Curve Controls Shape Node Parenting

Maya: Rigging, Manual

In This Class You’ll Access…
This page will show you how to build animation control-curves for your rigs which are handy for extra appendages like hair and cloth.

This page focuses purely on FK controls which is just a simple hierarchy of objects. FK is the most common rigging type and easy to understand, it’s also very common and loved by animators. We are assuming that you have a good understanding of basic parent hierarchies in Maya.

You’ll learn how to build the FK controls manually and with the Control Creator (CCtrl) button which we’ve included in the C3dC Prefs on the C3dC Rig Shelf.

Controls in Maya are usually just NURBS curves that help you select the objects that you’re animating. You could select the joints by directly clicking on them without the need for the curves. But the extra curve controls are intuitive to pick, easy to show and hide, and you can zero them at the default pose. They are the most popular way for animators to interact with rigs in Maya.

In this lesson, you’ll also learn about some great Maya foundations like the differences between “transforms” and “shape nodes” and other foundational rigging ideas.


Although the setup can be built instantly at the click of a button, it’s important that you understand how to create the controls manually. You’ll learn about many foundational Maya tips here, even if you aren’t interested in becoming a rigger, it’s worth understanding the following concepts.

See the page “Joints And Orientation In Maya” before learning this page as it requires a knowledge of joint orientation.

Running Time: 49 mins
Software: Maya 2017
Maya 2015 (Legacy)

Instructor: Andrew Silke

Class Time: 49 mins

1. Introduction And Easy Scripted Version (2:56 mins)

1.1 – Page Introduction (1:28 mins)
1.2 – CCtrl Build Script (1:28 mins)

2. Creating Controls - Simple Parent Method (8:14 mins)

2.1 – Non Zeroed Joints (1:18 mins)
2.2 – Zeroing Joints (1:07 mins)
2.3 – Zeroing Ctrl Curve (1:38 mins)
2.4 – Rot Control (1:24 mins)
2.5 – Create More Ctrls (2:01 mins)
2.6 – Naming Objects (46 sec)

3. Extra Functions And Cleanup (11 mins)

3.1 – Obj Match Methods (2:27 mins)
3.2 – Setup Finished (2:24 mins)
3.3 – Lock And Hide Attr (1:38 mins)
3.4 – Obj Highlight Setting (1:45 mins)
3.5 – Coloring Controls (1:20 mins)
3.6 – RGB/HSV Coloring (2:17 mins)

4. Transforms Vs Shape Nodes (11 mins)

4.1 – Transform vs Shapes (2:47 mins)
4.2 – Shape Nodes Outliner (1:52 mins)
4.3 – Groups As Transforms (1:20 mins)
4.4 – Joint Transforms (1:46 mins)
4.5 – Curve Combine (2:43 mins)
4.6 – Curve Join Button (1:14 mins)

5. Create Shape Node Curve Controls (7:02 mins)

5.1 – Joint Curve Combine (2:12 mins)
5.2 – Joint CrvJn Button (45 sec)
5.3 – Zero Joint Translation (1:03 mins)
5.4 – CCtrl Builder (1:30 mins)
5.5 – Joint Draw None (42 sec)
5.6 – Skinning (50 sec)

6. Mirroring Shape Node Curve Controls (2:30 mins)

6.1 – Unbuilding (1:32 mins)
6.2 – Mirror CCtrl (58 sec)

7. Customizing The Control Appearance (5:24 mins)

7.1 – Control Curve Look (2:49 mins)
7.2 – Custom Curve Mirror (2:35 mins)
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  1. washunaback
    September 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm ·

    Hey, at step 2.3, parenting a joint to a nurbs circle won’t “freeze” it’s attributes.

    BUT! When you parent a nurbs circle to a null1 group and then parent the same curve to a join, it “freezes” it’s attributes.

    Just a heads up.

  2. washunaback
    September 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm ·

    Hey, at step 2.3, parenting a joint to a nurbs circle won’t “freeze” it’s attributes.

    BUT! When you parent a nurbs circle to a null1 group and then parent the same curve to a join, it “freezes” it’s attributes.

    Just a heads up. Using maya 2017 update 4.

    • Andrew Silke
      September 14, 2017 at 5:29 pm ·

      Hi Washunaback, not sure exactly what you’re saying? To answer what I think what you’re saying…

      Vid 2.3 is correct and nothing has changed in Maya regarding this since version 1!

      1. Create a Nurbs Circle and move it anywhere in the world. It’s rot and translate attributes won’t be zero.
      2. Create a group with nothing selected, it’ll be called a Null. But it’s really just a group or another name is a transform node.
      3. Match the Null to the Nurbs Circle
      4. Parent the Nurbs Circle to the Null.
      5. The Nurbs Circle’ attributes will be zero’d on rot and translate.

      This really isn’t freezing the transforms, though the effect on the attributes can be the same. But perhaps you’re talking about another video? This can mess up if after step 1 you freeze the transforms of the Nurbs Circle (alt f), then the parent won’t zero the attributes.

  3. washunaback
    September 15, 2017 at 8:02 am ·

    Yeah that’s what I’m doing.

    But if you like parent a nurbs curve to a joint it won’t zero their attributes. Though if you parent a joint to one of the grp+ctrl you can “zero” the joints this way.

    No idea why though.

    • Andrew Silke
      September 15, 2017 at 10:00 am ·

      Yes I see what you’re saying. The trick is to freeze the transforms of the joints first. Vid 2.1. The joints will zero, and the Nurbs Circles too, either way, but only if the joints have their transforms frozen first.

      Joints are the wildcard transform type in Maya, and the only object that doesn’t have a dedicated transform node. In a way joints are a variation of a transform node. They are different to all other objects when it comes to freezing.

      Overall, just freeze all joints first, (alt f) on the top joint should do it. Then parent Group > Nurbs Curve > Joint and yes it’ll always work.

  4. ojkoorde
    October 6, 2017 at 1:50 am ·

    Movie 2.2 second ~53 – it’s really unclear what you are unparenting / parenting to what – toooooo, too little description

    • Andrew Silke
      October 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm ·

      Hi Ojkoorde that one’s pretty clear to me, the joint “tenticleArm01_L” gets parented to the control curve “NURBSCircle1”. This isn’t a beginner class, intermediates should be able to figure that one.

      But I could put more notes in the description there as you say. I may do that, thanks.

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