3D Design as a Hobby: Tips for Beginners

3D Design as a Hobby: Tips for Beginners

Valentin Panchin discussed his career in 3D art, talked about receiving the feedback, combining hobby and work and shared some tips on promoting art for beginners.

This article was originally published on 3DPAPA and can be found here (in Russian). The interview was conducted by Oleg Moschenko. 



The 3D design was always a hobby of mine. Because I have a frontend developer career, I can always do what I really want in my creative field outside my daytime job. Despite both markets being oversaturated, front end development somehow gets more money(in Ukraine). So, becoming a full-time 3D artist would be quite irrational for me.

However, art therapy is on the rise, and I can say that it’s basically it for me. I can zone out for four hours or so, from social media, Imgur/Reddit (you name it!). I don’t feel the same during my day time job.

During my advertising agencies' work as Flash developer(RIP Flash), 3d modeler that I was working with had a huge impact on me. I was very fascinated by the skills he had. I always wanted to try creating something in 3D, but all I knew about at that time was 3DS Max and Maya, they were over-complicated for me as a beginner. So I tried Modo, but it sucked, and I stopped doing 3D stuff for five years or so.

Three years ago, I saw Anthony Jones tutorial on Gumroad. This is how I started working more efficiently with 3D Coat. Before that, I had some experience with it, but it was very light, and I don’t want to share those renders any more. These days, one of my works is featured in 3D Coat gallery. They have an office in Ukraine and reach out to local artists.

One day, I found similar work to one of mine on the said site. I contacted the author and, after a small conversation, we discovered that he started with the same tutorial. So now, it’s clear that Anthone Jones created his own movement or even a school of thought in a way. People, who think in the same way and use the same tools.

Tip for beginners: Learn hotkeys from day one. If not happy - create your own hotkey mapping. This really improves your workflow, especially, when you know very little about what each tool does. You can achieve better focus and use UI less. As a UI expert, I can say that most of the UI that I have seen in 3d tool is a glorious mess. It was very basic advice but it’s really helpful.

About Career

It was kinda sad when I noticed that I had more views per each work on Artstation in the beginning than now. I think that because I had a relatively new account, I was “shown” more. Five times more. So my account on Artstation isn’t popular at all but this is when Instagram really helps. Artstation doesn’t have popular curated art galleries, but Instagram and Reddit do.

I really enjoyed the outcome of posting in Cyberpunk, but for a long time, I couldn’t understand what Redditors of that subreddit want to see there. Some of my artworks had thousands of upvotes and were in the Hot section for over a week. But when I started to improve and experiment with real 3d clothing, my works didn’t have much traction. They had a small number of upvotes and 0 comments. I enjoy even negative ones. Someone said that one of my helmets looked like a vagina, I jokingly said that he’s probably twelve. Sometimes artists question themselves why they are still doing it? Each answer is different. But don’t do it for the likes. Or to rephrase it: do it even if there are no likes.

Also, each 3D artist must understand his audience since he won’t be able to grow if he does all his art for himself.

For almost two years, I was making a couple of artworks a month, these days, I can post them daily. However, most of the time I’m using my old helmet/bust designs, that I was creating my whole journey.

Even back then, I was told that those designs weren’t good, but my rendering/material matching skills have improved and, in different environments, lighting plus Machine56/Holy Grail clothes even those helmets start looking good. These days, it became clear that I shouldn’t have focused on helmet/busts modeling. Now, to make more rich characters and tell different stories, I can use photo bashing!

To try this approach, I was very influenced by Abrar Khan's works. He does a lot of photo bashing/drawing/3d modeling for one piece. Basically, he uses a great practical(?) photo and adds a lot of cyberpunk attributes to it. They look awesome. However, when you’re working with a human face, it’s really tricky to match symmetry/perspective. This is why I don’t use faces yet. I basically cut them out.

Receiving the Feedback

The main part is not to be scared of critique. I had a lot of it, especially, in the beginning, it was rawer. Sometimes, it forced me to take breaks from the creative process, but when I got back it, really made me try harder. Even though I work in relatively small timeframes(2-4hrs + additional renders).

Also, I’ve met a lot of people, who thought that I should try something different, like a spaceship or an assault rifle. I tried, but it didn’t make me happy.

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Sorry for sounding pretentious, but I have always tried to create some kind of story, but not game-ready models that can be sold on TurboSquid, etc. Just created some kind of character, and quite fast. I can’t work on the same model for a week or even a month. I’m not that patient.

Getting back to feedback - try to get it from real well-known professionals. I had a lot of conversations with Edon Guraziu. He’s a very open and smart guy. He gave me some cool advice that really helped me grow (he probably thinks differently). Even though I’m lazy most of the time to work by them all of the time. His works are featured in AAA movies. Also, Magnus Skogsfjord became a role model to me, he’s also very kind and open in helping with designer blocks. He’s a Keyshot ambassador and gets a lot of promotion from them, I hope it’s also paid ;)

Bonus tip: at the beginning of your 3d journey, try to listen to people who are NOT your relatives, friends or even spouses. Likes from your friends are very subjective. No matter how hard they try to be honest, in the end, they are still very sympathetic to you and will probably like everything you do.

Combining Hobby and Work

Actually, it's very easy because they are very different activities. Sometimes, I can do something before work early in the morning or a couple of hours before bed. I don’t have a wife or kids, so I’m a free man. Sometimes, I get home from work with an idea and Pinterest album prepared for certain work, and I can spend the whole evening, thus I wouldn’t get back to that artwork in the morning.

