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Mastering Maya's Curve Tools: Create Stunning Trees with Ease and Precision!


🔴Learn how to use curve tools in Maya to create curves and manipulate them to model a tree. 🔴The tutorial covers different curve types, such as CV curves and Bezier curves, as well as the use of sweep meshes.

🔴Discover techniques for creating roots, trunks, and branches, optimizing topology, and adding ropes. Save versions with and without deleted history for flexibility.






- Workflow

  • In today’s class, we’ll learn how to use the Curve tools inside Autodesk Maya. First, we need to set up our project and reference images. It’s best to use the curve tools from a non-perspective view so it is easier to work with.

  • In the Create tab, we’re going to select the curve tool menu and try out the first Cruve tool, CV Curve Tool.

  • This is the most used curve tool inside of Maya but there are many other curve tools to suit specific needs.

  • We’re going to go to the top view and try out our tool.

  • We can see when we click on different parts the line gets more and more curved.

  • Next up is the EP Curve Tool. It works the same way as the CV Curve Tool only this one allows you to create more extreme curves.

  • The Bezier Curve Tool makes straight lines instead of curved edges.

  • The Pencil Curve Tool allows us to draw our own curves in our workspace.

  • The Thee Point Circular Arc is one of the circular curve tools. We place down three points on our workspace and it will create a circle using those points.

  • We can manipulate the points to make the circle smaller or larger. Pressing Q on your keyboard will create the curve.

  • With the Two Point Arc Curve, we can create an arc by setting down two points in our scene and we can click the wheel dot to flip our arc.

  • From the top view start making the darker roots of the tree.

  • Make sure you start making your curve from the middle of the tree trunk.

  • Select the CV Curve tool and start adding vertices along the roots to create the curve.

  • Once we’ve laid out our curves it’s time to give them a better shape by moving around some of the vertices.

  • Click on the Control Vertex mode by holding down Right click.

  • From the perspective view do this to all other 3 curve lines and then select the midpoint of the curves and lift it upward using the Move tool.

  • We can also use the Soft Select on the vertices for the curves.

  • From the side and top of the views on the reference adjust the curves by manipulating the vertices using soft select and the move brush.

  • Now that we are done with the bottom roots we will make the trunk of the tree again using the CV Curve tool.

  • Start from the Left Side view of the tree on the reference image and make the base form.

  • Once we have the shape work with the other sides of the tree and adjust the curves accordingly to the reference image, even from the top view as well.

  • We’re going to make the branches of the tree again by using the CV Curve tool.

  • There are a good amount of branches so make sure you make all of them from the Left Side and from the Side part of the reference image.

  • It can get a bit confusing but you can always go into perspective view to see how the curves are turning out and how many you’ve made so far.

  • Every time you add curves from a side make sure you adjust them from each angle right away so you don’t get confused later on when there are more curves in your scene for the rest of the branches.

  • We’ll start creating Spline meshes for each group of curves starting from the roots.

  • Select all the roots and click on Create then click on the Sweep Mesh option.

  • On the side, we can see we have the Sweep Mesh menu in the Attribute Editor.

  • There are different types of Sweep meshes: Poly, Rectangle, Line, Arc, Wave, and Custom.

  • There are also options we can change to control the shape and size of our sweep mesh.

  • For today we’ll be using the Poly Swee Mesh.

  • We want our mesh to have 8 sides since it is enough to give us nice curves without adding a lot of topology.

  • Below the Sides slider, there is a Cap button.

  • This closes up the holes IN the curves.

  • For now, we don’t want the ends of our curves to be covered so we’ll leave them open.

  • From the top view, we’ll turn on XRay mode and change the size of our curves to fit the reference image by going to the Transformation tab and changing the Scale Profile value.

  • There is a Tapper option inside the same tab that shrinks the ends of our curve.

  • There is also another way to do this and that is inside the Taper Curve tab, it gives us more control over how the taper affects our mesh by changing and adding more dots inside the graph.

  • Adjust the Taper Curve to fit the reference image.

  • You can also move around the vertices to better fit the shape to the reference.

  • In the Interpolation tab, we can increase the Precision slider to add more topology to our curve to make the curve a lot smoother.

  • If we tick the Optimize option under the Precision slider it will optimize the precision and add in topology where it’s needed.

  • If we move the vertices around like at the start of the root where there is now a lot less topology, it will add more topology to make the curve smooth.

  • Feel free to adjust any vertices if the curve isn’t fitting the reference.

  • Now we can move on to the trunk of the tree.

  • Select the trunk curve and create a Sweep mesh as we did with the roots.

  • We can see that in our Attribute Editor for the Sweep Mesh, there is another Sweep Mesh creator.

  • This means that the trunk curve has its own sweep mesh that is separate from the roots.

  • Wherever change we make to this curve won’t affect the other curves.

  • Change the scale and just like with the roots we will adjust the Taper Curve and increase the Precision slider with Optimize turned on.

  • Select the branch curves and make a Sweep Mesh.

  • Change the scale, taper curve, and precision if need be.

  • You can also move around any vertices that are deforming the curve in a way that doesn’t fit the reference image.

  • Going back to the tree trunk we can see that it has very low topology.

  • To fix this we can simply click on the trunk or on the curve in the outliner and change the Sides value inside the Sweep Mesh editor to add more topology.

  • When you save these kidneys of projects make sure you don’t delete the history.

  • Doing so won’t allow you to twist and deform the branches made with the curves anymore.

  • Now that we’ve made all the curves for the tree we can move on to make the ropes on the branches.

  • Make the branch live where the rope is hanging from.

  • From here use the CV Curve tool around the branch and the vertices we’ll stick onto the surface of the branch.

  • Wrap the vertices around the branch till you create a nice wrap-around curve, then to add the curve line on the side to hang, make sure you tick off the Live object from the branch before going into the side view and continuing the curve downward

  • This principle applies to all the other ropes hanging from each branch.

  • Select the curves for the ropes and create a Sweep mesh.

  • We can see that the curves are deformed a lot at the beginning, to fix this we’ll increase the Precision value.

  • In the Transformation tab adjust the scale of the ropes.

  • Inside the Distribution tab, tick the Distribute option to add more meshes on the curves.

  • Increase the Number of Instances to 6 to add a good amount of meshes.

  • In the Transformation tab, there is a Twist scale that will make the meshes twist around each other to create a rope-like mesh.

  • Increase this value to 15 or more if needed.

  • End Result.


Bonus - Edges to Curves

  • In this bonus class you’ll learn how to make curves from selected edges on any surface.

  • For example we’ll use a torus and put it into the scene.

  • Select the middle edge, open the Modify tab, hover over Convert and click the Polygon Edges to Curve option.

  • We can see that there is a curve where the edge is.

  • Just like any normal curve, we can add a Sweep mesh and control it like usual.






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