Autodesk Maya is an ultimate package to perform various jobs such as modeling, texturing, animation, dynamics, particle fx etc. But despite of Maya’s great ability to create 3d content, there are lots of people who find it hard to utilize the power of this amazing software.
Thankfully, many tool developers and companies provide plugins alternatives to make those tedious tasks much easier.
Now, you might be wondering that why do you need these third party plugins when you already have Maya in the first place.
Maya, undoubtedly, has wonderful tools and options to create 3d Art, but, it can also be a possibility that you need to spend a good amount of time to complete a particular task with Maya’s native tools. If you are working for a production then this is not an option else you would not meet the deadline in time.
Using Plugins enhances your workflow and lets you handle any creative task easily hence, using them along with Maya would be even more productive rather than using Maya alone.
There are tons of plugins available for Maya and I have compiled a list of 25 best plugins so you don’t have to bother searching for them all over the internet.
Just go through this list and get the one that matches your requirement.
Vray is one of the best rendering engines with amazing physically-based lighting, rendering and shading abilities. This popular rendering plugin has been developed by the chaos group company, used by the professional artists and studios in countless productions.
Vray 3.0 is the most recent version with lots of new features and improvements that gives user flexibility and UI friendly controls to create cool lighting setups in less time.
Some of the features in V-Ray 3.0 are Optimized Hair and Fur, improved Subsurface Scattering, improved V-ray Frame Buffer with advanced color correction controls and much more. If you are a lighting artist then you should give it a try.
VueXstream is an award winning plugin developed by e-on software company that helps artists to create believable digital nature environments.
It can be seamlessly integrated into any production workflow and is fully compatible with other major 3d applications.
It has been used by world’s top most studios in various productions like Avatar, Kung Fu Panda 2, Fantastic Four, Thor and the list goes on.
Qualoth is an awesome cloth simulator that has been used by many famous studios. It allows you to simulate cloth with realistic wrinkles and creases; and compute complex simulations in very less time through its fully multi-threaded solver.
Qualoth effectively handles collisions which makes it much easier to create complex multi-layered cloth in very less time. It is compatible with Maya fluids so you can take advantage of qualoth’s powerful toolset along with Maya fluid system.
There is lot more inside Qualoth that you should check and give it a try if interested. This plugin is compatible with 2008-2014 versions of Maya.
Krakatoa MY 2.3.2
Krakatoa MY is a widely used volumetric particle rendering plugin that allows artists to create beautiful and realistic particle renders.
Krakatoa is highly multi-threaded, CPU based renderer so that you can easily use it on laptops with Linux or Windows OS without worrying about the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).
Krakatoa is available for Maya 2015 version.
FurryBall 4.8 is an awesome real-time rendering engine provided by AAA studio. It is a GPU-based renderer that has been frequently used in the production of animated films, games and Visual effects.
It is quite popular for its super-fast rendering speed. According to some comparison tests, FurryBall’s ray tracing is 15x and rasterized biased rendering is 100x faster than others.
It offers Unbiased and Biased rendering, FurryBall Fur, full support for Particles and Fluids, No pre-calculations and much more. If time is a barrier in your job, grab this plugin to create amazing production quality renders in very less time.
FurryBall 4.8 is compatible with 2010-2015 versions of Maya.
The Ozone 2015
The Ozone is a wonderful plugin used by many professional studios to create realistic atmospheres. It comes with four atmosphere models as Standard, Volumetric, Spectral and Environment Mapping and it is fully compatible with world class production renderers, Mental Ray and V-ray.
Ozone has a very simple and user friendly interface that holds controls and settings regarding sun, skies, cloud layers, rainbows, haze etc. All of these settings are animatable so that user can easily create beautiful and believable atmosphere with moving sun, clouds and other atmospheric elements.
Fume FX 3.5.5
Fume FX is an out-standing plugin for simulating fluids and has a quite popular name in Vfx industry. It offers almost everything, whatever a vfx artist probably needs to create stunning fluid and fume effects for films and games.
