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3D character art - "where" to study

Hello,

I am sorta of a beginner / intermediate character artist and I really wanted to study on something that would improve my skills.

I studied for 3 years on a videogame course, and honestly it was...really not good. There weren't a lot of options in my country (Portugal), and it was a very "experimental" course at the time (it was like the 2nd year of its existence, the structure was terrible with some really awful teachers, it's much better now, but still), and I feel that I learned almost nothing that I wanted, most of what I learned was really online from YouTube videos. I kind of did not do a lot of research before going (I was very naive at the time, so I just rushed at whatever seemed the most interesting), so now I am VERY reluctant on choosing where to learn more.

From the research I did, I found that the best choice considering my budget would be the "Universal Arts School" in Spain, Valencia, they have a dual masters on sculpting extreme and videogame arts, but I really don't want to to through the situacion I already went through, so I am unsure if that would be the best choice. Studying physically at an university would be my preference, but since I can't study at the best schools (since they are REALLY expensive), I looked around at some online courses.

CG Spectrum seems to be very highgly regarded as having some of the best courses online, with cgmasteracademy seeming to also being a good alternative, having its' modules more seperate. I can afford these websites for like a course or two, even though they can be quite expensive (but really not as much as going to a physical university).
I'm not really sure about places like udemy, 3d motive, Lynda and plusarlight? I have some understanding of the tools I have (zbrush, blender, substance painter and maya), so I'm not sure if those websites could offer the knowledge I seek to improve my skills.

3D character creation is really what I want to focus on, more specifically for Videogames. I have a basic understanding of how to sculpt, I bought a couple of anatomy classes from gumroad, and even joined the Shane Olson's Character Workshop. (It could always be the case that I also am missing more practice, then the need for higher education, which is another fear that I have, but I suppose that is probably not really relevant here).

I apologize if these kinds of threads are done to death. I have read the pinned threads, and the majority of them refer to posts from around 2010-2015, things are quite different ever since then so I just kind of want some more recent info about this.
I also apologize for any grammar errors in this post.

Replies

  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    Honestly I don't think 3-4 years of schools is of any help in this field if you ain't doing it just to get a degree for visa purposes. Its too long and not on point enough. Personally I'm all for a 1 year course to get the basics of all fields involved (concepts, modelling, texturing, sculpting, rigging, animating,...) and then go with online courses specific for your needs (like single 8-10 weeks character workshops offered by CGMA or Vertex School for example).

    The key is learning by yourself and picking the time for these courses right. Once you know the basics, you hone your skill to the point that you know how to use all the standard techniques, worklflows and you know the full pipeline of character creation and you just need to fine tune your eye for quality. That's the time you pick up a course and focus on learning from critique (not just based on your work , but also studying other students works thinking about feedback for them and really learning from the feedback they receive). It's not about making your perfect portfolio character or learning basics that you could get somewhere for free, but really about understanding quality. This is what most students do wrong and then waste 800+ bucks on it.

    Put your portfolio up on polycount, get feedback to where you are in the process and its either going to be that you can still learning from regular feedback and free sources or maybe time to push it with a 8-10 weeks course. I honestly think universities/schools in this field are not efficient and more of a way for people to not have to take ownership of their own education. You end up doing most of the learning in your off time anyways.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    Biomag said:
    a way for people to not have to take ownership of their own education.

    This^^^

    It's your mission and you are the commander. If you make a post asking for help but don't show your art, what can we do besides judge your person based on narrow info you've given us?

    "I am sorta of a beginner / intermediate character artist"

    That won't do. It means almost nothing. Can't get anywhere from that. 

    First you have to know where you are going. "Get better at art" isn't specific enough. You need a goal that can be clearly measured against. For instance:

    "I will make a realistic character that stands up to the same quality as Baolong Zhangs latest work."

    Now we have some metrics to work with. The next question is "where am I right now?"

    So you post the art and get down to specifics. If you feel anxious because the art sucks, post the art. If you feel embarassed because the art sucks, post the art. Post the art.



  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    Also one thing that isn't always mentioned here, is to make a distinction early on about whether you'd rather do realistic or stylized/cartoony work.

    From my experience, on the learning curve side, realistic character work has a lot more to delve into. Also there is a lot less work available in the market, not to mention a lot more criticism on whether a model meets a certain quality atleast at the onset.

