It’s always a great sight when you watch a wonderful animation movie from animation giants like Pixar or Dreamworks. As an aspiring animator, it fills you with joy to see all the effects that have gone into the movie to make it so great.
You even appreciate it more because you know how difficult it is to pull such a complex project off. Starting with 3D or even 2D animation is easy. With a few dollars, you can find a software package to start creating animations.
However, becoming a master at 3D animation is a difficult task. It requires years of toil and sweat. And even after many years of creating 3D animation, there is always a big room for improvement when it comes to this craft.
So how can you draw 3D animation like a pro? Well, bad news first. There is no shortcut to achieving this. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work.
But it’s possible. What are the things you need to draw 3D animation effectively?
Computer: to carry out drawing and rendering without issues, you need a computer with great graphics capability and a strong processor.
Tablet: with its big screen, it provides a better workspace than you would get on a smartphone and is easier to carry around than a laptop. This gives you the opportunity to work while you’re out and have free time. You can use a tablet like the Wacom Intuos.
Time: this is a craft that can’t be done well without time commitment. As a beginner, you just have to play around with your preferred software to understand many things you need to.
Choose a software for 3D animation
There are many software packages for 3D animation today. If you’re going to create 3D animations that look as professional as possible, the choice of a software is one of the most important decisions you’ll take.
There may be similar terms in software packages but each software package will usually have its own unique features and method of usage.
Some popular software packages for 3D animation today are:
This tool is the most popular for 3D animation. When you pick Maya as your 3D automation tool, there are some important features you need to know on the Maya interface. These include:
Menu sets: you can choose a menu set depending on the operation you want to perform on Maya. The sets are Modeling, Rigging, Animation, FX, and Rendering. The first 7 menus are constant and other menus you have on the interface depends on the menu set you choose. You can also customize your menu sets.
Menus: from menus, you can select tools and actions to take on your work scene. The menus you have depends on your menu set. Menus are also available in the main menu in the hotbox. A shortcut you can use to access it is by holding down the space bar in a view panel.
Status line: this allows you to access some common functions you’ll need, change the menu set, control the selection mask, change the contents of the sidebar, and set various options. Many parts of the status line are hidden and you’ll have to click on the show/hide buttons to expand the hidden sections.
Shelves: here, you have access to tabs for each main toolset. The tab is organized in a way that makes it easy to access the most commonly used commands for each set.
You can also create custom shelves where you can add your most commonly used tools or commands. This makes it easy when you’re working.
View panel: this provides various ways of viewing objects in your scene with a camera view. The default on the Maya interface is a single view panel but you can also switch to more than one.
It’s also common to see a 4-view panel layout. For each view panel, there is a toolbar where you have access to common commands.
Layer editor: you can access the layer editor at the bottom of the channel box panel. You to organize and manage objects in a scene with the display layers while the animation layers help you to blend or mute levels of animation.
Tool Box: it is on the left side of the Maya interface and contains many of the tools you’ll need regularly. You have access to tools like select, lasso, paint selection, move, rotate, scale, and last used.
You can also use the QWERTY hotkeys to use this commands. When you combine alt key and q, you select tool, its combination with w selects the move tool, with e selects the rotate tool and with r selects the scale tool.
Combining control key and t shows the universal manipulator tool and its combination with y selects the last used tool.
If you have a low or no budget, then Blender is a tool that still allows you to draw 3D animations. Not only that, it provides robust qualities that help you to carry out complex tasks as you’ll have in the paid software packages.
When you install the software, you have the interface which is divided into 5 parts:
- The Info Editor at the top of the interface
- A large 3D view
- A Timeline at the bottom
- An Outliner at the top right
- A Properties Editor at the bottom right
The info editor header at the top of your interface, you have details like menus, file, render, window, controls, report console, etc.
The 3D view is your work scene where you can view the axis, lines and scale of your work. Whatever setting you change or animation you create will display on the work scene. When you play your animation, you’ll see that on this interface and be able to make changes as you see fit.
The timeline is used for animation functions. For example, pressing Alt + A will play what’s on your 3D view (or scene).
