3D modeling can be a confusing topic for beginners. There is so much information to process.

Did you ever ask yourself, what is the easiest way to learn 3D modeling? Or even what is the fastest way to learn 3D modeling?

Well, the answer to these questions could not be the one you wanna hear, but I will share a few tips on how to speed up the learning process and make it easier to understand.

First, lemme just define the beginner struggle. As an example, this is something that happened to me in my early days of 3D.

After watching this cool robotic bust tutorial, I was pretty confident that I can recreate the same model from the video. But as I started, there was a lot of gaps in my workflow. My shapes looked totally off,  and it felt I was missing steps. Even if I would catch up, the result was very different from the actual tutorial.

Does this sound familiar?

 

Another example would be me starting a project on my own, without any references, on top of my non-existing modeling experience. It all just sounds simple enough in theory, but why is it so hard to achieve the results we want?

Now looking a few years back, the problem as I see it today was, I wanted too much, too soon.
I wanted to make this cool robot bust, now.

Does that sound familiar too?

 

Now I would like to share a couple of tips on how to deal with this struggle a bit easier.

Where to Start?

Let´s rewind to that tutorial for a second. Also for the sake of argument, let´s say we understand basic modeling tools in Maya/Cinema 4D/ Blender, etc. We know what extrude does, and we know how to operate the basic tools.

Now we wanna step up and learn how to make this cool robotic bust. The thing is, that bust would just not be compatible with our current beginner skill level. We would probably end up stuck with under-leveled feeling.

So what to do in that case?

Let´s forget that complex robotic bust for a moment. Instead, what we should focus on is a tutorial of a more simple nature. Something like a lamp, a simple camera, or a small kitbash asset. Basically, anything that does not have a lot of moving pieces or complex movements.

So why follow a tutorial on modeling simple objects first? Why would this be beneficial to us?

Because there the idea is already established, and the whole puzzle has fully been solved. All the edges, forms, creases, etc. A simple object is like a simple puzzle. Easier to get into.

Starting Simple

If we decide to model a chair, for example, we will have better chances of creating a nice mesh and topology by following a simple tutorial. But it is not just about the mesh. The common chair is a very simple object that can be recreated very quickly, making it easier to remember the process.

On the other hand, If we were to try something complex on our own in this early learning stage, the chances are we are going to end up with a problematic mesh. Then we would google the problem we have, maybe we would try it again from the beginning, but then new problems would come, etc. Basically, we would lose a lot of time. Not just that, we would risk picking up bad topology habits.

Repetition

Repetition is important. Really important. Through repetition, we practice and through practice, we´re improving our skill and gaining experience. It is that simple.

 

So how could we practice through repetition?

 

As an example, if a kitbash asset tutorial lasts 30 minutes, in 40 minutes we can probably recreate it on our own by just following the tutorial. That is our first try.

Our first repetition practice is now to recreate the asset without watching a tutorial. If we make a mistake, we only check that part of a tutorial. This process also may take us 30 minutes.

Our second repetition practice is now to recreate the asset completely on our own. We will not have the help of a tutorial here, but we can use a project file as a guide. So we have only the mesh as a guide. If we make a mistake, we only analyze the mesh until we identify the mistake and maybe this time we are done in 15 minutes.

Only once we feel we did all correct, we can double check the tutorial again.

It may take little time for this small practice, but in the end, we will have a properly finished object to show.

Now imagine going through this process with a complex robotic bust. Understanding of smaller workflow phases can easily be applied to more complex projects. We will just scale this skill over time.

Topology

Another benefit of smaller practices and assignments is building a visual library of topology solutions. What do I mean by that?

Topology can be tricky to understand for a beginner in 3D modeling. Especially because every mesh is different so naturally, every mesh will require a different approach.

The more we practice on different meshes, it will become more and more clear how surfaces react to specific edge flows. These flows are very important! Of course, the only way to understand which edge flow goes where is by going through a LOT of examples. A lot of examples will expand your visual library of proper mesh flows, allowing you to tackle more and more complex shapes.

Final thoughts

There is a video I made for our 3D Workshop about Time, Patience and Practice. 

We need to take time to practice, and we need to be patient in the process.

If we would summarize everything we mentioned so far, this is what I would suggest to anyone new to 3D modeling,

  1. Stick to making simple objects in the beginning. It can be boring yeah, but it will be worth the time investment.
  2. Follow easy tutorials with results that can be easily recreated. Easier they are faster you are done. Faster you are done, more topology examples you can do in a short time. More topology examples you go through, more experienced you become. With more experience, you´ll finally be able to tackle those larger and complex projects.
  3. Repeat the same objects often. The same object might look different depending on the edge flow. This little difference can be a great learning experience.
  4. Practice every day a couple of hours. Tutorials are important, but the experience gained with practice might be more valuable.

Let me know your thoughts guys! What is or was your biggest struggle?

Until next time!

-Mario

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