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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Saumur, France

    New to Maya? READ THIS: Beginner Tutorials


    Here is a tutorial on how to use Textures as Image Planes.

    Step 1: Resize your images
    This is not a MUST, but since you are using textures I highly recommend that you keep your image size in a format that Maya can interpret easily. This means you should keep your Pixel Ratio always to a number that is the power of two. Like: 256x256, 512x512, 1024x1024.
    If you are using Photoshop you can edit your Crop Tool in the Tool Option Box to fit any desired Pixel Ratio. Just type in the same pixel number for width and height (make sure you write px at the end, e.g. width = 512 px height = 512 px). Select, crop and done.
    Alternatively you can also edit the pixel ratio under Image->Image Size (turn off Constrain Proportions if your aspect ratio is not even, beware of stretching though!).

    Step 2: Naming Conventions make life easier
    Another good thing is to include the image size in your file name. Now, I’m not talking pixels (you can easily detect that by hovering the mouse courser over your file), but whatever measurement you are using in Maya (cm by default I think). Here is the naming convention I use for my image plane files:
    e.g. car_front_10x10cm.jpg,
    This is simply good house keeping, you can ignore this step completely if you desire so.

    Step 3: Create your Poly Planes
    For each image plane you are planning to import into your scene you will need a poly plane.
    Create a simple plane (Create->Polygon Primitives->Plane, leave all options on default) and then click on the Polyplane input node in your Channel Box. Under width and height enter the length you have set for your image planes (which you can read from your file names if you have followed step 2). Make sure that you are actually using the correct measurements by checking your preferences (Windows->Settings/Preferences->Preferences, go to the settings tab, look under working units). Rotate your Plane in the right direction so it faces your orthographic camera (don’t worry if you get this wrong in the beginning, you can always correct that once you have your textures set up). Repeat this step for each image plane you need.

    Step 4: Set up your textures
    Open up your hypershade (Window->Rendering Editors->Hypershade) and create a lambert. Double click on the lambert to open up the attribute editor and rename your texture accordingly (e.g. front_car_image). Now, under Common Material Attributes look for the color input (first on top) and click on the checkermap to the right. That will open up the Create Render Node window. Click on File and the attribute editor should switch to your newly created file node. Under image name click on the folder button and open up your image plane file. Back in your scene select your poly plane, right click and go to assign existing material and choose your newly created texture. Repeat this step for each image plane you need.

    Step 5: Create a Display Layer for your image planes
    In the channel box all the way on the bottom click on the “Create new layer” button. Name it Image_planes and click ok. Select all your poly planes, right click on your new layer and choose “add selected objects”. Now you can easily turn your image planes on and off if they ever should get in your way. I suggest you also set the layer to reference so you can’t accidentally select your image planes. I also like to move the poly planes out of the way in my perspective view, makes it easier to model.

    Step 6: How to use wireframe with your Image Planes
    You should be able to start modeling now. The only problem you might face is that as soon as you switch your view to wireframe your textures and consequently your image planes disappear. In order to work in wireframe mode with the textures still visible I use a little animation trick. Go back to your hypershade and double click on your custom lambert shader (should be named lambert1). Check your timeslider to make sure that you are currently on frame 1. In the attribute editor right click on the transparency node (right beneath the color node) and choose “Set Key”. In your timeslider click on frame 2 and then move the transparency slider all the way to the right (so your shader becomes invisible). Right click again and choose “Set Key”.
    Now you can easily access a fake wireframe mode while modeling. Simply move to frame 2 and your model’s shader will become invisible. Back to frame 1 and everything goes back to normal.
    "The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress."

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Saumur, France
    Last Update: 25 Nov 2007

    Welcome to the Clay Render Tutorial for Maya. You might have heard from users of other 3d applications that doing a Clay Render in Maya is complicated and time consuming. This tutorial is going to prove these users wrong; in fact I will show you how to create a clay render in less than 10 mouse clicks. For a long time I have been using Mental Ray’s Global Illumination and Final Gathering, having to set up photon emitting lights, creating self illuminating spheres, tweaking the renders, essentially wasting hours of work time just to get an image of what was basically just a work in progress. The following technique requires no GI, no FG, no lights in your scene at all. Here is how it goes:

    1. In your Layer Window change the view to Render and click on “Create a new Layer”
    2. Select the new layer (named “layer1”), select all the objects in your scene, right click on your new layer and choose “Add selected objects”
    3. Right click on the layer and choose Presets->occlusion
    4. Your entire scene will turn black, but not to worry; this is supposed to happen. All that is left to do is hit render, sit back and watch Maya create a Clay Render for you.

