Maya Tips: How to use automatic hard surface retopology in Maya

Nov 19, 2019 at 10:00 am by nemirc

Maya Tips

Retopology usually performed when you need to create a lower resolution version of a high-resolution 3D model (for example, when you make a model in ZBrush and you need a lower resolution version for a game). However, it is also something a lot of 3D artists may do to keep their 3D models clean.

You may or may not know that Maya includes tools to perform automatic retopology on your 3D models. While it is a very useful trick, it may only be useful when you are modeling hard surfaces. Remember that hard surfaces are not limited to props; you can also have hard-surface-based characters, so this can potentially be very useful depending on the kind of work you do.

To try this out, first let’s start with this setup.

The idea is to use Booleans to make some holes on this cube, and make it feel more or less “mechanical.”

The image below shows the object’s current wireframe after the Boolean operation. As you can see, it’s not very nice looking (although it’s not “messy” either).

To perform the automatic retopology, first you need to enter this command on your Maya command line: polyRemesh;

This will rebuild the object’s wireframe with a lot of triangles, as you see here:

Then, you run this other command: polyRetopo;

This will create a more organized topology, as seen below. However, you will notice the topology is not exactly symmetrical, and also it has some small issues (mostly related to how the wireframe flows).

You can tell Maya to “keep” certain edges if you make a selection of those edges and then go to “Display\Harden Edge.” After doing that, try the retopology commands again, and you should get a better looking wireframe.

Unfortunately, this may or may not work on organic 3D models. The following image shows the result of these operations on a mask modeled in ZBrush. I plan to research more about retopology, hoping to find an easy way to retopo organic models, specially characters, as that would make my life as game developer a lot easier.

Even if this method cannot be used on organic objects, it should be very useful to improve the topology of hard-surfaces, specially if you made those surfaces using Booleans.

Personally, I avoid Booleans when modeling, because I dislike the resulting topology, but this method makes me fond of Booleans again.

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