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3d environment artist Self taught advice/guidance?

Hi everyone this is my first time posting here. I don't wanna waste your time so I'll just be forward with it. I have been learning self taught blender for over 3-5 months now and my goal is to get a job in the Game industry (but I'll take anything at this point). since I'm self taught I don't have anyone to ask other than google but I can only get so much from it. so if you have the time, can you answer my questions?

Reasons for self taught
1. lack of funds (no job atm)
2. no schools that teach 3d modelling specifically in my province. (also even if there is i probably cant afford).

Things i have learned so far ( within 3-5 months)
1. how to 3d model, add materials, texture paint, rig(not good tho), procedurally make textures, bake normals,AO,roughness,Cavity maps. (not that well but im improving) all in blender.
2. using hdri for lighting or 3 point lighting.
3. how to export to 3d model to Quixel Mixer,unity and Unreal engine 4.
4. retopology and sculpting (very bad tho).

Things i think i need to learn
1. how to setup a scene in unity/unreal (including lighting, foilage, dirt, scatter of objects like flowers or trash)
2. how Quixel works ( tried last night model looks like it was textured with just solid colors instead of metallic or leather materials.)
3. how to sculpt on my tablet ( it feels wonky).
4. how to add imperfections better.

How i work
afternoon
1. look at artstation and get an idea on what kind of environment i want to make or mimic
2. go to pinterest/ google search for references
3. box model the assets ( not modular)
4. texture with either solid colors or make a color ID map
5. procedurally generate textures in blender or bring to quixel and pray i know what im doing here.
6. bring textures to blender and take a picture.
7. try to improve the things i have learned today tomorrow.

My Questions 
1. Do you any curriculum for 3d environment artists that i can reference for my learning.
2. Is my work or skills below sufficient to get a job (entry level).
3. other than YouTube is there any other sites I may looks for tutorials?
4.  what else should I learn.
5. since I have no income what jobs can I take related to 3d that I can take?
6. is Substance a good investment? 
7. How do I know if I'm ready to start looking for a job?
8. how should i approach learning with in the intent of speed?

sorry for the long post, just really needed some guidance.

Replies

  • Zi0
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    Zi0 polycounter
    Im not a environment artist but I would say next to YT check out tutorials on artstation https://www.artstation.com/marketplace/p/p8KqV/full-environment-creation-in-ue5-blender-in-depth-course , https://www.artstation.com/marketplace/game-dev/tutorials/environments?page=3

    Other than that, if you are just starting its important to streamline your learning process instead of trying everything a bit. Focus on 3D modeling, UVs, baking maps and texturing first, creating props is great to practice that. Next step would be getting stuff into a engine like Unreal and learning how to set up and light a scene.

    So look at good quality props on artstation like:
    Make one yourself and ace it after that move to environments, with a couple of good quality props you might already get a job as a prop artist.
    As for substance, yes its industry standard at this moment.
  • DummyBeginner
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. i haven't actually thought about streamlining my workflow. i tend to get lost in the details and i guess that contributes to why it takes me too long to learn things thank you so much for enlightening me on that. i'll follow your advice and try to make props that will fill an environment and i guess i do have to use substance after all haha. 
  • Larry
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    Larry interpolator
    Honestly speaking, your work unfortunatelly it is under the bar at the moment. For the time period you have been learning this is super good, however.

    Note: I'll be unloading a lot of information in this post, do not get frustrated, take things 1 at a time. It's mostly terminology for you to start searching about and learn, so that you don't walk in the blind, finding new things as you move forward.

    Do not pay any schools or take loans. They last 4 years, but they just give you tasks to do by yourself. Many people think that the school will teach them what is needed, so by the end of it, they do not have the required skills for the industry. Another problem is that in the end, you owe lots of money. The 4 year time frame is pretty fine to learn by yourself. Check pluralsight, it is super affordable to learn the basics, together with youtube, polycount, and 80lvl as well. You can also join discord channels like DiNusty, experience points, fipped normals, ue4, etc. and ask for feedback for your work but be prepared, people there can be brutal in their critiques  :)

    Now on to some thoughs and speculations based on what you asked.

    For env. artists rigging is not needed. If you know about it though, you can find a job easier as a generalist. Otherwise, you can learn some basic camera animations in-engine at a later stage, to present your work better.

    You don't need to be really good at sculpting, just be able to sculpt something correctly if is required, even if it takes you some time. Speed comes with experience, you are not expected to be fast, just do things correctly. No need to use a tablet. For some people it is intuitive, for others not. If you don't have a cintiq with a big screen to view what you are sculpting, I'd say it's not worth pushing yourself learning it. The only thing for me that is better when sculpting with a tablet is the pressure sensitivity.

    You need to be good at modeling and texturing and provide interesting results. Being able to create some materials would be nice, but not really necessary. Being able to texture your models, however, is super necessary. Substance painter is most likely the go-to program for the time being. Also your models need to look good without any textures on them, the baked versions should also look good by themselves, and the textures should look good individually, to get a great result (what I mean by that is, if your model does not look so good, do not expect that you will 'fix it' with texturing). Also you need to have appropriate dimensions for your textures, they need to be tiled/scaled realistically. Many people use 2k textures for covering a 2 meter area.
    I've written a couple of blog posts about modeling and texturing, if you want to check them out.

    You need to be able to add your models in a game engine and present them, this means that you understand about smoothing groups and vertex normals, weights and tangents, shader creation, UV's, lightmaps, LOD, collisions, mipmaps, as well as some basic troubleshooting (especially with baked lighting). 

