How to Use Maya's Lattice Tool

Introducing the Lattice Deformer

The lattice tool is one of five great ways to improve your modeling efficiency in Autodesk Maya. Not only do lattices make it possible to perform shape modifications on high-resolution meshes, they can be used to tweak the proportions of a character model, add stylization to a prop or building, or even aid in the initial blocking phase of a project.

Since the lattice function is actually classified as an animation tool in Maya's menu sets, beginner modelers often pass it over or don't realize it exists, when they could actually benefit greatly from its use.

We decided to put together a short tutorial that explains the lattice tool and showcases some of its most useful features:

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Lattice Basics

To find the lattice function, you need to access the animation shelf.

 

Find the module menu in the upper left corner of the UI—by default the modeling tab will most likely be active. Click the dropdown and choose animation from the list.

By activating the animation shelf, a new array of UI icons and menus will become available to you. To create a lattice, select an object (or group of objects), and go to Animation → Lattice → Options Box.

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Case Study: Stylize a Building with Lattices

In this example, we'll take a building model and use a lattice to give it a slightly more cartoonish appearance.

 

The building itself is already a bit stylized, with exaggerated bevels, and a fantasy-medieval architectural style, but we can push it further by altering the silhouette and proportions. In cartoon environments, it's fairly common for artists to spruce up their silhouettes with curved walls, off kilter roofs, and larger than life architectural features.

This building was modeled out of numerous objects, but we want to alter the shape as a whole, so before doing anything else, we need to select the entire building and press Ctrl + G to group the objects together, and Modify → Center Pivot to center the group's pivot point.

Just to be safe, we'll also delete history on the building and create a new “save as” point before creating the lattice.

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Animating with Lattices

Lattices in Maya can be keyframed, which means they can be animated.

 

Obviously, there are better ways than lattices to build a complex rig (like a character rig for example), but if you're working on a relatively simple animation that only requires basic deformation a lattice could certainly come in handy.

In order to use a lattice for animated deformations, you need to set keyframes for the CV coordinates of the individual lattice points. Create a lattice and select one of the point handles.

In the attribute editor you should see a CVs tab beneath the S, T,and U Divisions input boxes. Click on this tab to reveal the the x, y, and z coordinates of the selected lattice point—these are the attributes you want to key.

In Conclusion

Hopefully you've picked up some valuable tips and learned a little bit about how the lattice tool can streamline your modeling workflow in Maya. Lattices don't make sense every single situation—sometimes you just have to get in there and more around some vertices, but there are certainly times when it's the absolute best tool for the job.