Lighting and Modelling Tips for using Maya

Game Development student Sarah Murray talks you through the basics of using Lighting and Modelling in Maya. 



When lighting, there are 3 lights to consider; the key light, fill light and rim light. 
The key light is the main light source and lights everything up. 
The fill light fills in the dark areas left. 
The rim light creates a rim of light around the subject to separate it from the background. 

In Maya there are many different types of lights to create these effects. The directional light acts as a good key light as it creates a mass of light going in one direction; similar to sun rays. The point light creates light going in all directions from one point; these are good to use when simulating light bulbs or candle lights etc. Area light creates light from one area, these are good for simulating light coming from a screen or soft boxes. However these lights create a lot of noise, to fix this you sacrifice rendering time, so it’s not a good idea to use when animating.

Spot lights are popular amongst students however are the most difficult to use due to the many setting you need to modify. To change the size of light, use the cone angle adjuster; to change the smoothness of the light, use the penumbra angle adjuster; finally to change where the light drops off, use the drop off adjuster. These are all found in the attribute editor under spot light attributes. Spot lights can be used to simulate a flashlight or car headlight. 
In reality lights are never white, so to create a natural look, change the colour of your light to perhaps a slightly yellow tinted light. You can adjust this in the attribute editor, as well as the decay rate. The decay rate helps create a natural light as it stops light from going on infinitely. You will need to increase the intensity of the light once you apply a decay rate. The intensity setting is below the light colour selection. 

When adjusting your lights in Maya go to select the light and press ‘t’, this allows you to easily direct your light to the exact area you want it to point to. When working with your lights press ‘7’ to see your scene with your lights in the viewport. 

Lighting is used to create atmosphere. By changing these settings you can create a range of atmospheres; it’s a good idea to look up reference images from films to refer to. 


Simple symmetrical shapes (glasses, cans, vases, pots).

Go to front view by tapping space bar, then again with your mouse over the front view square. Select the ‘CV curve’ tool in the create – curves – cv curve. Be mindful of where you want openings; make sure you leave a gap for them. Press ‘q’ to exit the tool. Then go –surfaces- revolve. Go back to perspective view. If your model is black/inside out you can go surfaces- reverse direction. You can hide your original curve by selecting it and pressing ctrl, ‘h’. 

Wire like shapes 

Create the path you wish your wire to go with the cv curve tool. Then create a circle with the circle tool in surfaces/curves shelf. Reshape the circle to the width and shape you want your wire to be. Making sure to select the circle first, then shift click the curve. Go to surface – extrude. MAKE SURE you go to the channel box on the right hand side of the screen, ‘inputs’ and change ‘fixed path’ to ‘on’ and ‘use component pivot’ to ‘component pivot’; this will make sure your wire follows the curve. To edit your curve, select it, hold right click and go to ‘control vertex’ from here use the move tool (w). Hold right click and go to ‘object mode’ to return. To smooth your models simply select it and press 3. 


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