I'm a completely beginner who want to learn 3D Modelling. From what I learned from some online document, I at least need basic drawing skill, which could help me a lot for learning 3D Modelling. When decided to learn 3D Modelling, I aim to mostly modelling characters.

So, in order to learn 3D Modelling, I plan to learn drawing first. I can see that there are 2 ways to draw: drawing with pen and drawing with mouse (using software provided straight lines and curves, not moving the mouse itself of course). The question is: Should I learn to draw with pen, or to draw with mouse?

I know that drawing with pen is so good that they developed things like drawing tablet to simulate pen drawing on PC, but I think that's only for people who are already good with pen. I stated that I'm a completely beginner, which mean I have never ever drawn before, I never do doodles, I have struggle just drawing a fork, I don't know how to hold my pen properly, my handwriting is ugly as hell... at that point, where drawing with pen is almost as difficult as drawing with a mouse, maybe I should just skip learning to draw with pen, and learn to draw with mouse instead?

TLDR: I'm a completely beginner who doesn't know anything about drawing and have never drawn anything good with pen before. I want to learn drawing to advance to 3D Modelling. I'm wondering between learning to draw using pen and drawing using mouse and need advice which to choose. Can drawing with mouse achieve as much as a pen can do? What is the advantage and disadvantage of both technique? Is drawing with pen easier to master than drawing with mouse?

I need you guys' advice on this please, any help is appreciated, thanks!

  • 2
    You don't want to draw with a mouse. That's like choosing to eat soup with a fork. Lucian said to maybe start with the mouse first, but I'd skip it entirely. Try pencil and paper first and then go digital if you feel like you need it. I don't really see anybody gaining anything from drawing with a mouse.
    – Joonas
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 9:49
  • Thanks you for the advice. I honestly did lean a little to mouse as I think that'd help me practice drawing curves with mouse, which I saw a lot in 3D Modelling tutorial videos. But I guess I should reconsider that.
    – Mee
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 10:21
  • 1
    Personally, I would say forget graphics tablets and styluses, or any digital methods of drawing. For basic skills, learn to draw with a pencil and paper. Take an art class that includes drawing from life, or still life. Sculpture is also a related art subject that could help you gain the required skills to start creating 3d models.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 10:37
  • 4
    Mee, you talking about doing technical drawings using the mouse? Because that is totally normal in the 3D world and you don't need a drawing tablet for that... but any kind of freehand drawing is just a waste of time using the mouse. You always have the option to use pen and paper, which is more precise and natural... heck, even with drawing tablet you are simulating the natural experience to a point. There's never going to be a situation where you need the skill of being able to draw with a mouse. There's no situation where that's better than just drawing on a piece of paper.
    – Joonas
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 11:23

4 Answers 4


I don't think drawing with a mouse can compare with a tablet or pen. But sure there is plenty of videos on this, so better research a bit on Youtube for pros and cons. Then again, if you can't draw with a normal pencil, not sure how much help a digital pen or tablet can be. Probably start with a mouse first and see how that works out. Try something and you'll figure it out along the way, just being a "complete beginner" is no excuse for not trying :)

  • Thank you for the answer. Yes, I'm ready to pay a lot of time to practice drawing, so probably not using any excuse to get away from learning :) What I want to point out is at my current state, drawing with pen is almost as difficult as drawing with a mouse, so may be skipping pen and start with mouse is a better choice, as being familiar with mouse could help the future 3D works. However, if the difference between pen and mouse is so ridiculous, like you can draw a nice picture with pen if you practice for 1 year, but with mouse you need 3 years, then I will go with pen instead.
    – Mee
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 7:49
  • 1
    Maybe just focus on the kind of 3D work which involves less drawing, like straight-line architecture work, like indoor/outdoor real estate rendering, pays good money and doesn't need you to be Picasso.
    – Lucian
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 8:12
  • @Lucian does not work. The simpler the thing is the more you have to work on the small details.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 15:48

Lets start at the beginning. You know how to draw! If you truly do not then you wouldnt be able to write on paper. Most people in kidergaten know how to draw at age 3.

You just dont know how to look at things, therefore you dont know how to deconstruct what you see. Being able to deconstruct is critical otherwise you can not draw it. This deconstruction skill is the same regardless of what your creating. Drawing on paper with pen is just the cheapest way to practice this (cheapest as in low startup cost not mastery cost). Remeber you will need to draw about tenthousand images to get there so no one way will solve this. do both.

Understanding what you see is important because that enables you to become better. Your brain always tells you that your internal worldview is correct. Only by doing do you realize how flawed it is. This brings us to the second point. Do not be too self critical! Finish your drawings. You do not learn about the whole by repeating one part. Your drawings will have flaws, lots and lots of them.

Dont just doodle, have an improvement plan. Train mechanical skills, like drawing lines starting from your elbow and curves from wrist. Train getting into the flow..Train different subjects. Learn about other peoples methods, i suggest you begin by reading some of the lighter Loomis books* they are free. But do not forget that you have to do these things not just read about them. Draw a lot.

Set goals for your drawings, start modest so not to kill motivation. Set deadlines for your work. Not always but its important to force oneself to execute with time constraints.

Study physics! You will need this when developping shading and lighting skills.

