blender learner journal

I've been learning Blender! I thought it'd be nice to make someplace to record my little learner journey, so that's what this page is!

A little background: I learnt the basics of 3D modelling in college, using Maya in year 1 and 3DS Max in year 2... However, this was very disrupted by the pandemic, so I never really learnt how to finish things? Most of our 3D lessons and assignments were cancelled.

But I want to give 3D modelling another shot, and I do think it's a really cool medium! So I'm back to my old faithful independant learning lol.

Personal Favourite Projects

Since this page is getting ever longer, here are some of my favourite projects :)

Project 0: Previous Attempts to Learn #

These aren't as well documented as I'd like them to be, but I figure any good learner journal should also make an effort to document the learner's starting point.

A selection of old projects from previous attempts to learn 3D modelling

A very scuffed model of an old dragon oc from many many years ago. Blender was on version 2.78. The files are lost to time, all I have is this screenshot. I think this might be the first thing I ever 3D modelled? Which is very on-brand for me lol.

A 3D blockout/greybox I made for an old comic project. Here's the page this render was used as a reference for, for those curious.

A chess set, the most polished 3D project from my time at college. It's the first thing we made, and was modelled in Maya. I have a bunch of other renders from various other bits we did at college, but this is the highlight! I'd love to go back to some of the half finished stuff and archive that here too, but I don't think I can open the files :')

A blockout I made of Lilac's room for Moon Jellyfish Kiss. We're back to Blender here, and it's not horrible as a block-out? But as a finished render, the stylisation is a bit all over the place, it feels kinda empty and rigid, and it doesn't look very underwatery lol.

Project 1: Sword Animation #

A gif that pans down the length of a sword, revealing it to be set in a stone.

So I'd tried a few times in the past to get started in Blender, with Blender Guru's infamous Donut Tutorial. But I was really struggling to follow it/stay focused this time round.

Eventually I decided to have a look at other starter tutorials, and found CG Fast Track's Blender 3.6 Beginner Tutorial Series. For whatever reason, the longer videos + shorter playlist format really worked for me! Helpfully, the videos are also chaptered so it was easy to go back and replay bits when needed.

I was able to create a fairly neat result, and get a sense of what a workflow in Blender might feel like. My understanding felt a bit shallow, but a deeper understanding of this sort of thing just takes time, I guess.

They have some pretty cool looking courses on the CG Fast Track website, but I wasn't really ready to commit that much money to learning Blender, and I wanted to try and start making my own projects as soon as possible. To be honest, I've found a lot of tutorials don't fully work for me anyways because I'm on the industry compatible keymap lol.

Project 2: Kut Hing Dragon Tankard #

An impressively ugly render of a very shiny tankard with an extremely fake-looking plant in it, growing out of some dirt that looks way too realistic in comparison...

I wanted to try applying some of the things I learnt from the previous project on one of my own projects! So I decided to try 3D modelling a Kut Hing Dragon Tankard I picked up at a charity shop a while ago.

The modelling part went well, but I got a little stuck at the materials stage and ended up not feeling too happy with the result.

This is about as finished as this version will get I think. I was a little ambitious, going for something semi-realistic. I think in future it's worth me trying to go for a more cohesive style.

Project 3: Business Card Tray & Minizine Stand #

A somewhat bland-looking render of a little business card tray and a minizine stand.  The minizine stand is demonstrating its ability to display 8 different zines in a 2x4 grid.

Conveniently for me, one of my dad's many hobbies is 3D printing! So I was able to 3D model a business card tray and a minizine stand to take with me to events, and he readily helped me print them out ^^

These are projects I made on my own, without following any tutorials - and I think they came out shockingly competent lol.

Of the two, I'm definately happier with the topology of the card tray, but I think I did an OK job not messing up the minizine stand too badly.

It felt really good to make Functional Objects! Hopefully in future I'll get to make more projects like this.

It was also good to do a little UV unwrapping - I know it'll be an important skill later on!

Project 4: Old Stylised Cottage #

A 3D render of a rustic-looking cottage at night.  Puffs of smoke drift out of the chimney, and the windows of the building glow warm and bright.  It's sat on a gentle sloping hill, with a stepping-stone path running up to it, and some plants scattered around it.

Following this lovely tutorial series by Grant Abbit, I made this cottage! I mostly followed the instructions to the letter, but when it came to the render I did end up branching out on my own to play about in the blender compositor with post-processing effects.

It by no means came out looking bad raw, but I did end up doing a little bit of further post-processing in Clip Studio Paint, which I'm just a lot more familiar with.

The tutorial was very much within my comfort zone, but it helped a lot with becoming more familiar with Blender, and I did learn a few new tricks :)

Project 5: Making My Own Cottage #

The same render as above with lots of plant-matter blocked in over top of the render itself.

I wanted to apply what I'd learnt from the previous project to something that I'd drawn the initial concept for myself! So I decided to try making this:

A coloured sketch concept of a minecraft house!  It sits perched on a cliff between two birch trees, a nether portal nestled away on a ledge below. A 3D render of a half-finished model of the house pictured in the drawing above.

Here's the render without my editing it- I never managed to finish this model, but it did teach me a little bit more about materials and the absolute basics of particle systems & skyboxes! Might be one to revisit when I'm a little more confident.

Project 6: Turning Over a New Leaf #

A 3D render of a guy in a red cloak laying on the ground surrounded by greenery looking kinda shocked.  He's surrounded by leaves.  Lineart has been drawn over top of the render to create a hybrid 2D/3D style.

