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Maya Rigging - Rigging a biped character for animation

Author: Steven Murdoch

bulletLaunch Video - Part 01

bulletLaunch Video - Part 02

bulletLaunch Video - Part 03

bulletLaunch Video - Part 04

bulletLaunch Video - Part 05

bulletLaunch Video - Part 06

bulletLaunch Video - Part 07

bulletLaunch Video - Part 08

bulletLaunch Video - Part 09

bulletLaunch Video - Part 10

bulletLaunch Video - Part 11

bulletLaunch Video - Part 12

bulletLaunch Video - Part 13

bulletLaunch Video - Part 14

bulletLaunch Video - Part 15

bulletLaunch Video - Part 16

bulletLaunch Video - Part 17

bulletLaunch Video - Part 18

bulletLaunch Video - Part 19



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2008-06-29: Tim R said:
Hi, Steven! Norway tuning in.

I would just like to say thank you for all these awesome tutorials on the site. The Maya ones have been especially helpful to me and I\'ve learned so much in such a short period of time. This one in particular with the character rigging was very easy to follow even though it\'s quite complicated, at least for me.

I\'ve also picked up many of your tips, including \"double-cutting\", the resolution tips and so on - all very useful.

So thanks again - you\'re a great teacher!

2008-06-30: Steven said:
Thank you, I'm happy to hear you are finding these tutorials useful and that you are learning all the little tips and tricks. Stay tuned to the maya tutorials, I will be adding a lot more over the next few weeks.


2008-07-16: satbir aman said:
hello sir,
i learnt more in rigging to saw ur tutorial,
i followed ur rules and improving day by day riging. so its a request plz tell us more and more about rigging . u r great sir .
thanks u so mush sir

2008-07-21: Varun Kadle said:
Steve, Your tutorials are incredible. Im an intermediate Maya user and will be flying to the UK to pursue a course in Game Design. Your tutorials are faboulous. Theyre very detailed, extremely well explained and most importantly very very easy to follow. Keep the great work going and please do upload new tutorials specifically that deal with character modelling and texturing the same.

Thank you so much!! Ive really improved my Maya skills now.

2008-09-09: Manmeet said:

2008-09-13: Henrik said:
Excellant tutorial, you went thru rigging which was easy to understand and I know the foundations for rigging which can now led me to more complicated rigs. Skinning part explained exactly what it was and showed you a rough draft which was fine because skinning can take hours. So Manmeet show a bit more appreciation and Skinning isnt that complicated its tedious.

2008-09-15: steven said:
Thanks for the feedback.
I am producing more rigging and skinning tutorials that I will make available when I can.

Glad your all finding the tutorials useful.

2008-10-11: Simon Streatfeild said:
Brilliant, wonderful, fantastic. i learnt more from this than doing 3 years at UNI! :D
Looking forward to more,
Thanks so much.

2008-10-13: Steven said:
I'm happy to hear that Simon, what uni did you go to?

I plan to add more rigging tutorials and others over the next few months, so stay tuned.


2008-10-13: Simon Streatfeild said:
I went to the Australian Nation University (ANU) in canberra, in the Centre for New Media Arts, which is now shutdown. I did Computer Animation, but I mostly defied my lecturers and did 2D.

I'm looking forward to your tutorials, they are wonderful, simple and intuitive, thankyou so much, I can't wait.

(my stuff:-- )

2008-10-19: Christine Holm said:
Hmm, I can't get to open these files.. Do I need some spesific video player to see them?

2008-10-20: steven said:
As long as you have the adobe Flash player installed they should work perfectly.

2008-10-21: Christine said:
Ah! There it was! I had to wait a bit before it showed. Thanks for great tutorials!

2008-10-21: sampath said:
the tutorials is very good if u have more tutorials on animation can u provide

2008-10-25: Cypher said:
Great Tutorials man. Really help out on first time Maya users. Is it possible to have a way of downloading all the Maya stuff? If you can send me a rar compressed version of the Maya Rigging series of your tutorials that would so fantastic!


