What to do as a (poor) cg beginner?


Hello! This is my first time on this website. If this isn’t the place to ask these questions, please let me know. Thank you!

Recently i’ve felt very discouraged, about my progress, and not having much to show for it. My education has mostly been self taught/youtube tutorials, and while a lot are very helpful, I don’t really have anyone to ask when I get stuck, and the difficult “waiting days for any responses” thing, so most of the time my projects go in the trash bin, and I don’t finish anything. I was thinking that if I spend money on courses/academies, I could possibly see progress from the interactive-ness of that experience, but it also raised a few questions for me;

“If i’m going to pay to take this seriously and improve, would it be better to go all the way and get industry software?”
Right now i’m only using blender, and the reason I started was to find a free alternative to become a cg artist, but I wondered, if i’m going to spend money to get education, should I just buy everything including industry software as well? Should I continue using it?

“Where will I get the money?”
While the common answer is “get a job”, right now i’m a bit stuck (because of my job I have little free time and everything goes to basic necessities) and doing commissions seems to be the only option. But in order to do commissions, I need to be at a certain level that I can be somewhat marketable, and all I have is youtube tutorials, and i’m not doing too well with it because I don’t have anyone to ask for my learning gaps and techniques, but in order to get that I need to spend money, and in order to get money I need to do commissions. It feels like a catch 22, and the process is a staircase/mountain, but the first floor is on fire and I can’t pay for the ladder. How do I just try to run through it so I can do commissions and pay for the ladder for the rest of the stairs? Sorry if this is a silly analogy.

Also, for people that are teachers/have been doing cg for a while, how did you get to the level you were at? Did you pay for education, were you self taught? If so, how did you figure things out? If there weren’t many resources/affordable teaching, how did you learn things yourself? If you learnt things yourself and then accumulated money from commissions to pay for education, how did you “run through the fire” initially? Sorry again if this is a weird or silly way to phrase it.

But I also believe that I could improve my learning process and becoming more self reflective and efficient when learning even without an active instructor, how do I solve my own questions? How do I be more intuitive? How do I learn how to learn being self taught? How do I figure out how to get the money? How do I figure out how to go about everything, and stay motivated? I really want to quit, I feel really ashamed of my progress and my works, I wish I could be good enough to like them. Thank you.



Let me start off by saying, I think most 3D artists can relate to what you’re going through. Getting started can be an uphill battle and effectively, what you’re probably noticing is 3D art is HARD.

I’m personally currently in a very similar position as you, though I don’t have a job due to health issues. All my money goes to basic necessities and there’s nothing left for quality education or new software in this field. I don’t really know anyone I can ask about CG-related problems I encounter as I learn, but with all this in mind… [b]it’s definitely possible to learn on your own!

[/b]There’s an immense amount of information out there, the challenge is finding it. If you can’t find it, there’s a crazy amount of forums out there (discord servers, subreddits, regular old forums like this one). What I’ve ended up doing is sucking up every little piece of information anywhere and any time I can. If you want something like a mentor or a teacher, there’s a couple of options… classic education is one, I think the main benefit I see with going to university would be having a teacher and other students there with you, who you can ask whenever you encounter “bumps in the road”. The question is if that’s worth the potential cost. Another option would be to find yourself a mentor, someone who you could offer some value to and in return get help from. There’s plenty of YouTube videos on this subject, for example I believe Blender Guru has spoken about it in some video on his channel, though I don’t quite have the time to find it right now. (in general I really recommend checking out Blender Guru’s channel, there’s some superb tutorials/discussions around CG on there not only for Blender users).

Long story short, getting started in CG is a bumpy road for everyone. There’s no shortcuts to learning other than researching and experimenting, alot. Try to set realistic short-term goals and live up to them as best you can, don’t expect world-class renders on your first try and slowly but surely you’ll start noticing improvements. For me, I’ve noticed a sort of exponential learning curve - it was slow in the beginning, but once you have a firm grasp of the basics you get to really explore your own personal style, and that’s where the magic happens. There’s a reason why it takes most artists a very long time to get to that point though.



Either stick with free open-source software or get the student versions of the main softwares.

Plural Sight previously digital tutors is fairly reasonable with monthly fee for tutorials.

