Maya is a 3D modeling and animation suite maintained by Autodesk and remains an industry standard for film and TV animation, games, and visual effects.
First developed by Alias Systems in 1998, Maya caught the attention of Disney Animation, who helped develop Maya for use in a major studio. Specifically, Disney requested that Maya’s user interface be customizable, allowing for tailored workflows in various animation disciplines.
Every film that won the Best Visual Effects Academy Award since 1997 has used Maya.
Unfortunately, Maya isn’t free, costing $1,545 per year. However, there is a free three-year educational license for teachers and students.
Maya models are usually comprised entirely of quads, which are faces with 4 vertices. Models in this format are ideal for animation, and deform easily without bugs or glitches. Maya models (usually in the format .ma) often come already UV mapped, rigged, textured, and sometimes even animated.
Maya supports a variety of 3D files, including
Some files made in other applications are also supported, such as
There are countless websites on the internet hosting 3D files for download, but we can’t list them all. We weighed up the best and biggest sites against the following aspects:
Ultimately, animation takes a long time to get up and running, but you can cut this time drastically by importing pre-made 3D objects, known as assets, into your scene. While most animators won’t recommend downloading and importing every asset, it can be extremely helpful for mundane or everyday objects. After all, if you individually modeled every item in a bedroom, you could spend weeks working before you even begin to animate.
So without further ado, here are our top 10 sources for Maya assets…
TurboSquid has been around since the year 2000 (almost as old as Maya itself!). TurboSquid offers a huge range of both free and premium 3D models for download. At the time of writing, TurboSquid featured 126,461 Maya-specific files. This number increases drastically if you include compatible files such as STL, OBJ, and FBX. In total, the website boasts approximately 920,000 3D models available for download.
You can sort files by various categories, alongside filters such as rigged, animated, free, premium, and polycount.
TurboSquid is one of the most popular 3D model repositories for a reason: It features an easy-to-navigate interface, great search bar with intuitive suggested searches, and clear information regarding file formats and price before you even click on a model.
Unfortunately, the number of premium files drastically outweighs the number of free files.
Download Maya files: TurboSquid
Free3D hosts fewer models than some of the other websites on this list but does emphasize the extreme affordability of their models. The free section of the site hosts 653 .ma files, 3,229 FBX files, and 10,816 OBJ files.
The site is split into two sections, with headers at the top that allow you to flick between free and premium 3D models for download. The premium section of the site hosts 31,865 .ma files, significantly more than the free section.
A brief categories bar across the top of the page allow you to quickly navigate to the models you need with little fuss.
Download Maya files: Free3d.com
CGTrader is one of the largest 3D model repositories online, with 890,000 models available for download. The website has a wide variety of categories to choose from and also hosts textures, scripts, and apps for sale. CGTrader allows users to post freelance jobs and find freelance 3D work, so if you need a specific 3D model for a project and can’t find it anywhere, you can hire someone to make it for you.
To filter models by software, you must search the file type, which isn’t as user-friendly as other websites, but a quick search for “.ma” yielded 50,000 Maya models.
It’s very difficult to search purely for free assets, as CGTrader lists premium assets within their free sections.
Download Maya files: CGTrader
Clara.io is a browser-based 3D modeling tool, but the website also hosts 3D files available for free download. The website is extremely fast to use and offers almost all files in Maya compatible formats (FBX or OBJ). Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a dedicated Maya category.
This is one of the fastest websites, with 3D model previews loading in seconds. Unfortunately, there’s limited information on the previews, and models can come at varying quality. On the plus side, all models are available for free.
Download Maya files: Clara.io
Hum3D looks similar to TurboSquid or CGTrader on the surface; it’s a professional, easy-to-navigate website with detailed categories. You can sort models within subcategories – for example, under the “Animals” category, you have subcategories detailing where the animal is naturally found. Alternatively, within the “Cars” category, you can filter by make and model.
The number of 3D models is far fewer than some of the bigger players. Hum3D only features 16,928 models, although they almost always come with materials, textures, and rigs. The models are expensive, costing around $100 each, but they are very high quality (usually photo-realistic) and come in a wide variety of formats.
Hum3D offers custom 3D services, and each stock model can come with optional extras, such as game-ready (low-poly, detailed textures) or print-ready (STL included).
The price seems a little high when compared to models from other sites, but you do have a lot of flexibility with the models.
Download Maya files: Hum3D
Simply Maya is a Maya training service offered on a subscription basis. Included within the subscription are a wide variety of assets and scene files. This is a great option whether you’re looking to learn Maya or download assets, rigs, environments, and plug-ins.
The number of assets available for download is limited, but the quality is generally high, and this is a good starting point for learning Maya.
Pricing starts at $34/month or $288/year.
Download Maya files: Simply Maya
Lugher 3D is a provider of architectural Maya assets and shaders. You can download low-poly, simplistic models for free, but there are many full interior scenes available for relatively cheap (less than $30), which include various models and assets.
Download Maya files: Lugher 3D
Open3D Model is an entirely free 3D model library with models licensed for personal use. The models can be sorted by file type and by category.
The website is fast and easy to use and has a staggering number of free models available in all formats. You’ll find 2,832 .ma files for direct import into Maya, many of which include rigs.
Download Maya files: Open3D Model
One of the biggest 3D model providers on the internet, SketchFab has an entire section dedicated to Maya files. You can sort models by polycount, price, licenses, category, and rating.
Unfortunately, there are no free files hosted on Sketchfab, though many of the cheaper models available for purchase are still very high quality.
Download Maya files: SketchFab
(Lead image source: Kadenze via Medium)
License: The text of "Maya 3D Models: 10 Best Sources" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.