    Taking screen shots of your models is a no-no for portfolios. Render them in as high resolutions as you can. Marmoset is okayish for presentation, but  knowledge of a game engine surpasses that. Generally the less the company has to teach you, the more likely it is they hire you. Or, if they see that you can create good stuff, they will teach you how to use the tools. But I wouldn't count much on that, because knowledge comes hand in hand with good results.

    For the reference that you mentioned, that is the way. You need to have reference of the environment, then reference for the rocks, trees, plant names, then get reference for a house that you want specifically, then get reference for the construction of the house, then reference for the materials. You need reference for everything, micro to macro scale, in every stage of the production.

    Taking jobs to get experience is as difficult as finding a job in the field (but I have never done this so not the expert here). I personally think that you would need to be able to create ANYTHING in a good quality to start getting customers. When they pay, they demand.

    Hope this helps, if you have further questions feel free to ask!
  • DummyBeginner
    thank you so much Larry for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate all the points and advice you have given me. you're right about so many things that it actually opened my eyes about it. i have been learning unreal engine 4 recently to tackle the rendering and game engine stuff, and i'll research all the things that you said that i don't know of.  i just have a few more questions if i may. i really just wanna know as much as i can so i bother people less in the future. 

    i'm a little confused about baking from high to low. i researched and watched workshops from gnomon and it seems they make the high poly-mesh first and then make a low-poly mesh. which confuses me because if i make a high-poly mesh first wouldnt i have to model the low poly mesh and try to match it to the high-poly. wouldn't it be better to make a low poly first and then add detail, then bake it down? 

    also i know this question sounds very, um well ignorant or maybe a little bit personal. but i just wanted to know in your experience how long did it take you learn this all?, its just that i kinda did a stupid move and quit my job so i can learn 3d modelling and although i have savings i just want to know how much time would be needed. i can allot time and effort its what i have but each day my savings go down and it gets me a little worried which pushes me to work harder. 

    thank you again for answering my question, uh you can ignore the last part if you want.
  • Larry
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    Larry interpolator
    thank you so much Larry for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate all the points and advice you have given me. you're right about so many things that it actually opened my eyes about it. i have been learning unreal engine 4 recently to tackle the rendering and game engine stuff, and i'll research all the things that you said that i don't know of.  i just have a few more questions if i may. i really just wanna know as much as i can so i bother people less in the future. 

    i'm a little confused about baking from high to low. i researched and watched workshops from gnomon and it seems they make the high poly-mesh first and then make a low-poly mesh. which confuses me because if i make a high-poly mesh first wouldnt i have to model the low poly mesh and try to match it to the high-poly. wouldn't it be better to make a low poly first and then add detail, then bake it down? 

    also i know this question sounds very, um well ignorant or maybe a little bit personal. but i just wanted to know in your experience how long did it take you learn this all?, its just that i kinda did a stupid move and quit my job so i can learn 3d modelling and although i have savings i just want to know how much time would be needed. i can allot time and effort its what i have but each day my savings go down and it gets me a little worried which pushes me to work harder. 

    thank you again for answering my question, uh you can ignore the last part if you want.
    So this is where the subdivision modeling comes in. Sometimes we call the 'mid poly' what we are first blocking out. You basically model the shape that you want, you add control loops (i think in blender it's called something different) you duplicate and smooth it, and that can serve as your high poly. Then you remove the control loops from your mid poly making it low (and sometimes you further optimize it, removing all the edges/polygons/triangles that do not serve any purpose in changing the shape of your geometry) and if you bake it in substance painter you can use a naming convention to bake it ( name_low, name_high ) or the exploding method, if you are using other programs. 

    If we bring in a sculpt from Zbrush, 3d scan etc. only then we model the low poly on top of the high one by shooting vertices and then connecting them to polygons. There are many retopologizing tools, 3ds max has a good built-in toolset for that, I do not know about blender but there are many external ones that you can buy. Topogun was rather famous but I dont know nowadays how it performs.

    There are also a few techniques worth mentioning, somethimes you have 1 smoothing group in the whole model and bake the high poly on it, other times you just weight the vertex normals and other times you just create manual smoothing groups. The decision here is how you want your model to capture the light, as well as performance issues depending on your platform. Baking it is the more expensive method, weighted vertex normals is the best mid solution if you dont have a normal map but cannot be applied in every 3d model.
    _______________________________________________

    I also quit my job to learn 3d but I had financial support from my wife. At first I tried working part-time, but that did not work for me.Your situation might not be as unique as you think, many people in this area have the same backstories :)

    I guess on average it can take about 4 years if you are aiming for realism. In this amount of time I was trying to do 3d all day but that was impossible, and then I felt bad when I did something else or spent time for myself.Also what I personally learned is that you need to go to where the oportunities are, to increase your chances. In my home country there is no 3d industry, and with the portfolio you can see in my signature, I never got any tests. The same week that I moved to a country that has 3d studios, opportunities and tests starting reaching my door.
    The 4 year mark strongly depends on your commitment and artistic eye. Can be more can be less, but by the time you are seriously looking for a job, you should have a structured way of creating things. Learning about the golden rule (or rule of 3rds), shape psychology, negative space, color theory, composition and contrast on your art, will get you there faster.
    Start doing challenges from polycount, discord servers and artstation as much as you can. Healthy competition and striving for a prize is always a good motivator.

    Hope this helps, mostly have fun in what you do, take it as a hobby and slowly increase the hours that you put in. Good luck in your adventures :)
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