2008-10-30: abhishek said:
i m fresher & lbefore learning of any rigging part i see ur tutorial kit

awesome its really fantastic i get quick all the things

thnks sir

2008-11-04: Andreja said:
Thanks a lot Steven! These tutorials were very useful! Your way of rigging is much more simple than the one I was trying to learn through!

Thanks a lot again and I hope to see more tutorials from u :)

2008-11-08: mrudula said:
This is too good! since many days i was in search of good tutorials for rigging. Your teaching is awsome.......! I m also looking for tutorials for effects( smoke, fire.......). can u plz put it................?

2008-11-10: steven said:
Hi there, glad everyone is enjoying the rigging tutorials.
I have many more in development, but wont be ready for a while. This included some tutorials covering dynamic effects such as smoke, fire, cloth and a few more.


2008-12-01: eyad said:
thank you
its very good
and professional way to learn

2008-12-05: Ashok T.R said:
Very good
Thank you swinburne

2008-12-08: yuga said:
Hello sir,

Its really useful to go through ur rigging video sir, but unfortunately my system got hung up for every three second to download and view the video..sir so, kindly tell me is their any URL to download and save the video to keep for my future reference...

Thanks & Regards

2008-12-08: Steven said:
Hi there, thats a little weird that your system is handing, are you on low bandwidth?

At the present time, downloading is unavaialble, however you can subscribe to the podcasts and download tutorials using your podcast viewer

2008-12-23: Anubhav Srivastava said:
Sir, awesome tuts. i would like to thank you for these tutorials. Sir, i m working in a animation company. Here i m facing a lot of problem in rigging & skining in maya. so plzzz tell me from where i can learn this. i know the basic funda of rigging, but main problem is in facial rigging. Sir, plzzzz give me some video tuts for advance rigging in a poly character. I will be very thankful to you.

2008-12-25: Aniruddha Malhotra said:
Ive been following youy tutorials and have learnt a great deal from them. Thanx!
Im having this one problem in the Rigging section. When I select my char model and click on Paint Skin Weight Tool, the model's color doesnt change to monochrome as it does in your tutorial. Ive been trying hard since the last few days but it just wouldnt change to show the black and white areas. please help me to get it right. Im stuck. I have a submission in next 3 weeks and im totally dependent on your tutorials. Thank you once again.

2008-12-31: mrudula said:
I m still waiting for the effects(smoke, fluids, hair and fur) tutorial. Plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz............ try to upload as soon as possible.
"Wish you happy and prosperous year"........: )

2009-01-03: sandesh gaikwad said:
wow, this tutorial very easy to understand and i learn lots of command. thanks to swinburen multimedia.
wishing u r all staff happy new year

2009-01-05: steven said:

I'm glad you are all enjoying the the tutorials, more are on their way this year which include dynamic simulations, but they take time so please be patient, they will be up and running as soon as possible.

Aniruddha, when weight painting, make sure that 'default material' is not turned on in the view port, if that doesn't work, please let me know.

And remember, you can subscribe to the podcasts which will download a quick-time of the tutorial to your computer by clicking the new 'subscribe' button at the bottom of every tutorial page.

2009-01-08: aditi said:
hello ...
your tutorials is gud .i liked it.pls can u give some idea
regarding auto clacilce with ik /fk switch.looking forward for your response.....

2009-01-08: Aniruddha Malhotra said:
Thank you so much Steven.
It worked perfect after turning the 'Default Material' Off.
Thank you once again.

2009-01-09: Malin H said:
Thank you so much for a great tutorial when starting rigging for the first time. Learning alot more than from my tutors!
I have one question though and I will be very grateful if you or somebody else here has the answer.
In part 4 where you talk about joint orientation in the arms, the first arm has x going out the arm, y up and z to the front like z in the world. But when you have done the second arm it's the same except z which is now pointing to the back. But since you leave it like this and make no comment about it I suppose it's supposed to be that way. Could you make some short comment about why? I saw both legs were oriented exactly the same but not arms. I'll be so grateful for a simple explanation.

