Creating a Flowing Water Effect in Maya (Using Particles) - By Aziz
April 28th, 2006

This tutorial will teach you how to manipulate the flow of particles from a shower head into a tub as particles collide with the surface of the tub in a water-like motion. We will use 'Particles' which are commonly used to create visual effects such as smoke, water, fire and various types of explosions similar to those that could be seen in the movies.

Creating a Flowing Water Effect in Maya Using Particles

Important Notice: Maya's Software Render does not support Particle Rendering. To render such an effect you will have to use the Hardware Render feature which will depend on the graphics card installed in your system. Low performance graphics cards might not be able to render the animation. However, you can still follow this tutorial and view the animation if you do not render it.

Start off by configuring the preferences in the program by going through Window > Settings/Preferences > Preferences and then use the Menu Set drop menu to pick Dynamics. This should give us access to the Particle options from the upper menu. While you are still in the preferences panel, access the Timeline options under the Settings Category and make sure the Playback Speed is set to 'Play every frame'.

Create a new scene in Maya and import our little tub into your scene. You can create your own shower, tub, etc. if you would like to do so instead. When you're ready, insert a particle Emitter by going through Particles > Create Emitter. The Emitter is the source of our particles and the flow of particles will start from it.

We will now move the Emitter to the natural position of where the flow of our particles should start, the tip of our shower head. Use the move tool Move Tool to drag the Emitter to position it below the shower head.

If you play the animation now you should see the particles flow in random directions as illustrated in the image below, but before you play the animation make sure you add a sufficient number of frames to see the animation in full. The number of frames is found at the lower right corner of the screen.

Select the Emitter using the Select Tool and then press Ctrl+A to bring up the Attribute Editor on the right side of the screen. Scroll down the emitter options to find Basic Emitter Attributes and change the type from Omni to Directional. Now scroll down the second tag titled "particleShape2" to find Render Attributes, change the type to Streak, click on "Current Render Type" and set the Line Width to 2 and the Tail Size to 9 .

You can try playing the animation now to see the particles flowing in the wrong direction. We will now alter the emitter a little bit more. Select the Emitter using the Select Tool and then hit "T" on your keyboard to configure the direction, rate, and spread of your particles. You will need to click on the clock-like small icon to edit the various properties of our emitter. Find the 'Direction' controller and then drag the blue square around to change the direction into your desired result.

Click on the small clock-icon to access the 'Spread' controller. I used a value of 0.29 for my particles. You can use any value similar to that number. You can then change the colour of the particles to blue from the attribute editor by clicking on the button labeled Color, under "Add Dynamic Attributes", which should show a small pop-up menu, check "Add Per Object" and then set the colour you wish under the Render Attributes.

We will now start working on how to make the water falling motion more realistic. Start off by selecting the particles (NOT the Emitter).

We will apply a gravity field to our scene so that the particles fall in a more realistic manner. Go through Fields > Gravity and then alter the magnitude of the gravity to 3 by accessing the Channel Box panel which could be opened by clicking on the small icon at the top-right corner of the screen.

You should be able to see a smooth water motion falling down into the tub if you play the animation at this moment. But you should notice a problem! The water goes through the tub instead of bouncing back upon collision.

We will now have to select both the particles and the tub to make the water collide upon touching the tub. Select the particles and then while holding Shift click on the tub to select both of them at the same time. Go through Particles> Make Collide. Play the animation and you should see the collision effect in action.

We will now lower the height at which the water particles bounce back upon their collision with the tub surface. Select the particles and then go through Particles > Particle Collision Events.... Select "Particle 1", and then go down to Event Type and use the values shown in the third image before you click on "Create".

The final step in our effect would be to add a random element to the motion of particles. Select the particles and then access the attributes editor once more (Ctrl+A), look for 'Lifespan Attributes' under 'particleShape2' and change the Lifespan Mode to 'Random range', set the value for lifespan to 3.

Play the animation to see the effect in action!

This concludes our tutorial, I hope that you learnt something new. Feel free to email me if you have any comments or questions, or you can alternatively simply make a post at the Oman3D Forum.

- End of Tutorial.