Is it necessary to be good at drawing, to develop good 3D digital design skills for modeling and animation?


I want to make 3D animation films. Not as hi-fi as Disney and Pixar of course, but as close to them as an indie animator can get.

I'm good (not enviable, just plain good) at drawing things on paper but I haven't really delved into digital art much.

Is there any correlation between the two?

Do I need to hone my drawing skills further before going digital or can I just dive right into the digital world?

5/10/2014 1:21:00 AM

Accepted Answer

First, any animation studio will want to see that an artist has solid drawing skills. The ability to communicate ideas through sketches or storyboards can only help you in developing your own stories.

Is there any correlation between the two? Yes

Computer (3D) animation and traditional animation both attempt to achieve one thing, the illusion of life or movement. In order to properly convey that illusion, you need to be able to apply certain principles into your work. Learning to draw using these principles will help you visualize and quickly adjust poses or "keys".

A little history:

When computer animation was first hitting the industry in the late 70s and early 80s animation was stiff, and not very believable by today's standards. John Lasseter, a brillantly talented, traditional animator, was contracted by Industrial Light and Magic to do a short film called André and Wally B. This computer generated film was the beginning of a movement that brought traditional animation methods and techniques to computer generated films.

Do I need to hone my drawing skills further before going digital or can I just dive right into the digital world? Both.

I say that because you can work on both in order to build your skills up a little faster. Take some figure drawing classes, or just get outside and sketch people quickly as they walk by. Take note of the shapes of certain poses. Learn the basics of your 3D software of choice (I use Maya).

Blender is a popular one because it's free/open source and there's a pretty large community.

4/13/2017 12:57:00 PM

"Drawing" is really comprised of two main aspects in my opinion:

  • The ability to see things as shapes, lights, colors, etc. ("see" can mean imagine or envision, it doesn't have to be literal)
  • Muscle memory (hand-eye coordination) to transfer what you see to your fingers/hand/toes/whatever in order to create it.

Swiss school designer Inge Druckrey created a video about "Teaching to See" which may help explain. (It's a long video and apparently has trouble loading if you are using Google Chrome as a browser [at least on my Mac - but Safari works fine).

The ability to actually draw on paper is very helpful, but I don't know I'd say it's mandatory. What is mandatory is the ability to "see". You need to be able to interpret things which are often intangible into tangible aspects of a creation - wherever that creation is happening.

If you are struggling with seeing things, then sketching on paper can help explore that aspect and not just help with the muscle memory.

If you have the ability to "see" then what tool you use is your choice. Drawing by hand on paper simply builds the hand-eye coordination to become proficient at that method of creation. However, if you use a mouse, trackpad, trackball, stylus your hand-eye coordination will adjust to that manner of working. And the more you do one, the better you'll get at transferring what you see to any medium.