Deforming objects in Maya

Add deformation effects to your characters and objects to tweak their appearance and enhance their animation.

Deformers are tools that let you transform or animate objects in ways that simple manipulation and keyframes cannot. In other software packages, the terms modifiers and space warps are used to refer to what Maya calls deformers.

A Lattice deformer used to shape a model

Deformers have two main applications: to model surfaces or to add extra shape animations to an object.

Deformers as modeling tools

You can use deformers as modeling tools for shaping NURBS or polygonal objects. You can create a deformer, for example a sculpt deformer tool, and tweak the model’s shape with it. When you are finished modeling with the deformer, delete it along with the rest of the object’s history (choose Edit > Delete by Type > History). When you delete the object’s history, the deformer is deleted, but all the deform operations are baked into the object’s shape so that it retains its final deformed state.

Note that in the context of modeling, an object’s history can be called its construction history.

Deformers as animation tools

You can use deformers as animation tools. You can create a deformer, tweak the target object with the deformer, and then key the deformer’s attributes over time to produce an animation. For example, you can create a blend shape deformer for a model of a face. Then over time, you can manipulate and key the weights of target shapes of the blend shape deformer in the Shape Editor to create facial animation.