Want to Be a Great 3D Artist? Pick Up a Pencil.

If you want to excel as a 3D artist, one of the best things you can do is to learn how to draw.

Most experts recommend gesture drawing and life drawing as the most important exercises. I’d agree, and I don’t think you can ever get enough practice at either. Even if you don’t think you are any good at it, you should still do it. Drawing is an important exercise in “visually dissecting” an object. It’s not about what goes on the paper; it is about learning to be observant.

Think of it like taking notes in school or in a meeting. I don’t know about you, but most of my notes are scribbles. It’s okay, though, because no one else is ever going to read them. The notes are a way for you to articulate to yourself what you observed when you were there, so that later on you don’t forget the important parts. Drawing accomplishes the same goals.

Don’t worry if the sketch isn’t perfect–capture the emotion!

It’s also handy to have a sketch to use as a template when you build your 3D model. When you’re working from life, sometimes you can use a photo, but a lot of the time you’re going to be making stuff up. It’s a lot easier to fix a pencil sketch than it is to fix a 3D model, so it pays to draw it first. You don’t want to spend a few hours tweaking points when you can work out the right answer in only a few minutes on paper.

Use your sketches as a mental note of important details, like the slight arc of the woman’s back, or the way the child clings for security.

Your sketches don’t need to be very detailed. In fact, most of mine are rudimentary at best–although many artists do far better sketches than I do. As long as you’ve noted all the important details and have some sense of flow, you’re probably ok. For complex objects, especially ones with lots of curves, you may need to have a more detailed drawing. But for simple objects, you can often get away with only contours.

What if you can’t draw? That’s what “undo” is for! Seriously, though, I’m an okay painter but sketching has always been difficult for me, and using the computer has been a true blessing. Never underestimate the power of undo! Sometimes I think that’s why I’m a better painter than a sketcher. If I paint sometime I don’t like, I just keep painting over it until I’m happy with the result. It’s like undo for the real world.

Just keep working at it. Even if you never become a great sketch artist, every drawing you make helps you learn a little more about the world around you. The fine details you discover while sketching will make all the difference in your 3D work.

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