Beginner Exercises for 3D Modelers

Easy Introductory Level Projects to Help You Learn 3D Modeling

Diving into 3D modeling for the first time can be pretty daunting—where do you begin? Do you start with the project that's been occupying your imagination for as long as you can remember? It's tempting to do so, but probably not the wisest choice.

In school, the very first project we were given after learning how to navigate around the Maya interface, was to model a simple snowman (it was winter in New Hampshire).

It was a good first exercise, because it reinforced several essential techniques like object creation, translate, scale, and rotate, and at the same time gave each of us an opportunity to experiment a bit and add our own creative flair.

And most importantly, it was dead simple—after all, a snowman is comprised almost entirely of primitive shapes (spheres, cylinders, cone, etc.).

It's important to choose exercises early on that will help you successfully learn foundational techniques in your chosen software suite. Whatever you do, don't bite off more than you can chew... frustration is no fun as a beginner, especially if you're self-taught and won't have a teaching assistant around to help you.

Here are some ideas for beginners to 3D modeling:

01
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A Wine Glass

Red, white and rose wine in glasses
Nick Purser / Getty Images

 

This is one of the quintessential beginner projects in 3D modeling courses, and can serve as a perfect introduction to NURBS modeling techniques. The shape is familiar, and the techniques used are very basic, meaning you'll be able to get a good looking model under your belt very quickly and easily.

 

  • Techniques apply: In any situation where you need to model a cylindrical shape with radial symmetry (Pots, glasses, a lamp, a rocket ship, etc.).
  • Tutorial: Modeling a Champagne Flute in Maya
02
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A Table and Chair

Office chair and conference table in front of grey wall panel, 3D Rendering
Modeling a table and chair is a perfect way to familiarize yourself with poly modeling techniques. Westend61 / Getty Images

Modeling a table and chair is a perfect way to familiarize yourself with poly modeling techniques like edge insertion and extrusion without introducing any complex forms that would be beyond the reach of an absolute beginner.

 

It'll also help get you in the habit of thinking about proportion, design, and 3D form, and serves as a perfect jumping off point for more complex interior modeling projects (like a bedroom or kitchen).

  • Techniques apply: In pretty much every modeling project you'll ever work on.
  • Tutorial: Forthcoming
03
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An Arch

Loft with two round arch windows and bicycle leaning on the wall, 3D Rendering
An arch isn't a super complicated shape, but modeling one does require a bit of problem solving and decision making. Westend61 / Getty Images

An arch isn't a super complicated shape, but modeling one does require a bit of problem solving and decision making. My preferred method for creating arches is to use the Bridge tool to close the gap between two polygon cubes, however, there are probably half a dozen other ways to reach your goal.

 

Arches are an incredibly common architectural element, so this is an excellent project for beginners to take on. Model a few variations and start building up an architectural library—it's nice to have a repository of ready to use building elements that you can incorporate into later projects.

  • Techniques apply: In architectural and hard surface modeling.
  • Tutorial: Forthcoming
04
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A Greek Column

Two Mako sharks swim by a greek temple submerged in the ocean depths.
Another easy to model architectural element that you'll be able to use time and time again in projects down the road. Corey Ford/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

 

This is in the same vein as the arch. Another easy to model architectural element that you'll be able to use time and time again in projects down the road. Plus, we've got a tutorial for this one:

 

05
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A Skyscraper

Glass facade with reflections of clouds, 3D Rendering
The shapes on a modern box-style skyscraper are simple enough that they shouldn't cause problems for beginners, but also bring some interesting technical challenges to the table. Westend61 / Getty Images

 

This is a fantastic project to help you get the hang of efficiently handling increasing levels of complexity and repetition. The shapes on a modern box-style skyscraper are simple enough that they shouldn't cause problems for beginners, but also bring some interesting technical challenges to the table.

 

The large number of windows will force you to learn techniques for evenly spacing edges, and creating the windows themselves will require a solid understanding of the difference between world space and local space extrusion. It's also a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the use of selection sets to handle repetitive face and edge selection.

  • Techniques apply: In any project that requires ordered repetition.
  • Tutorial: Forthcoming