Good luck


Also don’t attempt things that are beyond your abilities too early.
Try to follow tutorials that also provide scene data so you can follow along or reverse engineer.
Learn the tools first. And don’t try building demo reel content while you are learning.
Attempt personal projects only after you get comfortable with the tool set.

As mentioned you can use the demo version of industry used software but only if you really want a job someday.
Or you find them easier to learn than blender-which is quite possible. It doesn’t cost you to try them.

  1. Stop using Blender. It’s not going to do you any favors in regards to getting an industry job unless it’s at one of a very small handful of indie game studios which make use of it.

  2. Get an indie or educational version of a piece of software like Maya or Houdini. Not only will learning one of those will make you more employable, but the tutorials/training available for them can be quite good.

Also, what is it specifically that you are trying to create with your projects, and what is it that you are getting stuck on?

Finally, to answer your question about how I got to my current level, I started using 3d software in my early teens without any real guidance. This was well before forums like CGTalk, let alone YouTube, existed. My only real guidance at the time were books which in retrospect were written by people who also did not know what they were doing. I eventually went to university to study computer science, though in a program which heavily emphasized computer graphics. Even while in this program I continued to work on personal projects and self study. Following graduation I had a job which was pure programming. While at this job I continued to work on my graphics skills and portfolio and did not get my first ‘industry’ job until a few years later. I’m currently working on my 11th feature film credit.


Get rid of Blender. Its a horribly designed 3D software. There is A BETTER AND COMPLETELY FREE version of Blender called Bforartists that is much, much easier to use:


This is if you have no money at all.

If you can financially afford a student version of 3D software - usually very cheap - I highly recommend learning your 3D with Cinema4D.

Cinema4D is the best, easiest, friendliest and fastest way to learn serious 3D, especially if you are learning on your own. Very logical and artist friendly 3D software.

Later on you can move on to Maya, Max or to any other 3D software.

If you have some money, go the Cinema4D route. If you don’t have any money, try to learn Bforartists.

Blender is so badly designed that even professional 3D artists have trouble using it.


Software: personally I would not waste my time learning software that studios are not using, because you will always lose out to someone who they won’t have to train. So Maya, Max, or Houdini is the way to go. For the student version of Autodesk products you can be home schooling, so your good. Houdini has a free non-commercial version.

Schooling: self training is the way I went about it, but it requires a lot of discipline. There are plenty of good tutorial resources out there these days, when I started it was Gnomon and Digital Tutors, now there are plenty of options. For critiques you have to find a network of people you trust and that is not easy. School gives you the structure and a network of people for critiques. There is no right or wrong answer here it just depends on your personality.

Transitioning into 3d as a career: I quit my 9-5 and got a job in a bar. I finished work at 11pm would go home and work on my portfolio till about 5am and than sleep, wake up and do it again. This allowed me to pay the bills and work on developing the necessary skills. Again this approach is not for everyone, but to improve you need more than an hour or two a day. Not sure what your financial situation is, but your probably going to have to go all in at some point. Remember your competing against students who are giving a full-time effort.

As for wanting to give up, just remind yourself that it is irrational to expect to be good quickly, it takes years. The good news is that you don’t have to be amazing to get your first job.

Good luck!


To me it is a mystery what so many beginning artists hesitates when it comes to the choice of software. It should be obvious by now that Max, Maya, Houdini, Zbrush and Photoshop are the standard tools (like it or not) of the trade . Yes there are others, but why waste time on learning marginal products?

Blender? Read this post again from the beginning.


The problem is that learning Autodesk products, legally, is not a viable option any more. If you can’t get hold of a pirated-version, don’t bother.
Proficiency in the use of software and creating great 3d content are not the same thing.
People are being too dismissive of Blender because of their own inability to use it. I too struggle with Blender, but a long time ago I also struggled with 3ds max. I think that people forget what they were like when they were first starting out. As novices, people blame themselves, but when they’ve created content of a professional-standard in one application, if they can’t do it in another, they tend to blame the software.

