Want to become a 3D artist but have no idea where to start? Interested in animation but haven’t a clue what to do? Don’t worry, everyone has to start somewhere.
Prior to my involvement with 3D, I had no interest, talent or time for art. Indeed I was rather discouraged by the art lessons from school, which I took no further than was compulsory. I tried hard, but my work was always appalling compared to most of the other students’. I quickly discovered that I could not draw anything, was a failure with painting and could not make a clay teapot to save my life. I was glad to drop art when the opportunity arose, allowing me to shift my focus to subjects like maths and physics, for which I seemed to have a greater aptitude for. I was never to touch upon any art form ever again, but then something changed. I became inspired.
Being inspired or influenced in some way by a film is, although not uncommon, considered a cliché for many aspirations. Everyone wants to be like their favourite movie star.
As I grew up, I began to see more and more animated films as Disney Pixar and Dreamworks pushed on, improving the standard of animation at an extraordinary rate, bringing it to compete with the best movies of all time. I found myself watching these in amazement, impressed not by the storylines, but by the visual quality of the picture. Animations started to look more and more like they had been shot with real life cameras. Traditionally, everyone else wants to be like their favourite film star; this wasn’t the same for me. I didn’t want to be Nemo, I wanted to create Nemo.
The idea of creating something in a 3D world on a computer was exciting for me, and so I sought to fulfil my ambition to create 3D art. To do this, I needed some software to get started with and having no money to spend, I stumbled across Blender 3D, the “free open source 3D content creation suite”. Though I started with Blender, it matters not what software you begin with. If you have the money to spend, then naturally, something like Autodesk Maya would be just as good. Regardless of the software, the hardest part has to be knowing where to begin.
Let me show you, using Blender and Maya purely as examples (it will be similar for all software).
You know nothing about 3D art, yet you want to become a 3D artist. To get yourself started, you download, install, and open your software. You are then faced with the following:
Let’s face it. If you’ve never used software like this before, it looks scary, daunting and unmanageable. Too many buttons and you don’t even know what any of them mean. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of 3D, all competent 3D software will look similar. You don’t even know how to move or add a cube, let alone how to manipulate faces, edges and vertices, add materials and textures, or use node-based composition. It gives you every incentive to give up.
Once you overcome the starting hurdle, everything will just flow onwards and upwards. The key point is to remember that you learn by doing, not by watching.
Every 3D software package, due to the complexity, offers help or guidance online, some more than others. Here my top tips to getting started with your 3D software:
- Play around. Click all the buttons. See if you can work out what some of it does. It doesn’t matter what mess you make, you can just start again.
- Look on the software’s main site for the manual. Reading through an entire manual won’t teach you 3D, but it may give you a few key pointers for essentials (like navigating around the 3D viewport).
- Follow tutorials; the best way to learn. Whether it’s a video or a written tutorial, complete it yourself in the 3D software. It will teach you common tools and methods, at whatever level, allowing you to create something that you simply wouldn’t have been able to otherwise without more knowledge.
- Find the community. Whether officially or unofficially, most 3D packages have at least one community forum for sharing help and ideas. Make use of these; you won’t be the only one learning.
- General 3D forums: websites and forums dedicated to computer graphics. See what’s happening in 3D and take inspiration from the work of other artists. Two such websites are: http://www.cgsociety.org/ and http://www.cgchannel.com/ .
- Official products. If you are willing to spend money, books, DVDs and online training courses are usually available. These will be high quality and very efficient as naturally, you get what you pay for…
- Focus your learning. There is so much to learn in 3D, it’s impossible to do it all at once. Spend one month learning to model, then another learning to animate.
There are thousands of resources out there available for free to get you started and once you’re up and running, you won’t be able to stop…
Can’t draw? Who cares?
All you need is a passion and some inspiration.