Left-Handed, Tablet and 3D

Well, being left-handed I always had a hard time with a tablet and 3D packages due to the lack of practicality to reach for the keyboard shortcuts. Having 3D as a hobby, I had plenty of time to fiddle around the main applications and see how would they would fit with this particularity of mine (that a lot of people share).

I first got myself a Bamboo, which has no buttons, so I still needed to use the keyboard, at least if I still wanted to be reasonably quick doing stuff. At the time the package of my choice was 3ds Max. Quite frankly, it was a terrible experience. The 3ds Max navigation system is just not made for a tablet, is made for a mouse. That said, even though I could keep working with a mouse, as pressure sensitivity doesn’t really matter in 3ds Max, it was always a pain for me having to constantly use the scroll middle mouse button. After some time, I could barely handle an hour pressing the scroll, my finger started to hurt. So I decided to look at Maya.

I immediately found myself in love with Maya, despite the steep learning curve. Mouse or tablet, everything is within the reach of the mouse and a couple of keys combination. Using the tablet was a breeze, as the navigational system works perfectly with a tablet. But I still had a tough run trying to be efficient, as I was still in the same position regarding the keyboard shortcuts.

That’s when I got myself an Wacom Intuos. I figured out that the 6 buttons could be very handy. And they are. I barely touch the keyboards anymore – in fact, I just use it if I need to snap to something. You see, in Maya, the right button plus the use of ctrl, alt, shift and combination among them, gives you access to most of its modelling features. I mapped those keys on my Intuos and boom, I had it all. For an added bonus, I mapped also the space key, so I have all Maya’s menus when I hold the button that is mapped to the space key (plus maximizing the viewport by just pressing it without holding). So basically, here’s what I have configured for Maya in my Wacom Intuos:

1st Top Button – Undo (Ctrl + Z)
2nd Top Button – Viewport Maximizing / Full Menus (Space)
3rd Top Button – Shift

1st Bottom Button – Alt
2nd Bottom Button – Ctrl
3rd Bottom Button – Radial Menu

The touch ring is pretty useless, honestly. But the buttons are essential if you are left-handed.

The Radial Menu, I configured it to have quick access to the Select, Move, Rotate and Scale gizmos. I also configured one the options to Play/Pause media button. So when I have a tutorial being played on VLC (I have 2 monitors), I can quickly pause it without taking my hands off it. And there’s more. Below you can see a screenshot of the radial menu.

Radial Menu

The buttons are very handy in ZBrush as well. I have it pretty much mapped the same for ZBrush, with the exception that instead of having a Right Click mapped button, I instead opted for having a Brush Picker button (b).

If anyone wants my configuration file, feel free to ask.

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ZBrush with Maya style navigation controls

We all know ZBrush navigation style is awkward at best. But believe it or not, after you get used to it, you will get why Pixologic did it like that and refuse to change: it’s tailored for sculpting. It just feels better once you mastered it.

However, some people just don’t like it, can’t get used to it and this might even scares lots of newcomers. dRaster developed zSwitcher for those who would like zBRush to feel more like Maya. It is pricey if you ask me, but they defend themselves saying it is a bit of a niche product… Well, try on if you like it, I personally prefer the zBrush original style.

If you’re using a Wacom, however, you can just do some smart remapping to make it more natural.

wacom mapping

This works like Maya, only difference is that you don’t use the ALT key, just the LMB, RMB and MMB outside of your model to navigate. This feels more natural if you keep jumping between softwares.

Left Click = Orbit
Right click = Zoom
Middle click = Pan

PS: I personally don’t use it like this.

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