    On the job in a studio, you'd be limited to retopologizing body scans 90% of the time earlier in your career, and while transitioning to more detail oriented work is expected, it really depends on what is needed.
    Except from freelance, I have never found any in studio contract making the full use of my abilities, not that this is an oversight on their part, its just a very rigid way of functioning involving distributing work to larger team + outsourcing and reusing existing assets from libraries.

    And this is looking strictly on the art side of things, there are a lot of other factors that have nothing to do with your art that influence the hiring process.
    Work experience is another thing, there are chances that they won't even look at your work if this aspect isn't met.

    I've found more opportunities in stylized/cartoony work. Its also more flexible from the clients standpoint and it pays just as much if not better, since they are quicker to finish and this helps a project pick up a lot of speed providing more work in the long run.

    A good strategy would be focus on making cartoony models while picking up the process to make realistic models down the line.

     


  • AlysonK
    Biomag said:
    (...)
    I honestly think universities/schools in this field are not efficient and more of a way for people to not have to take ownership of their own education. You end up doing most of the learning in your off time anyways.
    That is true now that I realize it, the reason I seem to be more inclined to choose universities/schools are due to my own lack of self-discipline and setting goals for myself. I just get so easily overwhelmed.

    (...)
    First you have to know where you are going. "Get better at art" isn't specific enough. You need a goal that can be clearly measured against. For instance:

    "I will make a realistic character that stands up to the same quality as Baolong Zhangs latest work."
    (...)
    This is...kind of a tricky for me. I want be able to dable in different styles.
    The styles I am more interested are: stylized characters with semi-realistic proportions and a high level of detail like the in the popular video game Overwatch (not necessarily a style from a single artist); characters with more realistic proportions but a bit more stylized textures, like in the game Life is Strange 2; and realistic characters of the quality level as the one you have shared here.
    I am probably getting a bit of hopes up, since these are probably too many styles to be able to master, or just reach a good level of quality with.

    (...)If you make a post asking for help but don't show your art, what can we do besides judge your person based on narrow info you've given us?

    "I am sorta of a beginner / intermediate character artist"

    That won't do. It means almost nothing. Can't get anywhere from that. 

    (...)

    So you post the art and get down to specifics. If you feel anxious because the art sucks, post the art. If you feel embarrassed because the art sucks, post the art. Post the art.
    Yea, unfortunately that is something I really struggle with, I get really anxious and embarrassed of posting my art, but I suppose if I really want to take this seriously I have to just overcome that...
    Since i don't have a portfolio I will post some of the things I have made here. I tried to put them between spoilers but, for some reason, it did not work, so I apologize for the disorganization.
    Here is fan art I made of a character from a video game (Super Monday Night Combat) that I originally made for my final 3D project on school, and have been recently altering and improving with the knowledge I acquired with the workshop I joined.
    (Right now I'm struggling with improving the hair, and doing folds on the gloves and shirt)

    Here is the original model I delivered for the project on sketchfab (posting it more to show retopology, since I had to rush texturing the character in a day or less, while learning how to use Substance Painter.):

    I made these during an internship I had in an indie game studio. They handed me a concept the artist did I used as reference. (Before doing these I had to retopologize a bunch of characters they had, and texture them, so it was pretty nice when they let me sculpt as well):




    I must also apologize for how low quality and limited the images are, my desktop is currently at a store being fixed, so I pretty much only have small images I used for my school report. The rest of the models I have are usually just models I started but along the way abandoned, and are just half way done or less.

    I am also sorry if I feel a bit hesitant, I feel quite ignorant when talking about this since I have yet so much to learn.

  • sacboi
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    sacboi ngon master
    Not a char artist, so fwiw take my comment with a grain of salt. Now If figurative content either stylised or realistic is where you want to invest time and effort toward proficiency, then anatomical study above all else would be my advice, also whether a formal and/or self taught route too achieve that, well that's entirely up to you. Nowadays especially in terms of an industry/freelance aspiration may be a foreseeable goal, then my suggestion is an absolute must, considering the current quality bar.