    Clay Render example:

    That’s it! To make things even simpler I have created a MEL script that does all of the above in one step (This is my first written MEL script, so have patience with my inadequate coding style). Add it to your shelf and you can create a Clay Render with one mouse click.

    if ( `renderLayerButton -exists "occlusion"`) {
    editRenderLayerGlobals -currentRenderLayer "occlusion";
    RenderIntoNewWindow; }
    else {
    string $myLayer = `createRenderLayer -name "occlusion" -number 1 -noRecurse`;
    select -allDagObjects;
    editRenderLayerMembers -noRecurse $myLayer `ls -selection`;
    renderLayerBuiltinPreset occlusion $myLayer; 
    editRenderLayerGlobals -currentRenderLayer $myLayer;
    RenderIntoNewWindow; }

    What is Ambient Occlusion?
    At the beginning of this tutorial I have called this a Clay Render, but what we actually did was create an ambient occlusion pass. Ambient occlusion is a shaded based rendering method in Mental Ray that can fake Global Illumination shading procedures similar to final gathering. However, ambient occlusion is not true GI; instead, it calculates the distance between objects in your scene. Objects close to each other receive darker shading, while objects farther away receive diffused shading. This rendering method requires no lights, uses neither depth-map shadows nor raytrace shadows, and thus renders generally faster than Global Illumination. Ambient Occlusion passes are normally being used for post-editing purpose as a quicker alternative to Final Gather. You can open an occlusion render in an image editing application like Adobe Photoshop and then multiply it on top of your colored render in order to achieve Global Illumination-type effects.

    How to tweak Occlusion Passes
    Depending on the relative size of the objects in your scene you may end up with grainy shadows in your occlusion pass. These can be tweaked out easily, but usually at the cost of render time. If you want to edit your Occlusion Pass you have to access the ambient occlusion shader. As mentioned before Ambient Occlusion is shader based, meaning that the shadows are created through a shader that has been applied previously to each object in your scene. This is why your entire scene turns black once you switch the render layer preset to “occlusion”; all your objects have now a surface shader applied to them that is connected to a MentalRay shader called “mib_amb_occlusion”. This is also why Ambient Occlusion will not work with the Maya Software Renderer (in case you haven’t tried, it will just render out black). In order to access this shader you can select any object in your scene and hit CTRL + ‘a’ to open up the attribute editor OR click on the blue ball button on your occlusion render layer. Click on the Out Color input node in order to switch to the mib_amb_occlusion shader. Your attribute editor should show the following:

    The easiest way to decrease the noise in your shadows is to crank up the level of samples. This value is defaulted to 16 and will rise exponentially (16, 32, 64, 128 etc.), effectively causing your render time to rise, too (not exponentially, but it will eventually take longer than a Final Gather render).

    If you want to change the spread of your shadows you need to tweak the spread value. Decreasing this value will scale down the overall spread of your shadows and give objects a much tighter core shadow, while increasing this value will consequentially give you opposite results. Note that if you decrease this value you will also need fewer samples for smoother results, while higher values can cause faceting.
    Spread set to 0.4:
    Spread set to 0.8:
    Spread set to 1.6:

    Max Distance:
    The max distance determines the maximum range between objects that Mental Ray will take into account when rendering the shadows. When set to zero (as it is default) Maya will calculate the entire scene which often times is unnecessary. You can use the measurement tool (Create->Measure Tools->Distance Tool) to quickly determine the distance that covers all the objects that you want to be rendered. Enter that value for Max Distance and you can save up render time, especially on fairly complex scenes.

    Using a surface as background to increase contrast
    Sometimes you might want to have more shadows and increase the overall contrast on your model. The easiest solution is to introduce primitive planes at close proximity to your object. This will increase render time (as Mental Ray will calculate more shadows), but can possibly give you much better results. In the following example I used two Poly Planes to encapsulate my model, essentially giving me much more contrast.

