Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design

A Tour of Maya

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Maya Overview

In Maya's original design, the approach taken was called the dependency graph. The idea is that everything in the scene—every curve, object, link, image, texture, keyframe, and so forth—and every tweak made to those items would be considered one "thing." Actually, not "thing"; the name they use is node, but it means about the same. It's one building block of the scene. These building blocks link to create ever more complex things. For example, when a profile line is drawn in Maya, it becomes a node. When the line is revolved to create, for example, a vase, the underlying line is still there. Further, the revolve operation creates a "revolve" node, placed in history, thus letting you modify the original curve and the revolve parameters independently.

Modifications made to the line immediately affect the vase's shape, and the modifications themselves create a node so that you can undo or modify anything you've done before. This flexibility underlies the entire Maya product, and includes the option to disable or delete history, which animators often use for efficiency.

The dependency graph architecture is simple to understand and allows tremendous flexibility. Maya allows the animator to view a scene file with every dependency revealed by using a view called the Hypergraph. There, links can be broken and reconnected so that any variable can control virtually any other variable. This feature illustrates one reason for Maya's popularity with Hollywood: A technician can set up dependencies so that the animator's work is minimized. When a character tilts her head back, the skin stretches, the muscles appear to move and bulge—and this all happens automatically because it has been set up to work that way in Maya. Naturally, setting up complex dependencies takes time, but the investment is easily justifiable for a character that will be used often. Programming skills are rarely required, however. It's simply a matter of learning what's possible and becoming proficient in setting up these dependencies. As Maya becomes more popular with animators of all types, this type of "TD work" (named for the technical directors of projects that typically perform this work) is becoming something everyone does, so long as it saves time and effort overall.

Hand Positioning

Most of the time when you animate with Maya, your right hand controls the three-button mouse, and your left hand is at the left side of the keyboard. This puts your left hand in position to operate the primary hotkeys, the spacebar, the Alt and Ctrl keys, and other keyboard shortcuts that get heavy use. Left-handed users who keep the mouse at the left of their keyboard need to reprogram the default hotkeys that put all the primary keys at the keyboard's left side.

Using the Three Mouse Buttons

Maya uses all three buttons of the mouse constantly. The left mouse button (LMB) is used to select and pick things, and often it's used to take actions such as moving or rotating an object. The right mouse button (RMB) usually brings up a selection list (which you might be familiar with in other programs as a pop-up menu or a context-sensitive menu) for you to pick from with the LMB. The middle mouse button (MMB) is used for adjusting interim things—for example, dragging and dropping materials to the scene or moving part of an object with snapping temporarily engaged.

Using the Spacebar

The spacebar has two functions. The first is the full-screen window toggle, where a brief tap of the spacebar causes a window to toggle to full screen. The window that switches to full screen is always the one that the mouse cursor is currently hovering over. When a fresh install of Maya starts, it's in the typical Four View mode, with Top, Side, Front, and Perspective views; however, the Perspective view is maximized. If you briefly tap the spacebar, the four screens appear. You can then maximize any of the other views.

The other function of the spacebar is to open the Hotbox by holding down the spacebar. The Hotbox is described in detail near the end of this chapter.

Manipulating a View

As you build and manipulate objects, you need to be able to quickly adjust your viewpoint interactively. A primary part of knowing Maya is its window manipulation method. You can position yourself anywhere in a scene by using tumble, track, and dolly controls.


With the tumble control, also known as orbit or spin, you move your orbital position in relation to the scene. Hold down the Alt key with your left hand while you click and drag with the LMB in a perspective viewport.


With the track control, also known as pan or move, you laterally move your view of the screen. That is, without changing angle or zoom level, the viewpoint moves up, down, left, or right. Hold down the Alt key with your left hand while you click and drag with the MMB in any viewport.


You cannot tumble an orthogonal view because Side, Top, and Front views by default do not rotate (orthogonal camera settings are discussed in Chapter 11, "Cameras and Rendering"). These views are locked in place. The term orthogonal means the views have no perspective or vanishing point.


With the dolly control, also known as zoom, you can interactively zoom in and out of a scene. Hold down the Alt key with your left hand while you click and drag with both the LMB and MMB pressed. You can also zoom into or out of a drawn rectangle by using these methods:

  • Zoom window You can click-drag a window that outlines an area you want to zoom into, a technique that CAD users are particularly fond of. To zoom into a window, hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys with your left hand while you drag a window with the mouse holding down the LMB. Drag the rectangle from the upper-left corner to the lower-right corner.

  • Zoom out window If you perform the same steps for a zoom window but drag the rectangle from the lower-right corner to the upper-left corner, the window is zoomed back. The smaller the window, the greater the zoom outward.


All these tools except the tumble work throughout Maya. That is, every graphical Maya dialog box that appears, from Render windows to Hypershade and even the Paint Effects palette, can be tracked and dollied and zoom-windowed. You will use these tools constantly to focus your work area and also to avoid eye strain. Don't forget this when a dialog box appears with text so tiny that it's unreadable!

Saving a View

Every panel has its own Bookmark Editor so that you can save your views. This can be a big timesaver when you have perfectly aligned some objects in a panel and then need to adjust the panel to edit something else. To add a bookmark for a panel, open the Bookmark Editor with View | Bookmarks | Edit Bookmarks. You can type in the bookmark name and even include a description. Now the bookmark will appear above the Edit Bookmarks item under View | Bookmarks in that panel.


Each panel has its own bookmarks, exclusive of the others. If you can't find a bookmark you made, you are probably looking in the wrong panel or originally made the bookmark in the wrong panel.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020