It has tons of great features like GPU preview support, fluid mapping, Support for network simulation, Nested Simulation technology to simulate multiple overlapping grids simultaneously and there is lot more to explore in Fume FX.
Syflex is a cool plugin for simulating realistic cloth and creating garments for your characters. It is very flexible and easy to use plugin that allows user to create garments without messing with panels.
It allows you to save the simulations as cache files for smooth and faster playback. It supports blending of multiple cache files to get a nice combined effect of different simulation data. You can even re-simulate the selected frames without re-calculating the whole sequence.
It also gives users the flexibility to optimize the collisions by excluding and including the faces from the collision during simulation.
Some of the popular projects that have been done with the help of Syflex are Spider man 3, Superman, The Silver Surfer and King Kong. This plugin is available for Maya 2013-2015.
Pulldownit is an awesome dynamic solver used to simulate fractures, shattering and cracking surfaces, collapsing buildings. This tool has numerous amounts of features that are more than enough to achieve believable destruction effects.
Shatter it! which is a Voronoi based pre-cutting tool to convert 3d objects into fragments quickly. By using Shatter it! along with Pulldownit Fracture solver, you can simulate large amount of rigid bodies and easily create mind blowing simulations in very less time.
Pulldownit is available for Maya 2012-2015 versions.
Realflow 2014 is one of the best fluid simulators which has been frequently used in the CG industry in tons of different projects. You can simulate any kind of water bodies from stormy sea, flowing rivers to calm ponds with the help of this great plugin.
It’s latest release has lots of new features such as Hybrido 2 to simulate large-scale simulations, Smoothed-Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) for small scale simulations like small splashes, turbulent fluid surfaces.
It also provides RealWave toolset to simulate different types of waves and you can even simulate Rigid and soft bodies through Caronte solver with massive waves to make all the simulation tasks way easier than before.
This plugin is available for all the major platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac).
The Plant Factory
Plant Factory is one of the best plugins for creating any kind of vegetation and trees for Archviz., movies or games projects.
It supports Procedural geometry and material generation with fully animatable trees, .OBJ, .3DS and .FBX file formats support, so that you can easily export all the Plant Factory data to be used in other 3d packages.
Moreover, you can add new plants and trees to you library from TPF Nursery.
Flux Fluid Simulator
Flux is one of the most powerful plugins for creating stunning fluid simulations with a nice and flexible node-based User Interface. Fluid simulation is something that consumes good amount of memory to fasten the simulation process.
If your system doesn’t have enough memory then you probably have to wait till your computer finishes the job. Well, you don’t have to wait anymore as Flux lets you simulate the data through networking by distributing the simulation process to the other computers. This is one of the biggest advantages of using this plugin.
It also offers various file formats such as BIN, PRT and OBJ so that user can easily export the simulated data to be used in other 3d software.
The Matte Painting Toolkit 3.0
TMP Toolkit is a handy plugin developed by Glyph Software for photogrammetry, projection Mapping and matte painting. It has a very minimalist UI that holds controls and options regarding texture layers, mapping or projection type, camera settings etc.
It supports point cloud data and camera import that can be used as a modeling reference and fully compatible with any renderer available for Maya. You can display and manipulate high quality textures directly into the Maya viewport with TMP toolkit’s Open GL shader.
A must have plugin for texturing artists and matte painters. Available for Maya 2012-2015 versions (Windows, Linux and Mac OSX).
Renderman was developed and implemented by a well-known Animation company Pixar for their own productions. Now they made it available to others too.
This award winning rendering engine has lots of great features like, Production ready multi bounce Global Illumination, Volume Support, Ray-traced Sub-Surface Scattering, Advance Caching and lot more.
Golaem Crowd 3.5
Golaem Crowd is a production proven plugin for crowd simulations used in many productions such as Hercules, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones etc. It offers robust toolset for creating believable crowds that can be used for films, commercials and games cinematics.
It has various placement modes with automatic obstacles detection. It supports physics simulation so that you can easily create crowds interacting with forces and explosions.
