One of the most rewarding skill sets to learn is 3D content creation, and the ability to create highly detailed virtual characters and virtual worlds. Blender 3D allows you to achieve this and so much more once you learn to use it. But how do we get past Blenders’ steep learning curve and develop our skills as 3D artists?
The most effective method to improve our skills as 3D artists in Blender is to follow the 80/20 principle in learning. This means that we spend 20% of our practice time learning new skills by watching tutorials etc. The other 80% of our time is spent practicing the skills that we learned in our own projects.
Most people who try to learn Blender take completely the wrong approach to doing so, therefore we are going to take you through the best ways that you can develop your skills as a 3D artist effectively.
What Is The Best Way To Become Good At Blender?
The best approach to learning how to use Blender 3D for creating 3D objects and scenes with 3D modeling is to follow the 80/20 principle when you practice. This principle is often not used by most would-be artists you try to learn Blender from watching Youtube videos or an online course.
Most artists will follow the lazy man approach to learning, where they will spend the large majority of the time watching the video content and not actually using Blender themselves to any significant degree. They follow a rule of spending 90% of their time watching, while occasionally dipping their toe in the water when they eventually try out a tool in Blender.
Then you have artists the like to follow the monkey see, monkey do approach to learning, where while they are watching a Youtube video they constantly pausing and looking to copy what they have just seen so that they don’t get anything wrong.
This encourages what is known as errorless learning, where the student learns in an environment where it is difficult to make mistakes, and so they fall victim to an illusion of mastery, thinking that they are improving but all they are doing is copying. When they try to replicate a task in their own time these students are left frustrated by how little they were able to recall from the videos.
The approach here is about 50/50, with half of the time spent watching content and the other half copying, which is not the same as actual practice.
The concept of the 80/20 principle is that 20% of the work yields 80% of the results, and this can be applied to many aspects and skillsets. For example, if you spend 5 hours working on a character model from scratch the most visual progress is going to be made in that first hour, where 80% of the model will be finished and you move on to the finer details.
But the 80/20 principle can also be adapted in other ways like the time spent practicing a skill.
Let’s say that you decide to set aside 20 hours of your own free time to practice 3D modeling, you would split this time into two parts. 20% of the time would be spent on the actual research, watching Youtube videos, and looking up documentation on the various tools used in Blender.
This 20% also adds up to 80% of the knowledge that you are likely to acquire from your practice, knowing where the tools are in Blender, what each tool is used for and why.
The other 80% of your time is dedicated to the practice of your skills, and represents the final 20% and how the tools are used to create your 3D models, which you learn by completing your own projects and exercises.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this practice period, however, as it is a crucial part of retaining the knowledge gained from the research stage of your practice.
Other Tips To Help Improve Your Blender Skills?
In addition to following the 80/20 principle to practicing your 3D modeling skills, there are also other methods that you can employ to help improve your modeling skillset in Blender. Here are some extra tips from us that you can start using to develop more as an artist.
- Get feedback on your work – The more you practice the better at something you can become, but that is not strictly true. In fact, there is such a thing as embedding your errors, where doing the wrong thing time and again will transform it into a bad habit. Seek feedback in Facebook groups where you can both help and get help from other aspiring artists like yourself.
- Try creating abstract models in your practice – When we start trying to create things in Blender we often start with simple objects that we know, and then we try to mimic the shape as best we can, but too much energy here is spent on just trying to get the basic shape right. Instead, create models that do not follow a particular object type, and test different tools to engage your creativity and develop your ability to combine tools without restrictions.
- Challenge yourself in what you create – A similar problem to the last point is that when we decide what we want to model we often choose something that we know we can do, like a pencil. Challenging your skills and knowledge is the best way to develop them quickly. So rather than modeling a pencil, maybe you could try modeling a shield, with pencils sticking out like spikes. Or you could create a snake, using the pencil tip design as the model. Be creative and challenge what you think you know.
