My first 3D render following the donut tutorial (Jessica Sheng)

Arts and Entertainment

Column: Getting started with 3D Modeling

Computer generated graphics is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern day and has become a staple in the entertainment and design industry. As such, 3D modeling has become a skill sought after by many people, with its industry ever-growing. Seeing these works, many people may be overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and skill needed…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/jessicasheng05/" target="_self">Jessica Sheng</a>

Jessica Sheng

December 25, 2021

Computer generated graphics is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern day and has become a staple in the entertainment and design industry. As such, 3D modeling has become a skill sought after by many people, with its industry ever-growing.

Seeing these works, many people may be overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and skill needed in order to create such content. However, all great artists have come from a place where they once knew nothing about their craft as well. With a little effort and time, anyone can easily learn 3D modeling and start creating on their own, even without a proper mentor — just like I did.

Picking a software

The first step to getting started with 3D modeling is choosing a software to do your work in. There are a multitude of different software, and choosing one solely depends on what is most suited for the user. Maya, 3DS Max, and Cinema 4D, are all widely accepted software used in the industry. There are also some slightly more specialized software, such as Houdini, known for VFX, and ZBrush, known for sculpting. One of the most accessible software, however, would be Blender, due to it being completely open source, the numerous add-ons it offers, and most importantly, the amount of tutorials that can be found online using Blender.

Of course, the main drawback is that there are almost no companies that use Blender as its modeling tool, due to its much too frequent updates and non-industry standard keybinds. There are also many other software around that are more uncommon, such as Modo, Fusion 360, and Lightwave. In the end, whichever software is chosen is all up to preference and what you are looking to do with the software, whether it’s sculpting, hard-surface modeling, VFX, animation, et cetera.

Getting started

In my personal experience, the first thing that should be done is to get familiar with the software. Having skill and knowledge of modeling and compute-r generated graphics means nothing if you cannot navigate the software. To get familiar with a software, you can simply play around with the UI and all the features it offers, until even the developers don’t know what you’re doing, as said by Blender Guru in his old donut tutorial

In my experience, it is incredibly useful to find a beginner tutorial off of YouTube and to just follow it. It will teach you all the basic shortcuts that are used often and also introduce you to the different interfaces of the software. Good beginner tutorials will help familiarize you with the workflow and numerous tools the software offers. Additionally, you will most likely make a mistake while following along and not know how to get to where the person you were following along is at, and this is most certainly a good thing. Learning how to trouble-shoot is a very important skill, and the more mistakes you make earlier on, the faster you will familiarize yourself with the software. 

Common Roadblocks

One of the most common roadblocks I have seen people go through when 3D modeling is simply not knowing how to actually model by themselves. 3D modeling is almost impossible to figure out by yourself without having a tutorial to help guide you along the way at first. However, that also makes it so that people may end up stuck and unable to do anything without having a tutorial on hand. This typically results from a lack of understanding of the basics of the software, and as a result, the only solution is to gain a better understanding of the software. Because everyone learns differently, there is no formula to do so. In my case, I ended up binging some of Daniel Krafft’s “Explaining Everything” videos as well as his “100 Tip Videos.”

A few other YouTubers that I went to a lot for 3D modeling help are FlippedNormals (for sculpting), CGMatter/DefaultCube (they are the same person running two channels, typically doing tutorials on VFX and explaining Blender’s nodes), and Josh Gambrell (for hard-surface modeling tips and tricks). Of course, these are only a few amongst the vast amount of educational content creators out there. There are many resources available to help you understand the software, and once you get past that learning curve, you can go on to create impressive scenes and renders.