Denoise: Blender Beginner Mistakes We All Make

Aug 22nd 2023

If you're getting into Blender, avoiding common mistakes upfront will help you learn faster and save time in the long run. 

There are two types of mistakes when using Blender: technical and creative. The first are accidental button presses or overlooked settings and the second are incorrect approaches to a problem. After a few decades of experience with Blender, we've seen plenty of both and can help you work through them as you learn. 

This post is from episode 4 of the Denoise podcast. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, GoogleAmazon, and wherever else you find your podcasts.

The technical slip-ups we've all made

These technical mistakes in Blender could simply be an incorrect button press, an accidental move, or a stray setting that messes you up. These come up a lot at first when learning the software before the muscle memory fully kicks in. Some examples are:

  • Forgetting to save properly and regularly
  • Not packing textures before sharing a file
  • Creating double vertices
  • Having backward normals
  • Not applying transforms 
  • Plugging a node into the wrong input

I’m sure every Blender artist has battled these at some point. These types of mistakes leave you with the distinct feeling of "I think I did everything right, but it's just not working!!" 

What makes 3D a challenge is that listing all possible technical mistakes could fill an encyclopedia or two, and it's not possible to remember all of them all of the time. Thankfully there are only a handful that you'll run into often, and the more you see them the more you'll remember to avoid them in the future. The best defenses against technical mistakes are experience and education. 

If you find yourself fighting Blender a little too often, try going through our Fundamentals course series to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes in each discipline. 

Incorrectly thinking about how to solve a problem. 

The second type of mistake is much trickier and is an error in how we think about solving a given problem.🧠

You might know what result you want and pick the wrong path to get there, or you might head toward the wrong result altogether.

Since there are so many possibilities of what you can model in Blender, it's easy to get lost somewhere in the process and not end up with the outcome you were hoping for.

The interesting thing about the second type of mistake is that whether or not any given action is considered a mistake depends entirely on your goals.

For example, using n-gons will sometimes break a 3D mesh and cause the shading of the model to look terrible. Other times it’s exactly what the mesh needs to look great and be easy to edit. We also usually try to stick to believable values, but sometimes making a shape or shader absurd and implausible is perfect for exaggeration and communicating the right thing.

There are potential traps on both sides of every choice, and it’s only experience or education that can inform you of which choices are right for your specific project.

At CG Cookie, we do our best to teach how to think about 3D design as well as how to technically accomplish each task so that you can make fewer of both types of mistakes in your work.

Great CG artists tend to care less about following rules to the letter and more about developing the intuition needed to navigate the creation process well.

For example, I’m sure we’ve all gotten excited about a new feature of Blender or a tool we just learned about and decided to use it for absolutely everything! 😅

This can sometimes result in worse-looking results and a horribly inefficient process, like using vector displacement to create hairs on a rug, but other times it can allow us to discover amazingly creative uses for a tool, such as using the ocean modifier to create the perfectly delicious crumbly surface for a chocolate chip cookie.

Sometimes happy mistakes are the path to original creativity. 

Another example of the paradox of mistakes is that avoiding them can be critical to creating great work while, at the same time, worrying about mistakes too much might cause you to get so far bogged down in the details that you never finish your project or never attempt a project outside of your comfort zone.

Listen to episode 4 of the Denoise Blender podcast to hear us talk about the technical and artistic mistakes that we've made and things that we do recommend avoiding, but, at the end of the day, the biggest mistake is to give up in the face of the challenges we all face and to not give yourself the chance to work through them to create something you're truly proud of. 

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Jonathan Lampel
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