Hiroyuki's Blender Beginner Roadmap

So, you discovered the free 3D modeling software Blender and you are eager to make your own stuff with it. Vast landscapes, sci-fi scenes, crazy characters, movie ready animations. Blender is a powerhouse for multimedia content and best of all it's free.

If you're like me when i started, you have NEVER really used any 3d modeling software before, so you don't really know where to start and you have a lot of questions.

The good news is that YOU CAN learn how to use Blender! Since version 2.8 it has been getting increasingly better and easier to create stuff and the gap between 3D nerds and artists in general has been getting closer and closer, so there have been never a better time to start learning it.

I am BY NO MEANS any kind of expert or teacher regarding Blender. Like I said, I started just like you, with a curiosity to see how the software worked and i still consider myself just an aficionado who likes to make stuff just for fun and don't really have any professional ambitions about it, but i made this guide for any people interested in learning how to start using Blender and reaching a reasonable skill level with it.

In this guide i am not directly going to teach you anything myself, but is meant to be a roadmap of where to go, from a point of zero 3D knowledge to a point where you can have enough knowledge to move yourself in the 3D world and making your own steps in the direction you want to go after that (being general 3d modeling, animation gamedev, etc).

You can check my Pixelfed account where i upload my Blender stuff:
https://pixelfed.social/takenori

Getting Blender

Of course, the first step you have to do is to download Blender to your computer. Chances are you already know how to do this but I will leave this info here regardless.

The logical step is to download the latest version by going to Blender's official page and downloading the installer that corresponds to your system.

On Windows, you can also get it via the Microsoft Store, and on the tree operating systems (Windows, Linux and MacOS) you can get it via Steam. Installing it from these two platforms will make sure you have the last and up to date version of blender installed on your computer. This may be good but also undesirable as some stuff can move of place or disappear from one version to the other.

On Linux, i think Blender also comes in Flatpak and Appimage versions. You could install it from your distro's package manager, but the last time i did that it downloaded a very old and outdated version, so you need to check which version you are getting or stick to the methods already stated.

Make a Donut.

Now that you have Blender installed, chances you opened it and you are clueless to how any of those buttons mean, or you are tempted to go to YouTube and go to the tutorials area and start doing tutorials on stuff that looks cool and flashy, but you can't really start doing any kind of tutorial you see on YouTube because, while most of them give you instructions step by step of what you should do, a lot of them also assume you have minimal Blender knowledge.

So, the best place to start learning Blender is by looking a tutorials that start by showing you the basic interface of the program and what the most basic and used tools do and how they work.

There are several full beginner tutorials that first and foremost teach you how to navigate through Blender and how to use all it's tools in a basic way. These are the most common ones:

Blenderguru Donut and Coffee Tutorial

The most popular beginner's Blender tutorial is the Donut and Coffee Tutorial Series by Andrew Price (blenderguru). It's a complete beginner's tour which shows you the basic use of the most common features that blender has in a comprehensive way. Since a lot of people (including me) has started with this tutorial, it's known in all Blender communities and almost anyone can give you directions if there's something you don't understand.

This tutorials is divided in several levels, which teach you the basics of all the aspects of 3D modeling and blender work, starting from the easiest thing to the hardest, and covers topics like sculpting, modifiers, particles and even a little bit of animation.

Grant Abbit's Course for Beginners.

Grant Abbit is another well-seasoned Blender youtuber that has a lot of tutorials for doing all sort of stuff with Blender, and also has a course for complete beginners. This tutorial is shorter and it's a bit less deep in reach than Blenderguru's but it's also very well explained and i think being shorter it allows to give you a quicker start into using the program. It's a good option too.

The series also start explaining to you the basics of the interface of blender, and goes through basic modeling, texturing and animation, always starting at the easiest level and going progressively more complex.

CG Geek ice cream tutorial.

CG Geek also has a lot of tutorials for beginners and his Ice Cream cone course is also a good start. This tutorial is even shorter than the tutorial by Grant Abbit but showcases a bit more of Blender features and holds your and a bit less than the other courses but it's also a good option.

Blender Fundamentals

Blender itself has a series of videos aimed at complete beginners. Its Blender 2.8 Fundamentals video series. The playlist is basically a compendium of videos explaining how to use the most commonly used blender tools and features separately, and the last videos show you how to make a owl character following the tools previously explained.

