I finally figured out why I can't get better at modeling

I’m not dyslexic or anything. I’m an excellent reader.

But, when I try to work with subdivs the interplay of the lowpoly cage and the subdiv surface and not wanting to have control points too far away from the real surface and constantly switching into and out of edit mode to actually see what the result was of what I just did and bouncing back and forth between points on or off the subdiv modifier result, etc… it drives me mad and I can’t cope and I get extremely frustrated in a very short amount of time.

I think I’ve finally made a layout in Blender that would allow me to avoid what frustrates me and maybe make some progress with modeling.

Make 3 collections.
Put the object I’ll be working on in the “Subdivs” collection and give it a subdiv modifier.
Make an instanced duplicate of that (shares the same mesh data) and put it in the “Poly Instances” collection and remove the subdiv modifier.
Make another instance and put it in the “Subdiv Instances” collection. On this object’s subdiv modifier enable the “On Cage” option.

Make a camera.

Make 4 viewports.

Set all viewports to look through the camera.

Viewport #1

  • Enable Lock camera to view in N panel
  • Enable Local Collections in N panel
  • Enable only “subdivs”

Viewport #2

  • Enable Local Collections in N panel
  • Enable only “subdivs”
  • Disable gizmos and overlays in header

Viewport #3

  • Enable Local Collections in N panel
  • Enable only “poly instances”
  • Disable gizmos and overlays in header

Viewport #4

  • Enable Local Collections in N panel
  • Enable only “subdiv instances”
  • Disable gizmos in header
  • In the overlays menu enable wireframe

Now whenenver I navigate in the first viewport, all other viewports navigate exactly the same.

As I’m editing in the first viewport I can simultaneously see an unobstructed view of the final subdiv surface, the raw polygons, and the smooth subdiv edge flow.

The only problem I have left is that “shade smooth” and “shade flat” seem to be a mesh level setting even though you have to be in object mode to access them. I’d like the subdiv objects to have smooth shading while the polygon object stays flat shaded.

There’s probably a dozen other challenges I’ll have to beat to get better at modeling, but this is the #1 most important thing that has prevented me from progressing for an extremely long time.


To this point specifically, I find it is a workflow issue. If there is this much difference between your low poly cadge and the subdivision surface, I find it is better to improve the low poly cage technique so that it very closely resembles the final smoothed version.

When you work this way, you naturally find the correct balance of enough resolution to give you the optimum control and the ability to add detail as well as a fine balance between too low and too high of a detail cadge. In short, if the low poly cadge is messing you up because it does not resemble the result, it is not high enough in detail. If it is too high, it is bogging you down in editing. Kind of like Goldie Locks. Find the balance that is just right.

In addition, proper edge flow to give you the shapes you need is also something that helps take care of this issue.

Aside from that, nothing wrong with finding better viewport set ups. But a warning here is that if you are finding the need to do that to solve your stated problem, it is your polyflow technique that needs to be visited.

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I find it is better to improve the low poly cage technique so that it very closely resembles the final smoothed version.
… proper edge flow

I am very familiar with this advice, been reading about it and watching other people do it for almost 15 years. My frustration is with simply looking at the overlapping highpoly and lowpoly and constantly switching modes to get an understanding of what I’m looking at or doing. I have never gotten to the point where I can actually put that advice into practice due to frustration with looking at the viewport. Think of it like a dyslexic person who watches the TV news every hour of the day and listens to audio books all the time and works in a sign shop making big 3D letters but can’t be bothered to read a book or newspaper or magazine because the text is too small and confusing for them.

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I can take that at face value. But I would wait to say more until you show me your modeling examples. The included Monkey by the way is an example of what I am saying not to do. So if you were to show me a model like that as your example I would say it is too low in detail to start with.

But these are all words.

Pictures work much better.

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There are lots of modelling techniques what don’t use subd, try others stuff until you find something you comfortable with.

I tried box modeling 2008 era video game face exercises in maya a long time ago… I found it far too tedious and I need to study anatomy a heck of a lot more if I wanted to do something beyond the exercises. With subdivs I just want to make moderately detaile stylized cartoony characters (with no intention of animating them). I have seen people make stuff like that with sculpting instead of subdivs but it looked like more work. I also don’t have a wacom.

Like I said, I have never gotten to the point where I would actually use any of the workflow tips. I only have many simpler things that are nothing like the only slightly more complex things I’ve given up on.

