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Know the Basics: Maya Part 7: Shaders & Textures

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Date Added: 2nd January 2017
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In part seven of the Know the Basics: Maya 2017 series, Paul Hatton explores adding shaders and textures...


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Previous tutorials

Know the Basics: Maya Part 1: Interface
Know the Basics: Maya Part 2: Viewports and Navigation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 3: Modelling
Know the Basics: Maya Part 4: Organisation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 5: Animating
Know the Basics: Maya Part 6: Motion Graphics

The process of creating and assigning materials in Maya is relatively simple. Where it gets complicated is with trying to wrap your head around all the different material types that there are. With each Maya release there are improvements and changes to materials, renderers and workflows which all contribute to a mish-mash of options; not ideal for a beginner. It gets even more complicated with the release of 2017 which has dropped mental ray as the default renderer and brought in Arnold to take its place.

Step 1: What is hypershade?

Hypershade is Maya's name for its built-in material editor. Hypershade makes it sound a lot more glamorous than it actually is! The editor essentially enables you to create and organise your materials before applying them to objects in your scene. In the next step we'll run through the interface.

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Hypershade is Maya's material editor.

Step 2: Hypershade interface

To open up the Hypershade window simply go to 'Window' -> 'Rendering Editors' -> 'Hypershade'. You can also use the icon on the status line toolbar. Running through the interface you firstly have the 'Browser' which is a list of all the materials, textures and lights. Following that you have your 'Material Viewer' which is where you can see a rendering of your materials. Then you have your 'Work area' which enables you to create your shader network. There are some other bits and bobs but those are the main parts!

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The interface is basic but sufficient.

Step 3: Create a material

As previously mentioned your material types are on the left hand side of the Hypershade window. Simply single clicking on one of the material types will create the material for you and add it to the 'Material Viewer'. For this article why not go ahead and find the 'Arnold' materials and choose 'aiStandard'. If you're using the Arnold renderer then it is these Arnold materials that will be best suited to your workflow.

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Creating a material is as simple as clicking on it from the list.

Step 4: Attributes for materials

Right click on the material and 'Assign material to selection'. If you then move your Hypershade window out of the way and focus in on your 'Attribute Editor'. This is where you'll find all of the attributes for the material of your selected object. I would highly recommend though using the 'Property Editor' inside Hypershade to adjust the properties of your shader. You'll then get instant rendering feedback from the 'Material Viewer' panel in Hypershade.

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Use Hypershade's property editor to view the materials details.

Step 5: Material adjustments

In the property editor there are a series of rollouts which control things like the diffuse and reflections etc. I have been so impressed by how easy the sliders are to use and the instant feedback gained through the 'Material Editor'. Arnold have done a great job of removing a lot of unnecessary jargon to make the editing of properties quick and easy. Have a go at adjusting some of the properties and seeing how it affects your material.

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Adjustments can be made to colours and value fields from inside Hypershade.

Step 6: Adding maps into the attributes

To take materials that step further and make them even more powerful you'll want to use bitmap files to drive the inputs. A classic example for this would be when wanting to create an uneven surface like a brick texture. Using a high resolution grey scale image representing height data will push your materials to the next level of realism. To add a map to an attribute simply click on the checker next to the attribute and select 'File' from the list.

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Using maps will take your materials to the next level.

Step 7: Assigning your material

Now that we've created our material we want to assign it to an object. Do this by selecting the object and going to the Hypershade window. Right click on the material and select 'Assign material to selection'. If you want to apply the same material to multiple objects then simply select multiple objects before assigning the material to the selection.

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You'll need to apply your materials to objects before you see any results.

Step 8: Other Arnold Materials

The 'aiStandard' is not the only Arnold material. In Hypershade you'll have noticed a series of others including 'aiHair' and 'aiSkin'. These materials are specifically set up for working with those object types and are better starting positions than 'aiStandard'. Adjusting their properties and getting visual feedback in the Material Viewer is exactly the same but you'll notice the properties are a little different.

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Arnold's materials give you a great starting point.

Step 9: Seeing the results in the view panel

By default your view should be set to 'Viewport 2.0' which should give you the best results. It will let you see your textures in high detail and how they are interacting with your lighting. To change the viewport rendering simply go to 'Renderer' at the top of the view and you'll notice a selection of options.

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Change the renderer to see your results in the viewport.

Step 10: UV Mapping

One really important aspect that we unfortunately haven't got time to cover in this series is UV mapping. It is mapping which tells Maya how to wrap your material onto your object. This process can get really complex really quickly so I would highly recommend reading up on it because if it's done badly then it's really noticeable. Good mapping also ensures that unwanted tiling is eliminated.

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UV mapping tells Maya how to apply the material to an object.

Top tip: Viewport appearance

For different scenarios you will want to customise what your model looks like in the viewport. Often it's helpful to see the mesh edges overlaid onto the texture. Do this by going to the 'Shading' part of the view menu and selecting 'Wireframe on Shaded'.

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Adjust the viewport appearance to suit your needs.

Related links

For more from Paul Hatton, check out C A Design Services
Download Maya 2017
Check out Maya 2017 on Twitter
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
Know the Basics: Maya Part 1: Interface
Know the Basics: Maya Part 2: Viewports and Navigation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 3: Modelling
Know the Basics: Maya Part 4: Organisation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 5: Animating
Know the Basics: Maya Part 6: Motion Graphics

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