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Erik Selin
Erik Selin

3D artist & all that other stuff

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What objects to model as a beginner 3D artist

When I began 3D modeling, I had a hard time deciding what I should model. With time though, I found out that it is a silly question, but an important one. Let’s look at what we can model and how it can help us to grow fast as beginners.

What should I model in 3D? Rather than focusing on picking one object, pick a whole bunch of objects and make a list of things to do. Consider picking objects that vary in shape to get a good understanding of multiple tools and techniques.

This is a common question and there is no one simple answer. But there are multiple angles of attack depending on your goals. Read on to see how we can further zoom in on what to make, and how to come up with those ideas reliably.

How to choose what to model?

Just like a writer may ask “what to write”, we as 3D artists will at one point or another ask ourselves, what should I model. If we are stuck in this process we may spend a lot of time idling and getting nothing done while our mood and confidence slowly dwindles away.

This is the process I would suggest to get you going.

  • Start with a short break away from your computer
  • Continue with a warmup session
  • Take another look at the potential things you want to create
  • Realize you can only do one at a time
  • Pick one
  • Start creating

Related content: 3D art motivation, planning, and workflow

Let’s follow-through. Start with a short break away from your computer, take a walk around the block. Go make some coffee or what you like. Just make sure your break is not related to 3D modeling. This will give your brain some time to reflect.

Are you back yet? Good. I hope you feel somewhat recharged. Let’s do a warmup. Pick an object on your desk and model it. It can be anything from your coffee mug to your keyboard or a potted plant. Give yourself 20-30 minutes to make this object. This will get you into the mode of creation. Trust me, just start, even if you don’t feel like it. It is the only way.

If you can’t pick an object, make one of these:

  • Potted plant
  • Coffee mug
  • Smartphone

You are about 45 minutes in now. You took some time away, came back and made something. Even if you didn’t finish within the allotted time. That doesn’t matter.

To get some idea of what you want to create now if you decided not to continue creating coffee mugs and smartphones all day long(a vaery vialbe option). I highly suggest pinterest. If you don’t have a pinterest account, create one. Every artist should have one.

Related content: The ultimate reference photos workflow in a nutshell

From here you can pick a topic easily. If you still don’t have any idea, start with these searches to find some images to drive inspiration from.

  • Fantasy environment
  • Interior design
  • Garden decorations
  • cartoon characters
  • Office supplies
  • general store

The last one is a real treasuretrove to dive into, just keep clicking images or look through the more specific searches along the top just below the search bar. This will narrow down your search.

This is where you might also realize that there is an endless supply of possibilities. You can’t possibly model everything. Pick one or more reference images and start modeling. Start small, rather than big. Allow yourself to take your time and just go with the flow.

Consider the modeling techniques used

When deciding what to model it is important to think of the journey towards your finished project. What are the main techniques that will be used for a project?

A good indicator that a model should be made is that you either like to work with the technique that you will need to use, or a technique that you want to learn more about will be needed.

There are a lot of cool techniques to consider. In this video more techniques than I would probably consider as techniques are explained by Gleb Alexandrov. It is an awesome resource.

Stick to one category of objects or diverse?

If you view yourself as a beginner 3D artist I would highly suggest that you diverse between different kinds of modeling. Try all available 3D tools to get a feel for what you like working with. When you start out you might think to yourself that it would be so cool to be making cars all day. But after you tried to make cartoon characters you might be hooked on that.

The common advice to young people is to try out as much as possible early in life so that they get a sense of what they want to do further down the line. The same principle appy here. Even if you are young or not you are still new.

After a while when you feel that your 3D art skills are coming along and you can handle 3D modeling well, you have the option to stay general and learn as broad as you can. This is the route I went and I try to soak up as broad as possible. The other option is to choose a specialization at this point.

I would generally advice anyone persuing freelancing or hoppy to stay general. But if you want employment within the industry you should probably stat to think about specialization.

How long should I stick with the same project before I call it done?

There is a story about this art teacher that lets half of its class be graded by the most perfect sculpt they can come up with during the semester. A pure quality test. The other half was graded by the weight of their scrap pile. Just produce as much as you can with no concern about the quality of the work.

In the end, the group that was graded by the amount of work rather than the quality not only produced the most work but also the highest quality work thanks to the amount of practice that they had gone through.

Now this story may or may not be true but I think there is a great lesson to be learned here. Once you have the pressure of quality on your shoulders, you are weighed down significantly.

Therefore the advice is that it is better to move on or start from the beginning over and over. Try to find the right angle of attack for any given problem and don’t make your work this pristine thing that you worship and is too afraid to let go from.

Just do it again and again. This will make the main concern to carry less weight as well. It won’t be as hard to choose what to make since it isn’t that important after all.

Related questions

What is the easiest 3D software to learn?

The easiest 3D software to learn is the one that is readily available. For VFX and art-related 3D modeling start with Blender. This is not common advice but it is the most underestimated 3D software in the world. It is free and very easily accessible and there is a ton of resources available to learn it.

If you are interested in CAD then start with SketchUp maker. There is a Desktop version available here that was deprecated in 2017. However, it is also available as an online version directly in your browser.

Do you need a degree for 3D modeling?

You don’t need a degree to learn how to 3D model. However, if your aim is to get a job in the 3D industry, at some point you will probably have to have at least a basic understanding of one of the commercial software packages out there like 3D studio Max or Maya.

Is Blender good for beginners?

Blender is the best place to start. There is no investment needed and there are plenty of learning materials. You may never need another software through a 3D artist career.

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