From the four options maybe is the most complete one because it goes on explaining more stuff and in more detail than the other tutorials, but it can be a bit intimidating for complete beginners. My opinion is that this series can be watched in parallel with the other tutorials, as it gives you a better insight of the tools you are using. Still a recommended watch.

Other

Other less known youtubers also have good beginner tutorial series that you may wanna give a try if what they do is interesting for you. The thing is picking one that looks good for you and start with it.

Make another donut.

So you completed one of the tutorial series that i recommended you above? Congratulations! Now go back and do it again!

Since these are your first steps, it's easy to think that you're now a big boy/girl and you can hold on yourself, but I really recommend you to stick around this level for a bit longer, to make sure the knowledge gets cemented in your head.

For example, if you completed the donut tutorial, go and try to do the tutorial again but on your own, without looking at the videos, and going back to them only if you forget how something it's done. After that, also try to make one of the other tutorials i recommended.

Again, the purpose of this is so you have the basic knowledge well stuck in your head and you don't need to come back to the videos because you forgot how to scale a cube or what was the hotkey for flling a face. The knowledge you get in this stage is fundamental and you will keep using it through all your learning experience.

Do things, just for fun.

Ok so now you have a bit of experience using the most basic tools to model stuff, it's time to take a break and do stuff just for fun.

If you are like me, at this point the Blender interface still looks kind of intimidating. There are a lot of buttons and parameters to change that you don't know what they mean, and yeah, you already made a donut, but you have not used all of them yet…

“What happens if i put 200 in here instead of 50 like in the tutorial?” or “I hope if i set subsurface to 1 i don't break Blender forever”. Those thoughts are not uncommon and all of them stem of the fact that you are still not used to the interface of the software.

First of all you need to know that: as long as you don't mess with the settings of Blender (found in Edit > Preferences) None of the changes you make in the parameters of a file are permanent. (And even if you mess with the Blender settings, everything can be reverted to factory).

All the values that you set on a file, are reverted back to default when you open a new file, so there's nothing stopping you from going and just playing around and doing things just for fun. try to make yourself comfortable with the program. If you mess up something, close it and start again, try to make anything with the stuff you already know without the fear of looking like shit or being bad, because you are doing this just for fun.

Something i did just after finishing my second attempt with the donut.

Once you get used to the program and you realize there's nothing to fear about it, you will move more freely through it when doing other tutorials.

Keep making tutorials

So now you that you have learned the most basic stuff, it's time to get your feet wet by doing other stuff. But you're still too young to do stuff on your own so allow yourself to get your hand held through the battlefield and keep doing tutorials that are easy for beginners. The purpose of this is to get a hold of what is the common way of working scenes, the workflow, the way of thinking, so you can apply the same workflow in other projects.

Try to make tutorials that are simple in scope, do not try to go making a tutorial of make a large scale scene, but keep tutorials in the reign of the simple, like how to make a candle, how to make a simple low poly scene.

The following are some tutorials that I recommend you can do in this stage:

I'll update this section with more recommended beginner tutorials when i have a chance to look through them.

Model real life stuff

Up until this point you've had your hand held through all the process of creating something. It's time to start getting your hands dirty and try modeling something by yourself. But don't go trying to model a car or a mountain forest or something like that yet.

The best thing you can try to model by yourself is things you have in your vicinity, because you have them at hand and you can observe them and see how they really look: where to place an edge, where rotate a face, where to make a bevel, how their texture looks, etc. If you have the thing you want to model at hand then you exercise your sense of observation, which is fundamental when recreating stuff that you have only photographic reference of.

When you do this also you start to see what kind of 3D shapes compose all the stuff you can see and how they are connected together. This will allow you to create mental images of how to construct models for your future scenes and how to construct them using the basic shapes.

HOWEVER i won't stop you if you wanna try following a tutorial for modeling something you have at hand, like a Soda Can, the purpose here is modeling something that you can analyze and study in detail.

Below are some videos that explain this and you should give them a watch:

Model a full scene

Now that you have more knowledge and experience under your belt, it's time to go big, and i encourage you to model a full scene with lots of objects, familiar objects that exist in real life (wether you have them at hand or not) and try to construct a full scene with them.