2009-01-19: smiles said:
OMG thankyou so much Mr.Steven.Great tuts. i hav a pblm tho. in part 9 (1:29) of the rigging tutorial when i use the pole vector constrain with the left knee ctrl and lft ankle ik,i get the error saying'handle must b valid and use rotate plane solver'. y is this so?

2009-01-19: smiles said:
found wht the trouble was. my ikhandle uses sc solver not RPsolver! :( (obvious i knw) is there any way i can convert sc to rp without deleting it? do help.

2009-01-19: smiles said:
ok i think i solved it.sorry for doing this many posts. i deleted the ankle ikhandles and put rpsolvers in its place and parented it to ball lift grp. i hope tht's ok? also changed the sc solver of wrists to rp. u havent mentioned which solver to use in the tutorial but u hav used rp. mayb u shud mention it so v can add pole vector later for the knees and wrists.thanks.

2009-01-20: naveen said:
I fill happy
thank you

2009-01-21: smiles said:
just a tip:If u r having trouble with orient constrain,like hands moving while adding the constrain, turn on the maintain offset on the orient constraint option box.

2009-01-22: Ali widigda said:
awesome tutorial.........
thank you.......

2009-01-25: manmeet said:
its really a best tutorial for a rigger...
like me becoz. in calss room i never consetrate in my work {rigging...}i search ur web site...and try to understand...
when i start i easy get ur language..and ur way to teach..
now i make so many cartoons and rigg...them..
but those days i fell that i want to improve my work...and learn muscles rigging also,but i did not have any idea from which site or who going to teach a comfert way.plz help me for a muscles rigging video's..
repl.. i m waiting...plz

2009-01-27: 8Bit said:
These are hands down some of the best rigging tutorials I have ever seen. I learned more from watching these than i did in an entire class on rigging.

Thanks a ton!

2009-01-29: Ash said:
Thx for the awesome tutorials. Ive used loads of them and all of them have benefited me greatly. I'm studying Games Development at College at the moment and tutorials like this are just what i need to build my skills up in 3d modelling. Thx again :)

2009-02-06: victor said:
Hey Steven, like your tutorials. They are real nice and quite handy once you get the basics. I just have a slight question about the elbow controls. Whenever I use a pole vector constraint, and move the elbow control, it never actually moves the elbow joint like yours. I don't think I'm doing anything wrong, so I'm a bit confused. Do you know what happened?

2009-02-28: zet said:
thanj you

2009-03-04: max said:
thanks for great tutorials i am a student in FRAMBOXX animation school i want to download all of these tutorials plz mail me i really need them.


2009-03-19: Jermaine Allgood said:

You all have helped me tremendously as you make the tutes so easy to understand.

Peace to you all!!!

-Jermaine Allgood
Seattle, WA USA

2009-03-22: Bel said:
I have to tell you, when I saw this site I said "If this tutorials really works to me I promise that I'll thank to the author" So, thank you so much!
I'm really grateful for your generous help, I've been finding a lot of tutorials and neither is so advanced and complete like yours, just that I needed!


2009-04-09: kaustav banerjee said:
it was much nice on ur part sir to make such a tutorial like has helped us beginners to learn more about such an important part like rigging.thanks a lot to u sir...

2009-05-06: James said:
Thank you very much for taking the time to create these fab tutorial on rigging inside of Maya... these have been a very big help to me... I will definitely check out more of your tutorials as you seem to make things very clear and easy to understand...Cheers!!

2009-05-09: Megan said:
Thank you so much for these tutorials! Getting my animation degree online has been hard enough and my school hasn't provided the best of materials to help me understand. I'm not joking when I say that your tutorials have literally saved me time and time again. Thanks again!

2009-05-19: satya said:
Thank you so much for these tutorials!I learn about ringing

2009-05-21: ita said:
Thanks so much.

You are a great teacher. I learnt a lot from all these tutorials. Again, you are fabulous.

2009-05-24: daniel0116 said:
i just want to say that this tutorial is very good and thanks a lot

2009-05-24: daniel0116 said:
i have a problem when i orient the joints theres a warning that sais lft_hip has non zero rotation what shloud i do

2009-05-24: ramana said:
Tthank you sir

2009-05-25: daniel0116 said:
when im go to constrain orient on the rht hand the hand just flips and im 100% sure that im just selectin the rht_hand_ctrl and the wrist joint, so what its the problem?help please?

