The fascinating world of 3D modelling is attracting huge flocks of artists each year. No wonder the 3D modelling industry is projected to grow with a CAGR of 24.7% over the forecast period of 2021-2028. That being said, with such hype and a promising future, anyone with a PC desires to become a 3D artist. However, is it really that easy? What are the initial steps that one should follow to ace 3D modelling? Let’s find out.
How to Get Started with 3D modelling?
Creating mesmerizing 3D scenes involving multiple 3D objects is an art that has a rather steep learning curve. However, it’s not that hard if you follow a systematic approach, contrary to popular belief. Here’s what you should initially follow to become an expert in 3D modelling.
- Have Passion
Sometimes passion and sheer dedication are all you need to ace anything in your life. That being said, you have to be exceptionally passionate about the world of 3D modelling. If you’re just stepping into this industry for money or fame, we doubt if you can pull through. You’ll be spending hours on creating a single 3D model which is rather daunting and exhausting, especially if you’re not passionate about it. However, the world of 3D modelling is mesmerizing enough to make anyone fall in love with it.
- Get familiar with a 3D software
The choice of 3D software is getting irrelevant each year with similar features rolling out in every 3D modelling software. However, we initially recommend using Blender for all your 3D modelling tasks. Besides, Blender is an open-source software which makes it completely free to use.
The UI of the software is easy to understand and the software itself has an easy learning curve. Being completely open-source, the software is developed and managed by the vibrant community of Blender, making it one of the best user-friendly 3D modelling software. Besides, you will always have the choice to move to a more capable 3D software once you get familiar with 3D modelling. However, we don’t think you’ll ever want to shift to another software once you get familiar with Blender.
- Learn, practice, repeat
As mentioned before, Blender and almost all other 3D modelling software have a steep learning curve. It takes years of experience and countless failed projects to master the software. Even that won’t be enough to master every aspect of the software. However, the learning part, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t require any investment if you know where to look. You can find countless high-quality free tutorials and guides on YouTube and Facebook. Most important of all, these 3D artists who are sharing their knowledge free of cost, most likely haven’t invested a ton of money in learning 3D modelling. If they can do it, why can’t you?
Just watch a few tutorials on YouTube and implement the things you’ve learned in your own projects. You can also recreate the same projects that you learn in these tutorials. As a newbie, this will get you a brief idea of the fundamentals of the software and 3D modelling itself. However, 3D software like Blender has no limits on what you can create. It’s safe to say that no one on the planet has achieved absolute mastery in 3D modelling. Keep this in mind if you ever feel like you’re not climbing up the curve.
- Read Relevant Books
No matter how big or small, artists love to share their experiences with everyone to grow the community as a whole. Specifically, as a beginner, you can benefit from the benevolent nature of your fellow artists. You will find countless books on 3D modelling that can guide you from start to finish in your journey to become a 3D artist. In addition, a good book contains years of experience and countless failures of the writer. You can read such books to avoid making mistakes by yourself.
- Create Something of Your Own
Time to let lose the creative juices in your brain. After you’ve spent significant time learning and following tutorials, it’s time to work on some projects of your own. After all, your journey as a 3D artist may or may not involve significant failures. The only way to find that out is by creating and sharing your work with your fellow artists and the entire community.
You can get inspired by your favorite movies or even by the real-world objects around you. If you’re gifted with a good sense of spatial awareness, getting ideas for your next 3D model is going to be a piece of cake. However, this comes after you’ve followed a significant number of tutorials and have a concrete idea of all the basic concepts of 3D modelling. If you directly jump into creating your own 3D models, you might end up quitting 3D modelling itself due to failure-induced frustration.
Typical Workflow of Creating a 3D Model
Creating a good 3D model typically involves these 5 steps:
Start with an absolute idea of what your final render should look like. This is the very first and one of the most crucial steps that most inexperienced artists skip. Visualizing the final image allows less room for unnecessary errors and makes the entire workflow much smoother. For inspiration, choose social media platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Most veteran 3D artists utilize social media to get inspired for their next artwork.
