In this article about teaching Blender 3d at school, we answer the following question:
- What is Blender and who uses it?
- Is Blender used at schools?
- Why should teachers and students use Blender at school?
- What are the hardware and device requirements for Blender?
- What Blender resources are there for teachers and students?
- How can I start teaching Blender at my school?
- What are the job prospects of Blender 3d artists?
- How to download Blender and get started
- Bonus: Top ten Blender keywords to know before you start
1. What is Blender and who uses it?
Blender is the world's leading open-source 3d creation suite.
It covers the full creative pipeline of computer graphics 3d artists, from creating simple 3d models to animating them - or producing full-length movies with special effects.
Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of the Blender Foundation, accepting Annie Award
In the creative industry, Blender is used by some of the most recognized artists, as well as by professional creative studios.
In fact, Blender is so well-recognized that Epic Games - the creative studio behind Fortnite - became a major sponsor of Blender's development in 2019.
Blender regularly appears on the world's best 3d software lists.
As of 2020, there are millions of Blender users worldwide, with millions more downloading Blender every year.
Question: "Shouldn't students learn the most-used software in the world to have a bigger chance of getting hired?"
Answer: In today's creative industry, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Employers hire 3d artists based on their artistic skills and ability to problem-solve. What program they use is less important. In fact, most of Blender workflow can be used in other 3d software packages - so with Blender, students are learning transferrable skills and becoming very employable.
2. Are schools using Blender to teach students 3d?
Absolutely! Across the world, Blender is taught in classrooms.
Here are just a few examples of schools that we have worked with:
- West Sound Tech, a skill center serving 9 high schools in Washington, teaches Blender
- Madison Academy in Alabama uses Blender to teach 3d
- Students at Vista Ridge high school built a game in Blender
- Shadow Ridge High School students won a state-wide competition using Blender
Students at Shadow Ridge High School are discussing a concept for a Blender-made video game
And there are more, with new schools adopting Blender every school year. (Recommended: read an interview with a teacher who uses Blender with his students.)
3. Why should teachers and students use Blender at school?
Blender is an open-source program, which means that it is free to download and use -- for any purpose.
This also includes commercial use: with Blender, you are free to do anything with your 3d creations. You can even sell them for profit (many artists do this very successfully - which we will talk more about later).
More importantly, Blender is a tool that opens gates to future hobbies and professional careers.
These are the main benefits of using Blender in school:
- Zero cost: Blender is free, with nearly no-bar entry
- "Cool factor": Blender is fun - and students love using it
- Synergies with other subjects: Students can create 3d visuals for science projects, practice principles of physics, applied mathematics, and more
- Cognitive benefits: Learning to create in 3d improves spatial awareness
- General skills: being well versed in 3d means staying on top of the technology curve
- Real-world application: 3d creations can be translated into a tangible object via 3d print
- Excellent job prospects (more about that later!)
4. What are the hardware and device requirements for Blender?
Blender is an incredibly efficient program with low software and hardware requirements.
This is one of the key advantages of Blender: it reduces the digital divide, as it is perfectly usable even at schools with older equipment and by students with limited access to technology.
Blender runs on every major operating system:
- Windows 10, 8.1 and 7
- MacOS 10.13+
What's more: Blender requires no installation and doesn't need an internet connection to run. It is truly portable and can even be run off of a USB stick.
5. What Blender resources are there for teachers and students?
Whether you're just getting started with 3D and Blender - or are a veteran of pixels and vertices - there is a growing number of Blender resources at your disposal.
Note: There is no official support for Blender, but don't fret. One of the superpowers of Blender is it's community of global artists, developers and users, all eager to help each other. If you have a question, it's very likely somebody has been in your shoes before.
Blender resources made for Teachers and Schools
CG Cookie (that's us!) has a Blender Curriculum to help get you started.
It's paired with our content - some of which is free, some is for paying members only. Whether or not you sign-up for CG Cookie, the curriculum is an excellent resource to help get you started. Feel free to use the built-in rubrics and tips in your classroom, and reach out to us for our pricing for schools and groups.
Blender.chat has an education channel worth keeping an eye on.
Blender Educator and Trainers is a great mailing list.
General Blender Resources and News
- Blender Nation is the leading source for daily Blender News.
- Blender.community is an independent community aggregator: it collects news, tutorials, and resources from various online Blender communities.
- Blender Artists is one of the most popular Blender community forums.
- #b3d is a popular hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
- Blender Stack Exchange is a great place for community-sourced Blender help and troubleshooting,
- r/blender is the Blender subreddit.
- BlendSwap.com is an excellent source for free Blender assets like models, shaders, etc.
Where can you go to learn Blender?
We're biased, though passionate about teaching Blender here at CG Cookie.
With hundreds - if not thousands - of Blender lessons and full courses, a fantastic community, live streams, and resources to quench your Blender thirst, CG Cookie is the oldest-running site dedicated to Blender and we offer the largest library of Blender training.