    More information on ambient occlusion ->Tutorial by Neil Blevins ->Video tutorial by William Kladis ->Tutorial for AO Baking at

    That’s it for now. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I hope this tutorial was helpful.


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Saumur, France

    In this tutorial I would like to talk about the Cleanup Command and what is considered bad polygonal geometry. Generally there seems to be a whole lot of confusion as how to use the Cleanup command and how to manually approach cleanup work. If you have never used the Cleanup command I highly recommend you take a quick look at the Maya help files. Albeit its bad reputation the article on Cleanup is actually quite helpful.

    Let’s take a step-by-step look at the cleanup command.
    The cleanup command can be found under Mesh->Cleanup and will launch an option box that looks as follows.

    Cleanup Effect
    In this section you can control how cleanup is going to affect your geometry. Scope is going to determine which objects Cleanup is going to target. If you set it to “Apply to selected objects” Maya will only perform the Cleanup on the objects that are currently selected in your scene. If you set it to “Apply to all polygonal objects” Maya will perform a Cleanup on all polygonal objects in your scene. I usually have this set to “Apply to selected objects” as it lets me concentrate on one object at a time.
    If you set Operation to “Cleanup matching polygons” Maya will try to find and automatically fix any bad geometry, when set to “Select matching polygons” Maya only highlights any components that are causing trouble. At first it might seem like a great idea to let Maya do all the work for you, but as it turns out Maya does a pretty poor job at fixing your geometry. You should (almost) always set this option to “Select matching polygons”. Cleanup might be pretty bad at doing what it’s supposed to do (Cleanup that is); however it’s a great tool to hunt down bad geometry.
    I always have “Keep construction history” checked. If you turn it off Maya will delete your object’s history after the cleanup process.

    Fix by Tesselation
    1. 4-sided Faces
    Turn this on and Maya will look for all faces on your objects that have four sides and triangulate them if you have “Cleanup matching polygons” activated. In this case it actually makes more sense to let Maya do the cleanup. Otherwise it will only highlight 4-sided faces on your object which might prove useful if you have problems counting from one to four. 4-sided Faces works very similar to “Mesh->Triangulate” the only difference being that the former will only triangulate 4-sided Faces whilst the latter will triangulate the entire object.

    2. Faces with more than 4 sides
    If you activate this option Maya will locate all faces that are connected by more than four vertices. These types of faces are also known as n-gons. Ongoing arguments exist all over the net debating whether you should avoid n-gons or not. I am not going to get into this argument in this tutorial. However, if you are going to apply a smooth operation on your object, be aware that n-gons can cause problems in the Mesh. Generally Maya doesn’t really care if your model isn’t entirely quadrangulated and should render just fine. If you are modeling for a Game Engine you will have to remove all n-gons and eventually triangulate your model. Don’t ever trust Maya to do the Cleanup for you – it will simply poke the adjacent faces which typically creates new problems. The best way to clean up n-gons is to either create a loop split along your mesh or terminate existing loop splits. Take a look at this picture to see the difference between Mesh->Cleanup and manual Cleanup:
    Read the following article if you want further information on this topic:

    3. Concave Faces
    Turn this option on and Maya will hunt down all faces where at least two edges form a concave curve (if you don’t know what concave means it stands for curved in; the opposite being convex). Concave Faces are not a big deal in Maya. You can have convex faces in your model, never bother to clean it up and will most likely get away with it. Convex Faces can be smoothed and even Booleans can be performed on them.
    You can set Maya to fix concave faces for you, but all it does is triangulate the faces. You are usually better off moving the vertices until the concavity disappears or simply ignoring concave faces altogether.

    4. Faces With Holes
    Faces With Holes are just what they say they are and usually result from Boolean operations.
    Faces with holes are basically n-gons with floating vertices. They will give you terrible results when smoothed out and should always be taken care of. Theoretically you can let Maya take care of the problem, but as usual you are better off doing the cleanup yourself. The best approach to fix this manually would be to simply delete the face with the hole, then use “Append to Polygon Tool” to close the gap, and use the “Split Polygon Tool” to terminate the floating vertices.

