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[Education] Resources for learning 3D environment art?

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I've been studying 3D art for a couple years now while working a full-time job. I know how to use Maya, ZBrush, Substance Painter, RizomUV, Photoshop, and Marmoset Toolbag 3. I just turned 23 and am living in the US. My goal is to find a job as a 3D Environment or Prop Artist in the video game industry.

I almost exclusively have created hard surface weapons for video games, my portfolio consisting of two such projects so far (actually, one isn't finished yet but will be before I move). At the beginning of my studies, I just created what was most fun, which is how I ended up creating weapons. Creating whole environments was my goal, but it seemed too complicated, so I decided to start small. Where I am now I feel confident in my ability to create hard-surface props and weapons for video games, so once I finish my current project I'm determined to learn how to create environments with Unreal Engine.

Some of my work.

I'm happy with the work that I've done, but I feel studying while working is just taking too long and inhibiting my abilities. I'm currently living with my Dad and he is moving out, so I'm taking this opportunity to move in with my Mom out of state to study full-time for about six months. My Mom is fully supportive and willing to let me stay rent-free while I create a portfolio that will land me a job. I love doing the work and learning new software, so I'm determined to use my time as best as I can within the bounds of not burning out. More precisely, my goal for this period is to learn how to sculpt with ZBrush to create organic environment assets, learn Unreal Engine, learn how to use SpeedTree, and learn how to create materials using Substance Designer.

I was also inspired by this article, Road to Rebellion by Kieran Goodson:


In the article he says that it took him eleven months to learn what he needed to get a job, but I feel as if I have more experience than he did when he started learning, so hopefully it won't take me as long. Maybe you'll disagree. How does six months sound for my goal?

I'm making this post to hear what others think about this. What should I do to prepare for my studies? I've taken a few classes with CGMA in the past, but in my experience I found using free or cheap community made resources to be better and much more affordable.

I think it would be best to create a collection of resources for learning each software. I have some that I've already collected, but I'm eager to see what others recommend. Does anyone know what is the best way to learn the software / techniques listed below? I mentioned them earlier.

  • ZBrush for sculpting organic environment assets
  • Unreal Engine (4 or 5?)
  • SpeedTree
  • Substance Designer

Thank you for the help! 😋


  • Benjammin
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    Benjammin polycounter lvl 5

    Goals are good. How quickly you get that first job depends on other factors besides your skills (ie: timing and location), but I wish you luck.

    For all those tools, the official guides should be your first stop - Unreal and Substance official resources are very good. Zbrush has good documentation on what tools do, but its such a dense program that IMO its best to learn the very fundamentals (file management, import/export etc), then tackle specific techniques as they come up in your work. I personally learnt SpeedTree on the job and use it very rarely, so I'm not sure what the best approach is for online learning.

  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J godlike master sticky

    given that you seek a job, instead of trying to learn tools without context, it may be better to choose a portfolio project catered for the job you seek and only learn what is necessary to finish that project. (doing this a few times)

    If you remember back to math in school when you just learn random math equations all on their own, a few years later (or maybe a few hours after the test) you forget it all. Why? Because it had no context.

    It will be same thing if you just learn what buttons to push to do random stuff in zbrush or substance designer. And also, as long as you are just "academic learning", you won't be doing a ton of problem solving on your own, so you won't develop those important skills and the confidence that comes with it.

    If you do a practical project, you'll have a lot more fun too, which is important.

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