Maya Tutorial Series - Unwrapping the Greek Column (UV Mapping)

Black and white digital illustration of two Corinthian columns and capitals
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

OK. Hopefully, everyone was able to follow along and get their column modeled without too much trouble.

From this point on we'll start covering some new ground and introducing UVs, texturing techniques, and basic lighting to improve upon the rendering setup we created in the previous lesson.

When I started in 3D, I found the UV Mapping process to be one of the toughest concepts to wrap my head around, which is why I thought it would be good to start with a shape as simple as a column.

Rigid cylinders are by far the easiest shape to create a good UV layout for. Ultimately our goal is to “map” a two-dimensional image onto the surface of our 3D column, and in order to do this, we must flatten the column into a set of 2D coordinates.

If you need a deeper explanation of UV mapping, we go into greater depth here.

Unwrapping the Cylinder

For us to be able to apply a photographic texture to our model, we need to flatten the model into a set of UV coordinates. Maya's UV tools are in the polygon shelf, under the menus Create UVs and Edit UVs.

If you open the create UVs menu, you'll see that there are four major types of UV maps that Maya can automatically create: Planar maps, cylindrical, spherical, and automatic.

In the case of our column, we'll be using the cylindrical map tool (for obvious reasons.

Select the cylindrical portion of your column, and go to Create UVs > Cylindrical Map to create a map for your model.

Nothing will visibly change on the model itself, but manipulator should appear.

By default, the cylindrical mapping tool only maps half of the cylinder—in order for both sides of the cylinder to fit into our UV space, we need to make a quick change.

At the center of the cylinder, there should be two red handles on the UV manipulator.

These handles determine how much of the cylinder's circumference will fit into 1:1 UV space. Click on one of the red handles and drag it away from the light blue square until the two red manipulators come together.

To see what your UV map looks like, go to Window > UV Texture Editor and select the cylinder.