    5. Non-planar Faces
    Non-planar faces are polygons with at least four vertices that do not lie on the same plane. In other words the vertices of a Non-planar face no longer form a flat surface in 3d space. Non-planar faces are not necessarily bad; in fact Maya doesn’t care at all. Objects with non-planar faces can be smoothed, rendered and all polygonal tools should still work fine. When modeling for a game engine Non-planar faces may cause problems, but luckily they can be fixed without any problems. Cleanup will find and highlight all non-planar faces and if told to cleanup it will triangulate all non-planar faces. In this case triangulation is the easiest method to fix non-planar faces since three sided polygons (also known as trigons) always form a plane in 3d space. If you are keen about keeping your model in four sided polygons (also known as quads) you will have to clean up the geometry manually. The best way to go about it is to use the orthographic views (front, side, top, etc.) as shown in the picture below.

    Remove Geometry
    1. Lamina Faces
    Lamina Faces are faces that share the same edges (and thus the same vertices) and they are quite difficult to spot without using Cleanup. You can think of Lamina Faces as unnecessary faces that sit right on top of each other. Objects with Lamina Faces will still render fine, but render time is likely to increase as the renderer will compute Lamina Faces twice. Any smooth operation will produce strange looking results and a SubD conversion will report a Nonmanifold error. Lamina faces usually occur when you merge vertices on faces that share the same space. Surprisingly Maya Cleanup does a great job at finding and deleting Lamina Faces. You can safely turn on “Cleanup matching polygons” and let Maya do the work for you.

    2. Nonmanifold Geometry
    Nonmanifold Geometry is simply put a Mesh that could not exist in the real world. The Maya help files have a pretty good definition of non-manifold geometry and I urge you to look it up yourself. Nonmanifold Geometry can be a real pain in the butt as Maya refuses to convert to Subdivisions, Booleans won’t work and smooth operations can lead to strange results. There are three different types of nonmanifold Geometry (actually four since lamina faces are technically also nonmanifold):
    • Three or more faces share the same edge on an object
    • Two or more faces share the same vertex, yet they share no edge
    • Two or more adjacent faces have opposite normal directions
    Again, you should not let Maya do the work for you, but clean they geometry up yourself. Opposite normal directions are easily spotted by turning on Display->Polygons->Face Normals. Simply select the faces and use Normals->Reverse Normals or use Normals->Conform when dealing with a lot of inverse normals. When dealing with faces that share the same vertex you have to decide for yourself whether you want to split up the faces into separate objects or if you want to use “Append to Polygon Tool” to connect the edges. Three or more faces that share the same edge can be a bit tricky. The best advice I can give you is to take a close look at your object and visualize how this object should look in the real world. Then delete the faces that should not be there.
    Here are two examples of typical non-manifold errors provided by benmcl:

    3. Edges with Zero Length
    If you have this option turned on, Maya will look for all edges that have a very short distance and remove them. Note that the tolerance distance is not actually zero and can be changed with the slider “Length tolerance”. Maya does a decent job at removing zero length edges when “Cleanup matching polygons” is selected. However I advise you to first use “Select matching polygons” in order to find out beforehand which edges Maya is going to delete. Be careful not to set the tolerance level too high, otherwise it might backfire. Take a look at this picture where edge loops are being used to create defined edges for a Mesh Smooth. I have deliberately set the tolerance level too high to show what can happen.

    4. Faces with Zero Geometry Area
    Similar to “Edges With Zero Length” this Cleanup operation will hunt down entire faces that have zero geometry area. Again, you can use the tolerance slider to determine the threshold of what Maya considers being ZERO. Faces with zero geometry area often occur when you begin a face extrusion and forget to actually extrude. Here is a good example of unextruded extrusions:
    A typical beginner mistake is to extrude an entire object and forget about it. NEVER EVER extrude in object mode - you are going to create a great mess that is hard to detect. In fact Maya Cleanup will never notice your mistake. The easiest way to spot this problem is to turn on Display->Heads Up Display->Poly Count and examine the Verts counter when drag-selecting corner vertices.
    One way to clean this up would be to select all the vertices and merge them. This will turn the unextruded faces into Lamina Faces which Cleanup can detect and fix.

