What should I do to get better?

I’m interested in doing something with 3D art as a career some day. I sometimes feel like I’m falling behind. I see hundreds of incredibly talented artists creating amazing things every day on this website and other places all over the internet. I’m worried about being able to compete with everyone.

I think I want to shoot for a career in games (but honestly I think anything would be great). So I’m wondering what should I be spending my free time doing to get better at 3D art?

  1. Should I make my own game focusing on 3D art?
  2. Should I even focus on games or just make 3D art in general?
  3. Should I focus on creating lots and lots of 3D art to fill a portfolio?
  4. What kind of art should I make? original ideas? real world representations? fan art? does it even matter?
  5. Should I just focus on doing lots of tutorials?
  6. Should I focus on one part of 3D art such as 3D modeling, animating, rigging, or texturing?
  7. What is a good strategy?

Feel free to answer as many questions as you want. You definitely don’t need to answer all of them and it doesn’t even need to be a correct answer (I guess that is the best way of saying it). I’m just really concerned about this stuff and I’m looking for some opinions from other 3D artists.

(Edit: changed “watching tutorials” to “doing tutorials”)

Just watch any video on this yt-channel:

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Just my opinions:

  1. & 2. If you’re interested in the programming side of things, then by all means do this, but if you’re only interested in 3D art, then focus on that.

  2. Make as much art as you can. There’s a story I’ve read in a couple of places of a teacher who split a class in two and told one half they would only be graded by how many pieces they made, and their other half would be graded on their best piece. By the end of the year, the group that focused on quantity, also had the best quality because they had tried so many more things and learned so much more.

  3. Try not to lock yourself into one style. If you’re aiming for a career in games,you’ll want to be able to adapt to whatever the style of the game is.

  4. Watching is good. Doing is better.

  5. Focus on everything until you find out what you enjoy.

You don’t need to be that good to find a job, but you need to practice as much as you can.
Doing personal work will teach you a lot, tutorials teach you other stuff and it’s good too.
Working in CG is not about competition but teamwork, so you can always find stuff to do on a project if you can learn fast and understand well what clients / directors wants.

Ask yourself if you prefer being a generalist, then try to do a lot of different things, or be specialised, then focus on something like, model / texture or rig/animation ect…

Being a generalist takes more time because you need to be good in various field, but give you a good overview of everything. Better then to focus on modeling for a few month, then animation, then compositing. Then you can go back on modeling ect…

Try to show your work often , on forums and also to people that don’t know CG, and try to include their feedback in your work .

And finally, at some point if you can take art studies that can help you to learn faster.

I hate to sound cliche’, but it is true to say that there is no one answer for everyone.

But it is true that 3D is extremely hard to get good and even harder to get paid at it.

Because it is so hard, and at times can seem to take forever to get work, you have to be persistent.

So what is the best way to be persistent? I say, do it by first doing the things you have the most interest in. Those things that you have the most passion about. The things you will do and finish without the need to have the end goal of getting paid. Then, do those things over and over and over again until you get them to a professional level of quality. Be that modeling, sculpting, rendering or animation, or whatever it is. And then put together a portfolio with just that, first.

Now the process of getting to a professional level on that first thing has these elements:

  1. Reading the maunal of the application, focused on that skill. And of course practical trials to test out these concepts.

  2. Doing as many tutorials as you can in that skill or area of interest.

  3. Becoming active online, not just getting help. But testing your understanding of the skill by trying to help people. If you find you are always giving the right answers and you are nailing it. You know you have it. If you find other people are giving better answers, learn from them. Be humble.

  4. Help people by offering your services in the way of work. Be that with the volunteer work forum or in the support section. Form good relationships with people in the community. This can lead to actual paid work. And you don’t know where this will come.

  5. And as soon as your have your first portfolio of this one thing. Keep trying to find work doing this one thing. Keep trying to get work at this as you move into the next thing. Use this work as an opportunity to learn more about the process. Learn how to deliver a product to a client.

  6. Rinse and repeat with the next most passionate area of interest. And don’t waste your time with things you are not really that interested in or find difficult doing - at first.

  7. With some confidence, start challenging yourself to do things you are real bad at, (as well as have very little interest in) and get good.

At the end of it, to be a good 3D artist, even if you will specialize you should have a good grasp of these things:

UV Mapping
Exporting assets to a game engine.
Some basic skills to set up assets in a game engine. Unity and Unreal

All in all you don’t have to be the best artist. But you have to provide the best solution to a prospective employer or client, in that one particular situation.

Know that building your career will be a series of small steps. Take it slow, one thing at time and you will be just fine. Don’t loose site of the larger goal and keep focused in the months that will go by as you learn each small thing. It will take years to do this.

