Create a Candy Cane & Holiday Ornament in Autodesk Maya

Jan 04 2017 Extras, Featured Content, Tutorials


In celebration of the holidays we have put together a beginners tutorial that will allow you to create your own candy cane and ornament in 3D! For this tutorial we will be working exclusively in Autodesk Maya.

Final Product – What We Will Create:

Final Product

Step 1 – Find Reference

  • Reference is super important when working in 3D. A candy cane is simple enough that we could probably freehand it. However, having a reference image will always make your final product more accurate and realistic.

    Here is the image I will be using to trace my curve in Maya:

  • Candy Cane Reference

    Step 2 – Importing Image Planes


    • To start, we are going to set up our reference image so we can draw an accurate curve. Once you have Maya open there will be four orthographic panels. Click the top left box and hit your space bar to enter the “Top View.”
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    • Click the Image Plane button (as shown) to import your Candy Cane image.
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    • Browse your computer for your image and hit open. To stay organized, it’s always best to save any reference images/textures in your projects “sourceimages” folder.
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    • Once we have our Candy Cane image imported, click on the Channel box located to the far right of the screen. Inside the Channel box adjust the Alpha Gain to 0.03. This will make your image plane transparent so you can see your object and curve better.

    Step 3 – Curve Tool

    Now that our image planes are set up, we are ready to build our curve.


    • Click Create. In the drop-down menu select Curve Tools and choose any of the listed tools. It doesn’t matter which tool you decide to use. All curve tools will yield similar results. The only difference between them is the drawing technique. I am going to use the CV Curve Tool.
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    • Start at the bottom of the candy cane and follow the shape by clicking with your left-mouse-button to create points. Don’t worry about making it completely perfect, you can adjust these points after your curve has been created. When you are finished, hit enter.
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    • The line you created will turn green. This means you now have an editable curve. Right-mouse-click on your curve and choose the Control Vertex option. This will allow you to edit the points on your curve.
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    • To edit a point, simply click the pink vertices (selected vertices will become yellow) and use your manipulation tool (W) to adjust your points. Position your points to match the shape of your Candy Cane image.

    Step 4 – Extruding Shapes

    Now that our curve is created we want to turn it into a polygon shape. To do this we will use a few easy steps. I found this way yields the best results, and it’s a cool trick that we will also use later when we build our ornament.


    • Return to your orthographic view and enter the perspective view.
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    • Select the Polygon tab and click on the Polygon Plane to add a plane to your scene. When the plane drops into the scene we want it to have no divisions. On the right in the Channels box you will notice there are two boxes for Subdivisions Width and Height. Mine came in with 10 divisions each way. We don’t want this. If you have this issue, set both of these to 1.
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    • Now we want to rotate our plane so it’s following the direction of our curve. In the Channels box type 90 into Rotate X.
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    • Before we snap our shape to the curve, we need to rebuild our curve. First have your curve selected. Then, in the top menu select Curves. Hover your mouse over Rebuild. You want to click on the little option box I have indicated in red.
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    • A menu will pop up with different options. Make sure yours matches mine as shown. What’s important here is that we indicate we want 25 spans. Hit Rebuild when finished.
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    • Now that we have rebuilt our curve, make sure you have the move tool active (w) and your plane selected (highlighted green.) With the move tool active, hold down the shift key and click on your curve. This allows you to select both your plane and the curve. Once you have both objects selected, hold the right-mouse-button down over your curve and select Control Vertex.
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    • This will bring up your curve points once again. We are looking for the start of our curve. The best way to know where that is, is to find the points that look different from the others. The first one will be an outlined square vs a dot. The second will be shaped like a lower case “u.” I have indicated mine in red above. We want to snap our plane to the “u” shaped point.
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    • Once you have indicated where your “u” shaped point is, do not click on the point. Instead, hold down your V key. You will notice the middle of your move manipulation tool will turn from a square to a circle. This means that you are ready to snap your object to a point.
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    • You might want to move your square a little closer to the “u” point so it snaps easier. Once you have done this, hold down the V key, middle-mouse-click on the “u” shaped point. Your plane should instantly snap to the point. Your plane is now connected to your curve!

      (Note: If your plane is a little big like mine you can scale it up or down to your desire. Obviously the smaller your plane is, the thinner your candy cane will be. To do this just hit the R key and select the yellow square in the middle of your manipulation tool to scale up and down.)

