Join Aaron F. Ross for an in-depth discussion in this video Sculpting geometry, part of Creating Natural Environments in Maya.
Another really great way of modeling terrain is to use the Sculpt Geometry tool, and this will allow you to push or pull vertices and polygons around using a brush interface. It will work with NURBS as well. I am going to access it through the Polygons menu set. Let me select the plane first. I have got my Polygons menu set, and I'm going to go to the Mesh menu and you will find Sculpt Geometry tool. You do want to go into the Tool settings, so open up that Options box. And as I move my cursor around on the plane, you will see I am getting a brush icon.
I want to give you a bit of a heads up here: if you don't have qualified video hardware, then you might have some issues with these Brush tools in Maya. So it is really important that you have an NVIDIA Quadro card or an ATI FireGL or some other professional card that is qualified for Maya, because if you're just using a standard consumer game card, like a GeForce video card, then it's very likely that these tools are going to cause screen corruption and all sorts of bad stuff.
But of course, here I have got qualified hardware, so I am good to go. I will need to change the size of the brush. You can do that from within the Tool Settings dialog by increasing the Radius(U), or you can just hold down the B key and drag your mouse left to right to change the size of the brush. That's the scale of the brush. Now if I drag across here, you will see something is happening, but not much, because I don't have very much displacement just yet. And changing the displacement can be done either through the Tool Settings or by holding down the M key on the keyboard and dragging left and right.
And as I do this, you will see an arrow, and it's showing me how much I am going to displace and in what direction. So that's quite a lot of displacement. That's 100 meters of displacement. So, if I drag across here, you will see it's moving quite a lot. I will hit the Z key to undo that. In fact, I don't want to be pushing down in this case; I want to be pulling up, so I can change the operation here. You will see I've got Push and I've got Pull, and now you'll see the arrow is pointing upward instead of downward. Hit the Z key to undo that once again.
So a couple of other fun things. You can use keyboard shortcuts to change the behavior of the Sculpt Geometry tool. So right now I am using a Pull operation, but if I want to switch to a Push operation or switch between Push and Pull, just hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard and then I can switch between the two modes. So that's pretty cool. Another really great thing that you can do is if you just hold down the Shift key, it will go into Smooth mode, and you see I can soften up my sculpting.
That's one of the other modes here. You can see, this is Smooth. And all I have to do is just hold down the Shift key and I can smooth out my geometry. I can also erase any edits I have done. So I have got an Erase tool here. I just drag my mouse across that, and I can actually restore the terrain back to where it was. If you exit out of the Sculpt Geometry tool, then you will not be able to erase those changes once you re-enter the tool. A couple of other things to look at here. We've got another option here, which is Relax, and what that will do is--let me give you something to look at here.
With the Relax tool, what that does is it's similar to the Smooth tool, but it will tend to give a different look than the Smooth tool. And finally, we've also got a Pinch tool, which is new. What that will allow me to do is to pull polygons closer to one another, as you can see there. So Relax will push them apart and Pinch will pull them together. You'll need to click several times, actually, to see that Pinch effect, whereas with Relax, you just drag across.
And once again we've got the Erase tool. Before I really sculpt this in earnest though, I really want to choose the correct reference vector. When sculpting terrains, it's best to only pull or push in the Y axis, and here is why. Let's say I am pulling and I pull that up, you will notice that as I move my cursor across the terrain, the normal vector, or the line that you see the arrows sticking out, will change orientation depending upon the surface. And so if I click here, for example, and sculpt, I will start to very quickly get non-terrain-like features.
This doesn't really ever happen in nature, and it's very easy, actually, to get geometry that's sort of crumpling in on itself, or self-intersecting. So let me erase that, and I'll show you the proper way really to do this. Erase all that, and in fact, I can flood- erase too just to make it easier. Let me just click the Flood button and that will erase everything all at once. What I want to do for terrains usually is to use the Y axis. So no matter what I do, when I pull upward, it will always pull up in Y, and this is actually much more efficient for terrain modeling.
So I am going to spend a few minutes sculpting this model, and then when we get back in here, we're going to look at extruding polygons.
Recommended prerequisite: Maya 2011 Essential Training
- Laying out the scene
- Sculpting terrain with Soft Selection and the Sculpt Geometry tool
- Creating 2D textures using Artisan and Paint Effects
- Applying 2D and 3D procedural textures
- Building backgrounds with skydomes and matte paintings
- Shaping clouds with Maya Fluids
- Creating non-physical daylight and casting shadows
- Rendering with Maya software