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7 top tips for Blender beginners

Any new piece of software can seem a bit daunting at first. Check out these Blender beginner tips to get moving in the right direction…

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Introduction

If you’re thinking about using Blender for the first time let me encourage you to do so! Whether you’re a seasoned 3D pro making use of modeling software like 3ds Max or Rhino, or if you’re totally new to 3D modeling and visualization, then Blender is a great tool to get into your weaponry. If you’re a beginner then the best thing is that it’s totally free which means you don’t have to rush to learn it before making a commitment. Take your time and become more familiar with it, and hopefully these 7 tips will help get you off the ground.

Soak up tutorials

Learning from others is key to picking up any new skill, or learning anything either for the first time, or improving upon existing knowledge! Gone are the days where you had to struggle alone or rely on books to teach you. We now have a wealth of resources (blogs and videos) that are at our very fingertips. I’m most definitely a visual learner so I love seeing videos where people physically show their viewers how to do something. By watching videos it also exposes you to the software and its interface as you see the expert working their way around it. A great place to start on YouTube would be with Blender Guru. He’s got some cracking stuff on there and you can also see quite clearly the learning journey he has been on to try and master the software.

Andrew Price at Blender Guru has a wealth of Blender experience and puts that to good use by providing loads of beginner as well as more advanced tutorials
© Paul Hatton and Andrew Price

Challenge yourself

Having so much content online teaching us how to use the software has the advantage of being readily accessible, but it also has a hidden curse that we can become overly reliant upon it. This is not good for developing our skills. We need to push beyond the basics we learn from others and try techniques that build upon what we learn. You can do this by taking a skill you’re learning and then challenge yourself to push beyond that. For example, if you’re learning to speed model you may pick up some techniques from others, but why not question the process yourself and see if you can improve it. Challenge yourself to model something in a quicker time to how long it took you previously.

Push yourself beyond your current boundaries and you’ll see your skills develop over time
© Paul Hatton (Model by Design Connected)

Experiment

Building on challenging yourself, it is vital that you spend time experimenting when you’re learning Blender. Don’t just learn that which is vital for your next project but spend time outside of that pressured context to experiment with new ideas and new techniques. Experiment with different styles of lighting, camera angles and scene setups. Doing this will push your skills on quicker than anything else and will stop you becoming bored with what you create!

Experimenting keeps the fun in the learning process
© Paul Hatton (Model by Design Connected)

Play around with new tools

It’s so easy to stick to the same old tools that we’re familiar with. I’m a sucker for this! I therefore push myself to investigate all the new features that come into a piece of software with each release. Documentation and tutorials for new features is pretty slim but this forces us to explore and experiment with those features before someone else has told us how to use them. This is good for our development. So always check out new tools and features as well as explore old features that you’ve never touched before.

Blender is stacked full of amazing tools and features. Have a play around and see what you find
© Paul Hatton (Model by Design Connected)

Do speed modeling exercises

One of the challenges about being a beginner is that things can just take so long to do. In this process we can become frustrated with ourselves and if that level gets too high we end up giving up or just reaching a plateau in our skills. A good way to overcome being slow at modeling is to set yourself speed modeling exercises. Set yourself a modeling task, say modeling a chair, and do it over and over again, challenging yourself to do it quicker each time. You may also need to investigate and try different tools to help you get quicker which is also good for the learning process.

Speed modeling exercises will help you move beyond those essential tasks and free up time to
spend on finessing your scene
© Paul Hatton (Model by Design Connected)

Be patient

Learning anything takes time. It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. That is a whole lot of hours doing the same thing! If that is even remotely true then it tells us that we can’t expect to get good at something in a few hours, days or even months. It takes time to learn a piece of software and then to push ourselves beyond our current limits so that we get better and better. This is where patience is so important. Stick with it. If you’re getting bored or frustrated, take a little break and come back to it. And make sure you mix up the learning with fun challenges.

Learning anything well takes a lot of time. Take the pressure off and just enjoy the process
© Paul Hatton (Model by Design Connected)

Create a cheat sheet for shortcuts

And finally as you’re learning why not create a little cheat sheet for all the shortcuts you’re learning. Over time you’ll be able to ditch the cheat sheet, but while you’re learning, that handy reminder can save you having to Google it every time! Mastering the shortcuts in a piece of software will help you progress from a beginner into a master!

Having a cheat sheet easily to hand will save your bags of time
© Blender.org

Don't panic!

Learning any new piece of software is going to take time. The sooner we realize that, the quicker we take the pressure of ourselves and the more likely we are to enjoy the learning process. If you’ve got a 3D background then sure you might pick it up quicker, but if you’re totally new to it all then it’ll take you months and years to really get to grips with it. The learning process never stops but if you give a good amount of time to it then you’ll soon become comfortable with it and be well placed to continue adding to your skills with every new project.

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