Piranha4D's Learning and Practice 2022

Hi. @josephhansen encouraged me to start posting my newbie work, so I’ll give it a go. I’m new to Blender, just a few weeks, and while I have experience with 3D software, I worked as a programmer, and never learned much proper modeling. So I know my way around how many things work technically, but I am a novice to creating anything manually. My proximate reason for learning to model now was that I got sucked into playing House Flipper, was constantly wanting more items for decorating, and then realized that it has a Steam Workshop, and I could make my own assets. Huh. Maybe it was time to give Blender a serious try.

I’m not an artist; I have no training in anything artistic – but I love looking at other people’s art, and I have stuff in my head, and it occasionally wants out, which doesn’t really go well because I lack knowledge of techniques in anything but photography, and had no time to acquire those (workoholic). Anyway, though I have gotten to the point where I can make many of the assets I originally wanted to learn how to make, ironically my focus has already shifted. I am now much more excited about the multitude of things Blender can do beyond that, and I want to learn ALL THE THINGS. I’m not playing House Flipper anymore, instead I practice in Blender.

I want to chronicle my learning experiences in one place because that sort of thing has always been interesting for me to look back on. Also, because in any community I participate in I want to give back, and since I can’t post any amazing art pieces that’ll inspire people, maybe I can share with other beginners that it gets better, and how. :wink:

2022-04-25 Ye Olde Glazed Torus of Doom

I started with the infamous donut. Mistake. I got to the icing with much cursing, and somehow my mesh was really messed up, and I had no idea how to fix it. And when I started over I realized what I had already suspected – that the tutorial proceeded in a way that nothing much had really stuck. I decided to cut my losses and start with something much simpler.

2022-05-05 Low Poly Blocky Sheep

And I got really, really lucky; I stumbled upon Grant Abbitt’s YouTube channel. Low poly, cartoonish, game art oriented. I was so demotivated by the donut failure that blocky sheep with googly eyes seemed like just the thing to cure that.

Yeah, that was clearly more my speed at that point. :wink:

Here’s the tutorial for it, if the donut gives you grief: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNQYhbvTJi8 – Grant is an excellent teacher. He’s calm, he’s clear, he is prepared (no extraneous rambling), he KNOWS what sort of stuff gives beginners trouble, he repeats important steps more than once. Success is certain, and nothing is more motivating than getting it right and understanding how that came about.

I felt pretty good after this, I had no trouble at all following along, my homework turned out well and I didn’t need to go back to the tutorial even once. (I give myself homework when I learn new things, to anchor the process better in my mind.) This is such a simple model, but it caused me to think a lot about stylization. We’ll get back to that later…

Here I come, Minecraft clone game! (Just kidding.)

26 Likes

I’m glad I inspired you, although I must admit I have no idea what I did :sweat_smile:

Your cow is super cute, I’m a big fan of your style so far!

3 Likes

It was in a discussion about why newcomers to BA couldn’t delete their posts or make some posts private, and I said that the latter was keeping me from posting my learning stuff (including failures). You said I should post it anyway because it was motivating. I kinda ignored that at the time because I didn’t need motivating, but then I thought about community and how beginnings and failures are part of community learning, and … If you hadn’t said anything, I probably wouldn’t be posting any work.

Thanks for the compliment! It’s really mostly Grant’s style, but as will become clearer later, I did put a lot of thought into style, and how to adapt to one.

3 Likes

Failing is a part of progress, And it’s the most important part.