At the Outliner, you have access to the scene. There are options like render layers, camera, cube, the lamp of the scene, etc. When you click on any of this, you’ll notice changes in your properties editor and on your 3D view.
The properties editor brings out settings for each of the option you select. Also on the 3D view, any of the options you select will be highlighted in the scene.
The properties editor allows you to change the settings of different components of your scene. You can select an option at the bar above your properties editor. For instance, you can select the rendering option where you can change any setting related to rendering.
You also have the render layer tab for setting and creating render layers. There are other tabs like scene settings, world, object, object constraint, modifiers, data mesh, materials, etc.
You can use the letter T and N to open or close the left and right tabs beside your 3D view. T is for the left side while N is for the right side.
You can also expand panels when you click on the border between two panels and drag them. You can use this to resize your work area how you see fit. You can also add another panel to your workspace. What you just have to do is go to corners where you have diagonal lines.
Click on any of these diagonal lines and drag to create another panel. If you dragged a diagonal line at the timeline, it’ll create another timeline.
You can also change these duplicated panels to something else that suits your taste. You can delete the panel by reversing this step. Click at the diagonal line and drag it back.
This video explains some of the basics you need to use Blender:
Steps to draw 3D animation like a pro
To develop your work to the level of a professional, you must take note of all these important points.
Choose your area of specialization
There are many areas where 3D animation is applicable today. You have to decide where you want to work on mostly. This helps you to focus on an aspect and be the best you can be.
You can work in movies like Pixar animation movies, or another type like transformers. As a 3D animator, you can also work on games. There are many things you can work on as an animator and you have to decide that before other things.
Know the basics
Due to enthusiasm, it’s easy to want to be a pro in a single day. But this can lead to a lot of frustration. When you see the animation that some animators have created, you might be tempted to try it just because it looks great.
However, you need to know that these animators have been doing this work for years and have gained a lot of experience. In fact, most of them started where you are now.
The first step to draw 3D animation like a pro is to know the basics and know it well. Having a great knowledge of the basics is a good foundation that you can build upon every other complex skill you’ll learn as an animator.
Understand body mechanics
The create 3D animation, there will be movements, a lot of them. You need to know how bodies move. What are the body parts that move when people sit down and are talking to another person?
What are the body parts that move when people walk? How do they translate from sitting to walking? You have to study how bodies move when they do acrobatics.
These are movements you’ll implement when drawing in 3D.
One way to understand many things about drawing 3D animation is to study acting. This teaches you many things you need to know. You can study real-life movies to know settings, movements, and dialogue.
Apart from that, you can study animation movies to see what’s common to these movies. What makes them great? What are their shortcomings?
Part of art is being able to adapt other working ideas and improve on it. In some cases, it can be the example you need to go in another direction.
Have a sharp imagination
Drawing in 3D is a creative work. The strength of your imagination will go a long way to determine how good your work will be.
Even while you’re not drawing, you should always be observant. You should always think deeply about what you can implement with the tools you have.
What’s the best way you can use your characters to get your message across? Having a sharp imagination may be more difficult than mastering the tools you have. But it’s what usually makes the big difference between two animators with similar skills.
Practice and produce like crazy
One of the biggest obstacles with 3D animation is trying to produce perfect work. Most people try and try until they can release something faultless. Sometimes, it’s due to fear of criticism.
But no matter how long you wait to produce your work, it can never be perfect. Because sometimes, you’re blind to the faults in your work. It’s always better to release work regularly and get comments and criticisms on it.
This helps you to improve your work where necessary. How often you practice will usually determine whether you become an average or great 3D animator
For most people who produce great work in 3D animation, it took many years of work to achieve that status. Even while working hard, patience is always needed.
Some people start animation today and want to create work similar to people who have been doing it for years. You need to start with the basics and be patient as you develop your craft.
To be a professional at 3D animation is difficult. But it’s not impossible. When you get to work every day and create on your software, you get the chance to improve everyday.
If you pursue this relentlessly, there is no doubt that you’ll soon attain that level of a professional in 3D animation. Now, reading this article will help you a lot. Especially if it moves you to put in more creative work every day.
Because that’s what matters most.