    Edit:
    One more thing, try to overcome your tentative/hesitant nature 'yeah can be easier said than done' ...but until you do, more than anything else will be a stumbling block, after all for anyone seeking entry, a tough enough business to break into.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    Just a few things:

    1. Hesitation is understandable, but you have to overcome it. Getting used to feedback and critics has to become second nature - because it happens all the time at the actual job :) We even have something like a internal artstation where we post our 'daily' progress and I can tell you its humbling to put up your WIP next to images of people you have been looking up to for years so that all several hundred people at the company can actually see them :D



    2. The fastest path to a big studio job has shown to be (you will find this advice all over this site and other places): Pick a game that you would like to work on (it should also be a studio that you can actually work - so no visa requirements that could block you because as a junior you won't get these jobs). Now do a project based on a concept from this game (best case either some high quality concept fan art from a professional or concept from the production of the game that didn't make it) and turn it into a game ready model. Take your time, it has to be as good as you can do it. Really focus on getting as close as you can to the game. Since its from a existing game you have something to compare it to and understand how they solved issues you might encounter.

    When you are done with this project - including a well done presentation with proper screenshots - move on to the next, still based on that style, just focusing on different areas. So if the first one was a female character with mainly clothing, do either a male character with cloth or again a female one with more hard surface practise. Just pick something for each project that you can focus on learning so that with each portfolio piece you do you expand your comfort zone and show that you can do these things.



    3. Self-discipline is a must in this field. You are going up against professionals with several years of experience that have full time jobs (or more) and do stuff in their spare time - so easily 50+ hours a week of doing just things related to the job. To catch up means having to do so much more than what schools and universities demand - and that's why I don't like the idea of doing it for 4 years. Those who make it to the AAA are the people who worked their asses of and they would have done it without schools also. I understand the idea of using a school if it really helps you learn as I'm myself that way. I need that kind of structure in the beginning to understand the basics, but I would suggest you are really sure that you need 4 years of broad education in that field, wasting time on theoretical things like writing papers that nobody ever will give a damn and spending a lot of money on it. That's why I said that if you need it for a visa it makes sense, but I would rather do a university in another field that interests me that might give me a chance of a back up job than for games art (I think I actually barely know people working in studios that have a degree in game art, but might be I didn't pay enough attention).


  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    Use the 3d showcase area though. Start your projects there, finish them there. Post weekly or daily updates, hound people for critiques. Even if you don't agree with the critique try it out anyway.

    If you aren't getting critiques, keep going.


  • AlysonK
    sacboi said:
    Not a char artist, so fwiw take my comment with a grain of salt. Now If figurative content either stylised or realistic is where you want to invest time and effort toward proficiency, then anatomical study above all else would be my advice, also whether a formal and/or self taught route too achieve that, well that's entirely up to you. (...)
    Yes, anatomy is something I am struggling a lot with, and I am directing my current efforts into learning and practicing more of it.

    Biomag said:
    Just a few things:

    1. Hesitation is understandable, but you have to overcome it. Getting used to feedback and critics has to become second nature - because it happens all the time at the actual job :)
    (...)

    Use the 3d showcase area though. Start your projects there, finish them there. Post weekly or daily updates, hound people for critiques. Even if you don't agree with the critique try it out anyway.

    If you aren't getting critiques, keep going.


    Ah my apologies, I should have checked the forums better before posting here.
    I did notice in the 3d showcase area there is also a quarterly character challenge which catches my attention, I will participate on those at some point.
    Regarding sharing my art there, it is possibly the best idea, but I have to say I would feel incredibly anxious sharing my more low quality work on a place where people share such high quality work, but I suppose one has to start somewhere.

    Biomag said:
    (...)
    3. Self-discipline is a must in this field. You are going up against professionals with several years of experience that have full time jobs (or more) and do stuff in their spare time - so easily 50+ hours a week of doing just things related to the job. To catch up means having to do so much more than what schools and universities demand (...)
    That is true as well. I rely too much on my mood to have work done, and that heavily hinders me. It is quite complicated for one to organize himself after spending so many years in school. Even while working I have a severe lack of self discipline, a lot of my works I either abandon halfway or get too invested and end up working on unnecessary details.

    Your 2nd advice is also quite good.

    There is just so much to do in order to improve that one can get quite easily overwhelmed, but I suppose at the moment the most important thing is studying and practicing more anatomy.

    As a side note, would learning how to draw help out with anatomy, and learn to paint help out with texturing? Especially with texturing, I am very inexperienced.