3 Likes

I actually stumbled across that exchange between you and @josephhansen just a few minutes after it took place (relatively speaking.) It seemed like a regular interaction, but I’m glad it had such a positive effect on you. :slightly_smiling_face:

Out of curiosity, which version of the donut tutorial did you follow? Was it the Blender 2.8 version made back in 2019 or the Blender 3.0 one that was released last December? Could just be me, but there’s a huge quality disparity between the two–the former is what I relied on when learning Blender, and I felt like it did a good job in terms of the introduction of concepts, giving a broad view of what you can do with the software. The explanations were adequate, the pacing was reasonable, and in every episode there was a good balance between learning something new and seeing a substantial change in your donut model. (That being said, I finished the 2.8 tutorial series in a week, came back to it almost a year later, and realized I’d somehow either missed or forgotten half the concepts and ideas being taught. XD XP)

Meanwhile, the Blender 3.0 donut tutorial series felt like it was made just for the sake of having another donut tutorial, to go along with a new major release/version of Blender. There was quite a bit of rambling, and sometimes some downright confusing explanations for concepts that aren’t very complicated. Important stuff that was present in the 2.8 series, like basic hard-surface modeling, was missing in the 3.0 series as well. Overall the newer donut series was more like a rehash aimed at people who already knew what they were doing, than a legitimate “beginner-level” tutorial series.

Anyway, my point is, if you ever want to try the donut tutorial again, the 2.8 version is better than the 3.0 one. Not that there’s anything wrong with sticking with Grant Abbitt :sweat_smile:

3 Likes

Interesting; thanks for sharing that impression. I did the new one, and yes, it was super-rambly and often confusing. I don’t think it is a good beginner tutorial; it introduces way too many concepts too quickly without adequate repetition, with too much extraneous information muddying the waters. I’ve since found other people than Grant whose teaching style is more my thing, and I am also much faster now, so I have no shortage of tutorials. But I will return to the donut eventually because it is a rite of passage ;), and because I have evil plans for my second donut. I’ll probably appreciate Andrew’s rambly side excursions a lot more when I am not trying to memorize a new hotkey every 10 seconds. Sometimes it’s just not the right time yet – I discovered Blender Secrets right away too, but my eyes crossed and my brain froze, while now I can actually follow most of them without having to rewind several times, and I love every one of them.

3 Likes

Symptomatic of the whole 3.0 series is when Andrew tries to explain what samples are: “How technical do you want to get?” :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes::stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: Dude, considering it’s a beginner tutorial, maybe not very technical at all? Maybe just recycle the explanation you used for the 2.8 tutorial: “Samples are the noise you see in your image. The higher the sample count, the less noisy your render will be.” Instead, he goes, “It’s a Monte Carlo, Russian roulette system of blah blah blah…” and immediately misses the point XD Same with when he attempts to explain the Noise Threshold setting in the Render properties tab, just one or two quick sentences to introduce the idea would’ve sufficed, but then he suddenly goes into, “it’s a low amount, but actually if you think about it, it’s really a high threshold…” :crazy_face::crazy_face:

Don’t get me wrong, I used to really, really like the Blender Guru tutorials. And quite a lot of them are super helpful, especially the scene-building tutorials where he covers the broad workflow and not every minute step and detail. But several of the more recent ones are plagued by this rambly, unfocused quality that may be a consequence of also maintaining his podcast channel (tried to listen to a few episodes, got “rambled-out” real fast. XD)

3 Likes

2022-05-06 Low Poly Trees

Guh, too busy and too hot. Anyway. From blocky barnyard animals I went to trees. Again a tutorial from Grant Abbitt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-9pgZI3inI

I learned about the Skin modifier, which I had idly experimented with when I looked at all the modifiers, and sighed over since it made a butt-ugly skin. This is definitely one of the modifiers where you actually need to study when and how to use it; it’s not intuitive. What surprised me is that I could use the Subsurf modifier next in the stack, because the Skin modifier creates non-quad topology.

There’s so much I don’t yet understand. Anyway, it’s super useful that one can do that. Not in this case though, since we’re going for the really low, low poly look. It’s nice enough topology for texturing, but for the first tree I actually removed all the vertices on the straight branch sections to lower the poly count, since I am just using single colour materials Then I decided since these were not actually to be game-ready models, I could spare myself the work for now; the look was what we were going for.