    5. Faces with zero Map Area
    With this option activated Maya will look for faces that have no UV Texture Space. Faces with Zero Map are quite common. As soon as your polygonal object increases in complexity they are bound to happen. Don’t ever let Maya fix this for you – it’s simply going to delete the faces and often its adjacent faces along with it which will end up destroying your mesh. The best way to fix faces with zero map area is to unwrap the UV coordinates of your object in the UV Texture Editor. This falls into the realm of texture mapping which is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

    Other examples of bad geometry

    1. Overlapping Geometry
    Object components that partly share the same space and thus intersect each other are considered overlapping geometry. Maya does not consider this an error but you will get strange render results since you are practically dealing with non-planar Geometry. When modeling with Subdiv Proxy you might be forced to use overlapping geometry on your Low Poly cage as shown in the following picture.
    In this case the overlapping vertices end up looking just fine and actually help to move the two holes closer to each other in the smooth proxy version. Don’t get yourself stressed out on overlapping geometry. They can be easily fixed by moving the vertices apart and sometimes they are even necessary as in the example shown above.

    2. Unmerged Vertices and Open Border Edges
    Unmerged vertices and open border edges are amongst the most common type of bad geometry. They usually happen when you use the “Append to Polygon Tool” and “Extrude Edge” command and forget to merge vertices afterwards. Unmerged vertices can be found by using the Poly Count Display and looking for multiple vertices in one spot. The fastest way to find open border edges is to turn on Display->Polygons->Border Edges for your objects. If you have problems seeing the border edges you can open up the attribute editor and under Mesh Component Display crank up the border width under “Display Borders”. The easiest way to fix both unmerged vertices and open border edges is to merge the overlapping vertices by using Edit Mesh->Merge Vertices.
    "The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress."

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Saumur, France

    This Tutorial explains how booleans work, how to apply them, and how to tackle possible problems that come along when using them.

    1. What are Booleans?
    In Maya a Boolean is an operation that is performed one two objects to create a single compound object. You can apply three different types of Boolean operations: Union, Difference and Intersection.

    2. How do Booleans work?
    Applying a Boolean is quite simple. You select both objects and go to Mesh->Booleans and select which Boolean operation you would like to perform. If you are unsure which operation is the right one, do not worry – You can always change the type of Boolean in the channel box later on (Assuming you have history turned on).
    When applying a Boolean Maya takes into account the volume of the two selected objects and the space both objects might share. The easiest way to understand Booleans is to think of the operation as a Math Formula. The first selected object will be A, the second object will be B and the compound object after the operation will be C. So the formula goes like this: Object A (BOOLEAN OPERATION) Object B = Object C. This might seem confusing at first, but it will make a lot more sense once you have read the next section.

    3. What are the different Boolean operations?
    Cube and Sphere before Boolean Operation:

    Union: A + B = C. Union will combine the volume of both objects into a single object. It almost works like
    Mesh->Combine with the difference that Union will take out the shared space between object A and B.

    Difference: A – B = C. Difference will subtract the volume of object B from object A. Note that Difference only works if both object share space in between them. You could also say that you are using object B to drill a hole into object A. The shared space will be the drilled hole and object B will disappear completely afterwards. Keep in mind that selection order is of vital importance when using the Difference operation: First selected object is A, second selected object is B. If you are unsure which object you selected first take a look at the colors of your edges. Object A should be highlighted white, object B should appear green (assuming that you haven’t changed you Color output).

    Intersection: A % B = C. Intersection deletes both objects and leaves only their shared space. As the name of the operation implies object A and object B need to actually share space in between them – otherwise you will be left with no geometry after the operation has been performed.

    4. Things worth noticing when using Booleans
    - Maya creates a new shape node for the compound object, deletes the shape nodes of object A and object B, but leaves their transform nodes UNTIL history is deleted. That means you can still move both objects after the Boolean operation has been performed to change the outcome (Use the outliner to select the transform nodes).
    - History of object A and B will be combined in object C.
    - If you apply a Boolean to an object that has a Smooth Proxy on it, you will destroy the connection to the Smooth Mesh and you will have to reapply the Smooth Proxy.
    - It is not possible to use more than two objects for a Boolean. However you can get around this by combining multiple objects (Mesh->Combine) into a single object before applying the Boolean.

