A Short Journal of My Learning So Far

I started seriously looking at learning Blender around January of this year but didn’t follow up right away because I was too busy with work, plus I was using 2.79, which I really didn’t like. I use Adobe UIs all day and moving back and forth between Blender 2.79 and any Adobe program was excruciatingly painful. Plus, I experimented with the 3DS Max Student Version for a two weeks in 2017 and it seemed so much nicer than Blender. I stopped looking at 3DS Max because I immediately knew that I couldn’t really afford it when the student license ran out. I was angry that I couldn’t afford 3D software with a more standard UI, so I stopped using Blender.

Then I discovered 2.8 Beta. It seemed to have been out for a while then, so I figured I’d take a shot with it.

As it turns out, this beta software has been, since the end of January, one of the most stable pieces of software I’ve used. I did some idiot newbie things like crank settings beyond what my PC can actually do for me and then I’d get a crash, and one time there was an add-on that seemed to disrupt things, but overall, it’s SO much lighter on resources than 3DS Max. It loads like lightening. And it’s SO user-friendly. :blush:

I looked for training. I was learning a few things at LinkedIn, formerly Lynda, but nothing about 2.8. I went to Udemy because I had taken a couple of courses before and took a shot in the dark and found one of Alex Cordebard’s courses.

He’s not what you’d call a stuffy-professor type that I’m used to, but even though hearing “Au Revoir” over and over again made me want to throw my monitor out the window, I was really learning lots from him. And he’s very approachable when I have questions.

Further down the Blender rabbit-hole, I found Blender Artists dot org, which is the first thing you find when you’re searching for forums. Blendermania is great too! Reading anything at Blender Artists is for me is like what I imagine being in an advanced Calculus course is like (right now my math tops out at college Algebra). But I saw some great stuff.

One of the first things that I like to do when I get a new program is to go through the settings, so I figured I’d take what I’d learned from Alex and use it as sort of a step ladder. I went through each setting in Preferences. If I didn’t know what it meant, I looked it up. I enabled and disabled add-ons. When I didn’t know what the add-ons that shipped with Blender did, I looked them up.

Figuring out how to save my preferences (before the auto-save update a little while ago) and figuring out how to save my startup file were immensely helpful. I had previously opened a couple of files that I’d downloaded from TurboSquid and was immediately lost, lost, lost beyond all recognition, because I was loading up the other person’s workspace setup along with their meshes, textures, etc. I unset the option to load another person’s workspace. I worked through how to Append files and under what circumstances cutting and pasting other .blend file information was appropriate. I took a look at a few of the import file format types and figured out what was standard in the 3D community and why.

I modeled the cello that I’m posting here at about this time.

Then I discovered add-ons. That was a huge rabbit-hole to go down… especially when I realized that if I were to go absolutely insane and get everything, I could think of ever needing at Blender Market, I’d be spending less than what I’d pay for two months of 3DS Max. I ended up getting:

– BlenderUpdater. Not an add-on, but necessary to me for keeping Blender up to date because I’m too lazy to do it manually.

– Tesselator, for remeshing.

– Gaffer, for light management. There’s a free version, which I appreciate.

– HardOps and Boxcutter because they’re pretty much standard in the community.

– KitOps. It’s free and another awesome shortcut to model hard surfaces.

– Interactive Physics Editor. Now, when I’m arranging a table with some apples and oranges and maybe a bottle of wine, I can just drag the objects to the table and they automatically arrange themselves so that they’re all out of each other’s way and precisely on the table.

– BY-GEN, because it’s like a neat Photoshop filter, but for Blender!

– Auto-Rig Pro. Because rigging is a lot of work.

– True Terrain. I don’t think I’ll use it much, but it might come in handy.

What I’d really like to see is a book or course about scripting add-ons for Blender 2.8. I can’t buy one for love or money anywhere, it seems. I’m a novice scripter, some C# and some JavaScript. Basic if-thens and loops and switches. This is one reason that I applied for and got accepted last week to go back to college as a computer-science student… I think that being able to code will help me a lot. It isn’t what I imagined doing at around age 45, but what the heck. You only live once.

To prepare, I started a Unity/Visual Studio course a while ago and I’m (trying my best) to math better at Khan Academy. Wonderful stuff. Lots of great info. If you’re looking for great courses, anything by GameDev.tv on Udemy is amazing. :wink:

Now I’m sitting here with my 4K TV as a monitor. Ordered a new PC (Ryzen 7 with a 2060) which should be here by next weekend. I was going to put one together myself, but it’s often cheaper to just buy them nowadays and professionals are better about cable management than I am.

This screen capture is an updated cello. I modeled it before I learned about Auto Smooth, which is far superior to adding loop cuts and sliding them and using the Edge Split modifier for any hard-surface thing that I’ve tried. I took some criticism that I got here to heart and made it less wide. I was also reading a web site where one of the recommended things to do is to not be TOO driven by the orthographic references if you’re using them. For example, my model was perfectly accurate, but that didn’t mean that it looked correctly-proportioned.

Next, I want to deep-dive into texturing. I’m really digging Eevee and by using the Definitely Eeevee Material Presets (Blender Market again), I’m even able to set glass up fairly quickly. I love the node editor and I just figured out about volumetric material so that’s my new thing. My day job is as a manager and graphic designer and I’m an image specialist, so texturing should be okay for me, I hope! I also like that there’s so many things you can do with lights, but my Startup blend file just has the three-point setup. Nothing fancy yet.

On lunch breaks, I’m reading the Blender manual. Almost through it. There’s a couple of things I don’t get, but one thing it did for me was to start making Alex’s work with parenting and empty target-tracking a little clearer.

Today, I’m going to start designing my own font to be exported from Illustrator with Fontself. It’s for bragging rights for my company and for my portfolio in case I want to look for a new day job five years from now. I’ll also spend a couple of hours on that C#/Unity course.

Here’s a couple of files – my startup and prefs (Windows). Also, here’s that screen capture I mentioned. If you’re looking for a great UI theme, there’s one called “sensible.xml” by rhyging5 available here:

blender-startup-stuff.zip (229.1 KB)