Try to make scenes that have objects with interesting but not too complex shapes, that don't require too much twisting and turning and can create relatively quick. And try to make the objects for yourself, but if you need help modeling something, Like a Book, go ahead and look tutorials for it, but give it an honest try first.

Some ideas i can give you for this project can be:

  • Model your bedroom/dining room/classroom
  • Model your desk
  • Model a low poly street (houses, mailboxes, trashcans, poles, etc)
  • Model a place that you like and doesn't exist. (I modeled the clubroom of the Anime K-on)

Keep challenging yourself

At this point i would say you have enough experience to make stuff for yourself. The thing you need to do now is keep challenging yourself to create stuff that can be out of your comfort zone.

One of the ways i like to challenge myself is through making a scene out some prompt and then thinking what i can do with that. In case you need inspiration you can check:

Reddit's Daily3D Each day, a bot posts a random prompt on this subreddit and people make something with it and posts their results

Inktober Inktober is a month-long event which takes place each October, which consist of a challenge of creating a daily piece of art based on a prompt published in their webpage. Of course the event is thought with traditional drawn art but a lot of people (me included) of the 3D world also participate. If you can't wait for October, they also have a Year long Inktober challenge which consist in weekly prompts.

Never stop learning!

Now at this point you have a good idea of what you like to do with Blender so i encourage you to never stop learning and keep watching tutorials on the things that interest you and that takes you towards the goal of becoming a better artist, game asset modeler, animator, sculptor, etc.

Here is a list of youtube channels that you may find interesting, with lots of learning content:

Some of them are more specialized than others, but all of them offer valuable educative resources while you are learning your way through Blender.

General Advice

These pieces of advice come from my own experience making things in Blender. I am FAR from being some kind of expert or master in these fields but i also come from a place where i had total zero knowledge about this discipline so these are some things i learned on my journey.

Allow yourself to suck

Since you are starting, the first things you do (by yourself or by tutorial) will suck, and suck BAD… but that's ok, in fact that's a good thing. Your learning process depends a lot on stuff that is not to par with your expectations, but you are not looking to making pretty things day one, you are looking at a journey of continuous improvement. So if you think that the things you make suck, use that feeling as motivation to keep improving. You CAN improve, and you CAN learn to make stuff in Blender, it's just matter of motivation and perseveration.

Forget about perfection

This one goes in hand with the previous point. If you are a beginner you are learning to use new tools, so looking to achieve perfection in your work does not make sense at this point. Your focus should be on learning on how to use these tools and the possibilities give you. If while being a beginners you look for perfection you will end frustrated and demotivated, so, do not work towards perfection, work towards getting things DONE.

Related watch:

Don't chew more than you can bite

At some point, especially after you are at the last point of this guide, you might be tempted to take on very big projects, probably more complex than you can achieve, and accepting a challenge is good because you get to see what things are you lacking and the things you can improve, but also if you end up with a larger-than-you project you might hit a wall where your ability doesn't let you continue and it may get you down.

If that happens just sit back, see what you miss and don't be afraid of puting a big project in the freezer while you do other things that allow you to learn more. Try to do everything in small increments.

Share your stuff

Even the bad ones have value if you are learning, so don't hide anything you make, even if you think it's dogshit, there are lots of people that may like and enjoy your progress and give you valuable feedback on how to improve, which is what you need to look out MORE than likes and praise, seek out for real feedback, which goes to the next point.

Look for REAL feedback

Getting real feedback on the internet is DIFFICULT. If you share your works to friends or on social media, either people that knows you will give you praise no matter the quality of the work you put out, or people that doesn't know you simply won't even bother writing something about it, so places where you can get real feedback are very rare.

First and foremost, if you model real stuff, the feedback is automatic, because you can compare your work to the real thing you are trying to model, so you can actually see what's wrong with your work and how you can improve it.

I can recommend you several places where you can get more honest feedback and technical help:

Reddit's blenderhelp subreddit If your scene is not looking the way you want or ou have problems coming up with a way to achieve something, you can post here and you will get good help.

STAY AWAY from the original /r/blender subreddit though, as that subredit is filled with more people bragging and karma farming that people willing to help, so do not look for hontest feedback there.