2009-06-02: sathish said:
i want learning maya

2009-07-19: Maria said:
Excelent Tutorial!! Finally I am learning maya :), thank you so much for spending time teaching newbies like me! Cheers!

2009-10-04: Joe said:
Hi Steven

Just a note but I think you need to re-do tutorial #17 It changes in the more recent versions of Maya (I think) that or I"m just missing somthing verry simple.


2009-10-05: dennis Volkerts said:
hey, nice tutorial.

about the orientatiens on part3:

you just have to select the pelvis dan hit f9 to go into
component mode, than hit the '?'

and if you are trying to select everything inside the outliner just shift select on the Pelvis to expand everything in it as well ;)

2009-10-07: Alankar Misra said:
In response to the query by daniel0116 (and something I noticed even in Part 4 your video Steven) - When the joints won't orient giving a non-zero rotation, you need to right click on the rotation fields in the channel box and select Freeze > Rotation. This should set the rotation of the joint to 0 (which is something the orient tool NEEDS!) and you should now be able to orient your joints. Steven, in part 4, you came across a similar issue when the joints wouldn't orient - this was because of the non-zero orientation. Of course you worked around it by deleting those joints and copy pasting other joints! :) Thanks for the wonderful tutorials Steven!

2009-10-07: Alankar Misra said:

Just a suggestion for part 9 where we set up controls for the knees (using spheres). It would be simpler to use Locator objects (Create > Locator) which by default doesn't render instead of using a renderable object like a sphere and then changing its render properties. I guess its a matter of preference as well, but just thought I'd share!

2009-10-11: Subhabrata Roy said:
great tutorials, really helpful, regards.

2009-10-11: katherine said:
This is AMAZING!!! thankyou so much for these tutorials, i wish i could hug you in RL because you make it so clear unlike out lecturer!

2009-10-23: Clarence said:
Man best best tutorial ive ever had plz can u email the footages plz it really helped me alot.

2009-11-02: steve said:
helow fellow Mayerors
i've got a very anoying problem with my skin weights tool. i have the entire skelaton set up, bound to skin and when i go to paint the skin weights tool the options comes up at the side of the screen but nothing ealse happens! the character dos'nt change colour, i can't see the falloff from the joint and i can find no way of fixing it, Help Please! :(

2009-11-04: Kai said:
Hey great vids

But when I try to do the right hand control it flips out, and Iv change the transform displays, ik handles, basically redone everything but it still mucks up any help steve?

2009-11-04: steve said:
Plz disregard last comment i have fixed the problen :)

2009-11-04: Kai said:
Also sometimes when I go to rotate my set driven keys the rotation is in yellow and no matter how much I try it goes back to a previous number

2009-11-04: Dave said:

I also have a problem, when I first made the character I created the head,eyes and body seperate, and I have grouped em, but when I go to smooth parts and add them to a new layer they are not showing up or doing anything. Could you help please?

2010-01-22: Daniel said:
Hey great tutorials. I am having a problem with the orient constaint between the cycle and the joint, i am clicking the joint and not the IK, but it still moves when i click orient - it moves about 12 in the X rotation.

2010-01-25: CaseyBenn said:
These vids never finish loading. Could you make these rigging vids available in the itunes library where the rest of the videos are. I really can't watch them here. They load like20%-40% and then stop. If I try to refresh they don't load at all.

2010-02-03: Italo said:
I'm having the same problem CaseyBenn mentioned. <=(

2010-04-18: raghavan said:
good tutorial very happy ya

2010-05-02: Lauren said:
I watched the first few video clips perfectly until it stopped loading, if I refreshed the page the clip didn't load at all, nothing came up.

Why does it do this?

