Dear Lazyweb, do you have suggestions for a good set of Maya tutorials? Or a book?

Textual tutorials vastly preferred over video ones, since videos seem to always take forever to get to the mumbled point.

The googs are full of Maya tutorials -- yes, I can goog too -- but all the ones I've found are crap.

I've gotten pretty good at Sketchup, but it is terrible at many things (importing or exporting things that are usable by other programs; creating printable, water-tight models; etc., etc.) so I'm trying to graduate to what the big kids use.

Unsurprisingly, it has a learning curve like a plumb line.

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25 Responses:

  1. Luke says:

    You would probably be better off with a CAD package like Solidworks. I've been trying to learn mesh modelling with blender to create some 3D models for a game. It's far more like the analogue process of drawing/painting (destructive editing) than the non-destructive programming-like process of defining parametrically driven surfaces that I'm used to with CAD (Catia v6).

    The only plus side to this type of work that I can see is the ability to control the number of polys (which makes sense for a computer to render, but not for manufacturing).

  2. someguy says:

    Suggestion: Maya isn't the first program that comes to mind when talking about models for 3D printing. It works, but not the best tool for the job: Maya is for animation and rendering first. That means it doesn't enforce the "water-tightness" or volume characteristic. Everything is assumed to be a 1-sided surface mesh and holes in the mesh don't matter in a lot of animation use cases. Same goes for Lightwave, 3DSMax, Blender or the rest of the "animation" group.

    For 3D print modeling, look for software written to design physical objects made out of material(s). You may be better served by something like Solidworks, AD Inventor or Sculptris (or even AutoCAD, but... ugh) for that purpose.

  3. Logan Bowers says:

    AutoCAD has Fusion 360, which is available for free. It's somewhere in-between Sketchup and professional AutoCAD in terms of features, and they add more ~monthly.

    Since switching from Sketchup, I've never built a leaky object. The constraints are fantastic (you can assert things like, this line must stay tangent to this circle, rearrange everything else to make it true), and the transform timeline is super-handy (you can, say, undo a chamfer transform, then tweak the underlying object, then reapply it).

    I found it to be relatively intuitive after I got over the initial hump. Onboarding is approximately,
    * Make a 2D sketch plane
    * Draw a 2D shape
    * Extrude it with Push/Pull
    * Make a new sketch plane on other surfaces of the shape to get more complicated
    * Use Offset planes when you need to make a sketch plane at a really weird angle

    You should be able to figure out enough from there to Google for specific questions (they have active forums that work about 50% as well as Stack Overflow does for software). Lack of helix support is the biggest shortcoming I've found.

    • Ben says:

      My expertise is in Solidworks, but I've heard good things about Fusion 360. I'd definitely give it a look over programs that are built for making digital art like Maya.

  4. Stuart McDow says:

    All you need to do is learn MEL, which combines the very best of perl and tcl.

  5. Stuart Hacking says:

    Sorry, don't know about about text tutorials, but I always felt that these guys knew their stuff and did a good job of speaking clearly and getting to the point:

    I hope that's at least better than the usual "You should be using (blender|some $5000 CAD program)" response...

    • jwz says:

      Wow, I'm four six videos in and they haven't actually said anything yet except to laugh at each others' jokes. Is this Car Talk?

  6. David Preece says:

    Please don't learn Maya (and at this point I agree with Logan).

    • Dusk says:

      @jwz: It might be helpful if you told lazyweb what you're planning on doing with Maya (or whatever other tool). 3D printing? Animation? AR/VR? Something else entirely?

      • jwz says:

        In case you haven't noticed, that's a recipe for not getting any answers.

        Look at how specific my question was. Look at the answers I'm not getting.

        The more open-ended my questions are, the more people who don't know the answer to the question want to just argue about the question itself.

        • someguy says:

          Use case is important. For example:

          Question: I need some tutorials on programming in C. Anybody have any suggestions? Found lots of sites with info but they're not particularly helpful. My website projects are OK in PHP but I want to graduate to what the big kids use.

          The best answer might be: "Other than some odd special cases, C usually isn't what you want to use for websites, which is the reason why you're having a hard time finding useful guides. Pick a different tool, one designed for the purpose. Here are some suggestions of what professionals use." With the implication that the learning curve (and ease of finding docs) for that task will be better with the new tool.