Great answers so far, all I have to add is my own personal experience, which is I’m sure, very much not normal.

I got into blender almost a year ago now, because I wanted to make some mods for a game I liked to play. So, I watched some online tutorials, did the Andrew Price (BlenderGuru) Donut and Anvil tuts. After that, I was pretty much ready to make mods, so I made them. I made enough of them, and with enough quality (looking back now I think they’re trash, but more on that later) that the developers asked me if I wanted to make some extra money.

So I did, at first they paid me per piece. Now, I’m paid on salary, and I get to have voice conference meetings with the developers, and I’ve had a number of my suggestions become part of the game, simply because I had ideas about how to do things that would make the game either better, or easier to make assets for.

So, there are both good and bad things though to take from my experience. The good is having experienced developers and artists to lean on for advice, to critique my work and help me make it better, which is why I mentioned earlier about how my first mods are, IMO, trash. Because now I can make them several orders of magnitude better, and faster. Also, getting paid is good as well :stuck_out_tongue:

The bad though, is it’s hard to develop my skills further as most of my time is spent working, rather than learning. I do get to budget some time for training, and I’m doing things like the CGMasters Corvette training course, which has taught me a lot. At the same time, I’ve been working on that course for months, and I’m only about half way through it. As a consequence of “early employment” I know that it would be very difficult for me to find further work, with my very limited skill set. I know very little about rigging, virtually nothing about animation, textures, sculpting… I probably know 10% of blender, and I have to guess at that figure since I really don’t know how much I don’t know.

So I guess my advice, if you dare take it, would be.

A) Don’t shy away from paid training. It’s easy to want to just do it for free, but the paid courses are often so much better, easier and more focused than YouTube videos. You can of course follow along with CGMasters and CGCookie YouTube stuff (both offered paid training as well), but if you see something paid that you feel like “Yes, this is exactly what I want to learn” don’t be afraid of it. (Just make sure it’s reputable paid stuff, if you don’t know, as people here) I subscribe to the blender cloud which has a lot of training resources, and I’m also interested in the CG Cookie subscription, when I have more time for it, because it has some very focused stuff that I want to learn.

B) Practice, Practice and more practice. Just make stuff. I could take my own advice here as well, as I know that I need more of it, and I need to get out of my comfort zone, but until you have a job, expand your skills as far and wide as you can, because once you have a job, it’s harder to find time to keep learning.

C) Don’t think that making mods for a video game is a good path to earning money. Yeah that’s how I got my foot in the door, but just being around game forums and whatnot, it sounds like an incredible exception. I’ve seen a lot of modders come and go and never get offered money, not because of a lack of skill, but a lack of shared vision. When I made mods, I made stuff the community wanted. When I make assets now, I do stuff the developers want, to help their game reach their vision. A lot of modders make meme stuff, or stuff that’s outside the scope of the game, and that doesn’t really get the devs attention.

If you plan on exporting your animations, be warned that 2.8 is bugged in animation exports.

What the other’s said is good. You need to paint and model a variety of different things to be good. At ctrl+paint the teacher here, says that in college he’s class had to do many many still life drawings. This same things can apply to modeling too.

Because of the limited time for any artist, even full time, you might want to focus on a specific nitch. There are only 365 days to a year, I have found that it can take sometimes 2 weeks for one model. This is organic and I am new to the art scene. That gives me about 2 models per month. At about 24 models per year. Yeah, that’s it, only 24 models per year.

What ever you do, count the time and cost.

Master theory and basic principles. This is absolutely key. Tools will come and go. Don’t fall into the trap of studying your hammer but forgetting to smash some nails.

Another important skill is the ability to "see critically." Or maybe the proper word is, “analytically.” What a photography mentor put as: “look at the light.” Develop the skill of looking at both your own work and the work of others to better understand how they were made, and what decisions the artist made, and what (s)he could have made and what the results might have been if (s)he did. Some of these principles are brand-new to computer graphics, while others are much older – coming from the world of print and (separately) photography.

One of my favorite photographers was O. Winston Link, most famous for his iconic photographs of steam locomotives when he realized they were on their way out. He took his photos using flashbulbs – hundreds of them. And he wrote a lot about the calculations that he did in advance to ensure that his “we’ve got just one shot at this” shots came out as he intended. Admirers who didn’t realize what he had done – and he was so good at it that it was never too evident from the finished shots that he had “done” anything – commented “how lucky he was.”

We look at a great CG shot, say in The Gallery, and think “how lucky” they were. But no. There is a process here. There are strategies.