3D modeling is an excellent way to exercise creativity while keeping in touch with your technical side. 3D models are necessary if you want to print 3D objects (which can solve a few annoying life problems), create your own 3D games, or make machinima films.
But a common question is, “Which program is best for 3D modeling and animation?”
Learning Maya is smart if you plan to go professional, but with prices starting at $123 per month (or $3675 for a perpetual license), it’s quite cost-prohibitive. Easy 3D modeling programs exist, like Sculptris, but we highly recommend Blender if you need free 3D modeling software.
3D modeling isn’t easy to pick up, though, so here are some of the best online newbie courses for Blender that won’t cost you a penny.
The Blender Beginners series by ZoyncTV is slightly outdated (it’s based on Blender 2.6) but a lot of what you’ll learn is applicable to the current version of Blender. Even if hotkeys and terms change, the underlying concepts will always be fundamental to a good grasp of Blender.
Each video in this 11-part series is between 10 and 20 minutes long, split into five separate topics: modeling, modifiers, materials, textures, and animation. It’s a newbie-level course so nothing too advanced here, making it great if you’ve just installed Blender for the first time.
The Blender Survival Guide series by Creative COW is one of the best resources available to someone who has never used Blender before. Every video in this 13-part series is between 15 and 45 minutes long, meaning you’ll get 350 solid minutes of training completely for free.
What’s great about this series is that it touches on all of the essential and necessary skills for Blender without delving too much into technical explanations or geeky tangents. It truly is a survival guide that teaches only the absolute necessities.
3. Umberto Oldani’s Learning Blender
The Learning Blender series by Umberto Oldani works as a great introduction to Blender because it really starts from the very bottom: the user interface. By the end of this 100-minute lesson, you’ll have created a complete 3D model from scratch and learned all you need to be confident in Blender.
Just a word of warning: while the educator speaks in English, he does have a slightly heavy Italian accent which can be hard to follow at times. But give it a few minutes and you’ll likely get used to it.
The KatsBits website is home to a lot of great asset creation tutorials for video games, and their Blender tutorials are excellent references when you need a starting point for different kinds of 3D models. There are 41 Blender tutorials available at the time of writing this.
For example, one of the tutorials is a step-by-step guide to creating and animating a gingerbread character. Another tutorial takes you through the process of creating a 3D level for Quake. And then there’s the tutorial that shows you how to create a simple sword model.
These tutorials are a little more outdated than the others, but they’re still useful in concepts so don’t be afraid to check them out.
GameFromScratch is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to start making their own games. The site is home to over a hundred tutorials covering game development tools like the Unreal Engine, LibGDX, SFML, and yes, even Blender.
The Blender series is meant for complete beginners, starting with modeling, advancing to textures, and ending with keyframe animations, Blender camera manipulation, lighting, and rendering. Highly recommended for game creators who need homemade 3D assets.
In 2013, instructor Neil Hirsig led a Blender 3D course at Tufts University and ended up making a lot of the course content publicly available. Over 14 lessons, you’ll learn everything from basic modeling to advanced rigid body dynamics.
This last online tutorial is actually a “wikibook” called Blender 3D: Noob to Pro. Existing entirely as pages of a wiki, this ebook is a dense resource that’s packed full of insight and tips.
The very first section starts off with an overview of 3D concepts and an in-depth introduction to Blender’s interface. There are several dozen pages on basic modeling, followed by several dozen other pages that delve into more intermediate and advanced material. Seriously, this resource is amazing.
And once you become a master of Blender, you can come back and contribute your own bits of knowledge for others to benefit from. After all, that’s how this wikibook became such a success in the first place.
Despite being a free tool, Blender is excellent. It’s one of the shining examples of open source software and has been used to create plenty of awesome models and animations like Sintel and Tears of Steel. Used correctly, Blender can be a professional-quality program.
All you have to do is get over the learning curve and master what it offers. The tutorials above will get you started on the right path.
What do you think of Blender? Are there any other awesome Blender tutorials out there that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: Blender 3D Cover by Sendoshin via Wikibooks