    5. Help, my Boolean operations are mixed up!
    You may have noticed that Booleans might behave irregular from time to time. It might look like the operations are mixed up. This usually happens when the Face normals of both object A and object B don’t point outward. If you don’t know what Face normals are then select both objects and go to Display->Polygons->Face Normals. Each face will now have a green line protruding from its center. If you see any Face Normals pointing inward (towards the center of the object) select their faces and go to Normals->Reverse.
    The irregular behavior usually occurs as described below:
    Face Normals point inward on both objects:
    - Intersection works like a Union
    - Union works like Intersection
    Face Normals point inward on one object and outward on the other object:
    - Union works like Difference
    - Difference works like Union

    6. Help, both objects disappear after I use Booleans
    Sometimes when applying a Boolean both object A and object B just disappear and nothing else happens. This can be really frustrating and there are many possible causes for this problem. Try any of the following suggestions to tackle the problem.
    - Try Mesh->Clean Up and set it to select Geometry only. Check for Nonmanifold Geometry, Lamina Faces and Edges with Zero Length. Do the proper Cleanup in case Maya has highlighted any areas on your geometry. If you want more information on Maya's cleanup funtion read this tutorial:
    - Select both objects and delete their history (Edit->Delete By Type->History).
    - Select both objects and freeze their transformation (Modify->Freeze Transformation).
    - In the outliner check if any of the objects are parented to anything they shouldn't be and unparent them if necessary.
    - Duplicate both objects and delete the originals. Try Boolean again on the duplicates.
    - Rename both objects.
    - Go to Display->Polygons->Border Edges in order to quickly find non merged vertices on your mesh. Merge all vertices that require merging.
    - If all fails you will have to remodel either object A or object B or possibly both objects. This can be a real hassle but to make life a little bit easier you can use your old faulty objects as a guide. Select the object in question, put it on a separate layer and set the view to Reference. You can’t select the old object but you can still snap to its edges and vertices which is a tremendous help when you have to remodel the entire mesh.

    7. I heard Booleans are bad – Shouldn’t I refrain from using them?
    You might have heard from other people that Booleans are bad, unreliable, messy, unpredictable etc. – opinions tend to differ on this subject. Aside from the occasional dysfunctional behavior Booleans have a tendency to create bad geometry. You might have noticed that your mesh ends up with N-Gons (polygons with five and more edges) after a Boolean operation. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. For mere rendering purpose Maya doesn’t really care if your model is quadrangulated (meaning: All faces have four sides) or not. If you are modeling for a game you will definitely have to clean up your geometry, turning everything back to quads or tris. The pictures below show how you would go about fixing such geometry.
    Non Quad Shaded:
    Non Quad Xray:
    Quads Shaded:
    Quads Xray:
    "The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress."

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Saumur, France

    Welcome to the Marking Menu Thread. If you like marking menus then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this article. Here are all the marking menus in Maya that I know of. I have included quick information on what the menus do as well as the default hotkeys that invoke the menus. In addition I have included the associated MEL files that correspond to the marking menu. I haven’t found the files for all the menus yet, but I will update the thread whenever I find new file associations. Note that these files can be found in your Maya Install folder and if you intend to change them you should ALWAYS copy them to your custom script folder (C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_USERNAME\My Documents \Maya\YOUR_MAYA_VERSION\Scripts). I repeat: NEVER edit the original files in your install folder; that is generally a very bad idea. Some of the marking menus can actually be found in the hotkey editor and I have included the category and command name for those menus.

    Last Update: 19 Mar 2008

    Polygon Marking Menu
    Primitive Creation Mode
    Key: Shift + Right Mouse Button
    This menu was introduced with Maya 6.5 Bonus Tools and is notably the single most useful marking menu implemented in Maya. It will grant you quick access to the most useful Polygonal Editing Tools. Note that this menu is selection sensitive and will change according to what Component Mode you are in. If you have nothing selected it will change to the Primitive Creation Menu. Learn this menu, memorize it, embrace it, love it!
    By the way, if you wish to edit this menu this can turn out to be a real hassle unless you are a proficient MEL coder. Luckily there is a free plug-in that lets you edit these menus in the Marking Menu Editor and also adds NURBS sensitive marking menus. The plug-in was written by Kyle Hug and can be downloaded at highend3d right here:
    Kyle's Editable Context Marking Menus
    If you end up using this plug-in don’t forget to drop Kyle a line or two. While thanking him you might as well encourage him to release the new version (right now you still can’t change the NURBS menus).