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    • We are now ready to extrude. To begin, right-mouse-click on your plane and select Face. Once you have done this, select the face that points in direction of your curve. Your face will turn orange when selected.
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    • With the face of your plane selected, shift-click on your curve to select that as well.
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    • To extrude, click on Edit Mesh in the top menu. Then select the Extrude Option Box.
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    • In this menu, you want to change the Divisions to 25, just like we indicated when we rebuilt the curve. This will make each segment match every point on the curve. When you are finished, hit Extrude.
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    • Sweet! We have a Candy Cane! If you have black faces like I do above, this is a Normals issue and can be easily fixed. If your faces are grey, ignore the next step.
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    • In the Mesh Display menu, just select Reverse. This should fix the issue.

    Step 5 – Twist

    We’re almost finished. Now we are going to add the Twist for the Candy Cane Stripes. This step isn’t necessary depending on how you want to do your textures.


    • In the Channels box, there will be a polyExtrudeFace1 option under Inputs, click on this and it will give us several different options. Scroll down and find Twist.
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    • This part all depends on your preference. You can add as many twists as you want. I went for about 1300 twists.

    Step 6 – Texture

    Now for the red and white stripes! You can use a photo texture and apply it to the entire object, or you can make your own simple stripes as I will show.


    • To quickly select your faces, click on your first face and then shift-double-click on the face next to it. This will make a quick selection.
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    • Right-click on one of the faces, and select Assign New Material in the drop down menu.
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    • In the pop-up menu choose Phong.
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    • Once the material has been applied, to the right you will see that the Attribute Editor has appeared. Double-click on the grey box in the first Color option and change it to red.
    • Repeat these steps to make the white stripes on the remaining faces.

    Step 7 – Smooth

    We’re almost there, but this thing still looks kinda crazy. Let’s smooth it out.


    • To smooth our candy cane out, select Mesh and in the drop down menu and then select the option box for Smooth.
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    • Put 2 in the Division levels. You can increase the smoothness by adding division levels, but keep in mind the more you smooth your geometry, the more likely Maya is to crash. Hit Smooth.
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    • And tada! We have made a candy cane!

    Creating an Ornament

    Once you have finished the Candy Cane tutorial, making this ornament will be pretty easy. We will be reusing a few steps as well.

    Step 1 – Ornament Base


    • To make the base for our ornament, create a sphere from the Polygons panel.
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    • Select faces on the top of your sphere (as shown.) Make sure no other faces are selected on any other parts of the sphere.
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    • Under the Edit Mesh, select Extrude in the drop-down menu.
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    • Once you’ve hit Extrude, click on the little circle with a line through it. This will orient your manipulation tool’s pivot back to center. Also set your Divisions back to 1 if it is not set to 1 already.
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    • Click the yellow arrow and extrude up on the Y-axis.
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    • Right click on the object and select Vertex.
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    • Click and drag your left-mouse-button over the vertices on the top portion of the ornament. We are going to flatten these out so they take on the correct shape.
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    • With the scale tool active (R) click the top square (yellow) and scale down to flatten all the vertices out on an even plane. We have finished our base.

    Step 2 – Ornament Topper

    We are now going to make the topper metal piece for our ornament. This is what we will connect the hanging hook to.


    • Now we want to duplicate the base of our ornament. This will make creating the topper much easier and faster. To duplicate an object use Ctrl+D. Do not move the object. Instead go to the Channel box. Under the Display tab, click the last icon that looks like a plane with a sphere. This will create a new layer in your scene called layer1. It will allow you to hide the original base we created.
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    • If you double-click layer1 you can rename it. I named mine Ornament. Hit Save.
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    • With the ornament layer selected, click on the box with the V. This will hide your original base ornament. By hiding it, we won’t mess up the original geometry we created.
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    • With the new geometry selected, select all faces on the object except for the top portion previously created. Hit Delete.
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    • Now that we have a shape to create the metal topper for our ornament, we will need to center our pivot. To do this go to Modify and select Center Pivot.
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    • Let’s insert edge loops to help us create that wave effect that most ornaments have on the top. To do this, go under Mesh Tools and then select Insert Edge Loop.
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    • With the Insert Edge Loop tool active, create edges on every other face as shown above. Try to make them as similar as possible.
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    • Now select the vertex on each single edge loop as shown. Use Ctrl+left-mouse-button to select more than one vertices at a time.
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    • With the move tool active, translate down on the Y-axis to pull these points downwards.
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    • Insert an edge loop towards the top of the shape, as shown.
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    • Now select all the faces between the two edge loops that are close together. We are going to delete these to make the slits in ornament toppers. Once all faces are selected, hit Delete.
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    • We are almost done. Now unhide your original Ornament geometry by clicking on the V box again. When the V appears your geometry should be visible once more.
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    • Make sure your topper is selected and have the scale tool (R) active. Scale your topper up to be slightly larger than your base. Position the geometry up or down as desired until the topper looks correctly placed.
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    • The last thing we are going to do for the topper is create a simple Torus from our Polygon’s panel.
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    • With the Torus selected, in the Channel box change the Section Radius to about 0.11.
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    • Scale and position the Torus to the top of your ornament as desired. Just make sure you put 90 in Rotate Z to position the Torus upright.

