Need to practice: Learning by doing


My first words are going to be some apologies… I don’t want to sound harsh but I am not in a good mood and a bit disapointed by myself. And that is why I’m here.
I will try my best to sound as positive as possible but these last months have been pretty difficult for me and learning to make some VFX has been my relief and my only goal since I started.

For one month (Almost to the day) I learned the incredible and somewhat complicated world of realtime VFX. For personnal reasons I have to learn as fast as I can. I’m trying my hardest and I’m not alone. Some friends / people I know a bit less but who are kind enough are helping me in my journey.

And I feel bad for these people. Actually, since day one, I’m a bit struggling to understand the basics. In fact, I have to admit, I feel overwhelmed. You have to knw about Colors, Contrast (Someone told me contrast was a big part of FX so… Yeah I have to focus on that point I believe), Composition; Timing… You have to use an Engine (Fortunately I already did know how to use Unreal before beginning my journey to learn how to make some FX…) you have to know how to do 3D modelization, UV Mapping, how to make textures…

Unfortunately I’m the kind of person who learn best by doing. Each time I’m trying to experiment I feel frustrated because I’m not able to do what I’m trying to do.
I’m way better when I have a fixed goal, something to aim at. And when you are by yourself, it can be pretty difficult because you can aim way, way too high… And fail.

I feel stuck in this strange state where you think you know what you are doing but you definitly not. I took a look at some important threads from this community and there is a bunch of really impressive stuff.
But I have this really odd impression people are either totally new to VFX or… Veteran/Professionnal with no in-between.

I’m at a point where I’m trying to replicate / redo what I see. (Mostly VFX from games like League of Legends) or from other Artists on Artstation for example.

I followed a bunch of tutorials on youtube but they are really focused on one particular thing and I’m not always sure they are the “right thing” to learn.
The only really educational I found was by Bruno Afonseca on Artstation. It is really good and with this course I learned a lot of things on Substance Designer.

I’m trying my hardest to learn by myself because I feel that is how most people do… Because, after all, I have no excuse, everything you need is on the internet.
But if I want to be honest with myself, I’m in a kind of situation where I need a little helping hand.

I want to be able to make something “good” or at-least good looking. But I feel what I’m doing is rubbish at best and really bad at worst.

(Some courses look really interesting like, for example, some from VFX Apprentice, but they are way out of my budget. Sadly.)

I’m not waiting anything and it can looks like a rent more than something else. But what I’m looking for is more like… I don’t know, a sort of “guide” of how to improve or where to aim in order to progress more easily. I don’t want to feel stuck forever and I really want to continue because this field is really unique and motivating for me.

So if anyone ever been in a similar situation or had a friend or a colleague, what did you do or what did they do?
Any help is welcome. Really, any.

Ps: I know about the Getting Started thread… and the incredible work of Shannon McSheehan… But it feels unreachable. I don’t know how to say that differently.

Thanks anyway. I’ll keep working and try my best and stay positive.

Have a nice day everyone.


Hey there!

I’m a newbie too (had to vanish for a while, but I’m back!).
I feel more or less the same. What works for me is:
I watch tutorials here and there on how to achieve certain “looks” (How do to this, how to do that), then I start “crawling” out of the tutorial, experimenting, tweaking, trying my own textures, mixing this with that and…that’s “working” so far.

Though I still have a hard time to just boot Unity and start doing my own stuff from scratch. I visualize it in my head, but Unity’s technicalities are still a thing for me - still not natural to just go and do.
Sometimes I do feel bad and that things could be rolling faster, smoother, but I don’t know…could they or is how it is? I don’t know.

I recommend Gabriel Aguiar Prod. courses on Udemy, I have all of them and you surely will have something to take from all of them.

PS: I know how it feels to be “stuck”. But don’t worry, let yourself feel bad, eat your favorite snack, be lazy, than go back to it. Did you put your eye in something you find cool? Try finding tutorials for it!

Found your problem.

Please Google: “How long does it take to get good at drawing”.
Then consider that making VFX adds on a technical layer, animation, performance considerations, gameplay factors, more dimensions/angles and so on.

