3D Work

3D rendering of game box with components inside

About two years ago I started relearning how to 3D model. It was a very difficult task! I haven’t touched 3D since when I was in college years ago. And back then I used 3D Studio Max, which, while I still see mentioned on occasion, it does not appear to be used much in the industry anymore.

Because of that fact, I needed to figure out what program I should use. Not only did I want to learn 3D for mocking up games at work, I also wanted to use it for creating things that I could 3D print in my personal life. I ended up deciding to go with Blender. I chose it because it’s an open source program, and it’s free. The free part was probably the larger deciding factor. There was definitely a fear that I might not be any good at 3D modeling or even enjoy it. If that turned out to be the case, I only wasted a download and some of my time. Luckily, I enjoy it, and while I’m not a master, I’m getting better.

The hardest part about learning Blender for me was the tutorials. Everyone uses shortcuts. Which is great! I love shortcuts, and I use them often in my design work. But from a learning perspective, it’s really hard to remember all those shortcuts at once. And there are different ways to get to those shortcuts as well. So one tutorial might tell you to do a shortcut one way, while another one uses a different shortcut. Which is really confusing!

Then there’s the fact that I’m using a Mac with a Magic Mouse. I have to emulate a 3-button mouse, and that limits the shortcuts available to me. While people using a standard mouse can right-click and scroll wheel to get all these options, I can’t. (I know. This is my own problem. I could just get a new mouse. I might some day. But for now, I am familiar with how to do what I’m trying to do, and I’m not ready to throw that all out the window and relearn how to do things, since it changes navigation.)

To make things even more difficult, while I was just starting to understand how things were working, Blender went through a major redesign. Granted, I didn’t have to download the newest version, but I saw a lot of comments online about how it made it more user-friendly. So I thought it would be in my best interest to check it out. It turns out that for me, it did help a lot. And it also added more confusion, when I would open up older files I had made that looked good, and they now looked horrible. Why?!

Unfortunately, the redesign also made tutorials more difficult to understand. So while there are a lot of tutorials out there, a lot of them are not up to date and using the newest version of Blender. (I get it. I have never made a tutorial, but I imagine they take a really long time to make.) I think it was probably fine for older versions of Blender, but it was harder for me as a newbie to follow along when I had to look in a different place for everything. Now that I know Blender a little bit better, I can watch those older tutorials, and I usually know where to find what they are showing me. But when you’re first starting out, it can be hard to follow along.

On the good side, all of my searching online and trying different tutorials and getting confused caused me to find some great tutorials that really clicked for me and helped me understand things better! For anyone out there who is trying to learn Blender, I highly recommend CG Cookie (They are not paying me for this and have no idea I’m even recommending them). They have a lot of tutorials that are really informative and go over things in great detail. Plus, the basics tell you where to find something in the menus AND how to also use the shortcuts. This was a game changer for me. I now know that if someone uses a shortcut, I can likely find it somewhere else in the program, if I can’t right-click for it.

In addition to modeling, I have also decided to try to learn sculpting. I have some ideas for sculpts in my head that I’m excited to get into the computer and maybe even eventually 3D print. It will probably be awhile before I do that though. The tools don’t seem to always work the way that I expect them to, and since Blender has so many shortcuts, I sometimes accidentally hit a key, mess something up, have no idea what I did, and have no idea how to fix it. But that happened a lot in the beginning when I was learning modeling, so I’m sure I’ll eventually figure some of that out.

I have made a few things in Blender that I’ve 3D printed, but I’m finding that I am not able to be as precise as I want to be/need to be. I have measured things out and recreated them, and found that they don’t all fit together, so I have to resize them. Which is fine for a 3D render that will never be put into the physical world. But it’s not so great for items that I want to make and actually use. So I think I’m going to have to learn a CAD program for that stuff. But that’s a whole new world that seems more similar to working in a Microsoft program rather than an Adobe program. So I’m struggling a bit more with it.

Overall though, I’m really pleased with how much I’ve grown in my 3D modeling. I’m looking forward to learning even more and hopefully eventually being able to show you some real-world items!

3D rendering of a treasure chest
A treasure chest I started from a tutorial on CG Cookie.