- Study topics that surround 3D modeling – Learning how to create 3D models is just one aspect of a larger process, the process of creating a 3D scene for rendering, animation, or another purpose altogether like game design. There are a lot of topics that surround Blender, and you should look to study some of them, like lighting, color, and principles of both design and animation. Acquiring this extra knowledge creates a better foundation for the skills that you practice.
- Do not rely on tutorials to learn – Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is the habit of relying on tutorial content as the primary way to learn skills, it is not. But it is a resource that allows you to follow a specific direction when you practice your 3D modeling skills. If you just follow a tutorial, then you will never be able to ask the question of why something needs to be done and won’t be able to find solutions when something doesn’t work.
- Don’t break the glass ceiling, find its weak point – At times you will reach a point where you feel as though you cannot progress further. You may be stuck with a concept of how to use a tool. The best approach here is to take a step back, focus on what you know, and try different solutions to a problem. Eventually, you find that crack in the glass ceiling and are able to push through.
How Do I Use Blender Like A Pro?
Learning how to use the tools and gaining an understanding of the general purpose of these tools is the first point of call for a beginner artist. But how do artists develop their skills to a more professional standard?
It’s not a case of simply learning more tools, but rather of combining tools to master a new workflow. As you become more adept at using Blender, you will begin to learn that there are many different methods to reaching the same goal.
For example, there are dozen-plus methods of creating a human character model from scratch, ranging from traditional block modeling, to mirror modeling, to using the skin modifier.
A beginner will learn how to use the mirror modifier, while a pro will learn how useful the mirror modifier is to character creation and decide if there are better alternatives to their workflow.
For the professional, knowing the tool is not enough, as you need to know which tools work best when combined, and how to combine them. The Mirror modifier for example works well to create a character model when combined with a subdivision surface, but only when stacked in a certain order. Otherwise, creases appear down the center of the mirror, and the character no longer looks correct.
Learning Blender On My Own
A common question that is often asked is if it is possible to learn Blender by yourself, and the answer is yes. Actually, most people learn to use Blender in the comfort of their own homes, watching Youtube tutorials or taking online courses.
If by learning on your own you mean using Blender without any of the reference material, then it becomes a lot more challenging to learn Blender, especially when you are starting from the beginning and are not even sure how to navigate the 3D viewport.
While it is possible, and preferable to many, to learn Blender 3D by yourself, you d=should also consider the value of feedback from other Blender artists.
There are many facebook groups related to Blender that artists join to share their work to get feedback on what can be improved.
Certain online courses, like the complete blender course on Udemy for example, have their own discord set up so that students can interact with each other and gain feedback on challenges completed throughout the course.
If you choose to learn Blender by yourself that’s fine, but keep in mind that there are many resources available to tap into that can make your own practice more efficient.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Blender?
When using the correct methods of learning and acquiring skills, how long does it take to learn 3D modeling in Blender?
There are two answers to the question, depending on the wording. If you are looking to become an expert in 3D modeling, or in any skill, the general consensus is that it takes roughly 1000 hours to reach the expert level. This is in comparison to other users of Blender, so to consider yourself an expert you would be in the top 2% of blender artists in terms of skill.
But this is not the same as asking the question, how long does it take to become confident in 3D modeling. To reach the point where you could wake up one day, decide that you want to create a specific object or scene, and just create it, without the need to look up tutorials or documentation for the tools that you have been using.
The answer to this question is around 20 hours if you follow the correct principles of learning. This does not mean that you should spend 20 hours watching youtube videos and seeing how others create models, nor does it mean you should spend 10 hours watching and then 10 hours copying what others have done.
This means following the 80/20 principle, spending 4 hours of that 20-hour period watching content specific to what you want to learn, and then the other 16 hours used to practice what you learned and actually begin developing those skills and learning how to work as a 3D artist.
Why Is Blender Considered Difficult To Learn?
