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Top 10 habits to becoming a better 3D modeler

From converting references to black-and-white, to setting time limits, we check out ten top habits you can implement to become a better 3D modeler…

Introduction

I don’t know if you’re anything like me but I’ve found that it can be difficult to improve as a 3D modeler. We can quickly plateau and not be able to push beyond our current level of competence. Alongside learning new techniques and finding great teachers I think adopting a few simple habits will help you become an even better 3D modeler. In this post I’d like to share some of the habits that I’ve adopted over the years which I think have served me really well.

Find 2 or 3 good tutors

We all need tutors. This is true in any area of life. If you want to learn how to cook then you’ll find the chefs that make good food and follow their recipes. If you want to bulk up you’ll find the YouTuber that will teach you how to do so. And if you want to be a better 3D modeler then the first habit to get into is to regularly take opportunities to learn from tutors who can teach you things you don’t know. I have found having just a few specific people that I go back to again and again invaluable for improving my skills.

Bertrand is one of my favorite tutors. Maybe he’s yours too. © Bertrand Benoit

Follow the latest blogs

Alongside having specific tutors I would recommend that you get in the habit of following the latest blogs. For all those small tips and techniques. You’ll pick up a load of these from your favorite tutors but you can often find a quick trick or a modeling hack on a 3D blog that improves your abilities. Bookmark these blogs and take a look at them regularly.

Blogs are a great place for inspiration

Speed model

We probably all take longer than we would like to create the 3D models that make up our scene. Personally, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the modeling part of the visualization process. I generally enjoy it but if I’m creating something with a lot of detail I can quickly become bogged down with it and lose sight of what I’m doing. The best way to avoid this is to regularly spend time repeatedly carrying out repetitive and common modeling tasks. The quicker you can do the tedious and repetitive jobs when modeling, the longer you can spend on the detail and creative elements of the process.

Repeat common tasks to speed up © Ion Şipilov, Unsplash

Convert reference images to black and white

If you’re intent on visualizing reality as closely as possible then you’ll want to make use of as many reference images as possible. I would recommend getting in the habit of looking at your reference images in black and white, especially if you want to take a fresh look at what you’re re-creating. By doing this your eye will be drawn to the detail and the shapes of objects in a new way. This will help you know what extra detail you then can put into your 3D model.

See the shape of an object by making it black and white. © Agata Create on Unsplash

Plan ahead

There’s little worse than getting half way through modeling an object only to realize that you need to start again. Get into the habit of planning the steps you need to take to create your model and you’ll avoid having to start over. The amount of time you need to plan will decrease over time, especially if you regularly model the same types of objects. As you take time to plan you’ll see potential pitfalls in the modeling process and be able to alleviate or avoid them by making changes earlier on in the creation process.

Planning ahead will save you stacks of time when modeling © Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash

Make use of scripts and tools

Another habit to get into is to identify the tasks that you are doing repetitively. It’s unbelievable how much time we waste doing the same tasks when we could be using scripts or off-the-shelf tools to do the tasks for us. Often it is worth spending a little bit of money on a tool that is going to save us time, and therefore money. If your modeling package allows for custom scripts to be created then why not take some time to learn how to create them.

Scriptspot is a good place to start but there are plenty of other places to find them © Scriptspot

Take the criticism

A good habit to get into is to ask people for constructive feedback on your work. This can be humbling and hard to take, especially if the person giving the feedback is not particularly tactful about it. Find people who are going to lovingly critique your work and then put their thoughts into practice. Let their words make you a better modeler.

Don’t take it personally. Embrace feedback, even if it’s negative © Chauhan Moniz, Unsplash

Practice daily

Make a habit of daily practicing techniques that make up a key part of your job. You can also set aside even a small amount of time each day to learn new techniques. In the past I’ve tried to make a habit of forcing myself to learn new tools in a piece of software. Through that I’ve found tools that I didn’t even know existed but were actually better suited to the things I was trying to do.

Regularly practicing will enable you to keep picking up new techniques © Oğuzhan Akdoğan, Unsplash

Observe the world

Take time as you go about your day observing the world around you. Be inquisitive as you look at things, even touching materials and objects to get a better feel of how objects are constructed. You’ll obviously have to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you, but this is a great habit to get into. Make it part of your life and you’ll see it having a great impact upon your modeling.

The world has everything to teach us about how to become a better 3D modeler © Mitchell Luo, Unsplash

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Make use of off-the-shelf 3D models that will suit your project. If something has already been created that would work in your project then why not use it? Or at the very least use it as a starting point and adapt the model to make it more unique for your purposes. By being clever about this you can spend your time modeling the unique elements in your scene, and make sure you insert extra detail into the parts of the model that are the focus of the shot.

Off-the-shelf 3D models will save you stacks of time © ThisisEngineering RAEng, Unsplash

Hopefully these habits are helpful. Habits become a normal part of daily life as you implement them. The best way to do that is to take one at a time, maybe devoting a whole month to one before adding a new habit into your workflow. In 12 months’ time take a look back at where you’ve come from and how you’ve improved. That’ll motivate you to get a new batch of habits into your life that will make you a better 3D modeler in the following year.

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