I am happy that I finally only have my lack of knowledge and lack of practice to blame for my sucking at modeling.
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I meant, showing the low poly cadge compared to the sub div cage. With that, I could put a context to your words, otherwise it is hard to go back and forth with abstract discussion.

Without that I just say, cool. No worries. But if you showed me a typical sample of a model that you have this issue, showing the low poly cage and the high one, I could again, say cool, no worries. Or I might try to show you samples of how you could improve the workflow.

I wish it were that simple in my case… lol

However, all of the modelers in my studio model circles around me most of the time. And I trained them!

For for me it is lack of interest to go further and of course talent. But I have the technique and knowledge part fairly good. And tons of practice which informs how I teach. :wink:

When I get around to making something, I’ll let you know. My graphic designer friend wants me to make things like this for them https://www.behance.net/gallery/104681045/Selected-Characters-2020 so that’s what I’d like to try as soon as I get some more quiet time. So far I’ve done a shoe tutorial but can’t screenshot the wireframe right now

I’ve got this? https://blenderartists.org/uploads/default/original/4X/f/e/2/fe2ff8ecdd6796fa25e3a397d3bf5b905279af7a.png

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If I read your replies correctly you haven’t even really properly started modelling yet instead you are hung up on what you perceive as an insurmountable roadblock; you feel you can’t work conveniently on your subd cage while seeing the result smoothed at the same time.

There is a “solution” for this but I highly advice against it.

That setting reprojects the control cage back onto the subdivided surface.

However I strongly advice you to listen to Richard instead and NOT model this way.

When modeling in subd, especially for characters that are going to be animated, its not just about the shape the subd modifier gives. Its also about the manner in which you arrive at that shape because that will greatly influence how the model will behave when deformed.

My “solution” enforces bad habits. Namely a) modeling with too few edgeloops b) creating overstretched/folded geometry that will distort badly when animated.

What Richard has been trying to tell you, very patiently I might add, is that you should not depend on the subd modifier as much as you do. Its not a way to create the final shape. Its more like a final layer of polish. All the shapes should already be there, well defined, in your subd cage.

This means your “problem” disappears. Its easy to visualize the final result because your subd cage is so well formed. You don’t depend on the subd modifier for the final shape, its polish. Its like taking a sandpaper over your model and sanding down the rough edges.

You give off a rather stubborn vibe but I do hope you take Richards advice to heart and don’t end up modeling with “On cage” turned on. It would be a really bad habit.

Oh wow Richard, you are the guy from the Thrive project. :slight_smile:

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Pretty much it.

The OP polyfow is not that far off. I could see a few small improvements.

The improvements I would make would be those areas that are causing the most disparity from the final. And that is the gist of the problem. It is what happens when you get into a higher level of detail that poly flow is most important. Or areas where you rely on the subdivision surface too much.

In this example from the OP, the green areas are the problem areas. They rely on the subsurface modifier to provide the final curve. In places where this happens, you can see that the movement of edges (green arrows on the right) move to a greater degree. You can almost figure it that way. If your edges are moving far from their position, then you are relying too much on the modifier. Orange arrows show an optimum movement of edges. In other words, very little.

Does it make this model “illegal”? Of course not. But, if you magnify this method over models of greater complexity or if you are doing this all the time, you are going to have a disconnect between the subsurf and the original.

And this method can be used of course. But it is not scalable to any model any time. And you always find yourself having to guess and visualize the result. And this is not a good habit. Especially when you have to come back and cut in to add more detail on those parts where you relied on the subsurf.

Your models become difficult to edit, much less visualize. And the result is poor anyway.

I talk about this in a general way here:

I hope regardless, that these tips are helpful.

I know. I also highly advised against it when I showed Maya, Modo, and Blender to other people, for years.

There seems to be some misunderstand in here… 50% or possibly even 75% of all modeling tutorials you’ve watched over the last 15 years, I have also watched. But while normal people are able to follow along, learn enough, and then go do their own thing, I have struggled to simply follow along because of something I can only describe as (analogy #1) being similar to a person with severe dyslexia trying to find a word in a pocket sized dictionary. I have probably heard 30% to 45% of the advice you have to give me several times over several years.

Analogy #2 I am like a child who has finally learned to hold a pencil thanks to one of these
and now I think I can finally try using some of this drawing and penmanship and creative writing advice that I have been reading about for over a decade.

