Creating an Island in Maya

In this tutorial we're going to be learning how to create a really simple island. What we'll be covering is creating and resizing Poly and Nurbs Primitives, and also the Sculpt Surfaces too. So, let's get started.

Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 1.
First you're going to have to create a sphere to house what we're going to be making. This will serve as the sky and horizon. Go to Create>Polygons Primitives>Sphere to bring a sphere into the scene. Press 5 if you're currently in wire frame mode. Under pSphere1, make the radius 100.

Go back to Create>Polygon Primitives and this time create a Plane. For the Plane's width & height, put in 500. Now you have your very basic ocean (Figure 1).

Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 2.
Now we're going to bring in a Nurbs Primitive Plane . So go to Create>Nurbs Primitives>Plane to get your island into the scene. Switch to your move tool by pressing W and move the plane up slightly in Y. Under Inputs, click makeNurbsPlane1 to roll out another menu. Set the width to 50 and leave the length ratio at 1, then set the patches in U and V to 20 (Figure 2). The main reason we're going with a nurbs plane here, rather than a poly plane as above, is due to the fact that a nurbs plane will be nice and smooth, where a poly plane would show straight blocky edges. Even if you smooth edges on a poly plane, the outline of the deformations from the side would still show a series of straight flat lines.

Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 3.
Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 4.
It's time to begin shaping the Isle. Make sure you're nurbs Plane is selected and that you are in the modeling menu set (F3). Then select the "Sculpt Surfaces Tool" from the Edit Nurbs menu and open the options (Figure 3).

Enter the settings you see in Figure 4 and begin pulling the surface upwards creating the basic shape of your small island.You can see in Figure 5 how the surface is starting to deform. We want to build the bulk of our island mass at this stage. We'll be fine tuning things later on.If we again bring up the options for the Sculpt Surfaces Tool (Figure 3), and input the settings show in Figure 6, we can start to tweak our island's landscape a little.

Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 5.
Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 6.
Bear in mind that this is going to be a pretty small island, we're not creating Australia or anything here, so plan your landmass accordingly.

Now we begin to soften the edges of the island by going round the outer edge of the shape. You can also pull up some deformities in the main part of the island to get a more natural feel, and start to add a little custom landscape. You can see what I have so far in Figure 7.For a third time we need to get back into the Sculpt Surfaces Tool options (Figure 3) and use the settings shown in Figure 8.

Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 7.
Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 8.
This allows us to smooth out our island a little more, and get it a little less of an erratic deformed surface. This time though, instead of pulling the surface, we're going to use the flood button. All you need to do is click the flood button when you have the settings right. This will smooth out everything so you don't have any drastic changes in the landscape (Figure 9).

Once again we go back to our trusty move tool to push the island back down in Y so that only the raised part of the plane is show and the unalterd part is below the water (beneath the poly plane - Figure 10). Now our island looks like it's rising out of what will eventually become our ocean.

Creating an Island in Maya Creating an Island in Maya
Figure 9. Figure 10.

And that about does it for this tutorial; be sure to check the next tutorial to learn how to create a cartoony palm tree for your island.