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3D Tutorial Roundup - Best of 2012 (So Far)

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We haven't done a tutorial roundup here in awhile, so since we're a little bit past the halfway mark in 2012, this seemed like an opportune time to weigh in with what we think are the most helpful bits of training material from the past six or seven months.

1. Freebies


If you're just testing the waters in 3D modeling and animation, and you don't think you're ready to spend any of your hard earned cash on training, there are always a ton of free resources available to you. Here are some great options that have emerged recently:

  • 3DTotal Tutorial Repository - This thread over at Threedy has become a huge repository for (literally) hundreds of free 3D tutorials. Anyone can add links, so there's a huge range of material that spans all all aspects of the CG pipeline.

  • Making of Gathering - Alex Alvarez - Gnomon Workshop founder, Alex Alvarez has had a busy year, and it all started with this free two and a half hour release earlier this year. The video documents the creation of a large scale character illustration and contains a lot of nice environment sculpting workflows. Alex uses Maya, ZBrush, Photoshop, and Bodypaint 3D in the demo.

  • Dota 2 Workshop - The information here was developed specifically for Dota2 modders, but it's an absolute goldmine if you're interested in the handpainted style. Download the .pdf files on character design and texturing--the information on color harmony alone is killer!

Aside from those three newcomers, there are always oodles of free tutorial sets scattered about the web. We just published an article that showcases a collection of YouTube channels for 3D artists, and resources like the Polycount Wiki, and 3DBuzz are perennial favorites.

2. Premium Content


It's always tough to decide which 3D training to spend your money on, but if you're serious about improving to a professional level, chances are you'll inevitably get to the point where it becomes necessary to make a purchase or two.

We've discussed all the different online CG training options in quite a bit of detail, so if you'd like to read about the sites themselves check out this article. If you've been considering purchasing some training for awhile and can't decide which site to commit to, sometimes all it takes is a single tutorial to make a subscription worth it for you—here are some of the highlights from a few of the more popular sites:

  • Creature Sculpting with Jesse Sandifer – Zbrush Workshops - Clocked at over 20 hours, this has got to be the most comprehensive Zbrush character creation tutorial that has ever been published, but if you want to see the whole process from beginning to end this is just the ticket. Instructor Jesse Sandifer sculpts an awesome hunter class creature, and then walks you through the texturing, retopology, and rendering process leaving no stone unturned.

  • The Treasure Chest - 3DMotive - This is a great, great, great tutorial series, and 3D Motive continues to be one of the best deals in CG education, with a modest price of only $22 for a month's access to the entire library.

    Instructor Jeff Parrott literally takes you from point A to point Z in the game-art production pipeline and doesn't skip a single step along the way. In the course's four volumes you'll see how to block out a model, sculpt high-resolution details, retopologize the mesh for a game engine, unwrap UVs, bake normal maps, hand-paint textures, and present your finished game asset.

    It's amazingly thorough, and it's the only tutorial I'm aware of that goes through the entire game-art process using Maya as a base package (instead of 3DS Max). If you're a Maya user who's looking to get into game development, this is exactly where you should start.

  • Foliage in Maya and Mental Ray – Gnomon Workshops - Gnomon has had a relatively quiet year, but Alex Alvarez has been one busy bee. In addition to the free sculpting demo he released earlier this year, he's just published a sprawling set of material that covers foliage, plants, and instancing in Maya and Mental Ray that encompasses four DVDs and almost 40 hours of training.

    Intense, technical, labor intensive—these are all words that come to mind when viewing the trailers for this set of training—this is serious training, but a real commitment to this material would give you a relatively unique skill-set among your peers, because this is stuff that just hasn't been well documented before.

    I admit, the price of entry at Gnomon Workshops is definitely a barrier, but if the skills presented here are something you think you'll need in your day to day, then go for it. Plus you'll have access to their entire library for a year.

  • Transforming Robot Production Pipeline - Digital Tutors - This massive pipeline series from Digital Tutors is probably one of the most ambitious things DT has ever published, and their videos are always a pleasure to watch. The set is a comprehensive look at a transforming robot VFX shot, from concept art all the way through modeling, rigging, animation, and final compositing. Impressive stuff right here!

And there you have it. You've probably noticed, the tutorials we've included are all comprehensive sets that tackle a specific problem in CG. I learn a lot watching workflow sets like this because it shows how different technical issues are tackled at each step in the process. If you prefer training that's more narrowly focused, be sure to snoop around places like Eat3D, 3DMotive, CGMW, or any of the sites in this article to see if you come across anything you like!

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