Youtube is a great place to learn Blender - if you know where to look
Yup, a lot of brilliant Blender creators produce outstanding Blender education:
- CG Geek
- Blender Guru,
- Chris Bailey
- CG Boost
- Blender Foundation
- CG Cookie (that's our very own YouTube channel with Blender videos)
Professional Blender training available on the Blender Market
The market is a project of CG Cookie and you'll find inspirational Blender training videos, resources, and more.
6. How can I start teaching Blender at my school?
The free CG Cookie Blender curriculum is an excellent roadmap, detailing a lesson plan and hands-on practice.
If you want to dive in headfirst with your students, you can get started with some of our beginner-level courses:
Even students who have never used 3d software before will be able to follow along this introductory Blender course. What's more: it only takes 1 hour to watch, so you can easily go from a complete beginner to a solid basic understanding of Blender in an afternoon. Students will also create their very first 3D model in the process.
This course takes beginner Blender students through modeling, surfacing, animating, and simulating an epic low-poly rocket launch sequence in. With 10 short lessons, the course keeps the students' motivation high by achieving impressive results very quickly.
Students proceed with their Blender learning by following our structured series of courses. These cover all the essential techniques for 3D modeling, animation, texturing, lighting, and more.
7. What are the job prospects of Blender 3d artists?
A concern of educators and parents alike is: what does the career path look like for a 3d artist?
The good news is -- there is an immense amount of opportunity in the computer graphics field for passionate students with growth mindsets.
3d field will continue to grow
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects ongoing job growth for multimedia artists and animators, "due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television."
However, the main advantage of pursuing a career in 3d art is that it's needed well beyond the creative world.
In fact, a wider range of industries nowadays has a need for 3d artists, including fields like science, architecture, retail, and beyond. Virtually all segments of the economy have a need for 3d artists as an online presence with great visuals has become indispensable.
One example above all: virtually the whole IKEA catalog is made by 3d modelers!
3d is an excellent field for freelancers
At CG Cookie, we've worked with countless artists who have turned their Blender hobby into a successful career.
8. How to download Blender and get started
Blender Foundation, a non-profit organization that develops Blender, is continuously working on its improvement and releasing new, better versions of Blender.
Get started now!
So many artists are "discovered" - not for being lucky, but for their persistence and willingness to put themselves out there.
- Learn the skills you need to create your first Blender Market product, and sell it for real money. This could be as simple as a pawn chest piece, tire, or desk. Either way it will get the students feet wet in: creating a widget to sell online, marketing and customer support.
- The best way to learn is to teach. Students could start up their own Youtube, or Twitch channel and begin sharing what they're learning. Subscribing to the Reach one Teach one mentality and building up their audience,
- Create your portfolio site on Mavenseed, and upload and share your work on various art gallery sites. Get noticed, and start making a name for yourself in the art community,
- Get involved in communities: Whether this is through discord Blender live chats, community forums, or showing up for your favorite YT live streamer.
In the end, Blender can be a fantastic tool for the classroom: for you as an instructor and you as a student. It has an incredible growing community behind it, and will help set your students up for success: ability to problem solve, growth mindset and empowerment to go out on their own.
Ways to get started:
- Join CG Cookie as a team account,
- Download our free curriculum,
- Login and begin learning Blender!
9. Bonus: Top ten Blender keywords to know before you start
3d is a unique field that uses its special language.
While the new terminology may feel overwhelming at first, there is only a handful of the most used keywords that come up in every Blender workflow.
Here is an overview of the most useful ones.
- Extrude: You'll hear this term a lot. In brief, it means "grow" or "extend out a face, edge or vertex". This term is typically used quite a bit if mesh modeling.
- Rigging or Rigs: Think of these as the bones or skeletal structure of your characters or anything that moves. They're invisible but are the objects that contain all the animation instructions.
- Rendering: Think of this as cooking something to be eaten viewed. Within Blender you'll model and create all of the ingredients, but for this to look and taste great you'll have to render it. The technical definition is the process of computationally generating 2d images from 3D geometry.
- Mesh is the whole object containing Vertices, Edges and Faces. e.g. when you boot up Blender for the first time there is a cube sitting in the 3D Viewport. This would be called a Mesh.
- Texture: The best explanation can be to visualize a foil-wrapped piece of chocolate. Typically seen during the holidays. The foil may have design or print on it. Think of the foil and what's on it as the texture.
- UV Unwrap: Or UVs are the instructions on how to put the piece of foil on the chocolate. A great explanation video can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwYywDaE36g
- Modifier or Modifiers are bolted on instructions to things within Blender. Then of them as a compartmentalized toolset within Blender to help you modify what you're working on. Common ones are Mirror Modifiers, or Bevel Modifiers,
- Normal Mapping: is similar to bump mapping, but instead of being a gray-scaled height-map, the colors define to the render engine what detail should be detailed. For example you'd use a normal map on a tree trunk to mimic bark on the tree. You would not model each individual piece of bark. Instead faking or mimicking bark through normal maps is much more efficient.
- Node: is a block of processing instructions, each performing a unique task. Nodes can be connected in various combinations to feed data from one node to another to produce complex effects. Deep dive into Nodes.
- Pivot point: Is much more than a point in space or on an object where it rotates or pivots. A pivot point may be manipulated in conjunction with modifiers and other effects to improve your modeling workflow.