Analogy #3 I am like a person born almost legally blind in a world where all typewriters/word processors only print text at size 7pt and after 15 years of looking I found one capable of producing size 24pt text.

I’m red(orange)-green(?orange?) colorblind. All lines look the same color to me except for whichever one I’m focused on looking at currently, LOL :cry: You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to be trying to teach someone Blender or Maya and their questions frequently mention a colored line in the UI and I have to tell them I have no idea what color any of the lines are beyond light and dark and warm and cool.

The great thing about Blender is you can set it up to work the way it works best for you. So keep doing what you’re doing.


Wow, sorry about that. Easy to forget about colorblindness.

And agree about setting up Blender. This is not really about that. It is a great solution. And being that you have the issues that you have it is certainly helpful.

My modeling advice should be considered also as a separate thing. Try to look at my example to see what I am attempting to point out as far as technique, rather than an argument against your helpful visual solution. It is just that your comments lead me to believe there is a technique issue as well. And there is. So try to separate these as ideas so you can improve your modeling.

Oh there will be.

There will be.


No there isn’t. I expected you to be stubborn and you are fulfilling that expectation while being rude in the process. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not just repeating what I’ve watched other people do or say. :man_shrugging:

You know advice is only valuable when you put it into practice right? I don’t see you taking any steps towards that.

You’ve been wasting a lot of time if you’ve been teaching this “for years” without giving the tools a good run yourself.

You haven’t posted a single instance where you run into a real, actual, practical problem. Those cartoon characters you posted as a goal? Perfect practice. Why haven’t you started modeling one yet?

If you truly want to get better at modeling, start modeling. When you run into -specific- problems you can post them on this beautiful forum and I am certain some people will be happy to help you with the issue at hand.

When reading this thread back I don’t think you’ve taken anyone’s advice to heart. Maybe that is because you didn’t post for help. You posted to announce you got the solution to what you feel has been holding you back and in your eyes its that quad view setup.

I hope it delivers to you what you expect from it.

This post is about the visual issues I have that have prevented me from putting any advice into practice (since maya 4 or 5 days).

You’ve been wasting a lot of time if you’ve been teaching this “for years”

Exactly. Graphic designers I’ve shown Maya and Blender to who only once in a blue moon need to do something in 3D have all turned out to be much better modelers than me (keep in mind even the best one is probably just at early-intermediate skill level in modeling).

You haven’t posted a single instance where you run into a real, actual, practical problem. Those cartoon characters you posted as a goal? Perfect practice. Why haven’t you started modeling one yet?

Because after about 20 minutes of signficant frustration I just quit the program without saving. I also don’t practice much because I know how frustrated I’ll get and it demotivates. This is like asking someone with severe dyslexia why they haven’t read the morning newspaper in a month.

If you truly want to get better at modeling, start modeling.

That is what I hope to do going forward now that I have found a setup that helps with my visual issues.

When you run into -specific- problems you can post them on this beautiful forum and I am certain some people will be happy to help you with the issue at hand.

I have, and I do, but this thread isn’t about that. I’ve also helped beginners here and elsewhere with beginner level modeling issues because I have a firm beginner level understanding of how polygons and subdivs are supposed to work from watching endless hours of other people using them, I just lack the experience of actually using them myself due to reasons described earlier. Another recently discovered issue is I seem to lack to ability to quickly identify patches with more than 4 sides. I had a kink in the surface and I could swear I counted the 4 edges of every polygon in the entire object twice and they were all quads. My kid looked at for 5 seconds and found the 1 5 sided polygon. I don’t know how I’m supposed to improve that one. I’m hoping just spending time modeling will improve my ability to count to 5? I can spot a single missing comma in a 5,000 line database export but sometimes I can’t find one 5 sided polygon out of less than 100 polygons just by looking.

I’ve been quietly reading through this thread. I agree with some of the comments already mentioned about trying to be a little more pro-active in overcoming your road blocks. The 4 panels is a little odd for most, but if it works for you, then more power to you. Do whatever works - there’s no right or wrong.

You mention dyslexia a lot - but say you don’t have it. I was just curious if any similar issues to what you’re experiencing with Blender have manifested outside of Blender, in the real world?

::scratches head:: I’m not sure what the problem is: the linked Behance page looked fine to me.