Stuff in Blender that you felt you absolutely HAD to learn to get more advanced.

As in, you’ve been working with the same areas of Blender for years, but then you come to a situation where it seemed like to get over it, you had to start learning an area that you haven’t so much as touched in all the time you’ve been using the program.

  • NOTE: My contribution is kind of long, but the basic point is easily found at the bottom.


To start off, there was a time recently when I felt that I finally had to get in touch with how the rigging system worked in Blender (armatures and all that). Over the years, this was an area that I more or less tried to avoid, but my efforts to start learning a thing or two to get things done started when adding a new enemy to my platform game in the BGE.

You see, most of the objects I made in the game engine were either simple shapes doing this or that or platforms or objects using a simple loc/rot/scale keyframe action, but then in this instance I wanted to add a flying object with a twirling blade, usually I would use two objects to make such a thing but this time I figured I better get to grips with the armature system and use a bone to animate the blade.

So I add a bone and just…sit there, I had no idea how to make it move anything and still didn’t have much a clue after reading a little of the docs. Luckily that handy ‘automatic weighting’ tool helped guide me to getting a bone to spin the blades.

That was just the start, in a still image, when I create an organic model such as a Dragon, I would use vertex selection, proportional edit, and rotation with the cursor as the pivot point as a way to post the model for an image. The problem with this, I had to be rather careful when doing it and to make it worse, I had to select the same sets of vertices everytime I wanted to do it, this might seem straightforward unless your dealing with the mouth and you had to do precision selection work to change positions there.

Pretty much, what ultimately got me into finally rigging my Dragon model was when I took the model used for my avatar and worked to put his tongue back in his mouth, this was a really tricky process and I realized that was probably time to make posing my Dragon easier by actually doing work to rig the thing.

So I start creating some bones to move his head, I had no idea what to do at first, as I had to learn so much as how to set up the vertex groups and figure out how to get falloff working when the bone is moved, I eventually got that done and realized that I would need to learn a bit more in rather quick succession to get the face working.

So it took me less than a day to go from barely knowing anything to getting a basic system for the face working, but to do this, I had to think of the big picture of parenting systems and how to apply it to the facial bones (so they move with the head(, spline IK and other constraints, and parented curve hooks. Also along the way the discovery of nice little techniques like changing the weightpaint color preference to catch vertices that have a weight very close, but not quite at zero.

As far as parenting systems go, I already had some knowledge as I used it plenty of times before, but this was the first time I actually utilized multiple bones and control types for anything, which is now making the posing a bit easier and eliminating the tedium of trying to poke around and moving vertices.

You see, I don’t know how many people know this, but the Dragon model in question is the same one I’ve had as an un-rigged posed model in images here and there for more than five years, the same one that lead to people in the Finished Projects forum chiding me for not taking the additional effort to actually get it rigged so he can be posed in a ‘proper’ manner. I guess in a sense, doing it after five years is better than a continued, indefinite avoidance.


That’s all I have to say for the thread for now, what about the experiences you’ve gone through when you needed to learn a new area to get something done (or make it easier depending on the scenario).

Although I bought a Blender tutorial book in 2000 when the version was 1.8, I had no clue what to do with it back then. It wasn’t until 2.49 that I set myself to finally, once and for all, really, really try to learn Blender. So my story really starts in 2010. I think almost everyone starts with modeling. Then comes materials and textures. Then comes rendering and compositing. That’s pretty much where I spent the first year or so. Then there was some experimentation with rigging and a walk cycles based on Mancandy.

I played around with particles and hair. Then I got into Cycles. That pretty much was a materials, textures, node editor, and renderer thing for a while. Honestly, I don’t think Cycles is something that I HAD to learn, though.

Now I’m on to learning more seriously the dopesheet, NLA, and action editors. I’ve bought the Blender Animation Toolkit and Humane Rigging. I haven’t done any major rigging yet since I’m still learning the ins and outs of animating. That’s probably for the best because I need to know how to animate before I can properly design rigs and shape keys. I simply HAVE TO learn animation regardless of whether I ever get into serious rigging. Rigging without animation experience is akin to building an equipped kitchen without knowing how to cook.

Since I started creating small animations, I’ve gotten into the VSE, just barely though. The BGE is completely foreign to me, but I just got a new book all about the game engine. So much to learn!

My approach has been very general. I’m interested in all areas of CG from stills to animations to games. I knew from the start that knowledge can take years to acquire, especially when it isn’t my day job, and there’s no money (or debt) available for a paid education.

UV editing. I didn’t really know what it was, or the how to do it. I’d try my best to make everything with procedural textures or object mapped images, but it was really limiting my results.

Now, I love uv mapping textures. I love the flexibility and control, especially with cycles. I’ve set up a number of node groups that extend UV function.

Speaking of which: Nodes! I was also a little apprehensive about getting into nodes, but once I made the jump, it completely overhauled my workflow

Originally learning Blender’s controls and UI (2.4x) was the toughest. Beyond that, UV Unwrapping, Rigging, and setting up something for texture paint all gave me trouble when I was originally learning them. I’m not sure if I’d struggle as much if I were learning it now though. There seems to be more educational resources available on those areas.