Autodesk software is free for 3 years if you are a student at an accredited school/college only! No option to teach yourself for free legally. Even if you’re at college etc learning Autodesk software, at the end of 3 years you have to pay about 1950€/$1,505.00 a year for the rest of your life if you want to continue to use it. Most people are still pretty poor at 3d after 3 years and a lot of people won’t find a job relating to their field of interest straight away. You’re in debt to a college that taught you nothing you couldn’t have found out yourself through other means and you’re faced with the dilemma of whether shelling out 1950€/$1,505.00 a year, which may well rise in the future, to improve skills/portfolio is worth it when there is still no guarantee of a job at the end of it.

Whilst Autodesk software is the “Industry standard” in a lot of fields, there are an awful lot of CGI jobs that are utter shite. Shite with respect to the hours, pay and the required skills. In all seriousness being a janitor would probably be a better job on account of the hours being fixed and the job stress free. Also, whilst industry standards now, I can’t comprehend how they will continue to be so in the future. 3ds max is still being developed, but it is so far behind in so many areas and incredibly expensive that it seems ludicrous that it will have much longevity. The new anti-piracy methods if successful, have also killed off new adopters of the software. Native 3ds max is merely an operating-system heavily reliant on plugins. One such “Plug in” is the “Renderer” “V-Ray” by Chaos group. Chaos group also provide a Renderer for Blender. They would not do this for shits and giggles. I suggest you ignore the derogatory comments made regarding Blender for it may well surpass anything Autodesk is responsible for. If you’ve seen Tron Legacy, know that Autodesk is worse than Encom. At lease Encom give you a box!


When those same professionals have no issue working with a variety of packages such as Maya, 3dsmax, Softimage, Cinema4D, Houdini, and even proprietary software, but then Blender is the odd one out in regards to it giving them trouble, then that’s a pretty clear signal that Blender could very well be the issue.

Blender seems like a noble cause, but the execution up until now has been pretty horrible. There was so much potential for it to be a real force for positive change within the industry, but they’ve squandered it by digging in their heels and insisting that in order to use Blender, one must abandon every notion of what they’ve previously thought to be intuitive in terms of UI and UX.

In regards to Autodesk, they are absolutely the single worst thing to have happen to this industry when it comes to software vendors. They took what was once a vibrant and innovative market and utterly crushed it. It’s only now that the pace of innovation is starting to pick up again, but this is mostly due to companies like SideFX and The Foundry pushing the envelope. So trust me, I am no fan of them or their software, but the unfortunate reality right now is that being proficient in Maya is a much more marketable skill to have on one’s resume than Blender, plus the skills learned in Blender aren’t as easily portable to other software than between the packages that I’ve mentioned above.


I like that you just cut through the hypocrisy. Yes, piracy is fucking bad, but a majority of older (and younger) artists started their 3D learning with pirated software. But, these days there are options. However, if you can’t get hold of the software for LEARNING (yes, not for anything else!), you know what to do. But Just wait until some one post a tear dripping history were he or she sold a kidney and worked the night shift at Mc Donalds to pay off that $10k license for SI 3D or power animator, purchased just for fun to learn how to use it. Yeah right!

Anyways. Autodesk might be horrible, but I don’t see a major pipeline change coming in the near future.

Blender. @Array is spot on. Its like the school shootings in US. NRA can find a million reasons why they happen except the reason that it might be because of the amount of weapons available in the society. Blender being NRA is this case: there is nothing wrong with blenders UI or interaction model, it is all the other software that are doing it wrong!


You’re going to start seeing some pretty major changes in this regard in the next 2-5 years.


Yeah studio wise - it’s gonna be Usd… and reckon Houdini will (as they usually do) get the tech into the hands of the common public well before Autodesk figures it out. That could really shake things up.

Mentioning Houdini therefore as an option, It also doesn’t suffer from a horrible UI like Blender or the complete and utter lack of innovation from Autodesk. Houdini is freely available as well and not really crippled with limits or watermarks either like some learning packages are. Employability is booming for it because it can contribute to production work well acrosss the board. Scene assembly, tools , fx, cfx, environments, motion graphics, gaming, build, lighting / rendering. Training and docs are already great and always getting better + community is growing. Still a little fx focussed but hey… it’s already the market leader for that and it’s what people today love Houdini for.