Before firing off your 3D modelling software, draw a rough doodle or a sketch of the visualized final render on paper. Also, make sure to note down all the concepts and ideas on a paper. This will effectively make your 3D modelling process faster and efficient. Meanwhile, make sure to save some reference photos beforehand to ensure a flawless 3D modelling workflow.
- Box modelling
Time to get to the real part. Fire up your 3D modelling software and start modelling the 3D object using the “Box modelling” technique. The technique involves refining and editing a basic primitive and is one of the most recommended 3D modelling techniques for beginners. Any beginner can create basic 3D objects using this technique.
- Applying Materials
After refining the basic primitive into the desired shape, apply materials to the object to give it the desired look. You can either download a material online for your 3D object or you can create one by yourself. However, since this is a beginner-friendly guide, we recommend you find your desired materials online.
You can skip directly to the next step, but that would only make your render look highly unrealistic. Creating suitable lighting for your 3D object is essential to achieve a much better and realistic look. You can opt for a beginner-friendly approach towards adding lighting. We recommend you to use “three-points lighting” that lights the object using key light, fill light, and backlight. This technique will light your 3D object from 3 different light sources and angles.
Now all you need to do is wait and the CPU and GPU do their job. Utilize your 3D software’s rendering engine to render the scene. The rendering process may take minutes, hours, or even days, depending on your PC’s specifications.
- Editing (optional)
Even though you have now successfully modelled an object, there might be issues with it. Or, you can follow this optional step just to enhance your 3D model. We recommend using Adobe Photoshop for this task. However, you’ll need to be an expert in using Photoshop if you want to execute this step.
Best Beginner-friendly 3D Software (Free/Paid)
TinkerCAD is considered the most beginner-friendly 3D software out there. It has a smooth learning curve and a user-friendly UI to make it easy for beginners to work on the software. TinkerCAD boasts user-friendly features like drag-and-drop to allow a quick and smooth workflow. Meanwhile, the software has a vast range of toolkits and features to get you through most of your 3D modelling tasks, at least in your initial stages.
TinkerCAD is a free-to-use 3D software, just install it in your system and you’re good to go. However, such an easy operation of the software does have a significant disadvantage. It relatively has limited functionality which makes it hard to create complex designs in TinkerCAD. However, at the same time, it shouldn’t bother you as a beginner since you won’t be creating many complex designs anyway. Besides, you can anytime switch to a different and more advanced 3D software once you feel confident enough.
Although Blender does not follow a beginner-friendly approach in terms of learning curve and UI, it’s the most famous 3D modelling software in the industry. Blender has studio-like features and tools that can overwhelm even the most experienced 3D artists.
In any case, we’re recommending Blender because you’ll easily find resources to learn it. After all, it’s the most popular 3D software in the industry. Being an open-source and thus free-to-use software, Blenders dwarfs most of the paid 3D modelling software by huge margins. Switching to Blender is always a good idea whether you’re a beginner or a veteran in 3D modelling.
Adobe is known to create the best and the most efficient software for graphic designers and artists, the tradition continues with Substance by Adobe. The substance is considered the most beginner-friendly software to create or add materials to your 3D objects. In addition, you’ll be making a lot of mistakes as a beginner and that’s where Substance by Adobe is the most helpful. It lets you work non-destructively. The software provides you with a non-destructive workflow that lets you create material with full control. A non-destructive workflow will allow you to get the most out of your 3D software without worrying about errors.
Besides being one of the best tools to get your 3D modelling tasks done, Substance by Adobe has exceptional editing capabilities that absolutely dwarfs its competitors. Moreover, the software offers a real-time view of the object that’ll make you avoid unnecessary errors even further.
