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  1. 3D & Motion Graphics
  2. Maya

Quick Tip: Creating a NURBS curve in Photoshop for Maya

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Read Time: 5 mins

We'll begin by creating a simple Pen path Object with the help of the Pen tool in Photoshop. This method is good for creating stuff like 3D Logos or a Controller Point for Animations in Maya. I believe the Pen tool is the most powerful tool in Photoshop, with it we can create all kinds of shapes and sizes and it’s the most flexible tool ever. To complete this tutorial you need to know at least the basic controls of using the Pen tool in Photoshop. So, today we'll be learning how to import a pen tool shape know as PATH into Maya. Let’s start!

Go to Photoshop and create a new file by pressing CTRL+N and set the dimension to 512 x 512 (although size doesn't matter you can set anything you like.)


Once the file is loaded Hit P to select the Pen tool. Now Right-click on the third tool below the Pen tool and select the Custom Shape from the dropdown menu.


Hit P and select the Custom Shape tool below the file menu bar. Make sure PATH is selected as shown below, because we are only going to need the PATH information.


Choosing the desire shape
Why use a Custom shape? Because we get loads of shapes to choose from. So Right-click anywhere on the screen and select the desire shape that you want. if you don't see many shapes listed then click on the small arrow and select All to get all the shapes in the option.

Drawing out the SHAPE of your choice
Here I’ll be going with a simple Butterfly shape (if you want you can choose or draw any other shape.) To draw it, select the butterfly shape from the menu and simply click and drag on the layer or hold SHIFT+ALT and then drag to drag it proportionally from the center. This will just maintain the proportion of the shape.

Ok, after drawing out the shape of your choice just like I did in the pic below, the next thing we need to do is export it.


Exporting the Path

We want the Path to be exported in Adobe Illustrator format. To do that, Select the Path from the PATHS Tabs and then go to File>Export>Paths to Illustrator. If you don’t see the PATHS tabs (or it’s hidden) then just go to Windows from the file menu bar and select Paths (Window>Paths.)

Why export in Illustrator? Because Maya reads the paths in .ai (adobe Illustrator) format and imports it as a NURBS Curve. This is the most important step so just make sure that your path is selected and export it as Paths to Illustrator.

Importing the PATH into MAYA
Go to Maya and create a new scene. Click on Import from the file menu to import the illustrator file that you've created.


Simply drag and drop the illustrator file (.ai file) into your scene and you should see a NURBS curve loaded in your scene right in the center of the Grid. That’s it, this is how we bring PEN tool path data into Maya.

Now if you are familiar with NURBS Curves modeling in Maya then you should know how to convert the NURBS curve into a 3D Polygon Object. If not then don't worry, just follow the following Steps.

After importing the above Illustrator file, you’ll get a NURBS Curve in the form of the same shape (here the Butterfly.) So just select your shape and Hit F4 in Maya to get the Surfaces option in the File menu.

Now Duplicate your Shape by pressing SHIFT+D and Move the new Curve a bit above the original shape. It should be Parallel just like in the pic below, this accounts for the thickness of the shape so adjust it according to your wishes. The size of the Thickness depends upon the Distance between the two Curves.

Now select both of the Curves and go to Surfaces and select Loft from the file menu as shown in the pic below.

OK now we have a hollow shape, so it’s time to create a Face to cover one side of the shape.

Right-click on the shape and hold down your Right mouse button, choose Isoparm and then select any side Edge of that Shape. It will turn to Yellow the moment you click it, indicating that it's selected so make sure you’ve selected the right Edge just like in the pic below. Now go back to the Surfaces Options from the file menu and hit Planar.

Now for the the other side of the shape, just repeat the process, or leave it if you only want the face on one side or as your wish. In short, in NURBS modeling "Loft" is for the thickness of the mesh, and "Planar" is for the FACE of the mesh.

That’s It! We have finally created a 3D Butterfly Shape from a 2D outline created by the Pen tool in Photoshop.

The Adobe Illustrator format (.AI) file is supported by MAYA. It reads the Pen tool Path as an illustrator file format and imports it as a NURBS Curve. Hence you can create any complex forms of shapes effortlessly and much faster than in Maya.

We’ve published a few related tutorials you might also be interested in:

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