With that in mind, do you find your expectations reasonable? I’m not saying this to discourage you, but if you had said that you have been practicing for a year, it would probably be a good time to go over your strengths and weaknesses. After a month, you are just starting to get decent at sharpening the pencils.

The guide to improving is experience. Make lots and lots of effects. Get feedback on each one you like. Throw away any you don’t think is worth continuing. Apply the feedback and make notes of what it was and how it affected your work. Doodle, try techniques you find online. Follow tutorials. Recreate without the tutorial. Copy something cool from a movie. Ask questions about why yours doesn’t look like the one in the movie. Take not of the response. Repeat for a few thousand hours.



Thank you for your answer.

I was not in a good mood while writing all of this and I have some trouble puting things into perspective. Later that day, I knew someone wad going to point that out. I did not want to insult anyone either, I mean, of course I am not going to be any good, because it is something that takes time, obviously.

What I meant is, at my current level of experience, I feel like I am struggling and I feel like it is a bit early to think I’m struggling.
I learned a lot of things by myself in the past, that’s the beauty of internet, but I don’t know why VFX looks different. I have the impression of a huge gap between people who are experienced and beginners. But maybe that is just me.

Obviously, you are right. The only way you can become better at something is by doing it. There is a lot of ressources and I suppose you just have to learn how to search and use them too.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer.

Thank you for your kind words. And sorry for the delayed answer.

I have the chance to know the engine I’m using so it is not really the part I’m struggling with. If you are a beginner too, you must understand the frustration to know what you want to make, see how to do it but once it is done, it is nothing like you had in mind and you are unable to do it properly. Then you look for how to achieve it and realize you have no idea how to do it.

Funnily enough, it impacts me way more with VFX because it is clear and visual. While I was learning how to use the blueprints from Unreal, it was easier to “cheat” something who work approximatively the same and was harder to notice than the look of a FX. It is not hard to make an explosion, a projectile or something similar. What is hard is to make it work.


thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think this is something a lot of people struggle with (in other disciplines as well) when starting out. This feeling that you have won’t go away for a while and it will come back from time to time, even when you have more experience. We all have it, so no worries :slight_smile:
There are a few different theories around this, I actually quite like the Dunning-Kruger effect, which looks a bit like this:

VFX is a vast discipline with loads of artistic and technical challenges, so it can easily feel overwhelming. I learn very much in the same way you described, ‘by doing’. And what worked best for me was to have actual problems to tackle. Like working on an actual project/game with specific requirements. The most satisfying feeling is seeing your work in actual context. VFX make everything more awesome, so it can be super satisfying to see a scene/attack/environment/animation before&after you’ve added your vfx. You can set your own challenges or find a project to work on.

E.g. build this very specific firey sword slash. The slash need to be stylised, have a cone shape of 300 units, looks like ping/orange fire and has three updgrade stages.
Then, when actually doing the effect I collect references for this very specific topic and my focus is on the specific elements that come with it. In our slash example: Timings of a slash. Shapes of a slash. Fire (colors of fire,shapes, movement).

Once you do a few of those, you will quickly realise which kinds of effects you would like to do more of. Do those. Do the ones you like to do, the ones that are fun!
When something is overwhelming, try to break it down into smaller chunks. Start from the bottom, don’t go crazy. Seek feedback. From more experienced people, but also from other beginners. It helps to find other people who also struggle!

And keep at it! I still remember when I was just starting out (whith 3d art actually), and we had this insane 3d hard-surface env art instructor who worked for id. He seemed like a god at that time. And he told us to just keep at it. Like hours and days and years. And at some point you’ll have reached the level you were aiming for without even realising. All it takes is time and effort. And it will happen.
This is how it is. For all of us. For him, for me, for you :slight_smile:


I know it was an E.G, but I would very much like good material around Slash and Pierce attacks. Do you have in mind those that made you “wow, I’m so glad I found this reference/tutorial/thing!”

I’m about to tackle this kind of effect and would love some good stuff <3