Blender Master Class by Ben Simonds – Book Review

A hands-on guide to modeling, sculpting, materials, and rendering

February saw the release of a new Blender book from Ben Simonds, who is an accomplished Blender artist and co-director of Gecko Animation Ltd. Ben is also an author here on Blender Cookie.

His book, Blender Master Class walks the reader the through the workflow of three distinctly different projects, covering a wide range of techniques and tools. The book is published by No Starch Press, who were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

Get 30% off your copy when you purchase through No Starch with code: CGCOOKIE


About the Book

From No Starch Press: 

book_benSimonds_blender-master-class_04…For those who have struggled to create professional-quality projects in Blender, author Ben Simonds offers this peek inside his studio. You’ll learn how to create 3D models as you explore the creative process that he uses to model three example projects: a muscular bat creature, a futuristic robotic spider, and ancient temple ruins. Along the way, you’ll master the Blender interface and learn how to create and refine your own models.

Read the complete blurb here.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed with the book is the excellent print quality. I might venture to say it has the highest quality of any Blender book I’ve thumbed through to date. Everything in the book is printed in full-color with great quality. Although I am no expert, I also really liked the type-setting. It’s well formatted, with a modern style that lends to very easy reading. This was particularly good since the book is jam-packed with great tips and tricks.


Beyond that, it was also immediately clear how much ground the book covers. Just looking at the detailed index got me excited to jump in. The way the book is organized, based on the index, makes it really easy to find intriguing topics if you want to pick and choose or to also go from cover to cover.

Anytime I pick up a new book I first flip through the book to see what catches my eye, and then I go back and start from the beginning. Let’s just say there were a lot of things that caught my attention.


Content Value and Structure

book_benSimonds_blender-master-class_02Without a doubt, there’s a ton of value in this book. No matter your current skill level you will stand to learn a wealth of new tricks and techniques. In part, this is  due to the structure of the book. Even though the book covers three complete projects, from start to finish, it is not a paint-by-numbers type of book. Rather the book takes more of an overview approach to the projects. Some readers may be disappointed by this, but for me I found it much more preferable. 

If you’ve ever meant Ben in person, then you’ll know that he is a very relaxed, genuine fellow that’s easy to approach.

What Ben does through the book is show you his workflow for each of the projects by describing all of the tools/options he is and isn’t using for each particular part. For example, he may start by introducing you to the differences between global and local coordinates, using simple examples, then he’ll go on to show you how he uses them to his advantage in the projects.

The real value to this book, as I see it, is not in the detailed specifics of Blender. These details are great, don’t get me wrong, but the true value comes from the insight into Ben’s workflow. This is not just a book on doing X and X with Blender, but it’s a book that gives insight into how Ben does what he does in a logical, easy-to-follow method.

Writing Style

Ben’s writing style lends very well to a book like this. So often, technical manuals, and similar titles, tend to be very dry. This makes them boring, no matter how valuable the content.

book_benSimonds_blender-master-class_03 However, in this case, the writing is very well done. If you’ve ever met Ben in person, then you’ll know that he is a very relaxed, genuine fellow that’s easy to approach. This is exactly how his book comes across, and it’s great.

The writing is also complimented by a great number of illustrations, screenshots, and reference examples that make the text really easy to follow.


Overall Thoughts

If you’re a Blender artist that likes working from books, and would like another resource to learn from, then I really can’t recommend this enough. Even as a long-time Blender user I learned a lot of tricks that come right from Ben’s workflow. Really, the only person that might not get much value from the book is an absolute beginner. However, even then it still presents a wealth of information that will be valuable to them as they get on their feet.

You can purchase the book from No Starch Press, Amazon, or the Blender Foundation. One advantage to purchasing through the Blender Foundation is a portion of the procedes go back into supporting Blender development.

Leave Comment


36 Responses to “Blender Master Class by Ben Simonds – Book Review”
  1. Posts: 19
    Casey Wagner says:

    Just ordered it :) And with the shipping coming to 20 bucks to ship to Canada the coupon code came in handy for defraying that cost.

  2. Posts: 1

    Quick question. In this book, are they using Cycles or Blender Internal, because I actually prefer Blender Internal than Cycles.

  3. Posts: 2
    Kara awesome says:

    well I didn’t notice the part that says “the only person that might not get much value from the book is an absolute beginner” and I bought it(the kindle version)before trying video tutorials. I got stuck many times on silly things like hotkeys and hidden menus. I found out quick I’m a visual learner when it comes to art. I did your old tutorial here.

    and this is what I ended up with as my first 3D model ever. 😀

  4. Posts: 30

    Kara: Very nice, much better then my first.

    I have been working through this book over he last 2 Days, I would strongly say that if you want to reproduce the ruins. With the same workflow, you should download Blender 2.63a as that is what the book is working with. The bevel tool has been fixed so it works more uniform now and does not give the same results.

    Gave me such a headache. I was looking for what I messed up for hours, then downloaded 2.63 and it works fine. I am going to try and sculpt the walls and bake a Normal map and see how that works.

  5. Posts: 28

    Cool. This sounds really useful so I might have to pick this up!

    By the way, sorry to be ‘that guy’, but you have a typo… “If you’ve ever meant (met?) Ben in person…”

    Thanks for the review regardless!

  6. Posts: 7
    Steven Hicks says:

    very good book. even if it is not for beginners. you will get a ton of information out of it. I have been learning for about a month 3d. I can follow along pretty good.most of the stuff that was covered I have learned through videos on cgcookie except for gimp. it is interesting that he uses gimp. I would never have thought of taking a character out of blender and using a paint program and putting the character back.

  7. Posts: 6

    Hi I am having a slight problem, When I load the bat creature blender file under rendering it looks like a big mess of blob than a bat creature, why is that and how can I fix it? I am using blender 2.68

  8. Posts: 1

    Type “meant Ben” I think should read “met Ben” in the second quote box.
    Thanks and cool article

  9. Posts: 16
    reidh says:

    I bought this book through Amazon, for sale price of about 27.00 USD. If I had seen your statement about cgcookie discount I would have used that. sorry.

  10. Posts: 1
    cristoforo80 says:

    I am considering purchasing this book – I have been using Blender 3d for about 3 months – not sure what my level is and so not sure if it’s too difficult for me at this pt.

    • Posts: 55
      dbrown says:

      This is definitely a great book to have. I learned a lot from this book when starting out, and continued to reference it months after finishing it. It is certainly one of those books to have on your shelf. I bought the paperback that came with all of the resources on a DVD, but apparently the digital version will work just as well.

      Even being 3 months in, if you still feel you do not know enough about modeling, texturing, creating materials, using nodes, lighting, sculpting details, rendering, and various other things in between, you might find a lot if good information in this book.

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