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Creating a Lava Lamp in Maya 2009

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(Score 4.23 out of 5 after 13 Votes)
| Comments 4
Date Added: 10th November 2009
Software used:

Setting Up a Ground Plane

First, a ground plane will need to be created to receive the shadows cast by the lava lamp. Go to Create > Polygon Primitives > Plane and rename "pPlane1" to "pGroundPlane". Using the Translate and Scale Tools, move pGroundPlane into position, as shown in the image below. Ensure that the horizon line is flat. In the Channel Box, check that Translate Y = 0 (Fig.45).

Fig. 45

Introducing pGroundPlane has created a problem - the power plug is now going through the floor and needs to be adjusted. Go to Window > Outliner. The Outliner is very useful for easily selecting objects in the scene. LMB click to select pProng1 and then holding down the shift key, LMB click to select pPlug. Go to Edit > Parent. When pPlug is moved, pProng1 will follow. Parent pProng2 to to pPlug. Move pPlug upwards so that it is resting on pGroundPlane, then LMB click to select pCord and click on the Deformation tab. Click on the Wireframed (see-through) box icon, at the left hand end of the Deformation Tab. This will apply a deformation lattice to pCord.

Select the deformation lattice. Go to the ffd1LatticeShape tab in the Attribute Editor and set the values as follows:
  • S Divisions value to 2
  • T Divisions value to 12
  • U Divisions value to 2

RMB click the lattice and select Lattice Point. Then in a side viewport, move the first two rows of deformer upwards so that pCord joins pPlug again, as in the image below (Fig.46).

Fig. 46

RMB click the lattice again and select Object Mode to finish. Then LMB click pGroundPlane to select it, RMB click pGroundPlane and select Assign New Material > Blinn. Rename "blinn1" to "blinnGroundPlane" and set Color to white. Set the other values as follows:

  • Diffuse value to 0.90
  • Eccentricity value to 0.1
  • Specular Roll Off value to 0.5
  • Specular Color to white
  • Reflectivity to 0.25

Setting Up Shadows

Select the light called keyLight. The keyLight will be the main shadow casting light in the scene. Go to the Attribute Editor for keyLight. Scroll down to the Raytrace Shadow Attributes roll-out. Check the box next to Use Ray Trace Shadows to turn shadows on and set the following values:

  • Light Radius value to 2.0
  • Shadow Rays value to 20
  • Ray Depth Limit to 2

Create a test render of the camera viewport. The shadow gets cut off because pGroundPlane is not large enough so select pGroundPlane and, using the Scale Tool, make pGroundPlane much larger.

The final rendered image is shown in Fig.47.

Fig: 47

I hoped you enjoyed this tutorial and I would really appreciate any feedback that you may have. Please email me at

Thank you!
Kristina Sara Johnson

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Jorge on Thu, 11 May 2017 5:05pm
Can anyone send me a copy for this project?
Nicole on Thu, 30 October 2014 2:34am
This tutorial is awesome . Most of the other tutorials are a bit hard to follow because they are fast paced or the artist speaks in a manner that is even hard for an educated person to understand , (unless you are a computer or math wizard ). Thank you so very much .
Sofia on Mon, 18 November 2013 1:36am
Great tutorial! I followed it and learned a lot, thank you!
Writer650 on Wed, 07 March 2012 9:43pm
Very nice tutorial with some very terrific material settings.
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