Is Blender Actually Hard to Learn?

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  02 February 2018
Originally Posted by Meloncov: I really don't get either position. Right-click selection is weird, but trivial to turn off, and having menus in the bottom left is odd but easy to get used to. Beyond that, nothing feels that weird. I've seen a lot of people go from Maya or Max to Blender, and it's never taken someone more than a week to get back up to speed with their specialty.

ZBrush, say, is much weirder.
Yes, Zbrush is weird, but for some reason it works. Maybe because it is more of a one trick pony. Regarding Blender, I have just given up to hope that it will improve. Yes, BForartists is a step in the right direction, but it is still to much Blender. I have used Softimage, Power Animator, Maya, Max, Rhino, Zbrush, Mudbox, Alias Studio, Photoshop, Indesign, illustrator, Gimp, Inkscape, after effects,  and I have tried Modo and C4D. Sure, not all had the best UI ever, but never was the topic of every discussion how horrible the UI is, as it is with discussions regarding Blender. To me that tells me the Blender Foundation have failed. It is just a fact, Blender have a failed interface. But, you get use to everything eventually, but that is not the point here. The point here I guess, is that most people are so frustrated about that Blender have a lot of potential, but that the Blender Foundation refuses to listen to experienced super users of 3d animation applications that over and over and over tell them to change their UI strategy because it do not make sense. Imagine if they would have done a complete overhaul starting 8-10 years ago!!! Anyway, Blender is what it is. It will never change.
  02 February 2018
Is Blender hard to learn? IMO, not really. It's no harder to learn than any other CG app... with TWO notable exceptions.

- Exception #1: A non-standard mouse setup. Yeah. You can change this to a more Maya-like setup at the splash, but it also screws with other functionality if you're not careful.
- Exception #2: A sh** ton of keyboard shortcuts to remember. You can work just using the menus, but shortcuts always make things faster. A compromise? Use a dedicated add on gaming keyboard, separate from your regular one, like the Logitech G13. You can assign shortcuts to 24 different buttons and have multiple profiles. Not a cheap option, but still way cheaper than Maya and also worth every penny.

Is Blender's GUI terrible? Honestly? I'd also give that a hard no. I'm not saying that it's a modern UI, but there are far worse ones. LightWave's comes to mind with its split design. MODO's also reeks way worse (IMO) thanks to insane clutter. Blender's GUI could use a refresh, but it's really not much more intimidating than Maya or 3dsmax's. In some respects, it even feels like a hybrid of the two. Of course, if all of those tabs are intimidating then they DO sell a cheap tab management plugin that can clean things up massively.

Is Blender hard to learn? Okay. I answered this above, but I'll say it again. No. It's not hard to learn. If you're a total newbie then any app you learn might be a bit on the hard side. However, once you know one app, learning a second or a third becomes that much easier. Blender might be little intimidating for newbies, but I can guarantee you that, historically, there have been far more intimidating 3D apps out there to scare the ever loving sh** out of newbies. Houdini. Softimage. Rhino. In the big picture, Blender probably sits right in the middle of the pack, learning curve wise. If you know the basic terminology and what certain functions do then there's nothing that a little YouTube video watching won't cure.

I think that the Blender zealots will tell you that it's super easy to learn and that would be a lie. To call it hard, however, might be an overstatement. You just need to find out where everything is and what the app specific quirks are. I'd say the same exact thing if you were a Blender user moving over to Maya, C4D, and so forth. Given what these apps do and who they target, they're far more alike than not.
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.
  02 February 2018
I thought i chime in and present some facts for the further discussion:

Blender has around 600 double menu entries that makes searching in the menus unnecessary hard. Some things even exists three or four times in the UI. The doubles are visually in the way, and makes the menus even more confusing.

The UI throws you already to death with tools in all the open panels when you start Blender. And it doesn't get any better when you start to work with it. Too much tools in the way that you don't even touch once in a year.

Blender has a unnecessary hard to read standard theme. Every UI designer should know that the contrast between letters and background should always be above 160. That's why it is no good idea to choose a background color of 128 grey, like in the Blender standard theme. You will never have enough contrast for good readability that way, since you have only 128 in both directions left.

Working against conventions is the next big problem. The almighty rmb select is just the tip of the iceberg. The UI is the opposite of self explaining. You need a tutorial for even the simplest things. Let somebody with no idea about Blender just select the cube in the middle. And when you need a two sided tutorial for how to load a texture ...

Tool positions. A tool can be everywhere. There is no order that a user could follow. Top, bottom, left right, all is possible. So when you search for a tool, then you need to search everywhere, and take the modes into account too. Some settings are even in other editor windows. Settings for pack Island for example are in the last operator area in the 3D view.

