess around with it and you’ll soon figure out what it can do.

The only drawback is that the Lattice tool can get buggy. Always make sure to save before you start using it. Consider getting rid of your history afterward too.


Tip #4 – Make Your Viewport Faster

Have you ever tried to import a lot of geometry into a Maya scene? The first thing you will notice was the lag. Maya sometimes struggles when there’s a lot going on, and that lag can affect your workflow.

There is a solution. Head to the “Shading” section and locate the “Backface Culling” option. Turn it on, and Maya gets rid of all of the backfaces in your scene.

“How does that help?” you may ask. No backfaces means less geometry for Maya to deal with. You should notice that lag disappears from your viewport, and you can work faster.


Tip #5 – Make Custom Marking Menus



You’ll see a marking menu whenever you right-click on an item. The menu contains a list of tools you can use on the object you clicked. Maya allows you to make your own marking menus to access your preferred tools.

Head to “Settings” and find the “Marking Menu Editor”. From here you can create a marking menu. Open the creator up, and you can drag the tools you want in the menu from Maya’s selection. Name the menu and save.

You can also assign a hotkey to your custom marking menu, so you can access it faster. Head back to the “Settings” section and click the “Hotkey Editor”. Find the “User Marking Menus” section in the list and assign your hotkey from there.


Tip #6 – Soft Selections

Soft selections prove most useful for those subtle changes you make to touch up your models. It’s not great for sweeping changes, but you’ll get a lot of use out of it for the little things.

Soft select applies a falloff radius to every edge, face, and vertex in your selection. You can then make changes to one vertex and see the effects on the vertices around it.

Again, it’s all about subtlety. You’ll see almost no changes if you drag you selected vertex far away from the others in the selection. Instead, use it to touch things up and get to grips with the really subtle contours of your models.


Tip #7 – Quick Duplication



You can use Maya’s Animation Snapshot tool to create quick copies of geometry you need to use a lot. Let’s say you have a streetlight. You want to copy that streetlight and place it at regular intervals across a path.

First, head to the “Animate” menu and select “Animation Snapshot”. You can use this to create an animation for your original streetlight that follows a path you’ve set for it. But Animation Snapshot takes it a step further by creating a copy of the streetlight in every frame of the animation.

This saves so much time. You don’t have to spend hours manually copying and pasting the piece to get the desired effect. You’ll wonder how you worked without this tip when you need to create a chain or a similarly repetitive item.


Tip #8 – Save Your Viewport Layouts

Most people will have a few viewports open when creating models. You may have one for my Ultraviolet (UV) Editor, another for the model’s main perspective view, and one that applies Hypershade.

Saving these viewpoints saves a lot of hassle, especially when you’re going to use them again for other models. It means you don’t have to create them again later on.

Just head to “Save Current Layout” in the “Window” menu and give the viewport a name. Now, you can access it whenever you want from the “Saved Layouts” panel. Create a set of viewports you use a lot to get the most out of this tip.


Tip #9 – Duplicate Special

Maybe you’re not comfortable with the animation tip for duplication. Happily, there are other ways to duplicate an item.

All you need is the “Duplicate Special” command. This creates as many copies of the item as you need. Better yet, you can apply different rotations and translations to the items. You can even alter the scale.

Select your item and set the amount of copies you need using “Duplicate Special”. You can then choose how to rotate these items around the origin point. This proves ideal for creating circles using different objects.


Tip #10 – Keep Checking for Deformation

Deformation can happen in models that look great in your viewport. It’s a hassle to deal with because it means you have to go back and try to figure out the problem. In some cases, that problem may come from something you did right at the start of the modelling process.

That’s why it’s important to create rigs for your models, especially any that you want to animate. Create them early and test them. This will highlight any deformities.

You’ll find this works best for scenes where you use animated people. Each one of those will need a rigged skeleton. Create a rig for each person as you go, rather than trying to do it all at the end.


Tip #11 – Use Your Timeline to Edit Keyframes


A lot of people don’t touch the keyframes for their animations outside the dope sheet. This works well enough, but it will cost you some time.

Instead, you can alter keyframes directly from the timeline created when you make an animation. This is great for making small changes in the animation, such as moving a frame forward or holding a frame so a pose lasts longer.

Hold Shift and click on the keyframe with your left mouse button. You can select several frames at once, if you want. You can then use your mouse to move the keyframes until they line up how you want them to.


Tip #12 – Use the Relax Brush

Maya still isn’t great for sculpting models. It’s getting better, but a lot of novices will find their models have strange lumps when they switch smoothing on and they can’t do much about them.

The Relax Brush is the most useful of the sculpting tools that Maya does have. You can run it over the weird lumps to try and smooth them out. It does this by averaging out the spaces between each vertex in the model. The brush doesn’t always work, but it can help for those annoying little lumps.

To use it, select your object while in object mode and hold the right mouse button. You’ll open a menu. Select “Paint” and then “Sculpt”, then choose the brush from here. Run it over the model to smooth it out.


Tip #13 – Copying Keyframes

You can also copy keyframes on your timeline. This helps if you want your animation to hold a pose for a few frames.

Select the keyframe and hold "'Ctrl +" your middle mouse button. You can then drag the keyframe across the timeline. Press “S” on your keyboard wherever you want to copy the keyframe to.


Tip #14 – Changing Animation Speeds

There are few things more annoying than seeing that the animation you’ve worked so hard moves too fast. Happily, there’s a way to change this in seconds, rather than the hours it would take to do it all again.

Head into the “Graph Editor” and select every “Translate” key. Now, click the “Region Scale Tool” to turn it on.

This should place a grey box around every keyframe on the graph. Select the box on the right-hand side and drag it. Left speeds everything up while going right slows the animation down.


Tip #15 – Saving Selection Sets

It can take ages to create a selection set. You click on every face you need and make your changes, only to find you need to go back and do it all again because of a slight error. This is a massive time waster.

Maya helps you avoid this because it allows you to save a selection set. Create the selection and head to the “Create” menu. Click “Quick Select Sets” and name the set. You can now access the selection whenever you want, if you go to the “Quick Select Sets” section in the “Edit” menu item.


The Final Word

So, there you have it, the top 15 tips for speeding up your Maya workflow. You may not use all of these tips when creating your models. But it’s likely that at least one of them will apply to your work.

Of course, you can always rely on ArchiStar Academy to provide more in-depth training. ArchiStar Academy have a Maya 3D course and a Maya animation course to help you get to grips with the basics of the software. Contact ArchiStar Academy today to find out how you can take Maya courses online.

Archistar Academy offers several courses across the spectrum of digital design software. You’ll develop your skills, allowing you to create more accurate and functional models.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Archistar Academy today if you have any questions.


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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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