Over the years Blender has gained a reputation for being difficult to learn, even among other 3D software applications. The skill itself is always a challenge to learn but the tool has often been accused in the past of being unintuitive and overwhelming to beginners.
Learning 3D modeling is difficult because you are unlikely to have done anything like it before. the workflow of 2D design may sound similar but using adobe photoshop to create images requires a completely different set of tools and a different workflow to creating a 3D object in Blender.
The biggest issue for Blender has often been its first impression. When you open up Blender for the first time you will likely be confused as to where you need to start. Again it’s a very unfamiliar concept to create 3D models on a 2D screen for most people.
But this has been improved with recent updates, and Blender is easier than ever to get started thanks to a more intuitive user interface that makes it easier to reach many of the tools that you are looking to use.
Once you get past that first hour of learning the fundamentals, it becomes less daunting to simply use Blender and you can begin to focus more on the skills that you want to develop.
The Best Resources For Learning Blender 3D
There are countless educational resources at this point that will allow you to develop your 3D modeling skills and beyond, with more videos available on Youtube than ever and more online courses than any one artist could possibly hope to get through.
You also have access to written content like this blog, offering you another type of resource that allows you to better make sense of certain concepts.
The Best Youtube Resources
There are many YouTubers who offer great educational tutorials in Blender 3D including yours truly. But if you are a beginner, just learning how to use Blender for the first time, what are the best youtube channels for you to watch.
The obvious recommendation is Andrew Price, the Blender Guru, who has over 2 million subscribers to his channel teaching artists how to use Blender and also important concepts surrounding 3D art such as different use cases for lighting and how color impacts your scene.
My personal favorite though for those starting out is Grant Abitt, who has some fantastic videos designed to help guide new users of the Blender software covering the basics of low poly modeling and is also my personal favorite channel for learning sculpting as a workflow.
One thing that makes his channel stand out is the occasional inclusion of exercise videos, which encourage the viewers to attempt modeling objects at various levels to help improve their skills, rather than simply copying what the instructor does.
The Best Online Courses For Learning Blender
If you are willing to go the step beyond and progress from Youtube videos to organized courses, then you can try a library of courses from various different tutors on sites like Udemy and Skillshare. Like with Youtube, there are too many courses here to choose from so you will want to find the ones that are best for you.
On Udemy, the most popular course for years has been the complete Blender creator course, which has over 240 well-organized lectures that allow you to learn the various aspects of the Blender software. Grant Abitt is also one of the tutors of this particular course.
Another course that we highly recommend for beginners to 3D modeling specifically is Blender For Complete And Total Beginners by Chris Plush.
If you are interested in character creation, then we recommend The Complete Guide To Realistic Character Creation from Victory3D.
Skillshare is equally filled with fantastic courses for you to take a look at and is easier to access with Skillshares subscription-based library.
For absolute beginners, we recommend Your First Day In Blender, and for character modeling, we recommend Blender 3D: Your 1st 3D Character, both by SouthernShotty3D.
Other Great Resources That You Can Use
In addition to the more traditional video content, there are also websites that permit additional resources to help you further develop your skills in 3D modeling and Blender. This website for example has articles on a variety of well over 100 topics related Blender, ranging from how to navigate in the 3D viewport to creating a hologram material for a sci-fi scene.
If you are looking for specific information on a specific tool, then you should always use the Blender manual, which updates with every new version of Blender and covers every tool that you can use in Blender and a brief description of what each tool is for, among with an example in some cases.
Thanks For Reading
We appreciate you taking the time to read through this article and we hope that you found the information that you were looking for. We have compiled a list of additional topics that you may be interested in reading.
- Why Should We Use Python Script In Blender?
- What Are The Shortcuts For 3D Animation?
- Adding An Image Sequence As A Plane Object
- Assigning A Shortcut To A Tool In Blender
- Can I Create 3D Prints Directly From Blender
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