Vectary is an online-based 3D modelling software, though it is mostly used for graphic design purposes. Offering an easy-to-navigate interface and drag-and-drop functionality, Vectary is one of the most beginner-friendly 3D modelling software out there. You don’t require previous experience to fully utilize Vectary to create high-quality 3D models. Also, being an online-based software, Vectary comes with sharing and collaboration tools that make it easy to share your art and connect with others in the community. However, there’s only a limited number of projects that you can create in the free version of Vectary. The free version also adds an annoying watermark to your artwork.
The Trimble-owned 3D modelling software has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. SketchUp allows the designer to create 3D models and easily convert them into 2D designs. This allows designers to work on detailed aspects such as dimensions and annotations of the 3D model. As a beginner 3D modeller, this might be helpful for you in grasping the technicalities of 3D modelling. The vast array of built-in tools allow the designers to manipulate 3D shapes in a breeze. SketchUp is a great 3D modelling tool for beginners and veteran 3D modellers alike. Overwhelming features and a user-friendly interface are all you need to learn the core of 3D modelling.
5 Don’ts for Beginner 3D modellers
3D modelling undoubtedly deserves the hype that it currently has. Career opportunities revolving around 3D modelling are limitless but require great mastery over the technology. Besides being a creative thinker, you’ll need great passion and sheer dedication if you want to ace every aspect of 3D modelling. However, as a beginner 3D modeller, we recommend you keep these 5 tips in mind:
- Do not Rush
Stressing out while modelling 3D objects can ruin your entire project. It’s one of the greatest mistakes most 3D modellers are made in their initial stages of work. Besides, rushing is not your best friend, perseverance is. You don’t need to be fast, you only need to be persistent which isn’t as easy as it sounds, similar to what you can say about 3D modelling itself. If you’re still in the learning phase, allow yourself sufficient time to efficiently grasp the learned concepts and ideas. If you’ve started building 3D models, don’t expect the work to be finished too soon or you’ll find yourself frustrated.
- Do Not Go Overboard
Always start with simple projects like pyramids, cubes, spheres, etc. Then move to intermediate objects like doughnuts, a cup, a table, etc. Keep creating simple objects until you feel confident enough to work on complex designs. It’s like learning a new language, you start with the absolute basics like learning alphabets and gradually make your way up to the top. Have a good sense of spatial awareness and find objects around you that you can recreate in 3D. Again, you don’t have to go for complex objects or you’ll end up getting frustrated and wanting to quit. Besides, there’s no reason to stress out in the initial stages of your 3D modelling career when you’ve got quite a long way ahead.
- Do not Get Overwhelmed
As mentioned above, 3D modelling software like Blender has limitless functionality. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of knowledge and tutorials on complex aspects of 3D modelling. However, as a beginner, this is something you have to avoid. You have to learn just enough that can make you ace your next 3D modelling project, nothing more and nothing less. And since there is so much to learn, efficiently navigating your learning is the best way to gradually climb up the curve and get to the top.
- Do not Crave Perfection
As you go through multiple projects and learn more tricks, your expectations increase, making you crave perfection. However, you may see perfectionism as a positive trait but it’s not. Being perfect can drive you towards stress, anxiety, and depression, as concluded by multiple studies and researches. Craving perfection, as a result, will inevitably induce fear of imperfection and you’ll find yourself staring at the brick wall.
In the initial stages of your 3D modelling career, acknowledge the imperfections in your artworks and move forward without really worrying about them. Focus on practicing and creating more 3D models. In time, you’ll be producing exceptional quality in your work without giving a single thought about being perfect, it will happen naturally. Keep Elizabeth Gilbert’s words in mind: “A good-enough novel written violently now is better than a perfect novel meticulously written never.” The same can be said for creating artworks.
- Do not Stick to a Single Theme
The initial phase of your 3D modelling journey involves creating simple, boring, and repetitive artworks that can make you lose all your interest in 3D modelling. To avoid that and to keep things interesting, adapt to different styles and themes in your artworks. Challenge yourself to create something new and entirely different from your previous artwork. Instead of sticking to one artist for tutorials, follow tutorials for different artists to explore new styles and themes.