    Convert Selection Marking Menu
    Key: CTRL + Right Mouse Button
    Associated File: polyConvertMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/others)
    This Menu only works if you actually have something selected. It grants you access to all the useful Selection Operations which you would normally find in the Selection Menu. What is very annoying about this menu is the fact that it doesn’t actually change the component mode after the conversion. In addition this menu has undergone some changes and has now three submenus for edges, edge loops and edge rings. Personally, I think submenus considerably slow down the work flow of marking menus and quite frankly I don’t find the new options to be all that useful. I have actually written a MEL script that changes the menu back to how it used to behave and will also do the right conversion for you. You can download this script at highend3d right here:
    Custom Poly Component Conversion MM

    Poly Brush Tool Marking Menu
    Key: O + Left Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Artisan->PolyBrushMarkingMenu
    This menu combines the Paint Selection Tool with various Polygonal Editing Operations. It works as follows: You choose an operation you would like to perform on your object, Maya will switch to the Paint Selection Tool and as soon as you finish your selection it will perform the chosen operation. The North Item displays the last used tool and the North East item will access the options of the last used tool (if the last tool has no options this item won’t display at all). Note that the hotkey assignment is bound to the Poly UV Tool Marking Menu. Any hotkey changes will affect the Poly UV Tool Marking Menu as well.

    Poly UV Tool Marking Menu
    Key: O + Middle Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Artisan->PolyBrushMarkingMenu
    This menu combines the Paint Selection Tool with various Texture Mapping Operations. It works very similar to the Poly Brush Tool Marking Menu: Select an operation, paint select the region and Maya performs the selected operation. Again, the North Item displays the last used tool and the North East item will access the options of the last used tool (if the last tool has no options this item won’t display at all). Note that the hotkey assignment is bound to the Poly Brush Tool Marking Menu. Any hotkey changes will affect the Poly Brush Tool Marking Menu as well.

    Selection Mask Marking Menu
    Key: Q + Left Mouse Button OR Hotbox West Menu
    Associated File: buildSelectMaskMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->SelectMaskMarkingMenu
    This menu lets you access Selection Masks presets which you can manually set in the Status Bar. If you are like me and have the Status Bar turned off you might find this Marking Menu useful.

    Pick Mask Marking Menu
    Key: SHIFT + Q + Left Mouse Button
    Associated File: buildSelectComponentMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->SelectComponentToolMarkingMenu
    Choose component pick masks and save custom masks to your shelf with this marking menu. With this recent discovery I have no more reason to ever use the status bar again.

    Polygon Components Marking Menu
    Key: Alt + Q + Left Mouse Button
    Associated File: buildPolyMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->SelectPolygonToolMarkingMenu
    This Menu will let you switch between the different Polygon Component Modes. This might seem like a tedious alternative to just right clicking. The difference is that you can use this menu to select multiple Polygon Objects. For example you could choose Vertex and then drag select multiple polygonal objects in your scene and Maya will switch to Vertex Mode for all selected objects.

    Move Tool Options Marking Menu
    Key: W + Left Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->TranslateToolWithSnapMarkingMenu
    All the Move Tool Options at your disposal. You can now safely turn of your Toolbox and never worry about it again.

    Rotate Tool Options Marking Menu
    Key: E + Left Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->RotateToolWithSnapMarkingMenu
    All the Rotate Tool Options you’ll ever need. If you haven’t done so, you may now turn off your Toolbox.

    Scale Tool Options Marking Menu
    Key: R + Left Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Tools->ScaleToolWithSnapMarkingMenu
    Do I need to say anything else?

    Build Tool Options Marking Menu
    Key: Shift + CTRL + Right Mouse Button
    This menu works sort of as a submenu for the Transformation Options menus. It only works if your current tool is set to either “move”, “scale”, or “rotate” and the menu changes accordingly. It basically lets you activate reflection and allows you to change its settings, which is just another alternative to the tools option box. In Maya 2008 Extension 2 they have changed this to a single global marking menu that always displays the same menu no matter what transformation tool is selected.

