UV unwrapping is the process of creating a “skin” or “pelt” of your model, so that the outline of the skin can be brought into a painting program like Photoshop, painted, and then brought back into Maya to be applied. There is 3rd party software available to ease this complex process, but I knew for various reasons I needed to learn to do it in Maya. I found a variety of tutorials to help me learn this – you can find them here on my Pinterest board. Obviously I need a lot more work and help with this. It is an entirely different way of thinking and working than the act of modeling an object.
Once the UVs are unfolded, they can be exported out of Maya into Photoshop as a TIF file to be painted. I used a variety of tools such as the Pen tool and brushes to paint the fins.
Once I imported it back into Maya I realized I am still having issues making sure the UVs map correctly to the model object.
I will update the post once I figure out what went wrong!