Bonus tip: before posting something to Instagram/Artstation - give it a night, and you will be amazed by how many details you would want to change in the morning to make it even cooler. Sometimes I re-render the same models with different materials, lighting, etc to look different. Also, always use references no matter what you do. Don’t be fooled about your impressive visual library in your head, literally.

These days, I’m working on four characters for which I have created helmets and clothing. Most of the time, I try to improve them, trying different designs for clothing patterns. For one of the characters, I had to watch shoemaking in the Fusion 360 tutorial. To decide that it would be faster to make in 3D Coat. However, sculpting a shoe is much harder than doing so in CAD. Like sculpting clothing, when you can use Marvelous Designer. 

The main problem of most modern artists - they are highly enthusiastic about making tutorials instead of watching ones. We are buying them or adding to Watch Later on Youtube and then they just pile up. I was cleaning my hard drive recently and had to remove over 50Gb of tutorials. Also bonus tip for tutorial makers(you know who you are): please get your hands on better codecs, so your 10-minute tutorial wouldn’t take 2Gb. Also, I was thinking about some cheat sheets for tutorials. Like short tools list and operations workflow described using them.

However, I discovered that I spend much more time on 3D skills than on my day time job self-education. I like watching interesting tutorials and try to make something using them on the go. Also, time codes would help a lot. Seems like we need different software for tutorials these days.

My main thesis about combining these two activities - I do get some rest away from my daily job. And I truly started to understand people who work with 3d at the office for 8-10 hours. It’s kinda silly to ask them to make some personal projects in their spare time.

Future Hobby Plans

I have spent half of this year making print-ready artwork for canvases and t-shirts. But it seems that it didn’t cut it. I did gift some t-shirts to my close friend. I also wanted to make an art exhibition, but my art is hard to explain to an art gallery curator. I also thought about the main theme “Faces of the Future” but couldn’t fool anyone with that.

I'm learning to make 3D clothing these days. For the last two months, I've been making collages/tributes using such brands as Machine 56, Holy Grail, and even Demobaza. I'm trying to copy their style in a way and add something from myself. They are fully aware of my work and have posted some of my art on their social channels. More people became interested in my art because of that.

Of course, I'd love to work with them closely, perhaps I could make some visualizations of their new things. I haven't seen 2D or 3D previz for upcoming clothing lines. This could be an opportunity to make some money.

So for now, my main goal is to make 3D clothes on a certain level. Perhaps, even on the same level as two brands, I've mentioned before. Their PR manager is following me on Instagram, and every time when I post something with their clothing and forget to mention them, she reminds me to do so in the comments. It's kinda funny. But I respect that.

A couple of days ago, I saw an ad on Facebook that the new VR club will be opening in my town. I wanted to suggest them doing a collab using my art on their banners because they used some pretty generic stock art. Never heard from them anyway.

Also, I was contacted by the developer of Wallpaperscraft, he asked if they can use my art for their app. For free, of course. Well it's still exposure, right? So, I agreed. Most of the people don't ask. And some even modify your artworks and use them as they want.

Some guy from Indonesia posts my art on his account. They were having some kind of 3D masterclass. I didn’t even try to translate in what context I was mentioned there, but I have decided to not intervene. I hope I wasn’t a part of a live event.

BONUS TIP: I’m trying to attempt all of the 3D events in the town where I live. I think it helps find people that think alike and with whom you can grow together.

Art Promotion

You shouldn’t be afraid of critique and try to post your art everywhere it’s possible. Most of the time, it’s free. For example, I recently discovered a Facebook group called Cyberpunk Pictures, it has more than 30k members. Most of the time, people post memes there, but my artworks also got some exposure.

I think that it’s very unfortunate that some people don’t post their work. When I started attending 3D/CG events, I met a couple of them. They could show their sketches or full-blown renders on their phone, and it looked pretty good but were too shy to post it on Artstation.

At the same time, I notice that some of my new followers are artists who have just begun their journey. But they post a lot. Some of their stuff is pretty basic but it’s a good start. Don’t be shy to put your artwork out. If it’s bad, someone will eventually tell and/or will help you with the critique.

Don’t get too cocky if your personal 5k followers who were previously interested in your photo/way of living etc started “liking” your art when you began making some in 3d or 2d, it doesn’t matter. Also, it’s very wrong to compare likes with someone else's personal account. But I guess everybody knows that, and it’s a general rule of Instagram.

I’ve seen artists with too many followers to mention, and their works were highly “liked” and on the contrary, I've seen real pros who had like 500 followers and posted a lot. Guess who had better art?

The best way to achieve exposure as an artist is to make tributes. Make art that collides with some relevant themes or pop culture meta. When this interview took place, I had watched Mandalorian EP1 and made some artworks using the helmet of my own design. And some people reposted it because there weren't many Mandalorian artworks at the time. Now, it’s too many. I’ve spent a couple of hours and the helmet isn’t very canonical. Only after posting my art, I realized how it could be improved.

BONUS TIP: Sometimes it’s really good to listen to critique and take it to action. Don’t be afraid to redo some of your art.

I also made a weird-ass tribute to Risk of Rain. It shows how my style has improved during this year.

I also made a tribute to one of the best games of the year - Void Bastard. I’ve spent a couple of hours on it.

Never wait for inspiration to come. Just start doing something.

Valentine Panchin, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Oleg Moschenko

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