Dec 16, 2020

How to rig and prepare your avatar for the Metaverse using Maya

The mission

What do we have inside? Bones. So do all of our (and yours too) avatars. But, how do we put them there? And more importantly, what can we do to adjust them to every posible humanoid avatar?Let's find out!


  • Maya 2018 or newer
  • Your favourite internet browser

Getting the rig

Since we want humanoid avatars, the best way to get a fast rig is using Mixamo.

Mixamo is an automatic rigging website tool that allows you to create quick humanoid for free.I won't cover how to use Mixamo, since we already have that cover in this post here: Fix and reset your Mixamo avatar rig.

But I will explain how to use all the tools that I used when rigging almost every of the +200 different avatars we have made for the 100 Avatars project.So tag along, because the world of rigging is one where patience is KEY.

Avatar imported

You have the avatar on your Maya proyect ready now.

There are a few places where you have to take a closer look since these are the most problematic areas. These areas are shoulders, armpit and hands. Depending on the character you might have to take a look at other places, specially if it is a complex character.

Maya rig joint size

Bones too big?

Maybe super small?

Go to "Display>Animation>Joint Size" and you can change it there!

Maya rig character

Maya rig X-Ray bones

Ask yourself; are all the bones where they are supposed to be?In this case... no. Using the “X-Ray Bones” options you can easly see where each bone is inside the body.

In this case, the shoulders aren't where they should be, so, how can we move them?

Maya rig of Cool Cola

With a really useful tool called “Move Skinned Joints”.

Go to the “Rigging tab”, and then to “Skin”. Almost at the bottom, you should find the tool. Click on the square on the right and then on any joint. Now you can move them freely without any problem!

Maya rigging tabs menu

Use it to move the shoulders where they should be.

Using the “Move Skinned Joints” tool

Now it's time to paint the weights!

Weight painting

Maya "Paint Skin Weights" menu

Open the “Paint Skin Weights” on the same skin tab as before.

Be sure to click the square on the right.

If you had your mesh selected now all should appear black and white, representing the different areas where each bone has influence on the mesh.

Maya "Paint Skin Weights" tool

It will also appear this new window.

On the upper part you can see each bone of the rig.

Everytime you click on one, you will see the influence of the bone in the mesh.

Every bone has a lock on the left, this serves to "freeze" the bone and its values so it never changes. Super useful.

Right below that you can select different modes.

  • “Paint”: the default option where you can paint influences which you set the value down below.
  • “Select”: select any vertex, face or edge so you can only paint those regions.
  • “Paint Select”: both in one.

Then there's paint operation:

  • “Replace”: replaces values for the current value.
  • “Add”: adds a value to the current vertex.
  • “Scale”: same as add, but scaling.
  • “Smooth”: allows you to smooth the influence between different values so the change is not that sudden.

Important options in the "Skin Painting" menu

Profile allows you to select what kind of brush you want to use. The currently selected simply put the values on every vertex it touches.

The other ones simply scales down the values the more you are on the extreme of the brush.

“Value” is the value you set the influence of the brush. More means more influence. The maximum is 1 and the least is 0.

The “Flood” button makes every selected region get the value you selected.

Visualization of "Weight Painting" in Maya

Lastly, you can select how big the brush size is by pressing and holding the B key on the 3D Viewer.

With this explanation of the tools, you should have a good idea of how to skin a character inside Maya.

Now, skinning is not an easy thing, at least to make it right. It requires a lot of patience. A couple of advices I can give are, try to use the 1 value as little as you can. You should also use the smooth option since it really is unvaluable. Dont be scared of rotating bones. Aim to get the cleanest breaking point in your mesh.


Remember to check those zones I wrote about earlier and have fun! Skinning is an important process and takes time. The more you practice the better you will become!

What now? If you want to see what's the next step, read my post about how to make visemes for your avatar and configure it inside Unity!:

Creating a VRChat avatar with blendshapes visemes

Pedro Solans

Junior 3D Animator improving every day possible. Videogame and cat enthusiast.

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