14 mighty Maya tutorials to explore

Having the best Maya tutorials at your fingertips can help you conquer Autodesk Maya – one of the top packages for go-to artists. Maya's advanced tools and high-end plugins are able to create impressive 3D art to add to your design portfolio.

We've rounded up the best Maya tutorials to help you get to grips with its core features, and supercharge your skills. Whatever your level, there's sure to be a Maya tutorial for you.

Want more inspiration? Here are some awesome examples of 3D art (opens in new tab) to get you started. And if you want to know all about the latest release, then see our Maya 2020 review

01. Maya interface tour

If you're just getting started with Maya, it's definitely worth taking a look at this intro to Maya from the tool's maker, Autodesk. If you find this one useful, there's a whole series (opens in new tab) of these basic tutorials to choose from.

02. Create a custom Maya interface 

Maya tutorials: custom interface

Maya offers a bewildering array to tools, commands and options to suit every workflow. So where do you get started? This tutorial shows you how to build a custom interface to suit you.

03.  How to create custom rig controls in Maya 

Maya tutorials: custom rig controls

The best rigs are the ones that are intuitive and simple to use, and make sense for a whole team of animators. This tutorial offers some best practice rules for rigs, and shows you how to set up your own custom rig control.

04. How to simplify blend shape creation in Maya

Maya tutorials: blend shape creation

Blend shapes, or morph targets as they are also known, are a powerful way to bring life to a static model (Image credit: Antony Ward)

Blend shapes, or morph targets as they are also known, are a powerful way to bring life to a static model. Traditionally, creating blend shapes could be a long and tedious job, but there have been lots of improvements in blend shape creation over the years and some shortcuts have been developed to help speed up generation and prevent the need for any work to be repeated. 

This tutorial explains how you can use a mixture of Maya's new tools and methods for how to quickly and efficiently create blend shapes.

 05. Create a UV wrap with the Roadkill plugin 

Maya tutorials: roadkill

UV wrapping is used to apply a 2D image texture onto a 3D mesh. Maya's Roadkill plugin automatically lays out UV co-ordinates and minimises distortion in just a few clicks. Here's how to use it, in four steps. 

06. Simulate explosions in Maya 

Maya tutorial: explosions

You can create explosive effects using nParticles and FumeFX. This in-depth Maya tutorial walks though how to craft a realistic explosion.

 07. Create a portal effect in Maya 

Maya tutorial: portal

Fancy creating a Dr Strange-style portal effect? This Maya tutorial walks though exactly how to do that, with help from nParticles – and in particular, the Nucleus mode. 

08. Create a scene with RenderMan for Maya

Maya tutorials: Renderman for Maya winter scene

Recreate this stunning scene (Image credit: Jeremy Heintz)

This tutorial by Jeremy Heintz shows you how to make a winter environment with RenderMan for Maya. It covers everything from creating a compelling composition through to shading, lighting and getting your image production-ready. 

09. How to speed up retopology in Maya 

maya tutorial: retopology in Maya

Retopology is becoming increasingly important (Image credit: Antony Ward)

Discover how to use Maya's tools to perform retopology. This tutorial focuses on using the Conform tool within Maya to create basic primitives. 

10. Maya shaders and textures 

Maya tutorial: shaders and textures

As part of a Know the Basics series by Paul Hatton, this guide (opens in new tab) delves in to the process of creating and assigning materials in Maya. Wrap your head around all the different material types and how to render them in Maya's default renderer, Arnold. 

 11. Create better character animations 

Maya tutorials: character animation

This tutorial presents a way to reskin a finished character that doesn't involve painstakingly importing and exporting skin weights with sloppy results. Using the Export Deformer Weights tool, labelled Export Weights and Import Weights, is a much more efficient and successful way to finish your animation.

12. Create a walk cycle in Maya

Learn how to create a convincing walk cycle with this detailed 40-minute Maya tutorial. In it, you'll learn how to master each pose, set up the timing and refine the walk cycle using the graph editor. 

 13. Create a realistic environment in Maya 

Maya tutorial: environment

Creating different environments is exciting, but to make them believable it's key to study your references. In this Maya tutorial, Eva Ng demonstrates how she made this project. 

14. How to create smoke in Maya 

This Mike Hermes (opens in new tab) tutorial will show you how to create loads of different types of smoke, from a trickle of cigarette smoke to a dense cloud of smoke from a grenade. 

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Rob Redman

Rob Redman is the editor of 3D World and ImagineFX magazines and has a background in animation, visual effects, and photography. As a 3D artist he created the mothership in the Webby winning Plot Device and was animator on the follow-up; Order up. He has created training for Cinema 4D and Blackmagic Design Fusion artists. He's been a published product and food photographer since the age of 15. As well as being a multi-instrumentalist, Rob is also an avid beard grower.