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Setting Up And Using Image Planes

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This tutorial will teach you how to use image planes to display your reference images in the Maya interface.


Step one - First you're going to have to open the outliner. Go to window>outliner.

Step two - As you can see, there are four cameras in the outliner. Persp (that's short for perspective and it's the one you're looking through), top, side, and front. You use cameras to project the image planes.

click to enlarge

Step three - Select the camera you want to use (to decide, the top camera will project an image downwards, side will project an image from the side, and front will project the image from front, or head-on). For this we're going to use side.

Step four - First you're going to open the attributes editor. Go to window>attributes editor. In the attributes roll down until you see the environment tag of the camera. Beside the text image plane there will be a create button. Click it to create a new image. You can click this and create as many image planes as you need.

Setting Up The Image Plane Attributes

Step one - The first thing you need is to assign an image to it. Roll down in the attributes editor until you find image name. Click the folder icon. This will open a file browser that will let you locate the reference image you were using.

Step two - Next you have to position it. Roll even farther down and find the placement tag. Then find placement extras. The first placement tag doesn't apply to us. Let's explain these attributes.

click to enlarge

Center - There are three attributes here. These are the image planes X, Y, and Z coordinates.

Width, Height - These attributes allow you to define the width and height of the image plane. Once you do the one attribute you should do the other.

Using Multiple Image planes

The reason you would need to use more than one image plane is if you have more than one reference image. Example: you have a top, a side, and a front reference image . First thing you would do is load the image planes in the approrpiate cameras. Then use the height and center attribute, to line then all together. Remember you want to line them up by the image on the image plane, not the image plane itself.

Using Image Planes With Layers

While modeling, it's easy to accidently select the image plane instead of the object that you wanted to select. Since in most cases you don't want to select the image plane, you can use a layer to restrict its selection.

Step one - Go to display>UI elements>channel box/layers editor.

Step two - Click on the layers button in the channel/layers editor, and then, in the channel/layers editor, go to layers>create empty layer.

Step three - In the oultiner, select the camera where your image plane is being projected from, then, in the channel/layers editor, right click over the new layer you created and hit add selected objects.

Step four
- Right click on your new layer again and go to set all layers>references. This way we can still see the image plane, but we can't select it.

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