I kinda made this one a bit spontaneously, as part of my personal October art challenge! There was a lot of iteration on this one, and I wanted to experiment with 3D as a medium to create 2D images.

a side-by-side comparing an earlier attempt to model a face with this most recent one.

Even though I was mostly focused on making a cool .png with this one, I think I managed to create a face with... reasonably OK topology this time? The screenshot on the left is of a model I made of a DND character of mine a while back and man. An improvement at the very least, for sure!

Scuplting Frightens me (and my PC) a bit, so both faces were made with hard-surface/box-modelling techniques.

Anyways, I'm pretty chuffed with how this lil project came out! I did the post-processing in clip studio, since I was doing lineart in it too anyways.

Project 7: Witchy interior #

A render of the interior of a witches cottage, framed by wooden beams.  A cauldron sits in the middle of the room, a bookshelf in one corner of the room with a chest on the other.  The models are all plain white, untextured with no materials. The same image but rendered in a different engine.  It's noticably darker and moodier than the previous render, with the lights from the window, cauldron, and a small lantern sat on a side-table standing out a lot more.

I wanted to try making an interior scene this time! Once again taking inspiration from a concept I'd drawn previously.

This one I gave myself a day to work on, but didn't end up finishing it in that time. Another one that's likely worth revisiting some time!

With the renders, since I'd not assembled any materials yet I wanted to experiment with lighting and render engine. So the one on the left is Cycles, and the one on the right is Eevee. Even though I didn't change the lights in the scene, both engines seem to handle the lighting situation very differently!

They both have different strengths, with Eevee rendering things faster and smoother than Cycles. But I really like the grainy texture that Cycles gives it's renders! So I think I'd like to learn more about making good renders in it, even though I can hear my PC fans accelerating when I set of a render with it lol.

the original concept for the renders above.  It's very green and lively!

Project 9: Nether Portal #

A render of a little diorama.  It's a grassy floating island, with a portal, some rocks, and some candles sat on it.

Ok, so this one has some history... This one comes from one of the 3D projects they had us plan in college. I always felt kinda regretful that we never got to do the practical assignment after the planning one (because of the pandemic), so now that I'm a little more comfortable in Blender I wanted to try and make/finish it!

A problem I've been encountering with some of the other projects here is that I don't feel confident enough in my "finishing skills" yet to tackle bigger scenes like the ones I've been attempting thus far. So I thought I'd scale things back for a bit and make something smaller that I can finish easier. It worked, because I didn't feel as intimidated and I did indeed finish it!!

a thumbnail sketch of the 3D diorama above.  Unlike the diorama itself, it has some glowy purple orbs.  The shapes are flatter and less defined. another sketch detailing the layout of the diorama and noting which parts of the scene would be different objects.
a 3D blockout matching the sketches above, using mostly primitives.
A grayscale paintover of the render above, adding detail and texture. The coloured version of the paintover, portal glowing purple and grass a kinda greeny-blue colour.

These images have been sat waiting so patiently in my computer for like. 4 years, now?? I ended up deviating from the old concepts a bit, going for a more interesting camera angle with my final render, and somehow managing to accidentally flip the scene?

I'm really pleased with the final model, I feel like I surprised myself! I think I managed to use most of the techniques I'd learnt over the previous projects, while adding more under my belt too!

I was also for sure starting to feel really comfortable using nodes to make more interesting materials!

a screenshot from the blender viewport, showing the model under more neutral lighting so that the hand-painted textures can be seen more clearly another screenshot from the blender viewport, this one showing the model without material and with the wireframe visible.

I hand-painted the archway, the island, and the portal textures to varying degrees of success. I also spent a fair bit of time making sure my geometry was nice and clean. It could probably be better, but it could also probably be a lot worse! In hindsight it might've been good to make the grass a lighter colour so as to stick more closely to the values past-me laid out in the paintovers, but oh well.

Project 10: Lilac chibi!#

A turntable animation of a chibi lilac model.  He's very cute

A low-poly model of Lilac that I made! I'm trying to make a little 3D valentines day art of him and Amor :)

I spent so long trying to convert my little turntable animation to a gif.. it's not even a very good gif. It's the best I could do :')

To be honest, I wasn't fully confident in my ability to make a finished character model like this, so I decided to start by making Lilac first and seeing how it went... Amor has 5 legs, so the idea of modelling him is a little scarier.

A render in the valentines card meme format, with the Lilac model resting his head on a hand.  The text reads 'You make my heart go doki doki'

I wanted to model, texture, and rig a character all the way through. I count this as a success! I think it came out really cute. I think I will try to make an Amor model too!

A viewport screenshot showing the final mesh next to the blockout I made.

I started by making a blockout with a mix of box modelling and sculpting (oooh!!). Then I used BSurfaces to retopologise it into a single lower-poly mesh. I UV-unwrapped it as best as I could, and started texturing, working in and out of the Blender texture editor and Clip Studio Paint.

An early render that shows the texture I painted a little more clearly.

Texture-painting him was probably one of the most satisfying parts! Especially after The Great Struggle that was retopologising his hair... It's really nice to feel that my 2D skills are able to feed into and contribute to my 3D skills.

I contemplated trying out a cel-shaded look, but in the end I decided I liked the smooth/soft shading of my good friend Principled BSDF. At some point I tried to add a normal map, but it made the material look weird so I ended up scrapping it.

The front and side view I sketched to reference while modelling!
Concepts for a couple pose & silly valentines cards.