Among the rich arsenal of Autodesk’s products, the role of Maya has been carried out brilliantly. It’s one of the most popular 3D software on the market, and it proved itself to be more that just a 3D package. We have been often asked about how hard it is to learn such a high-end software, which we think it’s an additional proof of its popularity.
In today’s article, we are going to talk about some of the best free Maya plugins and scripts covering both modeling and animation tools.
How can these free Maya plugins be an asset?
Maya plugins and extensions are designed to accomplish specific tasks. They will help you increase your productivity and improve your workflow. Therefore, they are a great asset to be used in different areas from modeling, rendering and animation. We have been covering many of them to help you find your next favorite tool:
- you can use fast production plugins to speed up the process and meet deadlines with as little hassle as possible.
- rendering plugins will be of such a great help to make the rendering process a lot smoother, easier and more efficient.
- you can use VFX plugins to add the most stunning visual effects to your compositions and scenes in Maya.
- modeling plugins combined with powerful animation plugins will push the boundaries of what you can do even further. You can model characters, props, assets (anything really), and animate them in the $1M studios style.
What most of these plugins have in common is the price tag (although totally worth it for the huge value they provide). In this article however, we listed the best 15 free Maya plugins that you can download and use “no questions asked”.
15. Tween Machine
Keyframe animation can be a very time-consuming process. With Maya’s free plugin “TweenMachine”, you can do it faster and with minimum effort.
This free tool can greatly simplify the process of creating breakdown poses for your character by reducing the number of steps it takes to accomplish the work. It allows you to create tween keys with a few simple clicks on a slider and to create custom sets that can control an entire character.
Tween Machine is one of the most powerful free Maya scripts with very useful and easy-to-use features. Yet, you can always donate for their developers.
bhGhost is an onion-skinning/ghosting script for animation in Maya created by animator and rigger Brian Horgan. Unlike Maya’s inbuilt onion-skinning tool, bhGhost doesn’t only show semi-transparent animated objects. It also makes actual 3D outlines of your animation appear in the Maya viewport.
By using this tool you can see multiple frames at once and see how to adjust and refine your animation based on other images. In short, it’s one of the most time-saving free plugins for Maya.
ProRender formally known as FireRender is an OpenSource path tracer from AMD. It is based on OpenCL which benefits from AMD’s high-performance Radeon™ Rays technology.
ProRender is a powerful physically-based rendering engine. It can simultaneously use and balance the capabilities of multiple GPUs and CPUs – on the same system, at the same time.
Radeon ProRender is a free rendering plugin that comes with a library of materials. And it’s one of the free Maya plugins that come within the 3D package itself.
12. Studio Library
Studio library is a free python-based tool for managing poses and transferring animation in Maya. It allows you to save out and re-use your character poses and also export animation from one character rig to another which really can save a great deal of work and time.
You can easily select sets and click on specific poses, and it brings it straight up. Here are some of its features:
- Save poses and animation.
- Mirror poses and animation.
- Create easy to use selection sets.
- MMB drag for fast pose blending.
- Organize poses into folders.
- LMB drag and drop to sort poses.
- Switch between local and shared libraries.
- Insert, merge and replace the animation.
speedCut is a modeling toolset for speeding up boolean operations in Maya.
Some of its features are:
- Non-Destructive workflow,
- Easy to re-adjust shape,
- Easy to bake cutter and restore.
This Plugin is similar to the other hard surface Maya modeling plugins we talked about before. It’s because it allows you to create complex hard surface models like mechanical machines, robots, weapons, or any other complex and highly detailed hard surface geometry. It’s one of the free scripts for Maya that allow you to solve the most dreadful problems related to Boolean operations. They can be a total nightmare to most 3D artists.
aTools is a free tool for Maya animators created by Alan Camilo. It’s described as “The ultimate free utility belt for Maya animators” as it is very useful for all kinds of tasks in Maya and contains a lot of handy tools in one place, it can also do what Tween Machine tool does.
aTools is available for free and very easy to install, all you need to do is to drag the installation file and drop into Maya viewport and start enjoying its different tools.
zPipemaker is a simple and easy script for creating pipes in Maya. The basic version of this tool is free and has a lot of useful features including the ability to:
- Make a pipe segment and snap a new one to the end of the first one.
- Edit any pipe’s control in the chain of pipes.
- Adjustable Real-Time Controls for (Subdivision Axis, Sub Height, Width, Curve length, Curve Scale, Curve Amount, and Rotation).
