Is Blender Actually Hard to Learn?


#1

https://youtu.be/StTF1c2Jngs

Some of my thoughts on the subject. Let’s hear what you think?


#2

The Blender UI is like religion. For the true believers it is holy and infallible, for the rest of us it just compleltly irrational. Such a shame, blender could have been THE 3d application. But the in the spirit of religious freedom, we have to let the blender foundation believe in whatever they want.


#3

I wouldn’t say it is hard to learn, just different. The vast majority of it’s users are hobbyists and they seem to cope. The UI is regarded as unconventional when compared to to ‘norms’ and paradigms that have evolved and exists across all the major 3D apps. But then again, this can be levelled at ZBrush’s interface too.

The question I asked myself was ‘is there a reason to learn it’?. I took the time to learn ZBrush because the pay-off was immensely worth it. ZBrush offered what no other app could at the time and I wanted in. But Blender offered me no incentive to grapple the UI because, apart form being free, it had nothing extra to offer me over my choice app.

However, it looks like Blender has finally pipped C4D in functionality and features - and incredible feat and one that would have got me interested in Blender again. However, I have already invested in the awesome Houdini which laughingly sits on top of them all. Houdini is like learning ZBrush again - confusing but with an incredible pay off. Houdini Indie is as good as free in my opinion.


#4

Yup! It is hard. It is made by nerds and not by creatives. It is very technical and many things could be done a lot, lot easier with fewer clicks. It is powerful and great to use but yup…hard to use.

A:M
Zbrush
Motionbuilder
Cinema 4d
sketchup
are pretty easy to use.


#5

Perhaps somebody is paying the Ton Rosendaal money not to change the UI. You know, so the 4K-a-license commercial 3D apps don’t tank completely.

Blender has easily become the dumbest, silliest, most irrational and most difficult to understand open source project in the entire audiovisual software space.

ALL of the major features of a commercial 3D app are in place. The people developing Blender are NOT new to 3D. They very likely know how to use Maya, Max, C4D or another 3D app pretty damn well. They are also smart enough to read Computer Graphics books and papers. They are NOT people who’ve never encountered a better UI or work in a vacuum. GUI design also is NOT rocket science. Its very, very doable if you have used some software before.

Shitloads of people have complained about the Blender UI over the last decade. About 8 out of 10 people who download Blender probably cannot get past the weird UI at all and delete Blender again within a few minutes of using it. That’s one of the [b]worst try-to-use-then-delete failure rates in the entire open source space.

A UI redesign is also something you can ask for donations for and crowdsource simply by asking people “We want next-generation Blender to have the ultimate 3D UI. What should it look like?” You’ll get thousands of suggestions when you do that.

If there were another 2 Open Source 3D softwares like Blender that did it better, all of this wouldn’t be a problem. You’d say “Blender’s UI is shit” and just download one of the other 2 apps.

Blender would also die very very quickly as a 3D software and as an open source project. Or scramble to improve its UI as quickly as possible.

But Blender is the only serious open source 3D software in the entire world for people who are low on cash, or have no cash at all, and want to do 3D.

That only choice in the world steadfastly refuses to redesign its UI like LibreOffice for example did.

[b]None of what the Blender developers have had to say about this over the years has made any sense whatsoever.

I have done UI design in the past. Blender’s UI feels like someone sat down and deliberately did not want Blender to be very usable at all.

There are hundreds of professional UI/UX designers in the world who could create a better UI for Blender in 2 to 3 months tops.

The Blender people could approach one of these designers at any time and make Blender a really amazing 3D app.

They do not do this and also have no credible explanation whatsoever for why they do not do this.

I have looked at the Blender UI many, many times. It feels like it was designed by someone who very deliberately did not want Blender to be very usable or easy to learn at all.

As for Ton Rosendaal, I have no respect for him whatsoever. This guy keeps adding tech feature after tech feature into his software, and completely neglects how people interact with said software.

They often say that Blender users are like a cult. Maybe Blender users are a cult with a cult leader who screws them into thinking that “Blender’s non-standard UI is actually very good!”

No it isn’t, Ton Rosendaal, and you probably know that better than anybody else.


#6

It’s not Ton. He still does the best he can. It’s simply how open source works most of the times. UI - UX design is at the back seat. Important is that the feature works at all. And then it ends over the years in the mess that we see in Blender.

This. And it is wasted time to discuss about religion. You won’t convince anybody. But there is an alternative nowadays. And Bforartists is getting better with every release :slight_smile:

https://www.bforartists.de/


#7

I have found over the years, that it’s slightly easier to learn if you don’t have any experience with other apps like Max/Maya, etc. If you’ve used other apps before, the going gets rough pretty fast. Heaven help you if you try to jump from something like c4D (IMO the best UI by far right now) to Blender. We tried to adopt Blender at my last job. I know how to use it relatively well so it was my job to be the trainer (along with a few other folks). The experiment failed. lol On top of just being frustratingly slow to learn for many folks, it had some other issues that caused it to not be ready for Primetime.