You can Preview your crowds in real time within Maya and render them with license free procedural rendering plugins that comes with Golaem Crowd. It is compatible with 2012-2014 versions of Maya.
Phoenix FD is an ultimate solution for simulating fire, smoke, foam, fluid and explosions. It’s a hybrid simulation system with python support. It automatically generates foam and splashes with optimized shaders for faster rendering. It allows GPU preview of almost render quality and fully supported with Vray RT.
Phoenix FD is available for 2010-2013 (64-bit) versions of Maya.
Carbon Scatter 2015
Carbon Scatter is a great plugin to scatter and render thousands of instances quickly all over the scene. You can use it to create realistic landscapes, forests or battle grounds. It can be easily used inside any major 3d app along with other e-on’s products without any compatibility issues. It’s a wonderful solution to populate your scenes in less time.
FXHair, as the name suggests, is a plugin for simulating realistic hair fur stuff. It has fast collision detection and solving system that allows you to simulate life like hair in less time.
It supports NURBS curves as input-output element and offers full compatibility with Maya native hair system and other hair tools.
This plugin supports 2008-2015 versions of Maya.
For most of the people, it takes forever to create a nice and clean UV layout. For them, unwrapping is such a big pain. Through Unwrealla you can deal with UV maps in more easy and efficient way. You can get quality unfolding of your 3d models with minimal texture stretch.
Some of the Key features of Unwrella are: User defined pixel based padding between UVs, advanced options for controlling texture stretching, automatic UV generation functionality etc.
You can get this plugin for Maya 2010-2015 versions.
Fracture FX is a nice fracturing tool for Maya to create realistic demolition effects. It provides event-driven and procedural solution for dynamic simulations.
It also supports subsequent fracturing to set up secondary and tertiary fracture set ups. Other than Voronoi-based destruction method; you can also use other alternatives, such as, Cluster, Radial, Crack image, Split Plane etc. to add some nice variations to your simulations.
Fracture FX is available for Maya 2011-2014 versions.
Arnold is a popular rendering plugin made available by Solid Angle that provides great amount of tools to make lighting / rendering process easier.
Some of the major features of Arnold are: Interactive Rendering, Image Based Lighting support, XGen integration, support for Maya Hair and nHair etc. Arnold is fully compatible with Maya 2013-2015 versions.
Shave plugin allows artists to render realistic and dynamic hair without any hassle. It has a simple user interface that holds lots of handy tools to generate and manipulate hair.
It also offers compatibility with Maya nFluids so you don’t need to worry in case of creating scenes that demands hair and fluid interaction.
There is a long list of projects have been done by using Shave plugin. Some of the popular ones are X-men-2, Up, When Animals Attack, Pirates of the Caribbean. Shave 8.0 is available for Maya 2012-2014.
Exocortex Fury 2
Fury 2 is a GPU-based particle renderer that enables user to render huge amount of particles quickly without compromising the quality. Its particle replication system replicates small particle chunks at render time to simulate large groups of particles.
It uses advance voxel lighting system to render large number of particles a lot quicker. Some of the key features of Fury are, Matte object occlusion, multi-sample anti-aliasing, Pass-separated OpenEXR HDR output etc.
Since it is a GPU-based renderer; you need a GPU that fully supports OpenGL 3.2 to make it work.
MentalCore plugin is used for lighting, shading and rendering purposes. Some of the key features of MentalCore are Color Management system with the support of Linear, sRGB and Rec. 709 color profiles, Ambient Occlusion transparency support, Render Pass compositing workflow, Python API support and many more.
You can use this awesome plugin as an alternative to the Maya native renderers. This plugin is available for Maya 2012-2014 versions.
Xfrog is a procedural tree and plants generator that is used to create and animate nature elements. It contains an awesome set of tools that create branches and flower petals using natural rules.
Xfrog is an animation friendly plugin so you have full control over each and every parameter of its objects (growth, number of branches, strength of attraction etc.) and animate it to create blooming flowers or growing trees. Available for Maya 2008-2015.
I hope you enjoyed the list. If you think I have missed something that should be on the list, feel free to tell me in your comments below. Thanks.