And here’s my homework:

I had more thoughts about stylization. I was feeling mildly uncomfortable when I set out on my own, and I realized it was because how to stylize isn’t part of the tutorial, and Grant just makes it up from his store of experience. But if I want to learn stylization I need to start with real trees and figure out how to capture their essence, not make up trees from whole cloth just yet (that can come later). So I went and got myself reference photos of real trees to get the shape of specific trees right (I made the generic conifer before doing that, and to me it shows). I made the birch next, and it’s ok, but I am not entirely happy with it. I am really proud of the oak though – I combined two images to get the shape of the trunk and branches, and I think the stylization works.

Hm. I think I need to restructure the Sketchbook if I want to always show the latest post as the thumbnail; I should probably make the first post a summary and link post. Well, not today.

4 Likes

2022-05-08 Low Poly Car

Went on to another low-poly tutorial – I think I will stick with this general style for a while because familiarity never breeds contempt for me, but greater comfort and ease. Grant Abbitt again, of course: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn3ukorJv4vtkqLZLtxVDgM3BSCukFF7Y

I skipped the animation – I’m planning to do this for most everything because I want to concentrate on modeling for now.

Homework:

I learned a lot from the homework, learning to snap more intelligently being just one. Once again, I wanted a real-world item to stylize, and I think it came out quite well. I debated over the grille, and left it as is because it’s stylistically simpler, but it might actually need the grid to make the pickup more recognizably a 1980s Ford. But does that matter? Not if it simply needs to read as an older American pickup. If it does matter for some other purpose, then I probably need to work some more on the shape as well; the sides need to curve in some, especially around the hood. It has a couple of problems aside from that, one around the side window, which I should fix. One thing’s for sure, more realistic, modern cars will require a lot of work, what with all the compound curves. I’m not ready for that, and it basically screams for NURBS. Some day…

3 Likes

Nice to see your progress. Keep up the good work and keep us posted. I’m still kind of a noob, too, but we’ll get there.

1 Like

2022-05-09 Low Poly Tank

More low poly, a continuation of the little car. Grant Abbitt again (I promise there will eventually be other teachers, but it’ll be just him for a while longer; I’m always feeling accomplished when I finish one): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn3ukorJv4vvUiIa0NYtRMNoLFsntmX3C

The reference for this is a very rough sketch with side and front of the tank, which he made up. He duplicated all the tank treads one by one, but mentioned that one could use an array and a curve if one was more ambitious, so that’s what I did. It took quite some experimentation, but that’s such a useful thing; I’ve rarely duplicated anything by hand since if I needs lots of copies; circular arrays and arrays on curves are my buddies.

Something I had enormous trouble with was to stick the door to the body. Grant in general so far doesn’t really care whether he overlaps stuff, but I want to create clean models, darnit, so I battle with things he just breezes past. Snap to face while aligning rotation to target was my nemesis, the door would just flipflop around like a demented flounder and stick to that face in different ways but never how I wanted it to. I did not manage to figure out how to get that right and ended up just snapping verts to the face and then extruding them instead of pre-shaping a cube and snapping it. (I have since figured it out, and I’ll go into detail when we get to that point).

Homework:

So this is a fail.

Oh, it’s a perfectly nice low poly excavator, and I was very much tempted to rig it, ^snicker^ (but in the end I just parented the boom et al, moved the pivot points for the boom, stick, and bucket to the right places and rotated them by hand). I think I understand this form of stylization pretty well; grab the main shapes and limit the amount of detail to be appropriate for the purpose.

But the homework is supposed to be in the style of the tutorial, and that is not simply low poly, but it’s also cartoony. And I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get from one to the other with a pleasing result. I could have just used a more cartoony reference, but I really do want to get there from first principles. So I have to think about it a lot more, and do some reading about cartooning – not having much art education is a problem here; I have so much to catch up on. I gave up since my primary goal is learning modeling, not stylization, but I definitely want to return to this.

