Unwrapping UVs is an area that most people find frustrating and tedious. But actually it’s not a very big deal once we get our heads around it. Unwrapping tools are pretty simple if you have polygon modelling experience.
a) Maya Snapshot
b) headus UV Snapshot
PTex – No Need for Unwrapping
It’s worth mentioning Ptex here because Ptex is a new method developed at the Disney Studios for texturing without the need for UVs at all. Ptex is great because it has no texture seams, it’s downside is that there’s no image maps so tweaking in Photoshop can be difficult.
2d tweaking in Photoshop is a big deal and a lot of times unwrapping is a very smart way to go and offers some advantages. So don’t go thinking that Ptex is the answer to all your unwrapping problems!!
Many programs are moving in the direction of Ptex though and it’s worth knowing.
Ptex works a bit like sculpting where each polygon is divided into a grid, with enough divisions these sub polygon elements act a bit like pixels. The information is saved out as a ptex file. Mudbox and Maya (Mental Ray) now support Ptex.
And here’s an instruction video by Autodesk
Unwrapping UVs in maya is pretty straight forward but it lacks the automatic functionality of Headus and Roadkill. It’s good to know UV editing in Maya as sometimes it’s just simpler to do it in the one program.
Headus UV Layout
The industry leader when it comes to UV unwrapping. It’s a very focused program that’s simple to use and does some very impressive auto unwrapping. Headus is $100 fro a student version $300 for pro.
A standalone program and Maya plugin (PC only). Not as good as Headus but it’s free!
Has some handy auto unwrapping tools too with it’s UV Master. Its a great tool to get UVs out fast.