How to set up reference images in Autodesk Maya

When modelling from a set of reference images its important to get the initial set up right, otherwise it could haunt you later.

  • Place reference images in the ’sourceimages’ directory in the project
  • File > View Image
  • Navigate to the sourceimages folder
  • Select image and click open
  • A separate dialog will open displaying the image (This may be underneath maya so be sure to minimise to check)
  • Make sure reference images are the same sizes, this will make modelling based on front/top/side/bottom accurate
  • Visually confirm the image is correct, now close the image

Adding reference images to workspace

  • You can add the image to any object, recommend using a NURB plane, there are 2 advantages of this:

– If we are modelling a poly, we can isolate the NURB surface, see Selection Masks

– NURBS have mapping built in, which means we can directly add the image without mapping manually

  • Go to Create > NURBS Primatives > Check “Interactive Creation”
  • Go back into the same menu and click ‘Plane’
  • Click and drag in workspace to create the plane
  • Open the Attribute Editor
  • Click on the ‘makeNurbPlane’ node (tab)
  • Set the width
  • Set the ratio, if set to 1, the image will be square, this is recommended (Just make the sure the reference images are square)
  • Switch to the Channel Box
  • Select all of the translate values (X,Y and Z)
  • Enter 0 and hit enter to centre the plane to the grid
  • Click on the Rendering shelf (tabs at the top, Poly, Sculpting etc…)
  • Click on ‘Lambert Material’ (the matt grey sphere)
  • Open the Attribute editor (It should automatically open) when the lambert material button is clicked
  • In the Attribute editor, click on the ‘Lambert’ node
  • Under the ‘common material attributes’ section, click on the chequered box to the right of the colour selection
  • The Create Render Node dialog will appear
  • From this new dialog select ‘File’ from the list, the dialog will close
  • In the attribute editor, under the ‘File attributes’ section, click on the small folder icon to the right of the ‘Image name field’, the file browser will open
  • Select the desired reference image in the file browser and click ‘Open’
  • You’ll notice you can’t see the image on the plane in the workspace, this is because shading is disabled, to turn it on go to ’Shading’ in the workspace toolbar and enable ‘Hardware Texturing’

Adding the other images

  • Copy the NURB plane created in the previous step
  • Enable the Rotate tool
  • In the channel box rotate the image along the X axis by 90 degrees
  • Create another lambert material by clicking on the matt grey sphere in the rendering node (top)
  • In the Attribute editor, click the lambert node (tab), then click the chequered box next to the color option.
  • Select ‘File’ from the dialog that pops up
  • Back in the attribute editor click on the folder icon next to the image name field
  • Select the next reference image in the file browser and click ‘Open’
  • Click ’Shading’ in the workspace toolbar and enable ‘Hardware Texturing’

Repeat process for final image…

If at any point on of the sides looks dark and you can’t see the image, go to ‘Lighting’ (workspace menu), and select ’Two Sided Lighting’

Add these NURBs to a new layer, select all of the layers and click ‘Layers’ > Create Layer from selected

Double click the newly created layer and rename it to reference image or something.

Click on the 3rd box twice until an R is displayed, this basically means ‘Reference’

Now the NURBs containing the reference images cannot be selected.