I don’t necessarily think the program itself is actually “hard” per say. I just think that, as others have said, it does in 5 clicks what most programs will do in 2. Then the whole right-click thing as well as how some of the keyboard shortcuts work. It all just gets in the way. You can alter most of that to be more like a “classic” 3D program, but then you have a situation where each person’s app is set up very very differently than the last.

I always mention this when people start talking about how many downloads it has. Yeah, it gets decent numbers in terms of downloads. But a download rate ≠ actual adoption rate.


#8

Its fine for hobbyists as a first app (no habits formed yet). But it is hostile for professionals.
And it has no game changing features -like Houdini and Zbrush.
Just ‘me too’ features that are hostile to get to. So there is little motivation to ‘convert’ especially if you are not the one paying for the software anyway. Aka ‘free’ = ‘dick-all’
to most studio professionals. For it to ‘take-over’ the industry-more professionals need to be motivated to use it.

And really if not fixing something that most people complain about since the beginning -the UI-Why the hell should you ever expect them to add something ‘new’ that you really want?!
Their development road-map is probably not industry standard which makes them a lot less reliable for production if you ask me.

IMHO only Side Effects really care any more. :hmm: They get my vote.


#9

Picking up a few points.

The idea of redesigning the UI in 3 months is wishful thinking. It could take 3 months just to get through something like a material UI or render settings window. Considering ideas stages, concepts, implementation, testing, feedback, adjustments, inevitable limitations. Of course it depends if you are thinking of fixing issues or remaking it, but you’d need to quadruple that timeframe as a starting point. The only way you’d do it that fast is if there were someone who knew what they were doing, had a vision for everything and were in a position of authority to get it done and not have to fight every little change against other people. You’ve got to fight against all the entrenched people who don’t want anything to change, against other professionals who have other ideas. Against people who don’t want to touch the ancient code of some areas where its a mess.

Could you design out a 3D app in 3 months? sure. Could you actually implement it against all the pushback? Not a hope in hell.

Regarding 8/10 people not sticking it out. this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. you simply cannot compare retention rates of blender against vlc/firefox/thunderbird/handbrake etc. Ignoring the UI faults, Blender is probably the single biggest and most complex open source app a person could learn. Many who want to learn 3D will grab blender first just because its free, regardless of which 3D app they downloaded, only a small fraction of users would stick it out. 3D is bigger and scarier than many anticipate. Im surprised the rate would be as high as 20%. How many people that grab the c4d/maya demo go on to make purchases? I doubt they hit the 20% mark.


#10

I very much agree with Mash. While i personally don’t like Blenders interface and workflow much it isn’t really harder to learn than others, not if you compare it to the over all task of learning any of the big 3D DCC packages.
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.


#11

Correct. To give you an idea, we work at Bforartists since two and a half years …


#12

Again as said numerous times, here a few tips, wich helped me:

  • Don’t try to make blender behave like your other 3d software…your previous experience will not payoff, until you do have aquired some basic knowledge of blender and its workflow.
  • Try to concentrate on one simple feature (like unwrapping, physic sim, etc) to get accustomed to the basic interface navigation (numpad keys, splitting / merging windows / g r s the shortcut menus etc) and expand from there once mastered. Trying to start with big chunks like the modeling environment from scratch is pretty damn hard without having some basic knowledge where to find things / knowing the interface. (especially comming from another software),
  • Try to reopen blender the next day once you closed it in frustration…you might not see progress in what you do, but your muscle memory will be trained through this.

#13

I think the gist of this thread is that there is no motivation to go through these ‘tips’ when Blender offers nothing more than what established and proven 3D apps already offers. Blenders star feature, being ‘free’, might be enough for a hobbyist starting out, but until the developers listen to those who are giving it real and valuable advise, it will only exist in its cult like bubble.

Bforartists have recognised this and I wish them well. I think they will keep Blender relevant.


#14

well for me it offers some advantages where I do prefer it to commercial
alternatives I have at hand. More on the workflow front than on the features per se.
But these are personal preferences.

I’m offering these tips since they would have helped me a lot when
I started to use it alongside other software.

And heres another one: Don’t try to use it for stuff wich you are good in your other software,
use it for the stuff what you hate to do in your application of choice.


#15

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.


#16

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.


#17

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.


#18

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. https://docs.blender.org/manual/en/dev/search.html?q=rotate+edge&check_keywords=yes&area=default

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 ^^


#19

@ 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 ?


#20

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.