How to Create Like Our Students: Make a 3D Cube in Minutes

In this month’s How-To, Exceptional Minds' instructor Randi Derakhshani, Head of 3D instruction at Exceptional Minds, walks us through the program Autodesk Maya. In addition to teaching VFX, Randi is a practicing 3D and visual effects artist with 20 years of experience in film, television, and game development. 

Randi loves working with students and helping them realize their dreams. Today you are one of her students! Randi will teach you how to create a "cube" in Maya, a 3D modeling software our students and artists use to create characters and worlds. 

For this exercise, you will need to download a free 30-day trial of Autodesk Maya.

Here is the YouTube instructional video to learn the basics of the Maya Interface by creating a "cube" figure.

Now, have fun!


Jump right in and start with creating your first object.

Go up to the poly modeling shelf and click on “cube.”

Reviewing the cube through the viewport camera. To better view the object:

You can orbit the camera by holding alt + left-click.

Alt + Middle-click (scroll-click) for panning

Alt + Right-click for zooming.

You can also zoom the camera using the scroll wheel on the mouse.

To View a list of objects in your scene, open the outliner. You’ll find this at the left of your screen. The outliner will allow you to select things. You can also select things in the viewport by just clicking on it.

All objects in Maya have attributed that can be edited. The most common area is the channel box, here, on the right. Changing the volume of an object will change its shape and position.

Let’s make a few changes to the box. In the channel box, select the poly cube under inputs. (Right side of the screen)

Change the width to 0.5 and the depth to 1.5.

Note: All the values in Maya are in centimeters.

If you want to quickly zoom in on an object, you can hit “F” on your keyboard. This will frame it.

Another way to change an object is to use the transform tools. Move, Rotate, and Scale.

The icon you see here in the middle of your object is called a Transform Manipulator. This tool is to aid in transforming the object. If we click and drag on any of these arrows, we will constrain the object's movement along that path.

Select the move tool and click and drag on the green arrow.

Note: Arrows will change to the color ‘yellow’ when selected. Move it, so the cube appears to be sitting on the grid.

In computer graphics, we don’t say the object is “up-down – left-right.” Instead, we call the three dimensions the “X – Y – Z” axis. Each color on the transform tool represents an axis along the grid.

The red arrow represents the x-axis.

The green arrow (yellow when selected) represents the y-axis.

And, the blue arrow represents the z-axis.

The small color squares you see in between these arrows are called plane handles, and they allow you to move the object along those two axes.

Let’s Recap:

  • Poly Modeling Self – lets you create poly shapes
  • Alt – Left-click – Orbit the view
  • Alt – Middle-click – pan the view
  • Alt – Right-click – Zoom in-out the view
  • Outliner – allows you to see all objects and select them
  • Channel box – shows you the object's attributes
  • Transform tools – Move, Rotate, Scale.
  • Transform manipulator – To aid in transforming the object. (X, Y, and Z)


Share your MAYA creation on Facebook and tag us @exceptionalminds1!
Exceptional Minds is a professional training academy and working studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. We are a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles, CA, specializing in training young adults with autism spectrum disorder for meaningful careers in post-production and digital animation. Subscribe to our Newsletter here. To donate to our Scholarship Fund, click here.




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