2010-05-28: habeeb said:
please sir tell me some free download websites in maya rigging, animation etc., i ma be very thankful to you if u give some suggestions how to i learn

2010-06-01: manju said:
reaaly i learnt so much from this tutorials .thanks alot pleas upload more more tutorials pleas

2010-06-10: Simon said:
Hey, I have a question About the rigging, Somehow The orient Joints for my right arm doesn´t work, I simply Can´t get the right Joint For example My Y can only be up if my X or Z is on the wrong place, Could you explain me how to solve this problem?

2010-06-11: Simon said:
Nevermind, It was my fault. I looked good again and I found it out. Your the best. Really You've really helped me alot. I was pretty good with 3ds max but I wanted to learn animation in Maya and you've really Helped me.

2010-06-25: Whit said:
First, thank you for such awesome tutorials. These really have helped me grasp rigging. Second, are there plans for an FK/IK spine rig tutorial? Thanks :)

2010-07-30: shibiya said:
i am working on my uni project at the moment and these tutorials are a great help.
i am kinda stuck on tutorial number 5, where you talk about snapping using the
v key, everytime i do that, the whole IK handle moves rather than going in the center.
i am a bit confused with the insert key which you use just before snapping, i am using mac, where is the insert key,i just select the group and press "V", which makes the whole handle move in all odd directions.
Help required urgently

2010-08-02: naveen said:
Please also let us know what sort of IK handles i.e. SC or RP are being used. I wrongly used the SC type and I had to redo all the work. But the tutorial is great.

2010-08-24: Ralf said:
Thanks for the excellent tutorials. I have a question for Maya, please tell me why some operational rigged characters on the www do not show the joints and how are they hidden or deleted. I checked in the Outliner & Channel control without joy.
Thank, Ralf.

2010-08-24: Steven said:
Hello Ralf,
It all depends on how the controls were setup. If you use what's called a null based control system, you can turn joints off and have control curves on. (I have just recorded a new series of rigging tutorials that include this workflow, they will be available soon).

You could also use the viewport settings, and turn the display off for everything, and turn on only polygons and nurbs curves.

glad you like the tutorials.


2010-09-26: roshan negi said:
dis tutorial was gud nt excelent's easy way to learn of basic rigged ...

roshan negi

2010-10-27: Nilesh R Salodkar said:
i m looking for Bow rig tutorials for maya....

can you provide it for me...

please send me rigging tutes for Bow

2010-10-27: Nilesh R Salodkar said:
i m looking for Bow rig tutorials for maya....

can you provide it for me...

please send me rigging tutes for Bow

2010-10-30: divesh goel said:
thank's Steven sir for these fantastic tutorial .
This tutorial really help me very much ...

2010-11-05: jp said:
Hey awesome tuts! They're really helpful but I'm having problems with the hand control. Specifically the part in which you orient constrain the control to wrist JOINT, it clicks away. What am I supposed to do to fix it? Thanks and again, great tut!

2010-12-21: Geo said:
Hi all.
Some movie cannot be played,may be my PC is to slow or something else,I dont know.
But any time,great thanks!

2010-12-21: Geo said:
The video 2 cannot start.

2011-02-14: sujanparui said:
sir i am very poor man but i alyas intereste to do rig i can not make good facial rig that way i am seeking help to you i have not much to buy any good books

2011-02-14: sujanparui said:
please sir tell me some free download websites in maya rigging i am keen intrest to lern

2011-03-09: ravi said:
so nice

2011-06-01: RoccoSprinkles said:

Currently on Tutorial-9 and these videos have been absolute lifesaver thus far. If I make millions'n'billions I'll be sure to return the favor.

2011-06-01: steven said:
Hi Rocco, thanks for the feedback - and id be happy to share in your millions!

I am in the process of publishing a more indepth rigging tutorial that im sure you will find useful when it's online.

2011-06-03: RoccoSprinkles said:
No problem and I'll definitely check it out when I'm done. This one's great, but there area few things that have changed since this release. Most notably, I'm having a bit of issues setting up the Lft_Elbow_CTRL schematics. I'm not sure if it was necessary when this video was made, but now you actually have to select an IKRP as the solver before you can set up a Pole Vector constraint, but I'm still ending up with weird issues on the elbow. For instance, when I move the control there's pretty much only two positions it will move the elbow and they are just flips of one another. As well, it flips the entire hand with it. Not sure if this is normal and I've went through the videos a million times. I'll figure it out sooner or later though. Looking forward to the newer tutorials.