4 Likes

Hi! I’ve seen you being active and been looking at the artworks I was looking at, and just wanted to check you out and say hi.
I haven’t posted here at all as well, same reason as you. Thanks for the motivation, and I hope to see you getting better! I have to say, your trees are looking great! I jumped into high-poly modeling too early: without defining the shape I want, not knowing what I want it to look like in the end.
Shape-defining in lo-poly is really the way to go, although I always just crank up the poly counts, I can’t help it lol. Anyways, have a nice day :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Hi there! I remember seeing you around recently; you write interesting comments. Thanks for the compliment about my trees!

I haven’t mastered the transition from low poly that looks obviously low poly to something smoother without my poly count shooting up yet either. Yesterday I was retopologizing text with a new (to me) method, which was super cool, but in no time I had 100k racked up. WTH? I know that for many purposes it doesn’t really matter anymore, but a) my computer is a potato, and b) more importantly, I want control over what I am doing instead of it just happening. I still want to make assets for House Flipper, and they must be low poly (but don’t look it). There’s lots of baking normal maps in my future.

Go ahead and post! I’ve gotten over my reticence by now, and it took just a few posts. This is generally a friendly and supportive community. The weekend challenges are also cool (ghods, I have no time for this one, but it’s #1000, how can I miss it?). Thanks for writing to me!

2 Likes

I just did the challenge in about 2hrs, abstract art kinda. My pfp!
And yeah, I’m just glad that my “Muhaha smooth as reality!!” days are over lol
I totally missed the point of it being computable graphics :sweat_smile: :rofl:

2 Likes

2022-05-11 Get Good at Blender: Basic Low Poly Items, Materials

Feeling more comfortable, I embarked on trying to Get Good at Blender (bet you can guess by whom): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLn3ukorJv4vvv3ZpWJYvV5Tmvo7ISO-NN – it’s for Blender 2.8 and I’m using 3.1.2, but I no longer need to look up things.

Lesson one was about making some very basic things, amongst them the fugliest chair ever:

The Chianti bottle is my homework. I am proud of the end result (not the process, it was more complicated than anything else I had made up to that point), but low poly it ain’t. ^sigh^. I made my own straw material. I love node editors, ever since I played with the early Maya one many years ago; I wish I had had the time to learn more of Maya when I had free access to it (we wrote plug-ins).

A little later @Renzatic taught me a way to make a very low poly plate/bowl look smoother: selecting the verts along the rim, subdividing it a couple of times, triangulating the results along those top faces, then using the Looptools add-on to make it circular (80 → 96 tris; real good for a big visual improvement).

Lesson 2 was all about basic materials; my bauble-icious experiments:

Homework is included here, but I didn’t separate it out. The floor planks are all mine (including the elegant way to make them, which is jumping ahead of the class). It doesn’t look like realistic wood, but it’s nice enough for this.

Yeah, I love node editors and procedural anything. I need to force myself to stick to simple stuff for now, or I’d be spending all my time on making cool materials instead of learning modeling. But now and then I allow myself to spend a couple hours. I found a long series of fabulous tutorials about procedural nodes that starts with explaining texture coordinate math, which IMO everyone who embarks seriously on any texturing should watch: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEPLtrfjLBXjNObTIyYO8PEVtHtXFwsF9 (not by Grant, imagine that, but by Sam Bowman).

7 Likes

Cool; abstract! Good for you! I’ll look at it later (I don’t peek until I’ve finished my own, so I don’t get influenced).

I’ve been saving up for a new computer and am starting to pick out parts – then I can get my not-so-secret lust for realistic scenes with lots of foliage and god rays and volumetric fog and sculpts with gazillions of tris out of my system. Ha! But I will probably stick with stylized scenes for a lot longer; so much to learn about that, and a lot of the artsy stuff locked in my mind is either stylized in some way or totally abstract. I mostly get at my realistic stuff through photography which is the only art I know anything about.

