25 great tutorials to improve your 3D skills

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Working in the 3D industry, it’s easy to become blinkered to your own studio’s tools, procedures and processes. But there are many different ways of achieving the same result, and new techniques and tools coming onto the market all the time.

Check out these top tutorials, all posted on Creative Bloq in 2017, and you may well discover new ways of doing things that save you time, energy and budget.

01. Create a realistic digital portrait in ZBrush and Maya

Design a digital double using ZBrush and Maya

Developing a digital double is one of the most intricate and challenging tasks that a 3D artist can ever face, but with increasing demand for this kind of service within the industry, it’s a good time to delve into the practice to see what’s involved. 

In this walkthrough, Aybars Turan explains how to create a realistic likeness using ZBrush and Maya, beginning with a base mesh.

02. Simulate explosions in Maya

Make an arresting explosion using Maya and FumeFX

There’s nothing that can bring a game, TV show or movie to life better than an impressive explosion. And the good news is that software is becoming increasingly sophisticated in helping 3D artists create them. 

In this tutorial, Syawish A Rehma shows you how to craft a convincing-looking explosion using Maya’s nParticles and FumeFX.

03. Make realistic plants in Cinema 4D

A quick way to add plants to your archviz

One of the biggest problems with archviz is that however well developed, your models can end up looking overly geometric, clinical and bland. A good way to add a touch of humanity is by incorporating some plants and trees into the scenes. 

Here, 3D World magazine editor Rob Redman reveals how you can make use of Cinema 4D's MoGraph tools to create 3D foliage quickly and easily.

04. Create a meteor shower in 3ds Max

Fill the sky with flying rocks using Max and FumeFX

You don’t have to have a doctorate in astrophysics to light up the sky with a photorealistic meteor shower. 

In this tutorial, Syawish A Rehma explains how to design a realistic 3D meteor shower using 3ds Max and FumeFX.

05. Create ornate tiles in Substance Designer

Generate a beautiful tiled pattern using Substance Designer

Creating geometry-based assets like flooring is exactly the kind of thing that CG software excels at. 

In this tutorial, Chris Hodgson shows you how to combine mask textures using Substance Designer to generate a modifiable ornate tiled floor.

06. Create realistic CG cloth in Maya, Nuke and Redshift

Create cloth that still looks believable, close-up

Stimulating cloth and fabric in 3D is all about achieving a convincing level of detail. 

In this Maya, Nuke and Redshift tutorial, Jesus Fernandez uses a semi-procedural technique to create the fabric strands, based on a library of models.

07. Groom an irresistibly furry creature in Maya, ZBrush and Redshift

Discover how to create this cute little fella

When you’re creating a furry creature, you don’t just want it to look good: you want people to want to reach out and stroke it. 

In this video tutorial, with supporting files, Jesus Fernandez walks you through his process for creating an irresistibly furry creature in 3D using Maya, ZBrush and Redshift.

08. Sculpt realistic anatomy in ZBrush

Learn how to sculpt people whose bodies fall outside of the norm

Humans come in all shapes and sizes, and once you’ve mastered basic anatomy, improving your people-sculpting skills is all about becoming adaptable. ZBrush is a great tool for this because it provides you with the kind of freedom required when shaping forms. 

Jakub Chechelski demonstrates by walking you through a sculpt of Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps.

09. Sharpen your hard-surface modelling

Learn how to create this drop ship in Max

In this tutorial, Victoria Passariello create a 3D version of a sci-fi drop ship concept made by designer and illustrator Virnard Magpantay. 

The aim is to demonstrate that you can create any hard-surface piece using simple tools in 3ds Max, or similar software.

10. Create hair in Cinema 4D

Learn how to craft a realistic barnet

In this step-by-step tutorial, digital artist Jason Knight shares four of the things he’s learned over the previous 18 months about creating 3D hair. 

There’s also an accompanying video so you can see Knight at work creating convincing locks.

11. 5 steps to a faster workflow

Discover how to streamline your workflow from someone who learned by necessity

Animation graduate Martin Nabelek has been getting rave reviews for his 3D sci-fi short OFF, which was made with a very tight turnaround. Here he shares his top tips for improving your own 3D workflows.

12. Move between DAZ Studio and Cinema 4D

Zip between the two tools easily by following Knight’s advice

It’s great to see so many 3D programs on the market, but switching between them can prove clunky and tedious in practice. Jason Knight mainly works in Cinema 4D, but often move his characters in and out of DAZ Studio. 

Here he presents the best four-step process for doing so: the result of countless hours of trial and error.

13. Create stunning tileable textures in Blender

Use Dynamic Topology sculpting to generate geometry on the fly

Who doesn’t love the free 3D software suite Blender? In this tutorial, Pierrick Picaut shows you how to use its Dynamic Topology system to create stylised wooden and stone tileable textures from sculpted surfaces.

14. Texture an authentically worn K-2SO droid

Learn how to make the worn-metal look feel authentic

One of the most acclaimed new characters to appear in Star Wars prequel Rogue One was the sarcastic and sullen K-2SO. 

In this tutorial by Andrew Entwistle demonstrates how to texture the droid using Substance Painter, making him slightly reflective, yet dull and worn.

15. 5 tips for sculpting in double-quick time

Discover how to work at super-speed by following Sae Eua’s example

With budgets constantly dropping and client demands rising, 3D artists constantly need to find ways to work faster. 

In the video masterclass at the top of this tips post, Krystal Sae Eua shows you how to sculpt a model of a Nubian ibex in just one hour.

16. Convert a photo into a VR set

Create a 360-degree experience from a photo

There are many applications for AR and VR beyond video games. 

In this tutorial, Joshua Kinney reveals how to use Photoshop, 3ds Max and Unity to create a 3D photo that’s suitable for viewing through Google VR.

17. Create a pouring water effect in RealFlow and 3ds Max

Use RealFlow and Max to make your liquid look spot-on

RealFlow is one of the most popular tools for creating flowing liquid effects. 

In this tutorial, Vikrant J Dalal explains how to simulate the pouring of water using the software in conjunction with 3ds Max.

18. Render a photorealistic sky in Vue xStream

Make your skies fluffy with this cloud creation software

Used by a number of animation and visual effects studios, Vue xStream has a special section for clouds, with a range of adjustable parameters. 

This tutorial by Vikrant J Dalal focuses on the key stages and settings you need to know to create a believable cloudy sky.

19. Turn your 2D designs into 3D with Felix

Bring 2D and 3D together with Adobe’s tool

Although not strictly aimed at 3D artists, Adobe’s Felix is still a great tool for compositing 2D and 3D shots. 

This tutorial by Lance Evans explains how to do so in 10 simple steps.

20. Model Darth Vader in ZBrush

Discover how this cool version of Vader was created

Combining both 2D digital painting and 3D sculpting techniques, this walkthrough by Riyahd Cassiem demonstrates how he used ZBrush, KeyShot and Photoshop to build a cool Darth Vader figure.

21. Design and model a fantasy creature in ZBrush and Quixel

Improve your creature creation process by following this walkthrough

Using ZBrush and Quixel, this detailed tutorial by Tyler Smith walks you through his pipeline for designing, sculpting and rendering a fantasy creature.

22. Build a custom Maya interface

Take charge of Maya by building your own UI

Like all sophisticated 3D software, Maya offers a quite staggering range of tools, commands and options. For many, this can be bewildering and off-putting, so one solution can be to create your own custom UI. 

This tutorial by Rob Redman shows you how to do so.

23. Create a low poly wallpaper in Cinema 4D

Make this desktop wallpaper using Cinema 4D and Photoshop

Creating the kind of low poly facet-style render popularised by Justin Maller is relatively straightforward in Cinema 4D and Photoshop. 

This 12-step guide by Simon Middleweek takes you through the process.

24. Use blend shapes to animate characters

Discover how to set up some simple blend shapes and use them effectively in your animations

When you’re giving your 3D model facial expressions, it can sometimes be more efficient to create a few blend shapes than trying to make weight maps work properly for every situation. 

This quick step-by-step by Rob Redman shows you how to do it.

25. Create a splash effect in RealFlow

Harness the Crown Daemon to build a movie-style splash

You know when, in blockbuster movies, a large object like a comet strikes the ocean, creating one almighty splash? 

In this tutorial, Rob Redman explains how to create exactly that effect using RealFlow’s versatile Crown Daemon.