Most 3D artists have a love/hate relationship with UVs. Either they love doing them or they hate doing them. Regardless of how you feel, most of the time laying out UVs for an asset is a necessary evil. Yes, it can be tedious and time consuming but sometimes the software we use steps up and makes improvements that make the overall experience better. Maya 2017’s update 3 is exactly that type of an update. In addition to a slew of other great new features, the UV Editor has received a complete overhaul. Let’s dive in and take a look.


Important UI Areas

The first and most obvious change to the UV editor is that it is no longer a single, self-contained window as it was prior to update 3. The complexity of the UV Editor has been spread to three potential areas that you’ll be working in aside from the viewport. Those areas are the main UV Editor, the UV Toolkit, and to a lesser degree Tool Settings. Fortunately, thanks to the UI customization features in Maya 2017, it is possible for them all to live in the same floating window. What is even nicer is the fact that Maya includes a UV Editor workspace that allows you to quickly switch the layout of panels and windows to one that is better suited for laying out UVs.

Reorganizing the layout of the UV Editor across these areas has dramatically cleaned up the main toolbar but more importantly grouped related tools inside the UV Toolkit into rollouts making it much easier to find the tool suited to the task you are attempting. How many times did you find yourself digging through the toolbar, reading tooltips in an attempt to locate the tool you needed?


The Display Bar

Replacing the once cluttered toolbar at the top of the UV Editor is the new Display Bar. This bar includes features that control the way UVs are viewed inside the UV Editor. Shading and UV Distortion are valuable viewing modes that often need to be quickly toggled on and off. You’ll find these options here. Along with these, the new UV Editor includes quick toggles for both Texture Borders and Shell Borders, the latter of which Softimage users should remember. On the opposite side of the Display Bar you’ll find the options to view the texture image or checkerboard pattern along with the usually color management viewing options (gamma, brightness, and view transform).


The UV Toolkit 

As mentioned previously, the UV Toolkit is where the majority of tools and features have been moved to. For those familiar with the Modelling Toolkit, you’ll notice some similarities here.

The top portion of the UV Toolkit is dedicated to component selection. Of course, there are big buttons here for each of the expected component types which are now consistent between the UV Editor and the viewport when used. Something you might not immediately notice is that underneath these buttons is an informational area that tells you how many of a particular component is currently selected.


Drag Selection

In addition to the traditional pick/marquee style of selection, a new drag style of selection is available which some artists may prefer. This style of selection can also be activated by holding Tab before dragging to select. To help with more complex selections, the new UV Editor offers both Selection Constraints as well as some Select by Type options to help you make exactly the selection you need the first time.

Below the various selection and pinning tool options and rollouts, you’ll notice some strategic divisions in the tool groupings. All of the tools for transforming, creating, cutting and sewing, unfolding, aligning/snapping, and arranging/layout have been grouped together. While many of the tools located in these rollouts aren’t new, the location of the tool is. This new organization allows artists to quickly find and use the tools they’ve always used.


Additional Highlights

While there are several smaller nuggets nested in the UV Toolkit, some notable new features emerge and those begin with the new Symmetrize Tool. While the tool is very easy to use, it is nested a bit within the structure of the UV Toolkit. You’ll find it under Transform >Tools. The new Symmetrize Tool. Alternatively you can also locate the tool under the UV Editor’s Tools menu.

The Symmetrize Tool is actually very intuitive. Simply select it and then define a single edge somewhere in the center of your UV shell. This defined edge serves as the line of symmetry for the shell. You can then use a brush to paint on either side of the symmetry line and match the UVs from the opposite side of the shell.


One of the coolest new UV related tools isn’t even in the new UV Editor. The new 3D Cut and Sew UV Tool can actually be found inside of Maya’s UV menu. This tool allows you to both cut and sew UVs right inside of Maya’s viewport without ever having to open the UV Editor. While its default behavior is set to cut, you can simply hold the Ctrl key to sew with the exact same tool. If you find yourself working on UVs for a higher resolution mesh, you’ll find a Stead Stroke option inside the Tool Settings for this tool which will make accuracy a breeze. You can even hold the Shift key down to constrain your cut or sew to a single edge loop. There are several other keyboard/mouse shortcuts for this tool which can make quick work of the cuts necessary for a proper UV layout.

While the 3D Cut and Sew UV Tool makes easy work of cutting up an asset remember, you’ll still need to unfold and layout the UVs over inside the UV Editor.

No matter if you dread the process of creating UVs for your assets or you love it with Maya’s improvements in update 3 the process is much more enjoyable. At the very least, you’ll find yourself easily locating that tool you’re looking for instead of spending time reading tooltips. Coming from a seasoned Maya UV Editor user, the most challenging thing about this update is remembering the new location of the To UV Shell option in the UV Editors Ctrl+Right Click marking menu.

If you are new to laying out UVs in Maya, make sure and check out the course UV Mapping Workflows in Maya over on Pluralsight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eddie is the dedicated Pluralsight texturing and rendering curriculum manager. He has been with Pluralsight (and previously Digital-Tutors) since 2010, teaching creative artists to expand their knowledge on everything from design and illustration, to hand painting beautiful textures for their models.

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