15 best Autodesk Maya tutorials: boost your 3D modelling and animation skills

Fast moving sci-fi vehicle exploding in the street, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials
(Image credit: Syawish A Rehman )

The best Maya tutorials are here to boost your skills in this popular 3D software from Autodesk. We've included tutorials at beginner, intermediate and advanced level, so whatever your experience level, you'll find a tutorial here for you. And best of all, they're all free to access online!

If you're new to Maya, it's an industry standard tool used across film, TV, video game, and architecture industries to create 3D models, animations, visual effects, and simulation. Top of our list of the best 3D modelling software, you can use it to create complex 3D models using polygonal modeling, NURBS modeling, or sculpting tools. And that's not all! Maya's texturing tools allow for the creation of intricate surface details and the application of textures and materials. Plus its animation tools let you create and manipulate keyframes, motion paths, character rigs and more.

Below, we've rounded up the best Maya tutorials to help you get to grips with its core features, and supercharge your skills. Need added inspiration? Then check out these awesome examples of 3D art (opens in new tab) to get you started. 

01. Maya Tutorial for Beginners

In this detailed video tutorial from Game Dev Academy, you will learn all of the basics of using Maya 2022 including the tools and user interface, how to create polygon and NURBS models, how to UV map and texture them, how to light your scene and how to create a rendered image of your work. It's available either as separate lessons or one 4.5 hour-video. 

02. Maya interface tour (and 9 more)

If you're just getting started with Maya, it's also worth taking a look at this intro to Maya from the tool's maker, Autodesk. If you find this one useful, there's a whole series (opens in new tab) of these basic tutorials to choose from.

03. Create a custom Maya interface 

Creating a custom interface, as one of the best Maya tutorials

Maya offers a bewildering array to tools, commands and options to suit every workflow. So where do you get started? This tutorial shows you how to build a custom interface, enabling you to create the perfect working environment for your needs, using Maya's UI customisation options.

04. How to create custom rig controls in Maya 

3D model of a burglar, part one of the best Maya tutorials

The best rigs are the ones that are intuitive and simple to use, and make sense for a whole team of animators. This tutorial on how to create custom rig controls, which originally appeared in 3D World magazine, offers some best practice rules to follow. 

05. How to simplify blend shape creation in Maya

Blend shape creation, in one of the best Maya tutorials

(Image credit: Antony Ward)

Blend shapes, or morph targets as they are also known, are a powerful way to bring life to a static model. Traditionally, creating blend shapes could be a long and tedious job, but there have been lots of improvements in blend shape creation over the years and some shortcuts have been developed to help speed up generation and prevent the need for any work to be repeated. How to simplify blend shape creation in Maya explains how you can use a mixture of Maya's new tools and methods for how to quickly and efficiently create blend shapes. This tutorial originally appeared in 3D World magazine.

06. Create a UV wrap with the Roadkill plugin 

Model of checkered flag, in one of the best Maya tutorials

UV wrapping is used to apply a 2D image texture onto a 3D mesh. Maya's Roadkill plugin automatically lays out UV co-ordinates and minimises distortion in just a few clicks. Here's how to use it to create a UV wrap, in four easy steps.  

07. Simulate explosions in Maya 

Fast moving sci-fi vehicle exploding in the street, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials

Explosions are a huge part of our entertainment, from video games to action films. However, most of the explosions you see on screens aren’t real.  This in-depth Maya tutorial walks though how to craft a realistic explosion, using nParticles and FumeFX. This tutorial originally appeared in 3D World magazine.

08. Create a portal effect in Maya 

Portal effect, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials

That portal effect in the Dr Strange movie was very special: It was pretty much the only effect in the movie that didn’t lean more towards motion graphics than visual effects. So, this Maya tutorial by Syawish A Rehman walks you through creating an amazing portal effect, with help from nParticles – and in particular, the Nucleus mode. This tutorial originally appeared in 3D World magazine.

09. Create a scene with RenderMan for Maya

Huge building in the countryside coated in snow, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials

(Image credit: Jeremy Heintz)

This tutorial by Jeremy Heintz shows you how to make a winter environment with RenderMan for Maya. It covers everything from creating a compelling composition through to shading, lighting and getting your image production-ready. This tutorial originally appeared in 3D Artist magazine.

10. How to speed up retopology in Maya 

3D model of human torso, part of one of the best Maya tutorials

(Image credit: Antony Ward)

Retopology is becoming an increasingly essential part not only of game development, but also film and TV production. How to speed up retopology in Maya explains how to use Maya's tools to perform retopology faster, using the Conform tool to create basic primitives. This tutorial originally appeared in 3D World magazine.

11. Maya shaders and textures 

Maya interface in one of the best Maya tutorials

As part of a Know the Basics series from 3DTotal, Paul Hatton delves in to the process of creating and assigning materials in Maya. This walkthrough will help you wrap your head around all the different material types and how to render them in Maya's default renderer, Arnold. 

 12. Create better character animations 

Bunny character animation, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials

This tutorial presents a way to reskin a finished character that doesn't involve painstakingly importing and exporting skin weights with sloppy results. Using the Export Deformer Weights tool, labelled Export Weights and Import Weights, is a much more efficient and successful way to finish your animation.

13. Create a walk cycle in Maya

Learn how to create a convincing walk cycle with this detailed 40-minute Maya tutorial. In it, you'll learn how to master each pose, set up the timing and refine the walk cycle using the graph editor. 

14. Create a realistic environment in Maya 

3D painting of bicycle parked next to brownstone, as part of one of the best Maya tutorials

Creating different environments is exciting... but to make them believable, it's key to study your references. In this Maya tutorial on creating realistic environments, originally published in 3D World magazine, Eva Ng demonstrates how she made this project. 

15. How to create smoke in Maya 

This video tutorial from Mike Hermes shows you how to create loads of different types of smoke, from a trickle of cigarette smoke to a dense cloud of smoke from a grenade. 

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Rob Redman

Rob Redman is the editor of 3D World and ImagineFX magazines and has a background in animation, visual effects, and photography. As a 3D artist he created the mothership in the Webby winning Plot Device and was animator on the follow-up; Order up. He has created training for Cinema 4D and Blackmagic Design Fusion artists. He's been a published product and food photographer since the age of 15. As well as being a multi-instrumentalist, Rob is also an avid beard grower.

With contributions from