- Automatic Minimal Twist to account for any rotation for smooth edge-flow and perfect uncut pipes.
- Automatic Optimization for the whole pipe or single pipe segments based off of a threshold, curve amount, and scale.
- Quick Settings to speed up the creation of pipes.
- Customizable Quick Settings Values.
- Automatic Merging of verts, deleting caps, and final nice and clean UVs for the finished pipe.
- Remember Rotation value when making new pipes.
- Duplicate Pipe Chains.
- Multi Connect Control and Add.
8. Water Drop Generator
Water Drop Generator is a python script created by Zeno Pelgrims, downloading this free script will provide you with a panel that will allow you to place water droplets on the surface of any object.
All you need to do is to load your base object, set the density for the frequency of the water drops, chose their minimum and maximum size, and then with one more click, you can place the water drops on the surface of the selected object.
You can find and download the Water Drop Generator script for free on GitHub and you can also modify it as you see fit.
7. Spiral and Braid Scripts
Spiral and Braid are two time-saver scripts that can make creating braids and spirals in Maya very easy.
The first one, Spiral, allows you to quickly create looping spirals along any spline, you just need to select a path and a number of loops.
The other one, Braid, works in a similar way letting you make braided shape following a curve. They can work with both NURBS and polygons.
6. Particle to Bubble Script
Bryan Woodard has created a free Python-based script that takes particles emitted in Maya and replaces their positions with bubbles.
This particle to bubble script can be very useful for creating bubbly liquids in Maya, it works by querying the positions of emitted particles and converting them to geometry to create bubbles based on a dynamic nCloth solution. This gives you more rendering options and allows you to make your bubble simulations more realistic and easier to render.
You can get the ParticleToBubble script for free on GitHub.
5. Advanced Skeleton
This auto-rig tool is a modular tool that can make character creation in Autodesk Maya a more efficient process. It allows you to create rigs with unlimited body configurations and to create complex motion systems from a simple joint chain. Advanced skeleton is a very time-saving tool especially for animators who are not riggers.
There is a non-commercial license of Advanced Skeleton available for free on the Animation Studios website.
ShotView is a free script that provides a clean representation of the camera view in a floating window and allows you to zoom in and pan around the main camera without destroying its positioning.
It also has an option of dual window functionality which can be very useful for you if you are using two monitors. It allows you to view both the default Maya perspective and the camera view at the same time. With this option you can use any number of embedded cameras and controllers or special setups to help you with your animation. And you will be able to switch between these cameras easily by using the ShotView camera switching buttons.
Pixar RenderMan is a proprietary photorealistic 3D renderer produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar uses RenderMan to render their in-house 3D animated movie productions and it is also available as a commercial product licensed to third parties. And for those who don’t want to use it for commercial purposes, it is completely free.
RenderMan gives artists access to Pixar’s toolbox for lighting and looks development, real tools that have already created amazingly sophisticated and complex imagery for feature films.
RenderMan standard was first presented at 1993 SIGGRAPH, developed with input from 19 companies. It has been used to create digital visual effects for Hollywood blockbuster movies.
We can mention for example Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Toy Story, Jurassic Park, Avatar, Titanic, the Star Wars prequels, and The Lord of the Rings. RenderMan has received two Academy Scientific and Technical Awards. This easily makes it fall under the “high-end” best free Maya plugins category.
Crowd simulation software Miarmy is the best free way to create battle and crowd scenes. This complex Maya plugin is a Human Logic Engine based plugin for crowd simulation, AI & behavioral animation, creature physical simulation, and rendering, it comes with many features:
- Build human fuzzy logic network without any programming or node connecting
- Support standard production pipeline, reference, HumanIK, and Motion Builder
- Integrated with PhysX: ragdoll, RBD emitters, force field, cloth, wind, fluid
- Create Stunning crowd VFX using Maya particles, field, fluid and transform
- Support all renderers
Miarmy simulator is a free tool. You can download its full package, along with tons of tutorials, samples, demo scenes, documents and ready to run presets. It’s absolutely one of the most resourceful free Maya scripts out there.
1. Maya Bonus Tools
Bonus Tools is a collection of useful free Maya plugins and scripts released every year by the software developers themselves.
After installing Bonus Tools, an additional menu will be added to the end of the main Maya menu providing access to a variety of everyday tools. The new menu contains a range of modeling, UV editing, rigging, animation, and rendering tools.
The 2022 version of Maya bonus tools has just been released and it has some nice additions and features that can help you out when doing different modeling and animation tasks.