The downside is it’s an intense, professional package and a steep learning for many. In fact I can’t help feel apps like Maya still just have such user base not only because of the large amount of experience and knowledge (and pipeline dev) invested in it but simply the energy needed to relearn in an industry full of tired artists - to what may even be a better way. It challenges many due to the need to understand how cg works under the hood, even for simple things that we just pushed a button for in other packages. Also some things like rigging, animation and modelling still just goes better in a package like Maya for now… but to be honest, nobody cares where you model at least (bforartist could be great for that)- as long as you can bring it into the pipe…

All round Houdini is a good zero cost option but will challenge you further! But then so will most packages that are used professionally…


Okay, I’ll try that! But some of the student versions say I have to be in college, and i’m not in one. Another worry of mine was how a lot of the student versions were non-commercial. While that’s not a problem, I still need to be able to do commissions to get courses and even helping my current situation. What should I do? I still feel stuck. Thanks!


I think when it comes to self learning, I have a lot of critical problems which have been stopping me, in a lot of the things i’ve been studying. I’m not able to generalize what my problem is, even to myself and i’ll have trouble even pinpointing the issue. I’m also not good at helping myself get out of the problem without asking a lot of questions to others and well; the main problem is I don’t have someone to talk to about my pitfalls in cg. I generally always need to have an active person showing me what’s wrong and how to improve along with information, and I want to be able to become more self efficient; to be able to be my own instructor at times I don’t have one, and to not only find information, but to understand it. What do you think I should do in trying to figure this out and achieve this? Are there any resources that are good for becoming a more sufficient learner? Thank you!


When your goal is the industry, then you have to use the industry tools. It’s really this simple.


Non-commercial should be fine long enough for you to figure out if its truly what you want or not.
It is not very realistic to hope to get a lot of commissions while your are learning because really you are not likely to be that marketable.
There are thousands of people out there just like you. Unless you are quite the salesman there isn’t a lot of reason for folks to seek you out in particular
until you are making outstanding work (which speaks for itself).

Also there are no ‘learn-how-to-learn-CGI videos’ out there. So you may find you’d learn better in a class room situation.
Industry Professional mentors are extremely rare and may cost more than a CGI school (by the hour).

Yes its cheapest to learn on your own. But also the hardest.



Wow lots of good instructions here. Funny comments too :slight_smile:

It has become very sad as you need to pay a lot to use CG software Nowadays especially as 3D Artists, you tend to need at least 3 - 5 of these each at around 1k or more per year. Plus you need a high spec PC or Mac to run them which you need to update and buy new every few years.

So for newcomers it looks harder than ever.

To be honest I personally learnt everything on ‘possibly’ illegal software. Nowadays it’s very hard and also the software prices are ‘rental’ - you pay per year or month - previously we could make one payment and use it forever. But I think you may be able to ly about ur college or write to them? Student versions I think have watermarks etc so they’re just for learning not for commercial use.

Only Substance Painter with me is a permanent purchase ATM.

It is an insanely competitive industry / world and it’s unlikely you’ll get commissions while learning definitely don’t rely on that - also chances are you’ll start off as a modeller? There are millions of these guys out there and insanely dedicated, and in my opinion - it’s oversaturated.

If I was to go back in time I’d say focus on Graphic Design at the very beginning and drawing skills - learn Adobe stuff - because if you can design logos and websites etc you’re immediately making money. Then probably move onto 3D with Cinema 4D?

But ultimately I’m saddened that it seems if you’re not wealthy or struggling - CG is not for you.

However all the best and good luck !!


I understand. I should probably try and tap into other things that I might be able to do for money while learning cg and saving up, then attempting to market myself once i’ve developed my skills to a certain point. Thank you circusboy! I’ll try my best.


Hi! I’ve been thinking about doing vector art and graphic design to do money, but the field seems so intimidating. Even on fiverr you see so many people pitted against each other, being able to make logos in 24 hours, unlimited revisions, i’m just not sure what i’d do to be able to stand out or even just be on the same playing field with so many people, especially as I am still learning with Inkscape and hope to maybe get affinity designer after i’m able to do commissions- it’s just a loop. I’m not sure what to do. What would you suggest? At this point, I think i’m just going to have to find a second job somehow and find a way to manage. Thank you!