Tooltips. In best case a tooltip should tell you what the tool does and how to use it. Not in Blender. Nerd tooltips like "Browse Textures to be linked" lets me as a designer and also as a user grow grey hair. It's a texture browser, so we call it " Choose Texture" in Bforartists. Then everybody knows what is meant. Or have a look at the tooltip for the Noise tool. No hint that this is a image displace tool that just works with the BI. No hint how to even use it. There is at least a manual entry available. But also here no hint how to use it, and that you need the BI to get the tool to work. It does not work with Cycles. And the tool exists at prominent position in the tool shelf, wasting UI space there.

There are dozens of Hotkey only tools that should have a menu entry. No chance to find this functionality in the UI. Even the search menu that can be called by space bar has no entry. Somebody has to tell you that it exists. Or you stumble by coincidence across it.

Ther are hidden menus, callable by some secret hotkeys. How can a newbie find out how to call the specials menu for example, hotkey W? This specials menu is full of double menu entries anyways. But some addons even adds entries to just this menu.

One of my favourites is the completely messed up keymap. Grown wild over the years, never cleaned up. Shift+Ctrl+Alt+O to set Origin is my all time favourite here. But at the same time you have single or two key hotkeys to call stuff as a menu that has already a visible UI position, and where you have a negative speed gain by hotkey. Like the viewport shading menu. Or you have hotkeys to even cycle through dropdown box menus. With one or two hotkeys. While you need four key hotkeys for most used tools ...

The hotkey centered workflow is the biggest problem anyways. There are 2400 operators in Blender. Half of it are tools that you need for your daily work. How many hotkeys can you really remember? Graphics artists are visuals. They remember buttons and icons much better. Especially since buttons have tooltips. Hotkeys not.

We at Bforartists have worked hard to fix most of those problems already. But it is not only the software.

The Blender manual is in big parts still ToDo. And you can bet that it's always the piece missing that you are looking for. When you even find the right entry, since the manual is de facto unsearchable. Search for a simple tool like rotate edge, and you will get everything as a search result, but not what you are looking for. Feel free to repeat the experiment with any other tool. You will always have the same useless result like this one.

Searching from within Blender doesn't help neither. Half of the rmb entries to the manual from inside Blender leads to Nirvana. For some stuff you will find just a useless description for what the tool is made for, and no word where the tool is, or how it works and how you use it.  Search for vertex parent and you know what i mean. The Blender manual in its current state is fubar. And the Blender devs doesn't even notice it, but continues happily.

Finding useful Blender tutorials is an art at its own. The good ones sinks in the masses of the bad ones. When you are lucky then you don't stumble across the usual spelling lessons that explains nothing except in what order you have to press hotkeys. And when you are even more lucky then it's even a tutorial for the actual Blender version, and in understandable audio quality.

That for the current state and some facts. Bend it to your needs.

For the advice to simply change the UI to your needs, this goes just so and so far. And is nothing trivial. As told, we at Bforartists work since two and a half years now at it, and are still not done. How much users are really willing to spend hours, days, months or even years to fix the UI into a useful state? When you need the users to fix the UI, then you have already the proof for a problem. And you will break tutorial compatibility with every customization. That's why a good default is this important.

Sorry for the long post ^^
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Last edited by Tiles : 02 February 2018 at 11:32 AM.
  02 February 2018
@ Tiles

The fact that Bforartists exists speaks volumes. You are doing Blender the biggest favour and yet it'll never realise or admit it. Do you think Blender is open source enough to split into two? Could you take enough users in your direction to justify an entirely separate Blender foundation / project ? 
Posted by Proxy
  02 February 2018
One user is already enough for me to get the project going. And that's me.

We will most probably never have millions of users. But it pays. We have our very happy users already. And it is permanently getting more and more. So yes, it justifies. And i don't see this as a problem. But as a good thing.

It would of course be better to bundle the forces. But for that you need the same direction. Blender and Bforartists walks into two different directions.
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Last edited by Tiles : 02 February 2018 at 01:49 PM.
  02 February 2018
Bforartists is doing great work, but my dream is for Blender to ditch traditional menus entirely and go all in with nodes Houdini style. May get harder for beginners to learn but the possibilities would explode. 

I actually like Blender's UI but I could rant about the menu layout all day. Also, the physics is entirely useless for anything aside from very simple sims and even then is glitchy. 

Back to OP, Blender isn't difficult to learn. It's a bit weird at first if you're coming from Maya/Max etc., but worth it, especially for those doing personal projects/freelancers. 
  02 February 2018
Quote: As for three months to redesign a complete UX of a application like Blender, i have to disagree with Mash here. It would take years, at least if you want the redesign to be better than the old design.

