“I spent 6 months teaching myself to draw and paint”

Creator of BlenderGuru.com spent 6 months learning to draw and paint. Here’s the result. His journey explained here: 9 Artistic Lessons I Learned the Hard Way.


What this goes to show is that anyone can learn to draw or paint. Though you might not be the next Leonardo Da Vinci but you’ll still be able to draw and have a unique style of your own. If you like art and have a passion for it, you can do it!

[2D] Form Breakdown #2

Flipping through my files I came across these two by Kurt Papstein. My purpose isn’t to copy it exactly, but just to simplify them and imagine how I would go about Box modelling them. Sort of like retopologizing without actually doing it.


[2D] Form Breakdown #1

Was flipping through my morgue file for creature references and did some form breakdown practice. (No tracing. Just quick blocking out (sketching) using a tablet and references as guide). This is a great way to prepare your mind for digital box modelling. While doing this I imagined myself box modelling but with a tablet.


Importance of Reference

When creating 3D art, be it realistic or stylized, using reference is one of the most important parts of the process. It is as critical as modeling, unwrapping or texturing. Unfortunately, it’s an often overlooked aspect, especially by new or inexperienced artists. Since the creation of any art asset starts with building reference, you can go as far as saying that the final quality of the finished product is largely defined by the effort you put into reference in the beginning.

Just imagine you’re building a house. You wouldn’t start building without a plan or any sort of idea where you are going. The building process itself may be more fun than planning, but in the end the house will not fit together well, look bad, or just collapse if you worked without a plan. The same goes for 3D art. Your work can end up looking fake, unfinished or just a little wonky, but you can’t put your finger on why that is.

With this article, we aim to offer some insight in the process of using reference when creating 3D art. (Read more)

Focused Practice

Whether you’re a modeller or sculptor, there’s something to learn from this:

Simply sitting down and banging out a few gesture drawings every day is a great way to stay in drawing shape, but it will rarely propel you to a new level of artistic achievement. If your goal is to simply “get better,” your progress is likely to be slow and demoralizing.

Studies show that people who get to be top in their field, from artists to computer programmers to Olympians, nearly all engage in focused practice on a regular basis. This means that every time they practice, they have a goal in mind. They don’t say to themselves “Be a better gymnast,” they think instead, “Add an inch to my long jump.” That’s a concrete goal that can be worked toward, and whether or not they are making progress is obvious. (Read more)


Currently taking things slow and trying to learn proper proportions. The ability to handle the pencil and a good control of your arm (mechanical skill) is one thing (something I already have), knowledge and a way of breaking things down is another (something I need to work on). Drawing isn’t a single skill, but many other skills combined such as the way you handle the pencil, the way you see, simplify things and so on.

Do you need to be a great traditional artist to be a good modeller? Not necessary. There are plenty of skilled digital artists out there that don’t have great drawing skill, but they do know anatomy, basic proportions and so on! What goes on in your mind is really the key here. Traditional or Digital are just mediums for these knowledge and mindsets to come alive and both, whether traditional or digital, requires a lot of practice!

The simpler you see things, the easier your life as a modeller will be. The reason why I am seeking to improve my 2d skill is for teaching purposes and personal notes taking, and hopefully make model sheets for those that are just starting out in the world of digital modelling.


Skin Modifier

I was experimenting with the Skin Modifier and in my opinion it’s not perfect. For some things it can be quick and fast, but if precision and good looking forms is what you’re after then you will have to play around a bit until it looks right. Which can be a bit time consuming since you don’t have total control over areas that bend, like the armpit for example or the neck is too short. To fix the arm, I had to change it to a different pose (T-Pose). I guess the whole point of using something like a Skin Modifier is to get the rough shape or form so that you can get right into sculpting, which is great for creatures modelling/sculpting (not saying that you can’t do that for characters). For me personally, I still prefer the old Box method. Maybe what you can try is combine both methods? Box and Skin Modifier. I find the Skin Modifier makes it a lot easier to block out the arm and hand. Perhaps you can do that and attach it to your Box form?


The importance of making plans

There’s something us modellers can learn from this:

Suppose the thought enters your mind that you want to build a house. You sit down and make a list of all the materials you think you will need. Then you order them to be delivered to the lot where you will build. Everything is piled in the center of the lot, and the next day the bulldozer comes to excavate the basement and everything is in the way. It’s all just where he has to dig.

Why? A failure to plan.