    Step 3 – The Hook

    We are going to make the hook that our ornament hangs from. If you followed my Candy Cane tutorial, we are going to use that same method.


    • First, we will have to hide our geometry so we can focus on creating our hook. To do this, drag your left-mouse-button over all objects. Then right-click on your Ornament layer and choose Add Selected Objects. This will add the rest of your ornament geometry into the layer we created. Then, click on the V box to hide everything.
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    • Next, import an image plane into the top view so you can follow the hook shape. You can also freehand the hook shape if you want.
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    • In the top view, use the CV Curve Tool to trace or create the shape of the hook.
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    • I suggest starting from the top of the hook verses the bottom so it will be easier to extrude the shape.
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    • With your new curve selected go to Curves and select the Rebuild option box.
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    • Enter 20 into the Number of Spans. Hit Rebuild when finished.
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    • Create a Plane from the Polygon Panel. In the Channels Box, make sure Subdivisions have a 1 for the width and height.
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    • Enter 90 in Rotate X and scale the plane down to a small size.
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    • Like the Candy Cane tutorial, we want to snap the plane to the curve. First, have your plane selected. Then, right-click on the selected curve and then click Control Vertex.
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    • Snap the plane to the start of your curve (the ‘u’ shaped vertex) by holding down V and middle-mouse-clicking on the point. Make sure you have the move tool active.
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    • Now that the plane is snapped to the curve, select the face of the plane pointing in the direction of your curve, and then shift-select the curve. Then go to Edit Mesh and click on the Extrude Option Box.
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    • In the Extrude Option Box, set the Divisions to 20 to match the number we entered when we rebuilt our curve. Hit Extrude when finished.
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    • You should now have a hook. If any edges are funky, feel free to adjust them. If your geometry is black, just go to Mesh Display and select Reverse to swap the Normals. This should put your geometry back to default grey.
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    • You can add Edge Loops and adjust if you feel certain areas need them.
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    • Once you are happy with the shape, go to Modify and then Center Pivot to put your pivot back to the center of the geometry.
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    • Enter 180 into Rotate X.
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    • Now delete history on your object so that we can remove the curve from the scene. To do this go to Edit, then Delete By Type, and then select History.
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    • You can now delete any reference images and curves from your scene.
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    • Now, unhide your Ornament layer. Position and scale the hook to properly fit your ornament. We’re ready to move onto textures.

    Step 4 – Texture

    Again, you can use photo textures for this if you wish. I am going to show you how to apply simple basic textures just like we did with the Candy Cane.


    • Right-click on the base of your Ornament and select Assign New Material.
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    • Choose Phong in the materials menu.
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    • Once the Phong is applied, in the Channels box double-click on the grey box next to Color. Select a color for your ornament. Hit Done.
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    • Repeat the same steps to create textures for the remaining objects.

    Step 5 – Smooth

    We want to smooth our geometry to remove those hard edges.


    • On the base of the Ornament, we are going to add an edge loop towards the top so that when smoothed it won’t lose its shape.
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    • To smooth go to Mesh and select the option box for Smooth.
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    • For the Division levels enter 2. Hit Smooth. Repeat these steps for the rest of your objects. A fast way to do this is to click on the next object and hit the G key. This will repeat the last action you made.
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    • Once you have finished smoothing objects, you’re all done!

    We hope you enjoyed our Christmas Modeling Tutorial for Beginners. Please keep checking back for more fun stuff in the future. Thank you and Happy Holidays from all of us at Digital Tap!