Feedback Request: Learning The Basics Roadmap

Hey everyone,

Like many others on here I’m working on improving my 3D skills to eventually be able to make a living as an artist. While I have been dabbling with Blender for a year, my progress has been slow. So in order to remedy the situation I’m building myself an outline of general topics to familiarize myself with in order to get a solid base and take my skills further from there.

The idea being to provide myself with some structure of what to work on first, establish deadlines and gain a solid understanding of the interactions of each step needed to create a rendered scene. Think of it as “Becoming a pro, Step 1”

So here are the topics/subtopics/projects I plan on working on to achieve that:
(no tables, had to improvise)
[/INDENT]ModelingLow Poly
High Poly
Whole scenes
[INDENT]LCD screen
Sound system
[/INDENT]Texturing UV unwrapping
Bump mapping
Normal mapping
Subsurface scatering
[INDENT] Wood table
Brick wall
Polished metal
Brushed metal
[/INDENT] Particles
No Sub-topic
Spiling water
Still water
Cooking milk dipping
[/INDENT]LightingRay tracing
Winter snow glow
Indoor neon
Desk lamp
Street neon
Car headlight
Lens flare
Factory green glowing light
[/INDENT]Rendering Lux render
Mental Ray
[INDENT]Explore each renderer
[/INDENT]Compositing (post processing/ nodes) No Sub-topic
[INDENT] Depth of field
Old picture
[/INDENT]Rigging/ Animating Inverse Kinematics
[INDENT] Walk cycle
Run cycle
Animal walk
Animal run
Crab walk
[/INDENT]Does this list make sense? Are there topics missing/redundant, out of order? Is this even a good approach? Let me know what you think especially if you think I’m demented, the sooner I find out the sooner I can do something about it :wink:

N.B.: Yes that I know that sounds a lot like school, but that won’t start around here for a least another 6 months so why waste time?

WRT the Maya/3DSMax/Blender debate, my understanding is that software choice is largely inconsequential when learning basic concepts since they translate over. i.e. I doubt switching will greatly influence my learning. My gut tells me the differences between each get larger as your skills increase.

Is school out of the question? There must be some good schools up there in Canada because that would definitely be the fastest way to to learn 3d especially if you want to turn it into a career. Learning on your own is about the slowest way to do things. For me this is just a hobby so the slow pace of instruction from self learning doesn’t bother me but I know I would be so far ahead in the 3 years of seriously using Blender if I had gone to a school.

If you have no option but to learn on your own than build up a library of good dvds and books, and check the credentials of the people writing or making the videos or dvds. I have seen a few things been offered for sale by people with zero industrial experience to speak off. If you are going to part with your hard earned money make sure it goes to people who are qualified for what the teach and are not just recyclers and polishers of freely available info.

If I was in your shoes I would probably learn Maya in instead of Blender(killing two birds with one stone). I hardly see any job postings on 3dtotal or cgtalk asking for Blender artists but many for Maya and 3DMax. If you spend time learning Blender you are also going to have to make time to learn Maya which makes zero sense to me because you could be earning money instead of doing that.

If you learn Maya you could easily get a job and learn Blender in your own time. If you learn Blender there is a very real danger that you could sit without a job while you retooled yourself to learn Maya or Max.

School isn’t out of the question at all, it’s simply that the next semester I can apply for is in January and until then I don’t want to be sitting on my thumbs.

As for building a library of learning material that was my next step, I figured I’d prioritize/validate what topics to learn and go get material to learn them. Do the topics make sense?

For Maya, it’s certainly food for thought.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think a good way to learn most of the meat-and-potatoes tools is to build a fully textured, rigged character. You can learn both high poly and low poly modeling, and sculpt, multiple textures, materials, and mapping methods, particles, animation, libraries/linking, even rendering/nodes. It’s a great way to get your hands dirty and get comfortable with the tools. You will make several shitty models to start, don’t be afraid to scrap them once you really start learning about good topology.

@jay agreed, I had taken that approach with this project and I learned a ton:

But then again the result came out pretty bland and I figured I’d be better off learning the basics before taking another pass. My main problem is that I have no reference on how to do things to achieve the ideas I have. Didn’t know where to take what I did.

WRT to creating a roadmap, after posting this I figured the best idea was to grab a book instead of trying to create a curriculum for something I’m learning. So I got myself “The Essential Guide to Learning Blender 2.6”, might not be the optimal path but taking a detour is better than standing still :wink:

You’re onto to something though, I need to find myself a cool project. With that character I just wanted to see how hard it would be to model something from pictures, then it went to making it move, adding an armature, then doing a walk cycle, adding lights… yeah I definitely need a new project :slight_smile:

Thanks again, further insights/comments are more than welcome.