Without some rudimentary planning you probably won’t have anything to eat when you get up in the morning. And without some detailed planning no one can build a house, let alone a skyscraper or shopping mall or city. If producing shelter and food and clothing and transportation is valuable, then planning is valuable. Nothing but the simplest impulses gets accomplished without some forethought which we call a plan. (Link to Article)

[BD]: Inflate / Deflate

Brush Demonstration (BD for short from now on) is a short series that I’ll be putting together to show how each brush in Blender’s sculpting mode is used. I am basically learning and discovering them as I go, and today it’s the Inflate/Deflate brush.

Earlier I was trying to give more definitions to my Thumbnailling experiments last night, and for this particular head I noticed that it was difficult to add form and volume to this flat piece of mesh/polys. Blob and Clay brushes won’t do it! With patience, you can actually get the look that you’re after, but why when the Inflate/Deflate brush can do it much quicker? When using this brush I imagine that I’m blowing air into a flat balloon. Very useful when you’re trying to solve cylindrical shapes/forms such as the arm, leg etc… if they’re too flat or thin then simply Inflate them! Too fat? Deflate it.

[BD]: Snake Hook (with Rake, Blender 2.77)

In this demonstration I used only the Snake brush and Smooth. That’s about it! The last sculpt in the video wasn’t sculpted entirely with the Snake but I used it just to show the Snake brush’s functionality.

Think of the Snake brush as an Extrude tool with the ability to Move and Rotate proportionally all in one brush. Now that is cool!

Hard Surface and Action Figures

For me personally, when it comes to humanoid and creature modelling I can visualize and improvise as I go, even with very little references. This is because I see faces and body shapes everyday in the real world, but when it comes to hard surface modelling—let us use Iron Man as an example here—I run into problems (though I haven’t really given hard surfacing a try yet) and have a hard time visualizing. It takes skill (I think) to decode a blueprint, so for me, a front and side view aren’t enough! I believe the best way to improve in this area is to really get a hold of, for example, an actual Iron Man figure. The best references are the ones that you can touch, feel and can see from all angles.

I was at a toy store today looking for a Stormtropper but couldn’t find the head and ended up taking a few shots of something else.


Snake Hook

Edit (March 3rd): Just found out that Blender 2.77 RC has an improvement for the Snake Hook brush: “Improvements for snake-hook that allow you to drag out long extruded segments, and rotate the snake-hook brush using the new rake option.” Didn’t know about the rotate option and haven’t tried it in any of my experiments yet. 

The head with horns was sculpted mostly with the Snake Hook and Smooth brushes alone. Form sculpting is a great way to explore sculpting brushes.


Box Modelling, Topologies and the N-Gons

Was going to save this post for a later date, but since I touched on N-gons yesterday here it is. One detailing method that requires n-gons is this:


Point-by-Point modellers have these things (flows) taken care of from the start. Whereas for Box modellers, they focus first on the shape and form (Extrude and tweaking), and once that is out of the way, they start the refining process—laying out the topology. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but speaking of laying out the topology this way, uv unwrap’s wireframe of the face (hint hint) can be used as a reference to practice laying out your topology in this way since the map is 2d.

Another topology method is Extrusion and thinking in term of groups or zones. Something I’ll talk about later on.

A word on ngons

Currently skimming through Blender For Dummies, 3rd Edition by Jason van Gumster and came across this helpful thought on N-gons. Definitely something to keep in mind if you’re new to the whole thing:

“…it’s best to think of ngons as a process tool. On any mesh that’s likely to be used in animation (like a character model) or included in real-time environment like a video game, the finished mesh should be composed of only tris and quads. An exception to this rule of thumb might be for architectural models or models intended to be rendered as still images. Because those meshes won’t be deformed by something like an armature or a lattice and they don’t have to work in a game engine, often you can get away with leaving ngons in them.” — Jason van Gumster (Blender For Dummies, 3rd Edition)

What does it mean to think of ngons as a process tool? Simply this (my understanding of it): with n-gons support, you’re able to do things a lot quicker—especially when it comes to cleaning up the mesh to redirect flows and so on. Back when Blender didn’t have n-gons it was a little tedious to change flows on the mesh, but now it’s a lot easier and quicker. So in this context, n-gon helps a lot when it comes to Box modelling! With Point-by-Point modelling you don’t run into issue with n-gons.

Snake Hook and Forms

Another quick test started with the good old Cube. I am truly impressed by Blender’s sculpting capability. Main Brushes used to block out the form: Blob and Snake Hook. Brush for defining the head and shoulder: Clay Strips. Used Blender 2.77 RC.