Dave’s Phenomenal Maya Cheat Sheet

      – Polygon Modeling Menu Set

By Dave





NURBS to Polygons

This allows the user to change the objects created with NURBS into polygons so that polygon tools may then be used on the object. Usually the Options do not need to be played with.


Note: There is no way reversing the process once it has been done!



Select a face or faces of a polygon. Then select the Extrude tool. A new manipulator will appear with handles for the Move, Scale, and Rotate tools. The selected face(s) can now be manipulated independently of the rest of the polygon, but the face remains attached. New faces may be automatically created as well if the extruded face is translated from its original position.


The extrude tool can also be used repeatedly on the same face. This is done by selecting the face, selecting the Extrude tool, modifying the face as desired and then selecting the extrude tool again. This is a good way to create square edges with your extrusions, i.e. scale down an extruded face, extrude again and then translate the face to create an extruded block.


The last item in the Channel Box for an extrusion will be Keep Facet Together. If you are extruding more than one face at a time that are next to each other and you wish keep the faces next to each other as you extrude make sure the Keep Facet Together value is “on”. To allow the faces to extrude “independently” set the value to “off”


Note: Maya sometimes has difficulties mapping 2D textures to extruded surfaces. To get around this you may have to set up a series of Texture Projections. Please see ‘Emril’s ‘Punch It Up A Click” Maya Hypershade Guide’ for more details.


Mirror Geometry

Select an object and create a duplicate of the object as if a mirror was placed parallel to a  specified axis and the reflection became real. The axis or side of the object that the mirror is placed on can be specified in the Mirror Geometry Options window.


Note: Personal experience shows that the new object and the original will be stitched together, i.e. be treated as one object, whether the box in the Mirror Geometry Options is checked or not.


Make Hole

Allows you to make a hole in a polygon, using another polygon as a template for the hole. First select the Make Hole Tool in the menu. Then click on the polygon face you want to make a hole in. Then click on the polygon you are using as a template; a duplicated polygon face or a 2D polygon works best. Press enter to make the hole.


In the Make Hole Tool Options, there are several merge modes available. The default None causes the face selected on the polygon to reach out around the template. In most cases you will want to set the merge mode to First, or Project First.


First will line up the center of the template onto the center of the selected polygon face and then make the hole.


Project First projects the template onto the polygon face without lining up the centers.


Fill Hole

Lets you fill a hole in a polygon. Switch to select component, poly edges, and select the border edge of the hole you want to fill. Then select Fill Hole from the menu.


Display Poly Count

This toggles on and off a listing of the components of the selected polygon(s). The white listing is the total amount of a component. The red listing is the number of the kind of component(s) selected.





If more definition is needed in a certain area, select the face or faces of the polygon in that area and select Subdivide to divide the existing faces into several more. The shape of the polygon will not change by doing this! 


In Subdivide Options you can set how many times the area will be subdivided and the basic shape of that the new faces of the subdivision will have. The shape that is the best will depend on the face that is being subdivided. Try one, undo it, and then try the other and see which fits what your looking for the best


Split Polygon Tool

This tool is an alternative to Subdivide and gives the user more control. Here you can actually draw new edges, dividing existing polygon faces into two new faces. Just like Subdivide this will not change the shape of the polygon.


First choose the tool from the menu. Then click and hold on an edge of a polygon face. Drag the point along the edge until you are satisfied with its position. Click and hold on another edge of the same face and drag this second point until you are satisfied with its position. The edge line should be visible as you are doing this. Press Enter to finish the process.


Although not usually needed, you can create more than one new edge at a time too. For example, you can make a face in the corner of an already existing face.


Note: You will most likely not need to change the Options and it is Highly suggested that you keep Edge Snapping on to prevent yourself from creating open faces. With Edge Snapping on, you can also click on the exact middle of an edge by setting the Snapping Tolerance to 33.3.



Smooth rounds the entire polygon by subdividing the polygon’s faces and rotating the edges to create an overall curved shape. Smooth will work on just a few faces or an entire object. Typically you will only need one division but in the Smooth Options, you can increase the number of divisions dramatically. Usually you will not want to go to more than two divisions if you are still modeling the object heavily.


In order to round your polygon object more using less divisions you can also decrease the Continuity.


Bevel rounds the corners of a polygon giving the object a more natural look. This is done by creating new faces along the edges that create an overall curve effect. Unlike Smooth, Bevel must be used on an entire object. The Bevel Options though gives a great deal of control to the user.


Offset controls how large the new faces will be. A small offset is usually best for giving just a rounded edge natural look. A large offset is used to modify the overall shape more. Sometimes using Smooth may produce better results than using a large offset.


Roundness controls how much of a curve the new faces will create.


Segments controls how many new faces will be created. Two to five usually works well.




Change the face(s) of a polygon object to a basic triangle shape instead of a rectangular shape. This can be done to aid in the material/texture rendering process, but costs considerably more in the poly count. It can also be used as a quick way to divide a face into two new faces.



This can be used to undo the effects of Triangulate, changing triangular shaped faces into rectangular ones. This can also be used to help reduce the poly count in an area of an object or for the entire object itself.


The Quadrangulate Options give you some control over the process. The most important one is the Angle Threshold which determines how non-co-planer two triangular faces can be and still be merged into one rectangular face.



Normals define the front and back of a face. The side the normal is sticking out of is the front and the side that can be lighted and textured. Sometimes in modifying an object normals can get switched. To deal with this you can:

1.                  Select the face(s) or object(s) that needs to have their normals on the other side and use the menu item Reverse, or

2.                  To ensure all the normals of the object are facing the same way, select one face whose normals you want to change and use the menu item Reverse and Propagate. This will reverse the normals on the selected face and any other faces on that object whose normals were facing the same way as the selected face.


Sculpt Polygon Tool

This tool offers a variety of ways to manipulate the surface of a polygon and is therefore almost always best to check the settings in the Sculpt Polygon Tool Options before using it. This tool does not add or remove faces but does modify their shape. For the best results, the Sculpting Tool requires the polygon to have a large number faces to work with.


Note: Object’s with extensive histories may not behave as expected when a sculpt tool is used. To avoid this problem, Delete the object’s history. Please see EDIT.


The size of the sculpt tool can be thought of as a 3D Oval whose area of effect  is specified by the U radius. The depth of the effect is controlled  by the Opacity, where a value of “1” will have the strongest effect. The Flood button effects the entire surface of the selected object with the selected Operation (see below).

Note: The L radius is only used when you are using a stylus.


The shape of the tool’s effect can also be modified. An icon menu provides a listing of the stencils available. The effect is specified by the operation:







Create Indents in the surface



Create Raises in the surface



Blends “high” and “low” areas



Erases the effects of the Sculpting Tool


Under the Script Variable headings you can specify the Max Displacement that the Sculpt Tool can cause. The Script Tool will not exceed this surface displacement regardless of how many times you use the Sculpt Tool on the same spot. To overcome this maximum, under the Surface section, check the Update On Each Stroke box and the Sculpt Tool will then be able to further effect previously sculpted areas.