Making Skin in AutoDesk Maya

Autodesk Maya is a very useful tool which can be used for 3D design. One thing that it's very good at is making the skin look very realistic. By using Maya, it's surprisingly easy to create accurate and realistic looking skin tones and textures. When you know a few simple tips and tricks, you will discover just how easy it is to create skin.

The skin weights tool is used to design the skin tones and apply them to your wireframe models. This makes it easy to create high quality and realistic rendered people with skin textures. This tool takes all of the experimentation and guess work out of creating skin.

Step 1: Creating the Skeleton

The first thing is to create the skeleton by using the line tools. This is one of the most complicated steps because it involves creating a 3D wireframe model, which you will later cover and texture. It's similar to building a structure out of wire, which will then be covered in Paper Mache.

Step 2: Binding Skin to Skeleton

Select the skeleton by clicking on it, then select the geometry which you want to bind to the skeleton at that location. Then, click Skin at the top menu and select Bind. You can choose the type of binding that you prefer although smooth bind will be the most common. This will create a dialog box which can then be used to adjust the skin tones and weights. Adjust the Max Influences setting; this means how many joints in the skeleton can affect the skin. This normally works best at around 3, although it is down to personal choice.

Then, you can click "Bind Skin" to bind the skin to the skeleton. By binding the skin to the skeleton, every movement of the skeleton will also move the skin with it. This makes it much easier to animate and move the character around the screen.

Step 3: Understanding Skin Weights

When you bind the skin to the skeleton, it will try to guess what should move with what. This doesn't always create a realistic effect. You will need to adjust the skin weights so that you are able to open mouths and move arms without the rest of the skeleton changing. Normally, the guesses made by the application aren't perfect. To make this better, you will need to correct the decisions made by the application.

Step 4: Changing Skin Binding

Click on the skin to select it and then click on Skin, Binding, Edit Smooth skin. Then, select paint skin weights tool and a dialog box will appear. This will change your character into black and display a list of the named joints in your character. Click on the joint names that you want to study, and a part of the body will be highlighted in white. The white area is the part of the character which is controlled by that joint.

Step 5: Adding Skin Binding

Click on the add button and select the size of the brush that you want to use. Then, click on the model to expand the size of the area which is controlled by the joint that is selected.

Then, click the smooth button to smooth the joints so that they look much more realistic as they move. By concentrating on skin weighting, it is easy to create realistic looking skin which moves as it should with the skeleton.