Greebles_FalconAnyone that’s familiar with science fiction movies – or at least just the first Star Wars movie in 1977, are familiar with Greebles. A greeble or nurnie is a fine detailing added to the surface of a larger object that makes it appear more complex, and therefore more visually interesting. It usually gives the audience an impression of increased scale.

If you’ve ever had to 3D model a spaceship before, you know how tedious and labor-intensive it can be to add hundreds of little details to hundreds of little surfaces. There’s a few tools online that touts to make the job easier, but I’ve found they deliver less-than-ideal results. ShipColor_GreeblesThe image to the right was a ship made entirely by hand and it took far too long for a production environment. As a modeller, it’s not good enough to be good, you also have to be fast.

With this in mind, and more greebles to be done elsewhere – I thought this would be a great opportunity to finally learn Python and build a tool that would facilitate this process…

Introducing GreebleMaker for Maya!

GreebleMaker is a tool for Autodesk Maya that does a great many things to speed up small detail modeling workflow. In a nutshell, you select a polygon surface and GreebleMaker randomly picks from it huge library of details, randomly set a scale and alignment (all customizable), and places it where it needs to go. There’s even a Flood option to cover large areas quickly.

Tool_GreebleMakerHere’s the user interface breakdown:

The Location of Files allows you to surf over to where your library is, and allows you to have multiple libraries.

Destination in Outliner is how you keep your scene clean. Selecting New Group creates a new empty group under your existing object and adds “_greebles” to it.

Surface Lock is handy: you can keep populating details and changing tools in Maya without having to reselect your target face constantly. Just keep hitting Place Greeble and you’re set.

The Preview show you what detail is randomly coming up next, and Refresh allows you to swap it out.

Check Random Rotation and Scale to give some added variety to your details – scale even lets you set a minimum and maximum range.

Place Greeble obviously delivers the goods. Don’t like the result? Re-rotate or change Re-Scale randomly after you place it in scene.

Flood Preview allows you to fill a surface quickly and automatically – and you can set the range from Maximum area to any predetermined number. You can also adjust the Density of the flood, and quick controls to Cancel the operation or Accept the changes.

On Completion options will put you either back in the target face mode or switch to the greeble to allow further manipulation.

The Status/Help line at the bottom gives you hints and feedback to steer you towards your goal.

Currently the greeble library is up to 173 unique pipes, vents, panels, etc – and I plan to increase that all time. New features are currently being added as well – a Global Scale Multiplyer, Greeble Combiner, and more!

I have a lot more models to show, but not until the movie comes out! If anyone has any interest in this tool or would like to see it in a plug-in for distribution, please let me know in the comments below… I had a blast making it!


The highly modified YT-1300 light freighter that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs on this page is copyright of its respective owner: ©LucasFilm.

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