I said it could be done in 3 months, not that it would be good
Matthew O'Neill
  02 February 2018

I'm a Maya user who tried Blender out some time ago. For me who have already some understanding using 3D application, I learned Blender in no time. I also believe its quite newbie-friendly and my impression is it did not differ much from when I started playing with Maya.

I prefer Maya for the workflow I have, but I will cast a vote for Blender that its fairly easy to use. 


  02 February 2018
No, Blender is the easiest among of 3D software II ever studied. It has numerous tutorials. It is very reliable and also portable. Yes I can say Blender has lots od addons and easy to use.
  02 February 2018
I jumped ship from C4d to Blender and i spent around 4 months to adapt my brain and increase my comfort zone. Blender is now part of my comfort zone.
The 4 months weren't hard, a little confusing and frustrating, but that applies to all kinds of software.

It was an experiment in tolerance, i had to let go of all my preconceptions about Blender because honestly, i hated Blender or to be precise i hated the Blender-fanboys.

What i found out is that Blender is an incredible fast modeller.
It made me addicted to an shortcut heavy workflow and it had a spillover effect on other programs.
Now i am modelling in fullscreen without UI as much as possible. Blender lets me do that, no other program before did. (or maybe no other program forced me to learn shortcuts)
The investment of 4 months? I got it all back plus more.
A free software which lets me do my work faster is an incredible asset. The money i save i can invest in better hardware or an extra holiday, the time i safe i can invest in make my art even better or be lazy and watch a movie.

Do i wish the UI would be better? Of course, but not at the cost of speed.
Do i mind that Blenders UI is not industry standard? Not at all. If i switch to another program my brain adapts in less than 10 seconds. I am highly adaptive.

I have the suspicion that a lot of people who are angry at Blenders UI, have so strong inner resistance that their ego makes it impossible to learn the software. They simply don't want to sidestep their ego, they want to be right. 
Changing Blenders UI might take another couple of years, changing yourself might take 4 months or a little less/more.

For me it was worth it.
  02 February 2018
Originally Posted by Ryusaki: I have the suspicion that a lot of people who are angry at Blenders UI, have so strong inner resistance that their ego makes it impossible to learn the software. They simply don't want to sidestep their ego, they want to be right. 
Changing Blenders UI might take another couple of years, changing yourself might take 4 months or a little less/more.

For me it was worth it.

I'm also a C4D user and every year I try to learn Blender but then I give up. I think if you only use C4D for everything is fine (but hard) to change to Blender after some months. But if you're like me and you have to use a plethora of different 3D softwares for your work (I use C4D, Maya, 3D Coat and iClone for almost all of my jobs.) it is really hard to adapt to Blender because of the non-standard controls. As you have to switch back and forth between the programs the non-standard controls of Blender really get in the way. The right-button selection is a big no-no for example (yeah, you can change to be more like Maya but then you loose the short cuts and you can't follow the tutorials).

  02 February 2018
Quote: I have the suspicion that a lot of people who are angry at Blenders UI, have so strong inner resistance that their ego makes it impossible to
learn the softwar

Anger, resistance and ego are usually terms to make the discussion to something personal, when you start to run out of good arguments. It may surprise you, but i have learned Blender to a degree that you may never reach. Since i  know the code too.

Quote: The investment of 4 months? I got it all back plus more.

4 Months? What if i told you that you could have done it in 4 weeks? What if i told you that you loose several minutes of working time per day because of the UI quirks in Blender? And have you ever counted the searching and investigation times too? And all the fail clicks in case you work with more than just Blender? That's what UI design is about.
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  02 February 2018
Tiles: Just a random idea: How about having a word with the guys over at EliveCD, and seeing whether they can ship YOUR app instead of the *standard* Blender they do? Maybe people would like that?
  02 February 2018
That would be a nice idea, thanks for it. Something to consider when Bforartists reaches version 1
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  02 February 2018
I think blender is hard to use, at least enough for pros to think it's not worth the time/effort. If I'm going to spend time learning an unusual interface, I might as well put my time towards Houdini be get some actual new capabilities as a result, especially for the price of Indie - it's nearly free already.

Open source software can do whatever it wants, but if it wants marketshare and people using it, it needs to use a standard UI so people from other software can get comfortable ASAP

I think we can all appreciate blender trying to innovate with the UI, and I know some people prefer it, but the vast majority don't.

I love hotkeys. I map a million hotkeys in maya and that's my preferred method, but hotkeys are a muscle memory thing that take awhile to memorize. This is why I hat After Effects - all their advanced functions are hidden in hotkeys that you either have memorized, or you can't use.

Last edited by sentry66 : 02 February 2018 at 02:30 AM.
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