2011-06-03: RoccoSprinkles said:
Little Update:

Since then I think I've resolved the issue. I completely remodeled the hand from the joints up and I think it's working fine now. The only obviously different thing I can remember doing is that after I moved the locator, I didn't realized the snapped pivot moved from the elbow with the cube, so I needed to re-snap it to the elbow after moving it back from the skeleton. I noticed I needed to go back and do this for the knees as well. Now things seem to be going fine and the hand no longer moves with the elbow CTRL.

2011-06-03: RoccoSprinkles said:
Little Update:

Since then I think I've resolved the issue. I completely remodeled the hand from the joints up and I think it's working fine now. The only obviously different thing I can remember doing is that after I moved the elbow CTRL, I didn't realized the snapped pivot moved from the elbow with the cube, so I needed to re-snap it to the elbow after moving it back from the skeleton. I noticed I needed to go back and do this for the knees as well. Now things seem to be going fine and the hand no longer moves with the elbow CTRL.

2011-07-06: Manojkumar jena said:
Hi.. thanks....Superbs

2011-07-13: Rameez Malik said:
that was a great set of tutorials.i learn v much from i just want to learn rig about some non humanoid models,just like a dolphin or a fish.please help collage project's deadline is near to should not be a detailed rig.please help.

2011-07-31: Rocco Sprinkles said:
Hey, just thought I'd stop by to see how things are evolving around here. Plus, I needed to brush up a little bit on a few things that slipped my mind. Our team is on the cusp of starting our marketing campaign and launching the official development announcement for our game. We'll be sure to thank you a million times for these ass-saving tutorials. xD

Keep up the good work,

2011-08-11: Anish said:
i have been watching this and i would like you for the time effort and patience you have put into this.

2011-08-25: David said:
Every time i try to use pole vector i get an error message saying "Handle must be valid and use rotate plane solver" please help, i do exactly what the tutorial does, only when i do it it doesn't work

2011-08-25: Rocco Sprinkles said:
Hey, David. This is an error I received at first as well when setting up the pole vectors. This is because in the newer Mayas it automatically uses a KCSolver. You must click the handle and in the attributes change the solver to RPSolver.

2011-08-26: David said:
Ahh! Worked like a charm, thank you very much Rocco Sprinkles!!

2011-08-26: David said:
Shoot, i got the IK's to work, now when i try to orient constraint the right hand CTRL to the right wrist joint it flips the entire hand skeleton around, how do i fix that?

2011-09-15: Mike said:
wow YOur tutorial is excellent, I did a course of this but your way of explain is truth like a good master of maya 3d

2011-09-21: Pandaboy said:
Wow! Completely amazing tutorial! The Spline IK thingy from the tongue creature tutorial mixed with this rig = epic awesomeness :3!

Just one thing... Each part should have a small description so it's easier to find the part you need if you forget how to do something.

2011-09-22: Pandaboy said:
also.. I ran into a problem when rigging the arm - instead of rigging "collar-> shoulder-> elbow-> wrist-> hand" i am rigging "collar-> shoulder-> elbow-> Middlewrist-> wrist-> hand" for more realistic X rotation of the wrist, although I am having problems setting it up. is there any tutorial on how to properly set up the controllers for it?

2011-12-18: Ramesh Kumar said:
iwant to charctor rigging&skining for clearly can u present me sir than K u

2012-01-04: Steven said:
A new series of character rigging tutorials is now available at:

2012-02-26: lila said:
Your tutorials are absolutely amazing, very helpful! I just wanna say thank you so, so much for making them!

2012-04-30: musa said:
Very awesome and simple very happy that all of those movies are free :).i just have a problem with the 'paint weight tool' because when i tried to use the replace tool to clean up an area ,that weight copied to another joint and i dont want to be like that.i wanna ask how can i fix that ?
1 more thing ,upload more training about paint weight tool if it possible.thanks alot .

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