Blenderartists forum Another good place filled with experts on all aspects of Blender. If you want help with something it may be better to use first the search feature to see if someone asked the same question that you and got a satisfactory answer.

4chan 3DCG Board

WARNING… 4CHAN IS AN EXTREMELY TOXIC BOARD.

Almost all the corners of the internet loathe 4chan and with reason. Since it's a discussion board that primes on anonymous discussion, people can be VERY RUDE and you might get very discouraged if you take all you read here at heart.

THAT BEING SAID, some of the most honest and helpful pieces of advice i've gotten on my works were given to me in this very board, but if you want to get real feedback you need to show that you are actually putting effort in your work and not just looking for easy solutions or looking for someone to hold your hand.

If you decide to post here, do not create a new thread. There are always a thread dedicated to WIPs and Blender general questions and instead use these threads to post your WIP or question and then wait for it to be answered. Ignore all possible rude and uncorteous replies, flamewars, questionable posts, and just keep what you think it's cosntructive enough to keep you improving.

Do not get discouraged by other people's work

When you start moving in the world of the 3D art, you will start seeing other people's work and you will be amazed by it. You will start seeing people way younger than you putting out work far better than you can imagine to do at any point of time, and worse: you will see people having very little time using blender doing incredible stuff, and all of this will sometimes get to you, and that's okay but don't let any of this discourage you.

First of all, realize that like you, a lot of people are getting into Blender right now, and like i said at the start, it has never been a better time to get into it because it has become easier to use, and now the community of Blender artists is as big as it has ever been.

Even people that seem to be instantly good at Blender has a story of progress and improvement that they may or may not show, and the journey is not the same for all of people. Maybe they come from an artistic background so they know how to do some stuff better than you, maybe they have more time to practice, maybe they have better gear, all of that is fine.

First and foremost this is a personal journey, do not compare your work to the work of others, compare your work to your previous works and take proud in your improvements, but also always walk towards improving your previous self, and the rest will fall into place. That's why it's improtant to share what you do no matter the quality of it, you will get praise but you will get feedback and that is what will allow you to improve.

Remember my first advice: allow yourself to suck, but always work towards improvement.

Frequently Asked Questions

- What computer do i need to run blender?

I would say the requirements to RUN blender aren't all that high. I have been using a ten year old laptop for most of my journey and i have been able to model almost anything i have wanted to only with small problems of slowdown or crashes but not very often.

HOWEVER, you DO need a beefy computer to render your creations at a reasonable speed. A good GPU is important because otherwise even a simple render can take you a very long time.

If you do not have a good GPU at your disposal at the moment, you can look into using renderfarms who will render your scenes for you, and there are ways of using cloud computing like amazon cloud or google colab to install blender there and use them to render your work.

- Do i need to know how to draw?

Short answer: No, but it helps.

Long answer: Speaking from personal experience, my drawing abilities are very low and not really to par with what any good artist can make, but that doesn't have stopped me in creating good stuff in Blender. I've read some people recommend you to take on drawing or at least sketching to help you better understand how shapes and proportion works when creating something, but it's not something that i have needed to learn to make my stuff.

- Do i need to pay for a paid Blender course?

I won't stop you if you want to go to a course webpage and buy a full beginner course, that of course can have it's advantages and give you the knowledge in a more compact and streamlined way. I just think that the amount of free knowledge available in places like Youtube and Blenderartists is enought to not really need to pay for any course, you just need to dig up a little bit more to find exactly the kind of knowledge you need.

Closing words

Like i said at the start, this guide is mostly a roadmap that will give you a direction during the journey of learning to make stuff in Blender. It's what worked to me so these tips and recomendations are tested so i can assure you they work, but you also need to always stay hungry for knowledge and eager to fail and improve, which is what is going to make you a better 3D Artist.

This guide will keep improving over time, so come back from time to time to see what has changed or what was added so you keep your learning up to date.

These links can be also useful during your learning journey, give them a look:

  • Artstation is a page where the pros of the industry go and showcase their work but also they have recently opeied their Learning Hub for free, with a lot of educative material on 2D and 3D art.
  • The Blender reference manual gives an explanation of how all features and tools on Blender work, sometimes a bit on the technological side of things, but the information is always useful.

License

This guide is CC-BY, Which means you can do whatever with it as long you include my name and the url of this site in your references.

Discussion

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