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Maya modeling: Arms

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Date Added: 30th September 2013
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In this tutorial we continue to build our model by adding the arms.

Free assets: Download here


So far we have a torso and the legs in place. This time we continue our introduction to modeling in Maya by adding the upper extremities. Once again, we will examine the reference I'm using, but I also encourage you to look at as many external anatomical references as possible to give you a good idea of the muscle groups before hitting the computer. I also find that it is worthwhile to look at other models, especially those built for deformation, to see if you can grab any tips or ideas on how to approach the topology.

Back to the arms, where the areas of interest for this tutorial will be the deltoids, the biceps, triceps, and the flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm. We will also pay attention to the bony region of the elbow as we did the knee. By modeling-in these core lines created by these muscle groups and bony landmarks, we should be able to get some pretty decent deformation occurring. For this tutorial, we will continue to use the reference from the awesome folks at However, please note that as well as looking at the front, side and back views supplied, I have also used all the other images that come with the collection to extract as much info as I could during the modeling process. Check out what they have to offer; it's all good stuff.

Obviously this tutorial is aimed primarily at new Maya users, familiarizing readers with one way to skin the modeling cat. However, there are many ways to skin this particular cat, and I urge you to explore and experiment with other packages and processes to see what suits you best.

Core muscles of the arms

Working our way from the torso down towards the hands, we first come to the deltoids. The deltoids are comprised of three heads but we will model them in as one mass.

Then come the biceps and the triceps. Anatomically, the biceps, as the name suggests, is a two-headed muscle, but these heads come together to form a common muscle belly, which is how we will depict the muscle. The muscle inserts into the forearm but we will define the region just before then as this is where the majority of the ?bulging' occurs when the arm is flexed and the wrist is twisted. On that point, I encourage you to get familiar with how your body articulates. Twist the wrist when the arm is flexed and in a relaxed pose and you'll notice that it is that movement that creates the primary bulge that we associate with the bicep, not just flexion.

The triceps, as indicated by its name, are composed of three heads. These heads meet in a common tendon creating a v-shape notch, and we want to indicate this shape in our topology. The notch is very noticeable when the arm is extended, especially on the very lean.

Moving downwards, we want enough geometry present to hold the shape of the bony elbow that lies beneath the skin. This is created by the olecranon of the ulna. The ridge of the ulna is also visible so we will want to highlight its presence.

That will take us to the forearm, where there are muscles aplenty. Luckily, we don't need to highlight each one but we do want to mimic the twisting flow of the flexor and extensor group, which affects the flow of the skin. This will finally bring us to a nice bony landmark, the styloid process of the ulna, which sits on the pinky side of the wrist. We'll add this landmark when we come to do the hands, along with the tendons on the palmer side of the wrist, next time.

The core areas of the arm that will be of interest

Extract the arm and duplicate the torso

First we need to extract the current arm geometry from the head and the wrist. Select the faces, as indicated in fig_02 below and go Mesh > Extract. With all the objects selected, go Edit > Delete By Type > History to keep things clean and break all connections between the multiple geometries. Next duplicate the current torso that we have by selecting it and hitting Ctrl+D and then hide the original model by pressing Ctrl+H. I want to work the arm into the shoulder and the chest so select all the faces below that region and delete them.

Separating the arm and part of the torso

continued on next page >

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