          In other words, if you had wanted Maya animation tutorials, then it's not wise to mention 3d printing in the same sentence, because that will throw everyone off topic. We're just trying to save you a lot of frustration with what you implied your project is.

          • jwz says:

            By all means, continue to assume I'm a complete idiot.

            • someguy says:

              Look at how specific my question was. Look at the answers I'm not getting.

              You think your original question was specific. It really wasn't, to be honest. Maya's a (very) big program, and the good tutorials are going to be on how to accomplish a specific end result. Looking for "a good set of Maya tutorials" without any other direction won't get you very far, as you've found out already.

              For the few problems with Sketchup you listed, Maya doesn't solve them. In some cases it's worse. Even the best tutorial isn't going to fix that.

              • jwz says:

                "What's a book on Maya that you think doesn't suck" is pretty fucking specific. Obviously you don't know of such a book. Crickets would be the appropriate response, because anything else is noise masquerading as signal.

  7. bode says:

    Was also going to suggest Solidworks, although: expensive and terrible licensing / upgrade restrictions. But if by "big kids" you mean "industrial design of things made of solid material and then sold for money," that is what in my experience people use: CAD and not 3D rendering. A video game/pixar is very different than "shit made of aluminum with a PCB inside and prototyped with a 3D printer."

  8. pnuk says:

    Ignore the wisened recommendations to steer clear of Maya at your own peril.
    Or don't and I shall belly laugh at the inevitable tirades against absurdly crap technology as you follow that plumb line straight down into an endless universe of poo.

  9. Josh says: has some really quality tutorials for versions 2012-2015. Yes, they’re video, but they provide the transcript along with downloadable versions (“exercise files”) of the projects the tutorials walk through. There’s a free seven day trial that gives you full access to all of their tutorials. The courses range from “Maya 2015 Essential Training” to “Rendering Interiors in Maya”.

  10. Jim Bob Joe says:


    I learned Maya from the (5?) books that came with it but that was many years ago, not sure if they still include them. There seems to be an online version of their Tutorial:

    Then there is Gnomon Workshop, it's video but it used to be quite good back then.

    Of the online tutorials I remember to read I found only this (old) ones:

    And if you are interested in NURBS modeling, you could also try to learn Rhino3D first (from its manual) and then Maya. I did it this way as Rhino is much more simple and they use lots of similar concepts.

    PS: I can recommend the tutorials by Ed Harris but they are for Softimage. Still, there is lots of interesting stuff in there, applicable for Maya, too (e.g. MentalRay rendering).

  11. Asm says:

    My own completely useless input: I really like parametric modellers like Solidworks. I tried to wrap my head around poly modelling in 3ds max and Lightwave (when that was a thing), but never succeeded anywhere near as well as I did when I tried Solidworks.

    As for Maya... *crickets*

  12. Peter says:

    Yes, I know this doesn't answer the original question, but perhaps interesting nonetheless.

    Steep learning curve means the opposite of what most people think. If the X axis is time and Y is acquired knowledge, a steep curve means you learn quickly.

    So a learning curve like a plumb line means instantly acquired knowledge.

    • phuzz says:

      I've always read them as the x axis representing progress, so any point on the line is "to progress further you must reach this level of competence".

    • Douglas Knight says:

      As phuzz implies, there is a difference between knowledge and competence. But I think you are correct about the axes: it really is about abruptly acquiring competence. But not immediately at the start, which would be great. It's a step function: you spend lots of time acquiring knowledge, but only once you learn everything can you use the product. That long period of learning is frustrating, especially if you can't tell how long it is to the step. And if you haven't achieved competence, if you can't accomplish little goals, you can't be sure that the knowledge you're acquiring is correct.

      But maybe it would be better to talk about the curve being concave up vs concave down. Concave down is the right thing: quickly acquire the basics, advanced stuff is diminishing returns on more work. Concave up is what I'm talking about: put in lots of effort and eventually it comes all at once. But if you phrase it that way, "steep" sounds like "concave down."

    • Phil! Gold says:

      Maybe you're right and every single other person who uses the phrase is wrong.

      Or maybe the X axis is "how much stuff you want to be able to do" and the Y axis is "how much stuff you have to learn to do it."