Modeling a Tree in Maya

Here’s a tree I modelled using Maya’s extrude tool.

Tree modelled using Maya's extrude tool

To make the trunk, I created a polygon cylinder with zero number of caps and deleted all faces except its base circle face. I also drew a curve from the base of the face.

With the face and the curve selected, I fired off the extrude tool. Maya created a cylinder from the base face from one end of the curve to the other.

To make the trunk follow the curve, I adjusted the number of divisions for the extrude history in the trunk’s attributes window. The Taper Curve was also adjusted by clicking and dragging on the graph to make the top end of the trunk thinner.

Once I was happy with the shape of the trunk (adjusting the control ponts of the curve to update the trunk), I drew more curves in the side view for the branches.

Then, like the trunk, I extruded polygon circle faces along the curves and tapered them to create branches.

At this point all branches were coming out at 0 degree or 180 degrees – the tree was flat. To make it look like a tree from all angles, I rotated some branches and adjusted the control points in the top view so they were not just straight.

Now for the leaves. They were just a small rectangular plane that had a transparency mapping. I duplicated several copies of the leaf and and bunched them together and placed them on to the branches. Selecting a branch and clicking on the magnet icon (ie: making the branch ‘live’) ensures that the leaves ‘stick’ to the branch when being translated. For every leaf, making a duplicate copy and rotate it 90 degrees helps the tree look like it has leaves there from all angles.

After quite a lot of duplicating and placing clusters of leaves, the tree looked like this.

To texture the tree, the texture and alpha map for the leaves were replaced with the one below.

For the trunk and branches, the image below was cylindrically mapped.

Some leaves were pruned to make the shape a bit better. The trunk’s normals were softened also so it doesn’t look so faceted.

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12 thoughts on “Modeling a Tree in Maya

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Kake's 3D Blog

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! Is there anyway you could breakdown the curves directions. Im new at Maya and want to know what you did step by step when creating the branches. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Jamal,

      To create a curve, I go to Create => EP Curve Tool. Then in the front or side view, I left-mouse-click where I want to start the curve. I keep clicking different points in the view panel to shape the curve until I’m happy with the shape/length, and hit the Enter key.

      To make the branch, I go to Create => Polygon Primitives => Cylinder. I right-click on the cylinder and select Faces. Now I can select faces on the cylinder so I delete all faces except for the base face. Then I go back to object mode by right-clicking on the face and selecting Object Mode.

      Then I move that base face to the start of the curve, shift-select the curve and go to Edit Mesh => Extrude. The rest is in my post.

      Hope that helps!

      Kakes

  3. You refer to the “magnet icon” when “sticking” the leaves to the branches. What exactly is the magnet icon? Sorry, I’m new to Maya.

    Thanks!

  4. still need some help making the leaves this tutorial is great but it’s a little bit crazy if you are brand new to maya. I got teh tree design done finally but now i need to make the leaves how to do you transparent map stuff and all i’m a little confused to how the leaves are done. maybe i can look it up on google?

  5. Great tutorial!
    1. The transparent mapping is pretty simple:
    you need to select a plane(select appropriate sub-divisions under attributes), right-click and select Assign material->lambert. Under the lambert material options, you can select the image button next to color, select file and select a leaf image with a transparent background.(you can use photoshop/gimp to remove the background of an image). Do the same thing with the Transparent attribute under lambert. You will get the plane to be rendered as a 2D leaf.

  6. did you try particles for leaves , using instance……..it is too easy , only you have to rotate particles randomly using script.

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