    I also apologize if my replies might seem a bit nonsensical, I am just nervous about making this my real career, and not have someone guiding along the way as in school can make me quite lost.
    I thankyou all for your replies however, I will take the information given here into consideration, and my decision right now heavely falls more over being a self taught artist, if self discipline and organization is going to be important for the rest of my career, might as well star working on that now then leave it to "after", and go back to university.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    Regarding drawing. Opinion vary here. I say it depends on how you personally learn best. Some people learn best by just doing tons of stuff and repeating things endlessly, some learn more by focusing analyizing and carefully executing. Some learn better in 3d than 2d (me personally, I better comprehand things as 3d objects than 2d, therefore sculpting and modelling has been far quicker for me to learn than 2d).

    So try it out. See if it helps you more than sculpting. Might be the case. Key to all of that learning is not just piling up hours of 'learning', but be really active in it. Even when you look at references there is a huge difference if you just look at them or you try to understand why things work out in those references, how they are built, why its appealing,... sometimes just studying things like this teaches you more than droping 10 drawings just to draw, where you actually didn't focus on improving your understanding/technique.

    When learning by yourself you need to be 100% honest to if you are learning at that point or just doing things so you can tell other you 'invested in your career', without actually moving the needle forward ;)

    Also when doing projects its key to make honest short term deadlines (just simple small weekly stuff for parts of the project). Don't over commit yourself. Don't let failing your deadlines become a grave for your motivation. Keep them as tight as possible, but loose enough that you can still enjoy it and be focused on the learning part. Use them more as goals that feel like an achievement when you finish them. Like in RPG games you have quick level ups in the beginning to hook you up on the mechanic of advancement, do the same with your learning :)
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    Another benefit to starting and ending your projects in public space is that it will be a big boost to your self-discipline.

    You start the project with a plan. "Hey guys I am doing this and I will finish by X date."  Now people is watching you and they have expectations. You don't want to let them down do you?

    So you can artificially create that same structure you might have at school or a job just by getting others involved in your work. And don't think just becuase you don't get a lot of responses it doesn't mean people aren't looking. It's only like 10% of people who actually make accounts and post regularly, but lots of people look. So don't disappoint them.
  • AlysonK
    Biomag said:
    (...)
    When learning by yourself you need to be 100% honest to if you are learning at that point or just doing things so you can tell other you 'invested in your career', without actually moving the needle forward ;)
    (...)
    This is something I honestly struggle as well, sometimes i am just doing things just for the sake of telling myself I'm doing something. I find it really challenging to be able to focus a lot of times.

    Biomag said:
    (...)
    Also when doing projects its key to make honest short term deadlines (just simple small weekly stuff for parts of the project). Don't over commit yourself. Don't let failing your deadlines become a grave for your motivation. Keep them as tight as possible, but loose enough that you can still enjoy it and be focused on the learning part. Use them more as goals that feel like an achievement when you finish them. Like in RPG games you have quick level ups in the beginning to hook you up on the mechanic of advancement, do the same with your learning :)
    That is good advice, thankyou! I can end up overcommitting myself too much at times. I was supposed to have finished my current project like 2 months ago (yiekes).

    Another benefit to starting and ending your projects in public space is that it will be a big boost to your self-discipline.

    You start the project with a plan. "Hey guys I am doing this and I will finish by X date."  Now people is watching you and they have expectations. You don't want to let them down do you?

    So you can artificially create that same structure you might have at school or a job just by getting others involved in your work. And don't think just because you don't get a lot of responses it doesn't mean people aren't looking. It's only like 10% of people who actually make accounts and post regularly, but lots of people look. So don't disappoint them.
    That is also good advice, thankyou very much!!
  • sacboi
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    sacboi ngon master
    AlysonK said: As a side note, would learning how to draw help out with anatomy, and learn to paint help out with texturing? Especially with texturing, I am very inexperienced.
    Indeed, in my opinion most definitely. Even-though had worked as a traditional Portraitist way back in the day and years later attempting too visualise either in 2d or 3d a fully figurative subject will still present an extreme personal challenge however learning to draw enforces fundamental principles which define visual arts as a medium, namely:

    - Observation
    - Perspective
    - Composition
    - Colour Theory
    - Form & Structure
    - Drawing

    Scott Eaton Workshop:

    https://conceptartempire.com/what-are-the-fundamentals/ (an incomplete list, but nonetheless some very useful embedded links/info)
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