So I got myself “The Essential Guide to Learning Blender 2.6”

In my opinion that was a good call. I did the same and in what concerns roadmaps I think it is a great start. What I’m doing is getting a foundation knowledge on “all” the disciplines (modeling, lighting, texturing, rigging, animating, rendering and compositing, plus one could say sculpting and VFX/simulations) which I’ve already done (finished that book), and now I’m exploring each of those in more depth (for (hard-surface) modeling I got BlenderCookie’s vehicle modeling series, for lighting I got Digital Lighting and Rendering, for texturing I got Digital Texturing and Painting…). Also when “specializing” I try to get things that are as software-agnostic as possible, to be able to transfer the knowledge to whatever software I may be using in the future.

With that said though, I’m starting to feel that while I may be getting pretty good at those things individually, there’s nothing like starting (and finishing) an animation project to go through the entire pipeline. I think it’s the best way to figure out which discipline I like the most, because honestly I’m very excited about each of them while studying them individually, and that can’t be right :evilgrin: Probably throughout a project preferences will be much easier to spot. Now I just need to find a way to put that in my schedule!

Finally, and despite all I’ve said already, I think Tyrant Monkey is right when he tells you to consider actual schooling. I’m pretty sure I’d learn these things MUCH faster if I went that way too, and am seriously considering it. If you don’t go to school, you’ve got to get a move on and work hard. Check this video for inspiration and reasoning for that: , after 12:37. ( is an awesome resource/daily fix by the way).

Good luck!

In the beginning a project is OK. It can be a motivator to put things in perspective. However, I am not in favor of that as a learning tool exclusively.

I think the best approach to learning is to initially detach yourself from anything resembling a work or project related deadline or motivation. The reason is because this can breed bad habits artistically. The opposing point to this also has merit. Having a motivating force, a context of practicality and so on. Being prepared for being on the job and dealing with deadlines. While that may all be practical and true, I also have the opinion that preparation for that environment - even you plan to work alone on personal projects - is to go in well prepared with a solid foundation of the basics.

The best way to do that is to set yourself goals to master simple things and gradually work to the more complex and demanding. Making sure you fully grasp each step before you move to the next one. And in that giving yourself the freedom time-wise to do so.

When you are beginning you will not likely be able to grasp what these things even are that should be the basics. This is where tutorials come into play. This is a great way to find out what you actually need to learn. I am a strong advocate of learning from people who have been through it. It is an essential step.

But here in a nutshell is the type of lesson sequence I usually use that has worked for me.

  1. A full read of the manual on the subject of that thing and master in simple little steps - not a large project but simple little tests - each tool used in this area. An example would be modeling. The first step would be to learn what are the tools are from a good reference - not a tutorial. Learn where they are, how to use them, hot keys etc.

  2. Keeping with the modeling example in #1. Then start with one type of modeling - lets say subsurf character modeling - and do every tutorial under the sun you can find anyplace. Do them as many times as you need to to get it right.

You will find this step very easy by comparison because you have mastered #1. You are not fumbling with where the tools are or how to use them. You are simply learning how to put them into practice and gain some practical tips and tricks from people who have been there.

  1. Using what you have gained in 1&2 now give yourself real world object to replicate. Do this as many times as you need to get to the point you can do this confidence. Or you can simply create your own characters. Whatever works for you.

Again now you are not struggling with how to use the tools or the best ways to do things, you are putting all of that into practice by replicating objects, scenes, animation etc. Whatever the case may be.

If you put things in this order your learning curve will be smooth and you will be gaining more and more confidence as you go. And you will have knowledge/skills you can retain for the future.

  1. Optional - but many times needed. Only after you have not found sufficient information on the area you need to practice and you are well familiar with what has been done, then set up some time to dig in and do rigorous testing. One great area for this is dynamics. There is not always much information available. But whatever the case may be, do not reinvent the wheel. Leave this as the last step. Do this only after you have exhausted all the other options.

  2. Repeat with each subject.

The week areas of my 3D art are the ares I have not yet done this. So I myself still have plans ahead. But each area I have done this I am able to demonstrate professional-level skill that holds up in a production environment.

As a sideline study to this would be the same approach to traditional art. Learning to sketch human anatomy and so on.

This is what has worked for me and I have gone from a guy who did not know the first thing about 3D to a full time working professional all without going to school. I am not saying don’t go to school. But do give yourself a good method of learning your skill. The above has worked very well for me in many areas not just 3D.

@Fax thx for that Fen Zhu video, very cool, now following on Twitter. Sounds stupid, but made me realize how I can apply the practice everyday mantra to my learning. Was too focused on needing to create a high quality result everyday and must admit it discouraged me from getting much done. Now I’ll start by spending as much time as I can daily in Blender, then I’ll start focusing on perfection.

To everyone else thanks again for the valuable info, lots to digest. Best part is actually having solid leads to follow :slight_smile: