One of the key stumbling blocks for anyone looking to learn Blender is the stigma attached to the software that it is difficult to learn. But is this an unfair assumption or is there a reason why people are apprehensive when it comes to learning about the software?
It takes approximately 20 hours to learn an application like Blender to a level where the user can be confident in using the software for whatever task they learned Blender for. This breaks down to around 5-7 hours of watching tutorial content and 13-15 hours of actual practice.
How did we come to these numbers? A combination of personal experience, research in how the brain acquires information and knowing that Blender is not an equation to be solved, but a tool that can be developed. Check out the rest of the article to see how you can learn Blender in this timeframe or less?
Blender Is An Application Where You Do Not Have To Learn Everything
There are many misconceptions when it comes to learning Blender and in fact many misconceptions about learning in general. There is a lot that you CAN learn in Blender, but you don’t need to learn how to use every single tool and you don’t even need to know that certain tools exist. It all depends on what you want to use Blender for.
For example, let’s say your goal was to learn Blender so that you can create 3D characters for animations. You would need to learn the tools for modeling and sculpting the geometry of the model. as well as the creation and application of materials and textures, and how to rig and animate those character models for the purpose of building those animations.
Now yes, that’s a lot to learn, but there are many other tools that you will not need to touch. You won’t need to learn about geometry nodes for example if you are using traditional modeling tools, nor will you need to master or even touch the video sequence editor.
It’s also not a case of just learning the tools, but also the workflows, which change the way that the same tools may be used for different projects.
The workflow of a character model is very different from creating a terrain map, and even the workflows of two separate character models may differ from each other if one is being used for animation and the other for game design.
The 20 Hour Rule For Learning Any New Skill
This is admittedly a debatable topic; how long does it take for someone to pick up a new skill? There are a host of different factors to consider from the student’s ability to pick up a skill to the environment that they work into the skill itself.
A general rule of thumb that has surfaced in the last 10 years or so is that it takes approximately 20 hours to learn a new skill to the point of confidence. Where a student can perform the skill to a point where they can almost create the illusion of expertise even if they are not an export.
This does not solely apply to learning Blender, which is more a set of skills that allow you to perform impressive feats of creativity on your computer screen. It also relates to physical skills such as learning how to swim or music skills such as learning the guitar.
How accurate is this rule? Surprisingly quite accurate although again not an exact science. We performed an experiment where we wanted to learn how to use geometry nodes to create new objects in Blender and then instanced them in our scenes.
The goal here was to reach a point where we were confident that we would be able to follow a workflow of creating a scene exclusively using geometry nodes to build it up from scratch without feeling the need to look over the documentation or any video tutorials.
I was able to achieve the goal of being able to create a scene of donuts (Remember Blender Gurus famous tutorial series) with icing and sprinkles on top, scattered across a low poly city landscape, as a personal project after learning how to use geometry nodes.
How long did this take me, about 6 hours in total, which is much shorter than the 20-hour rule that we suggest? But keep in mind that I have been using Blender for almost ten years now, and have used nodes in Blender for both compositing and material application.
So while the skill of using nodes to create objects and skills was very new to me, the principles of that skill, modelling and using node-based systems, was very familiar. It was just the combination that was new, which meant the learning process was as much about the new workflow as anything else.
Below we have a link to one of my favorite Ted talks of all time. No, it has little to do with Blender but it has everything to do with developing the mindset that will put you in the best possible position to learn Blender.
Watching Youtube Will Not Make You Better Alone
If I were to break down my 6 hours learning how to use geometry nodes, a lot of that time was spent practicing the nodes and node combinations in my own time in Blender. The rest of the time was spent watching tutorial content on Youtube.
This is where we come across another misconception, the difference between watching someone else perform a task, and you practicing yourself.
I watched around 1 hour and 45 minutes of youtube tutorials on the topic but in a time frame of 1 hour 15 minutes, mainly because I watch content at 1.5 times the speed. This means that I spent a little under 5 hours actually practicing the skills that I needed to learn.
Did this approach help? Absolutely it helped as I was, admittedly, making mistakes and learning by doing the tasks rather than just watching someone else.
And that right there is key! Most youtube or course learners consider themselves to be visual learners, and it’s true that watching something is more memorable than just listening to it. But you still need to practice and understand the what, how, and why of a skill. You can’t expect to watch someone perform a skill and immediately pick it up yourself; if only life were that easy.
Watching Youtube will not make you a better 3D artist by itself, for every minute spent watching a video you should spend 4 minutes practicing what you have just scene, and then practice again the next day to see how much you remember.
This is the natural process of learning new skills, not just in Blender but in all walks of life.
Learning A Skill VS Becoming An Expert
For what reason are you choosing to learn Blender? Do you require to reach a certain level of expertise? Are you learning Blender as a hobby or do you want to use it to break into a profession? Peoples definition of expert changes on the skill and the profession it is used in, as does the amount of time needed to achieve the level of expertise required,
A common consideration of what it means to be an export is that you are in the top 2% of any given field. For example, if you are one of the best 3D modelers on the planet then you can be considered a true export in 3D modeling with Blender. Of course, this approach to expertise means that you would need to be regarded by your peers as such.
For me, this is a simplification of the term and does not take into account that you can have many more artists reach that level in practical terms than just 2%.
As we talked about above, the process of learning a new skill to the point of confidence can be done in a 20-hour time frame or less depending on the circumstances. The 20-hour rule itself actually comes from research originally based on how long it takes to become an export.
By the way, it is believed to take around 10,000 hours to become an export in any given field. Yeah, that’s not a typo, 10,000 hours of practice.
Again this is based on hitting that top two percent margin and being better than everyone else in your field. A simple problem with this mindset is that you don’t have to be better at something than the next guy to be an export.
To learn a skill we believe that you should be able to do something to the point of being confident that you will be able to do it, and that if you make a mistake you will know how to correct it.
To become an expert, you need to reach a level where you can perform a task in a variety of different ways and understand what workflows are suitable for you.
For example, let’s say I learn how to create a character model. I learn the skill once I am able to understand and apply the basic concepts of character creation to model the body, create the materials and textures, and build a rig that a can use to animate my character.
To hit the expert level, I need to be able to use different workflows for character creation, from box modeling to sculpting and be able to create new characters using my preferred workflow without having to look up any documentation on how to perform a task.
In other words, when we learn a skill we imitate what we have seen others do to gain confidence, but to become an expert we make those skills our own and create what we want to create.
The Best Approach For Learning An Application Like Blender
The best approach for learning a skill set such as 3D modeling in Blender is the same as it would be for almost any skill, is to practice until you are no longer required to search for that next tutorial to perform the skill. You will make mistakes regardless of whether you have been using Blender for 2 hours or 200 hours, but you need to learn why these mistakes occur and how to fix them to truly understand how Blender works.
I also strongly recommend not falling into the trap of thinking that watching 100’s of videos on a topic is going to allow you to improve your skills without actually doing them yourself. But perhaps our biggest tip for users who watch these videos on Youtube on how to create a donut or character is to be original.
Yes, you can follow along with these tutorials to learn how to create these specific objects, but what I found years ago was that if I simply copied what a YouTuber does then that’s exactly what I am learning to do, to copy. I even found in some cases that by copying the tutor step for step, then trying to perform a similar task the next day, I actually could not remember half of what I needed to do, because I was conditioning my brain to follow, and not lead my own learning.
Our Own Guide To Learning Blender In 20 Hours For Free
So what is the best way to begin learning Blender or any 3D application? I recommend an approach of using the 80/20 over the course of 20 hours. The general concept of the 80/20 rule is that 20% of the time spent can help achieve 80% of the results, but here we will use it slightly differently.
If you spend 20 hours practicing an application like Blender, then you should be looking to spend around 4 of those hours watching tutorial content, as your 20%. Then you spend around 16 hours actually practicing the skills that you have seen in your tutorials and work at them to gain confidence.
Watching Videos At A Faster Pass
I also recommend watching the tutorial content at a faster speed, so that you can absorb more information. I normally play youtube videos and course videos at 1.5 times the normal watch speed to get through the steps more quickly. I also watch some of the shorter videos a second time, at around 2X the normal speed, at a later time to help reaffirm what I watched in that video.
If 1.5X is too fast, you have the option on Youtube and on most course sites of watching at 1.25X the normal speed. I have found this to be a great tool in my own learning, and not just in Blender either.
Watch Videos From Different Tutors On The Same Topic
Our next tip is to watch different Youtubers that show similar content. For example, if you watch some create a donut, are there also videos of other YouTubers creating food? If so, is there an approach any different, or is it the same? Watching a variety of different artists can significantly aid your understanding of Blender.
Generally speaking, each artist has their own unique workflow, as will you once you begin to gain traction in using Blender to create your models and scenes.
Combine Ideas To Become Original
This applies both to learning and actually producing artwork with Blender. A great way of cementing your knowledge is to use it in a different way, and perhaps combine two skills together to create something new.
Let’s say in one video you learned how to put sprinkles on your donut, and in another video you see someone create a model of a steak. Why not try creating a steak yourself, then applying the sprinkles on top of the steak. It sounds ridiculous, but I reckon you are already picturing it in your head.
There are two reasons why this example works for learning. The first reason is that you are taking skills learned from two separate sources and creating something that is original. You are no longer copying what you have seen but are learning to apply it to something different, which is a much better way to learn.
The second reason is because our brains remember the unfamiliar better than the familiar. If you see a clown walking across road in the morning with poodle you are going to remember that when you sit down for dinner in the evening. Creating objects in Blender that may not follow the norm is a great way of devloping the skills needed to create those objects.
Be Consistent With Practice
Again memory requires two things, repetitiveness and time. We need to periodically practice the skills that we have developed and reuse them in different ways in order to cement that skill or workflow in our minds. If you have 30 minutes a day to practice, then it will take 40 days to learn the skill, but this is fine.
What we don’t recommend is going too fast or too slow. Go at a pace that suits you and your ability to learn and become a 3D artist using Blender.
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