UV MAPPING A CHARACTER TUTORIAL
So first off yes there are plug-ins and programs that will do this part of your work for you. But then how would you know if the program did it correctly if you yourself do not know how to UV map. Advice to people just starting off in this field, avoid the easy roads they donít get you to your goals any faster. In most case they will inhibit you from reaching those goals.
Now on to the UV mapping, in Maya.
The goal of UV Mapping a character is to take the three dimensional space and cut it apart into a useable and seamless two dimensional representation. By doing this we are then able to texture the three dimensional object inside a program such as Photoshop.
First step take your character model and select the mesh as a whole, most of the time called object mode. Open up your UV texture editor. There should be a huge mess of lines like in the picture below. Right now the UV map is unusable for anything even shaders would have a hard time working well with this mess.
First we take the mesh and apply an auto map to it. The auto map is just to cleanup our UV space so you can somewhat see what the mesh looks like broken up into a two dimensional form.
These auto mapped parts are not to be used for anything other than maybe for shaders. This is just to cleanup the UV Texture Editor workspace. In the UV Texture Editor the controls work the same as within the viewport, except of course you cannot rotate, just pan and zoom.
Then we create a shader for the mesh, Lambert is fine but in the color node we will attach a checker texture. I tend to change the colors from black and white to less contrasting colors such as light orange and medium orange. The difference is still visible but when you look away you wonít see a checker pattern, better for the eyes.
Next step start to select faces that exist on just one plane, x y or z. And use a Planar Map of the same plane on them. An example would be like below, I have faces on X selected and I have planar mapped them on X.
These UVs after planar mapped after separated from the other surrounding faces and group as one. Also by doing this you know that this one area is completely flat now. To judge this use the checker pattern, adjust until the squares are square.
Also working bigger than the work area allows you to see the checker pattern better than if you tried to work within the 1 to 1 space.
After you have mapped all of your faces on a plane you can then start attaching different sets together to form flat pieces of whole areas of your mesh. Always decide where your seam will be. There is no way to create a seamless UV map, when texturing you can paint to hide those seams.
Once you finish your map should then occupy no less then 95% of the 1 to 1 area in the UV texture editor.