PS: While drawing helps, it does not really make you automatically stellar in 3D. Being stellar in 3D teaches you drawing by proxy. But remember being good in 3D takes quite the dedication. So you also need to work on your 3D. You can also work your way around from the technical side of things.

* Loomis is good because he teaches how to think in 3D shapes


Bone fides: I am an illustrator and architectural designer by training, but I'm also a 3D Generalist and architectural 3D modeler.

I'd say you want to start with design drawing skills using paper and pencil and pen, probably a sketchbook for a start.

I've several books I tend to recommend as starting points: the first two by Scott Robertson are aimed more at folks wanting to break into the 3D Generalist / art direction world, the other three are more aimed at architecture students but translate well to general 3D as well and are phenomenally well written. I myself own copies of all these books as part of my design library, along with a good half-dozen more Francis Ching books.

How to Draw - Scott Robertson

How to Render - Scott Robertson

Design Drawing - Francis D.K. Ching, John Wiley & Sons

Architecture: Form, Space and Order Francis D.K. Ching, John Wiley & Sons

Color Drawing: Design Drawing Skills and Techniques for Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers - Michael E. Doyle

Beyond that I can only recommend buying a lot of mid-price sketchbooks, a decent straight edge (and maybe a french curve or two) a hard eraser, a soft gomme eraser, some basic HB and 2B pencils, a mechanical pencil, and maybe a pack of Pilot Razorpoints to start; later you can upgrade to Microns and either Copic markers or Prismacolour markers & pencils.

For now: start actually drawing stuff.

For your reference: Calculating correct line length in perspective drawing?

Hope this helps.


Try to imagine a shape you like to make in 3D. Can you see it clearly in your thinking or is it only a fuzzy dream with no exact forms? If it's clear and stays stable you have a good possiblity to draw it - maybe slowly and inaccurately if your hands are not trained. It's the same on paper and with computer programs. If it stays stable in your mind you finally get it copied out. In a computer it can happen even without actual drawing, you define the forms as combined idealized shapes such as arcs, lines, bezier curves etc...(=you use vectors in a program like Illustrator or Inkscape)

An extreme possiblity to output it from your head is to write commands. Many programs, 2D and 3D , have a command line mode. OpenSCAD for ex. is used only via command line interface. The program shows - not what you drew, but what forms you told it to create. I bet in practice this must be limited to engineering like works, no rich game characters will come out this way, because the needed commands would fill a bible sized book.

Creating a shape in one's mind and keeping it clear so long that one gets it drawn is a remarkable talent. I bet it's the same as a good music composer has if he imagines his music and then writes it onto staffs. Other composers play this and that into a recorder and finally via trial and error they can get together something usable.

I can earn money by doing some tiresome not so creative works, but as a creative artist I feel I am only a lousy hobbyist. I must draw a shape at first coarsely, then try to invent more details to it and soon the original idea may be totally vanished, but I still have got something. Drawing is the only way to get something together. I must have a fast method to draw. Pen and paper are excellent for this purpose. From paper sketch I can copy what I got into the computer and remake it with nice smooth curves and perfect angles. As a replacement of paper I can use a drawing tablet, but paper needs no electricity and I can always have a piece.

If I can see the wanted form in front of my eyes when I draw (=someone has already created it) or it's something simple geometrical, so simple that I can define it as memorizable sentences, for ex. a cube, and a pyramid on its top, I do not need paper sketches. I input it to my computer directly.

Of course a talented artist may have created so complex forms with so many and fine inter-relations that I do not catch them right. My copy will at best be a laughable caricature. I can see the result is wrong but I can't fix it because I cannot see what is the essence and I'm not skilled enough to make an exact copy like a scanner. But if it's a rectangular building, it more likely will be copied perfectly. I can even remember it as a set of sentences, if it's not too complex. Or it can be complex, but the job doesn't need fine details at all.

Stepping into 3D is useless if 2D works aren't succesful. Why? In theory there could exist a blind born sculptor who makes perfect sculpts, but never draws anything. Of course he must stay within the resolution of his hands, there cannot be any millimeter sized designed details. In web you can find blind painters and sculptors, but those which I have noticed, became blind as adults and have built their model of the world as seen images.

I guess: Because our computer tools are 2D, you must have good 2D recognition and output to be able to interact with the computer bidirectionally in 3D works. Only in those cases, where you use preset geometric forms or modify them by scaling, rotating, bending, making intersections etc... you can work efficiently without being able to draw. That means engineering like creations, not anything as rich as human or animal like characters. It was the same in 2D.

The drawing tools to start with? I say nothing is better than a pen + paper. It obeys exactly your hand movements. The problem is only to develop those movements. It's visual recognition, coordination, pure knowledge how to present relations with lines and shadings and, of course, the imagination behind all. If your movements are limited due injuries or an illness, but you believe you have what's needed to have between the ears, take a computer.

Nothing prevents to use computer in parallel with the pen and paper, because using computer tools succesfully also need a lot of practicing. But with pen you can draw anywhere the needed thousands of sketches to develop the needed basic skills - coordination and the processes between your ears. Get some books about drawing. From there you can pour the needed knowledge easier than only by watching already done works and experimenting.

With a computer your time more than easily gets wasted with playing with tricks and trying to find shortcuts around still missing coordination, recognition, knowledge and even around missing imagination.

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