UV texturing, used to scare the crap out of me. Still does.

But at least now I have it down and I’ve made a real UV map. I was unwilling to confront it for years before that, though.

UV Mapping, materials and Rendering for sure.

Modelling and rigging I was able to pick up from previous packages such as Maya and Max.

Shift-clicking the layer icons, and also the translation widget - and setting up custom orientations for view, that was a big game changer modeling wise.

For a long time, it was also rigging and animation for me. Now I’ve taught myself the basics, but I still haven’t attempted anything complex like facial rigs.

Right now, my Achilles heel is character modeling. With practice, I know I could become half-decent, but I’ve been putting off designing characters because it’s difficult, and I don’t yet know what kind of characters I want to have in the game I’m planning.

Oh, and Compositing and the workflow of using images and inputs there - once I understood render layers and masking, things really opened up.

cycles rendering, … recently basic rigging, ,on my list to learn is shapekeyes and then the compositor, the part of blender which is most scary to me…

@laserblaster - do the Blender Cookie character modeling course from 2010 - incredible stuff in there.

Compositing can make mediocre render looks awesome.
It can make huge impact once you start learning it.

I remember the first time I looked at the files from Big Buck Bunny. It began to dawn on me that Blender was way, way more complex and powerful than I had ever imagined. How the heck was I ever going to learn all this?! Well, three years later and I’m slowly getting there.

My journey into 3D started in 1987, so when I discovered Blender (or re-re-rediscovered, actually) in 2011, I pretty much had to start over from scratch. Everything I knew about modeling and animating I learned in Sculpt-Animate 4D and, in those days, several things were vastly different:

  • triangles were all we had to work with,
  • rigs hadn’t even been conceived of, and
  • texturing was a pipe dream.

I spent the first six months or so learning how to model properly, then dug into UV unwrapping and texturing. I didn’t feel I really knew unwrapping until I discovered Sebastian König’s tutorial, Unwrapping on Speed.

Surprisingly, what little I knew about lighting (other than ambient occlusion, that is) and rendering was still applicable to a certain extent, enough to get me by, anyway. So I didn’t sweat about that.

But animation and rigging were totally different. As I mentioned earlier, rigging didn’t exist, so I spent the next year banging on that one with the aid of such tutorials as Nathan Vegdal’s Humane Rigging. I still know squat about rigging and, even though Blender’s rigging system seems quite comprehensive, I doubt I’ll ever know it well enough to be considered anything near a real expert.

After a year, I was able to build rigs, but I cheated a lot. I don’t understand the weight painting system at all, so most of my characters are mechanical so I can simply attach each segment of finger, arm, leg, etc. to a bone and be done with it. I haven’t touched any rigging for about six months now and I’m sure I’ll need a major refresher if/when I go back to it.

As for the original question posed by this thread, I’d have to say it was unwrapping and the key for me to understand it was Sebastian’s tutorial.

The main stumbling block that I’ve gotten over was conceptual. I found it very difficult not to treat Blender like a CAD application. I kept trying to line everything up perfectly and recreate models so that they were physically accurate when it wasn’t necessary. Eventually I realised that for what I was making, as long it looked good, then it was “right”. My current stumbling block is lighting. I really haven’t got a clue. Thank goodness for ambient occlusion. :wink:

Before you start to improve your #b3d skills be sure you don’t make mistakes in fundamental things.

heck the whole story of me an blender would be soooooooooo boring!!
was an engineer used to use autocad (amongst others) used to make these things in RL :wink: textures was NEVER a problem
after “retirement” found Bryce, terragen etc moved “on” to poser ~ DS ~ hexagon
ended up in blender
WOW I feel like a blind man who was given sight!!!
after the above post I still say I’m a technician NOT an artist lol
still scared of game engine (don’t play games why would I make one )
but all the rest I’ve dipped my toe!! learning all the things blender can do is a life time task
remembering what you did yesterday can be “fun”

ps a lot of these comments don’t apply to anyone under a certain age :wink:

When we come to modeling a figure, a character… this frightens me.
What frightens me, most of all, the lack of knowledge of most blender developers on such matters, such workflows.

Blender is not a ready application for this kind of work.
I use zbrush and 3dcoat, so, yes, I can do it.
Blender for basic modeling, basic sculpting (the excellent dyntopo) , the wonderful UV editor and cycles rendering.
Still, I avoid baking texture maps in blender,
It doesn’t frightens me at all.
I just can’t stand these horrible, approximated, noisy, not AA results.
Texture painting? A system under heavy development (thanks to Psy-fi), still lacks of cavity masking… Sorry, things don’t work this way.
Once again,
The horrible horrible multires modifier, still unfinished and problematic.
Fear of BI and multires then? Of the dinosaurs?

For me it was really understanding the difference between an object and a datablock and leveraging the particle system.

Rigging and Character work is still on my todo list.