How can I quickly learn basic 3-D modeling?
February 13, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I need to learn some basic 3-D modeling this weekend. Where do I start?

Earlier today I was asked if I can make some 3-D icons for a new piece of software my company is developing. We need a single object that is rotated in eight different directions, distilled down into some 32x32px icons.

The problem is, I don't know a thing about modeling. I have a background in web design, user interfaces and Photoshop, but I am brand new to this third dimension. As in, Metafilter is step 1. The object is not very complex (it's a car) so it's not like I'm trying to get a job at Pixar or anything, but is there any way I can learn to do this over the weekend? Where do I start? What's a good program to use? Are there any templates available that I could start with (like, for example: a car)?

As I said, it'll be a 32x32 icon, so the 3-d model doesn't need to be super detailed - I mainly just need it for the capture the same object from multiple perspectives.
posted by relucent to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Google Sketchup?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:05 PM on February 13, 2009

+1 on Google Sketchup

It's very easy to pickup and use. If you're not worried about amazing quality it's definitely the way to go.
posted by CapitalWasteland at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2009

nth-ing Sketchup. I've recently (as in, this week) been through the video tutorials in my spare time and I'm very impressed with what I've been able to do since then. I can't give high enough accolades for it.

Here's what you need to get started:
Download: (the free version is all you need)

Video Tutorials:

Honestly, if you can go through the tutorials without outside distractions, I feel completely comfortable saying you could accomplish what you need on a Saturday afternoon. As an added bonus, if you're not looking for a VERY SPECIFIC car, you may find it in the warehouse. Try here: (about 21,000 results)

Good luck and have fun!
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 2:59 PM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

yup.... ditto. free AND easy.
posted by gonzo_ID at 3:03 PM on February 13, 2009

Forgot to add... if you'd like to render it with lighting and textures, Kerkythea is a rendering program that works with Sketchup and is free. I've been happy with it as well.

Here's the info I used to get started with rendering Sketchup files in Kerkythea.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 3:03 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could try running through some tutorials for Blender which is also free. It won't be as easy as Sketchup but it will give you a better flavor of what more serious 3D modeling & rendering is like.

Making tiny art that is recognizable is actually pretty tricky but it won't hurt to try.
posted by chairface at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2009

If you want to give Sketchup a try, I highly recommend these podcasts:
I love them, they teach you everything you need to know in a short time without overloading you.
posted by SAnderka at 4:17 PM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

You guys are amazing... looks like I will be sketching up this weekend. And Google's warehouse was more than I could ever dream of when I asked about templates! Thanks!
posted by relucent at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2009

++ on sketchup. but for the record, modeling a car is not exactly an easy task... making the 3d warehouse your best friend.
posted by bryanboyer at 12:23 AM on February 14, 2009

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