2 Likes

2022-05-13 Get Good at Blender: Low Poly Exercises

Same playlist as above, lessons 2, 3, and 4.

Back row is from lesson 2, front row homework. Simple little assets (no materials originally, but I get tired of the white clay).

I think I got the stylization down pretty well for this one. What amused me was the first 2 extrusion exercises (back left) – Grant never said what that was even supposed to be! I decided it was a fountain, so my homework is a fountain, darnit (strongly inspired by Tribeca Fountain from Florence Art, a San Francisco statuary manufacturer).

Lessons 3 and 4:
I learned something artistically important, which I kind of already knew, but hadn’t internalized for this endeavour: imperfections make things interesting. Ramrod straight planks perfectly lined up would be boring (or at best have some visual appeal through repetition alone), but these wobbly, defective planks have character.

From the start of this Blender learning I’ve felt a bit uncomfortable because I had intended to model furniture for House Flipper, where I have precise dimensions, and most things have straight lines and 90° angles (at least the styles I was going for when I played with SketchUp a few years ago, and SketchUp is exceptionally suited to that purpose). But by discovering Grant Abbitt I was thrust into a world where all that was totally irrelevant. I always had real-life dimensions in the back of my mind and it was actually hard for me not to use references and units reflecting that. But I am slowly starting to let go of that, because I am learning to trust my sense of proportions, which applies no matter whether the model is in BU, mm, cm, in, etc. References can work for all units equally.

Anyway, imperfections are sort of anathema to the ArchViz dancing in my head, but I am letting go of that too, and making wobbly wooden planks and irregularly shaped stones now, and starting to like it.

No homework as such, but I spent some time on making slightly more varied materials in the same spirit of “imperfections make things more interesting”. Grant had us move vertices by hand for the stones, but then I found the Randomize operator. And that got me to thinking about also randomizing materials slightly, to make simple assets more interesting. It worked well for the wooden planks, but for some reason with the stones the materials of the same colours clump together in an unappealing way.

The rest of the playlist is hard surface modeling, which I am putting off til a little later because I felt more than ready to take Grant’s Blender 3.0 Beginner Guide which would reinforce what I had learned so far.

3 Likes

You’re making great progress here. I do think though that it’s important to keep sight of the bigger picture even when concentrating on mastering details/techniques. If you need a break from modelling but still want to keep engaged with art than you might like to check out a great course (paid) on visual storytelling by Romain Jouandeau (of Naughty Dog). Oh, and he uses Blender for the 3D aspects of his work as many concept artists seem to be doing lately.

1 Like

Thanks for the link! That course sounds interesting (gorgeous art, too), but judging from the trailer I probably lack foundational knowledge at this point, especially in drawing/painting. Even the modeling shown is beyond ye olde donut, and I’m not quite there yet. I probably need to start with concept art several levels below, something simpler (Grant has an intro course himself that looks more my speed, and I bought it in a bundle with all his other courses, but put it on the back burner). Did you take this course? I’d be interested in your thoughts if you did.

I agree that keeping sight of the bigger picture is important. My artistic learning runs pretty much parallel with my Blender learning, but I don’t write much about it because for one, it’s not generally Blender-related and I’m already plenty verbose here, and secondly, it’s mostly knowledge acquisition that’s as yet floating around unanchored and vague in my head; I don’t really have a proper “matrix” yet into which to fit things. But I am always reading and absorbing more information.

Again, thanks. Always good to find out what tools other people use in their own journey of learning. Your Sketchbook is interesting; you’ve been at this for a long time, experimenting with different things. Very cool.

I watched most of the course - I’m more interested in process than actually producing anything! Actually I have no imagination so getting any kind of concept into an actual image is my main challenge. I generally lack the motivation to go further once I reach that point. Concept art is a good fit. I do think it helps to have some kind of story for creating anything.

1 Like