3D Modeling in Maya: Computer Monitor

If you’ve ever thought of dabbling in 3D but just thought it might be too imposing a task, Here is a beginner’s tutorial that would make the process a bit more accessible. This modeling tutorial is done in Autodesk Maya. You can download and install a 30 day trial here. I prefer Maya because it takes an artist’s perspective to 3D modeling. The first thing we’re going to cover is some basic user interface controls. Pressing down ALT while holding left-click will rotate the camera around. ALT + LeftMouseButton + MiddleMouseButton will zoom in and out. Pressing Spacebar will toggle between your active view and the other orthographic viewports. I tend to stay in perspective most of the time to orbit around the object to view the general shape.


We’re going to start with the Polygon Cube Tool. Make sure the drop down menu on the top left is set to Polygons and we’re good to go.

Click and drag out the flat rectangle shape and release at the other end of the diagonal.

The cube operation isn’t complete yet because obviously, we still have a 2D plane. Click and drag up to finalize the operation and make the shape volumetric. We now have a rectangular box. You’re probably still in default wireframe mode, so let’s go ahead and turn on the shaded view. Press “5” to enter it, “4” if you want to see wireframes again.

Rotate the camera so you can see a better profile of the box. Press “R” to change the manipulator to a scale function. Click and manipulate the little box controller on the left to alter the box width.

Ok now rotate back to the front face. Right click on the front end of the box and a menu should appear. Navigate to “Face”. This will enter you into Component Mode where we’ll be working with face components. Single click the front face to select it.

No go back up to the toolbox and select the Extrude Tool.

Before manipulating any of the modules, be sure to click the little blue pinhead that’s jutting off to the side. This toggles the orientation of the operation. Default uses the global orientation but we want to use the object’s. You can usually tell if this is set right if the Y-axis (green) is pointing up. The manipulator should be in the center of the face. The cubes represent the scale function and the arrows control movement manipulation. With that said, click 1 of the small cubes on the controller to activate scale function. Now click and drag the center cube to scale all sides equally inward or outward. In this case go inward.

“G” is the hotkey to repeat the last operation. Do this now and it will trigger another extrude. Now this time control the arrow manipulators to move instead of scale. Use the arrow and push inward into the box. This will create the frame of the monitor.

Now rotate the view to go behind the monitor. Click to select the back face and press “G” for another extrude. Scale it down and pull the arrow manipulator to adjust it down some.

Rotate so you can more of a profile and pull the other arrow along the blue Z-axis to give it more width.

Press G again for another extrude and scale inward along the red X-axis. Pull out along
the Z-axis. Press “G” yet again and pull out this cube shape.

Rotate to look at the bottom of the monitor and click to select this face.

Press G for another extrude and pull down.

Now let’s take a look at our work in Object Mode. Press F8 for this. F8 will toggle you in and out of object and component mode. You’ll know you’re in Object Mode in Maya if the wireframes are green when you have the object selected. Light blue wireframes denote object mode.

Now we’re going to play with some Vertices. Right click the monitor and this time go to “Vertex”.

Pressing Spacebar will toggle between perspective view and click the Side viewport. Spacebar to toggle from 4-pane to sideview only.

Click and drag to marquee select these vertices. The reason we’re box selecting these and not single-clicking is because we want to select the other vertex behind it. From an orthographic side view there could be 100 vertices behind this 1 and to select them all from a side view you could do so by click dragging a marquee selection around that 1 visible vertex. Once selected press “W” to change the arrow Move Tool and pull the vertices up.

I raised these up some to adjust the shape.

I also marquee selected all of these and moved them left in decrease the width of the monitor stand.

Now we’re going to make the base with a simple Polygon Cylinder.

Create this the same way we did the initial Poly Cube except keep the height kind of thin.

We want the disc more like the following image. To do so we’re going to take a look at the Attribute Editor. This can be found on the right side of the Maya interface. Click the tab that has the words “polyCylinder1” or something to that effect in it. In there you should be able to find Poly Cylinder History.

Increase the Subdivisions Axis to 30. This will increase the number of polys along the circumference of the disc thus making it smoother.

Right click the disc and choose “Face”.

Shift click all the faces on the top until they are all selected.

Click the Extrude Tool up top from the toolbox and don’t forget to click the tool orientation.

Scale in from the center during this extrude.

And pull up on the green Y-axis arrow. F8 to exit component view.

Now that that the disc is made we’re going to center it in to the scene. With a window selected, press spacebar and then go into the orthographic sideview viewport. Hold down “X” and this function snaps to grid. Move the disc to the center of the grid. Don’t forget to repeat this for the front view as well.

My base disc ended up being pretty big so a quick scale should fix it. “R” for the Scale Tool and shrink.

Select the monitor and make sure it too is centered on the grid and move it on to the base plate. If you want to group them as 1 object you can click the first, Shift-Click the other and press Ctrl+G to group.

And this is your 3D modeled computer monitor!

Here’s a look at it rendered just using the default render options. Stay tuned for a future installment for when we texture and render this monitor!

By Mark Rivera

Mark is an animator and ad designer for WebProNews. He has a passion for illustration and 3D art.

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