    Keyframe Marking Menu
    Key: Shift + S + Left Mouse Button
    Associated File: buildKeyframeTangentMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/others)
    Hotkey Editor: Animate->KeyframeTangentMarkingMenu
    Grants you quick access to some nifty Animation Tools. Note that the hotkey assignment is bound to the Tangent Marking Menu. Any hotkey changes will affect the Tangent Marking Menu as well.

    Tangent Marking Menu
    Key: Shift + S + Middle Mouse Button
    Associated File: buildKeyframeTangentMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/others)
    Hotkey Editor: Animate->KeyframeTangentMarkingMenu
    More Animation Tools at your disposal. Note that the hotkey assignment is bound to the Keyframe Marking Menu. Any hotkey changes will affect the Keyframe Marking Menu as well.

    History Operations Marking Menu
    Key: A + Left Mouse Button
    Associated File: buildSelectAllMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    HotkeyEditor: Modeling Panel->SelectAllMarkingMenu
    You can toggle your output nodes by disabling and enabling them. If you had a Subdiv Proxy for example you could stop it from being influenced by your Low Poly Mesh. Once you enable the Outputs your high Poly Mesh will update again. Selecting all inputs or outputs opens up the top node on the stack (just like clicking on it in the channel box - I fail to see how this can be useful).

    UI Mode Marking Menu
    Key: H + Left Mouse Button
    Associated File: menubarHotkeyMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    Hotkey Editor: Miscellaneous->UIModeMarkingMenu
    This menu lets you quickly change the Menu Set in your Main Menu Bar. Note that it will also change the Menu Set in your Hotbox Control.

    Artisan Paint Operation Marking Menu
    Key: U + Left Mouse Button
    Hotkey Editor: Artisan->PaintOperationsMarkingMenu
    This menu works only in combination with an Artisan Paint Tool (like the Poly Sculpt Tool). Whenever you have an Artisan Brush activated you can enter the menu to quickly switch between the different profiles (like push, pull, and smooth if you are using the Poly Sculpt Tool) or activate Reflection modifiers. This menu has arguably become superfluous with the new ability in Maya 2008 to switch modes by holding down CTRL or SHIFT.

    Deactivated Marking Menus
    All of the following Marking Menus are deactivated by default and need to be assigned a hotkey in order to work properly. I have listed the category and name for each marking menu in the hotkey editor.

    Display Shading Marking Menu
    Associated File: buildShadingMM.mel (INSTALLFOLDER…/scripts/startup)
    Hotkey Editor: Modeling Panel->DisplayShadingMarkingMenu
    This menu lets you switch between different shading displays like Wireframe, Bounding Box, Smooth Shaded etc.

    NURBS Quality Display Marking Menu
    Hotkey Editor: Miscellaneous->QualityDisplayMarkingMenu
    Finally, I figured this one out. I believe this Marking Menu used to be assigned to D + Left Mouse Button, but is now deactivated by default. Assign it a hotkey and you get a marking menu that lets you change the Nurbs Display mode between low, medium and high Quality Display. That’s right, just like pressing 1, 2, or 3. Can’t imagine why this has been deactivated.

    Artisan Reference Vector Marking Menu
    Hotkey Editor: Artisan->SculptReferenceVectorMarkingMenu
    I have no clue what this menu does. No matter what hotkey I assign to this marking menu, it doesn’t seem to pop up; at least not on my machine. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Brush Animation Marking Menu
    Hotkey Editor: Paint Effects->BrushAnimationMarkingMenu
    This menu only contains three items: “Make Brush Spring”, “Loop Brush Animation”, and “Bake Spring Animation”. I have to be brutally honest here: I don’t know a single thing about Paint Effects and therefore cannot tell you what this menu does. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Auto Paint Marking Menup
    Hotkey Editor: Paint Effects->AutoPaintMarkingMenu
    Only two items on this menu: “Paint Grid” and “Paint Random”. Boy, that’s really worth a marking menu. But seriously, I never use paint effects, so I don’t know what this does. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Translate-, Rotate-, and Scale-Tool Marking Menu
    Hotkey Editor: Tools
    These three Marking Menus will give you axes constraints for the respective Transformation tools. Essentially this is the same as clicking on the manipulator, which is probably why these marking menus are deactivated by default.
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