How to learn Maya effectively?


I know this is a very common (and silly) question. But it really make me confused now.
I’m doing a Design degree in uni, but I have a strong passion in Maya 3D. However, my current course doesnt give much time for student to study 3D. The only way for me to learn is self-learning at home. (I know many people here are experts from self-learning)

I tried reading a lot of books, practicing on tutorial carefully to get a deep understanding of 3D. But the problem is that uni works takes almost my time. I have only few hours/week for learning and I spent all of them for practicing on books. Although I’ve been to 3D for months , I still havent created anything for my own.

I understand all the theories, knowing how they work and I could model some complicated object by reading through books, but I’m still confused when thinking about starting an entire new project. I dont know where to start and I always think that I dont have enough skill to build up any work. Somehow I’m not really confident in what I have leanred so far.

Then I continued reading books.

I know practicing is the only way to improve skills. But I just have time for learning from books OR trying to make reall stuffs.

Please give me some advice. Thanks!!


Hey dude

I was the same last year! Uni was slack at teaching you anything and you were expected to create these awesome animations. We did get taught the basics and stuff like modelling. All you really need is lots of reference drawings and stuff. So you know what you are modelling and have an idea of what you want to model. Then you look at tutorials that model roughly the same shapes and structures that you have in your drawings and reference. You can then work out how to create stuff then. You get better as you go along but just start trying to model and do stuff you want, by copying techniques used in tuts. hope this helps. But yeah I just started going for it, and giving it a go you learn from mistakes and can redo it again.

Keep at it man!




Thanks darth, it really helps! :slight_smile:

and another question

So far, I have learnt about modelling, texturing, lighting and some camera (not even touch on animation and rendering). The modelling part was really time-consuming to me. I spent quite much time for that.

Do you guys think that I should continue learning the rests (animation, rigging, paint effect, dynamics …) to get the basic idea how they work before going back to improve modelling skills?


I’m not sure weather you should go learn it or not, it really depends on what you want to achieve. If you do want to have good animation than yes you need to go and learn how things work there so you can then know how to model it properly so it will be easier to animate. It takes a long time and lots of practise to be any good at any of the areas. I did the same where I spent most of my time modelling at first and then you are like. ummm… ok I have these nice models and don’t know how to animated them and rig them. If you have some models done already you should maybe try and rig them. This takes a bit of work finding good tutorials and then applying them to your model. I am not very good at rigging and haven;t really looked at it to much, but you need a good rig so you can then animate it easy. Package man is a great model that is rigged up already and you can practise animating with this. You can download it from here, other wise just keep doing what you want to do. It is hard doing everything modelling, animating, texture, etc… It all takes a long time to learn and get really effecient. I have been doing 3D for a year now and I can say I can;t do any area yet to a high standard. It takes a lot of practise. Hope this helps I really start going on and on after a while sorry. haha.

Anyway Laters



Well, 1st I like to congradulate u on taking the effort to learn Maya on you own. That’s what I did too. I’m also a student & b4 I started my Final Year, I spent about 4-5 months dedicated to learning Maya. The book I used was “Maya 4 Fundamentals” written by Jim Lammers & Lee Gooding & published by NewRiders. What I liked about this book is that they get me started right from the begining of getting to know the interface, then to NURBS & Polygon modeling, to creating materials/textures, animation, painteffects & finally rendering. Plus it comes with plenty of video tutorials in the form of a CD that is easy to understand while watching the video. I find that the author’s explanation in plain English is as simple to understand.

However, if u’re looking for some online tutorials, then I would reconmend :

digitaltutors are exellent for getting u started as a beginner, learning-maya is slightly more advanced & cover all kinds of Maya topics including rendering, materials, animation, mentalray, raytracing, etc. If u’r looking for the latest maya plug-ins, highend3d would be a good place to search.

I do agree with you that modeling takes a really long time. There are several ways/methods to model the same object. It just depends on which method u’r familar with & which way gets it modeled fast & effeciently. U just have to find the fastest way that would work for you.

What is your modeling project all about? Anyway, NURBS modeling are superb for modeling architectural objects like walls, windows, furniture, cars, etc. But Polygon modeling is more suited for modeling organic stuff like a virtual human, aliens, animals, creatures, etc. So, it depends on what u’r modeling. Do let me know more about your project yeah? OK, hope this hepls.



Hi shi2nqt don’t let a thing like slow progress grasping it ‘all’ worry you mate. I’ve been chipping away @ animation and Maya in my spare time for four years. I was a commercial artist before I studied industrial design. The skills I learned prior to maya etc make me a better ‘artist’ because I understand the concepts and processes of design.

I’d say focus on your course (get some kikkass design skills under your belt) and keep plodding along in maya while you invest other time into learning the ‘principles of animation’. Cinematography, screenwriting, acting, layout and or anything else you feel may make your passion more fruitful.

As for getting a project underway I’d say be realistic about the energy you can put in and do the design process on paper first. Sketches, stories etcetcetc It makes for a far smoother workflow to have the concept nailed prior to switching into maya.

For me @ the start it (maya) was pure glamour, now it’s just a tool (my fave tool) in my kit.

Oh yeah be prepared to never stop learning. never stop learning never stop learning never stop learning never stop learning


I’d say that learning 3d is harder than learning a particular package. Knowing that you need to do something with a certain tool takes practice, and there’s no easier way than just doing it. I had the benefit of learning in ARchitecture school where we had to do our whole project in a 6 credit class in 3ds max. I used that for a few years and now, switching to Maya, I’m finding it a lot easier as I know what I want to do, and I just have to abuse the manula or tutorials until I understand how Maya does something compared to Max.

The Gnomon DVDs are pretty good getting your feet wet kind of things.

Also, start small. Make a pencil. Make a jewelry box. Don’t start out trying to make a city, as you’ll only frustrate yourself.

Good luck!


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