This is a classic conflict – Maya vs Blender. It seems like it’s easiest to get started with Blender – it’s free, you can download it right now, and there are lots of tutorials online.
But is Blender really the best package for a beginner to learn?
Maya vs Blender
When you reach a certain level of expertise, you become software agnostic. You realize all the programs pretty much do the same things, they just call each tool by a different name and hide it under a different menu.
But when you’re starting from ground zero, you don’t have any experience to build on. So how can you know which one to pick? What are the differences between these two packages that can help a beginner decide?
Blender’s main advantage is that it is free and it is open source. It has most of the major features one expects from a 3D package. And if you look around the net, you’ll see that plenty of artists are creating great art with Blender. And because it is ostensibly aimed at beginners, the user interface and workflow could be seen as being easier to learn (not that I agree).
Maya is a cyclopean program. It can do literally anything you want a 3D package to do. This is what makes it so powerful – but it also makes it difficult to learn. It’s sheer complexity hides features inside of menus inside of menus. Finding what you need is difficult. After years of learning it, I still learn new tricks on a regular basis. And this complexity is the main drawback new artists run in to when they try to learn it.
And it used to be you had to pay thousands of dollars just to get a seat at the table. But now, Maya is free to students. Getting a student license is easy, you don’t even need a .edu email address to get it.
So with that on the table, Blender’s main advantage – being free – is taken away. And we’re left comparing the programs on their own merits.
Or are we?
No. If you want to be a professional, you don’t have a choice. You absolutely MUST learn Maya (or Max, or Houdini, etc). But why?
When you are hired as an artist, you are being hired into an existing production pipeline. You need to be able to use the tools they are using, which, usually, is Maya.
Really, it doesn’t come down to whether Blender is great or not. The truth of it is, you won’t get a job learning Blender. At some point in the future that will probably happen, but it isn’t happening right now. So if your goal is to be employed as a 3D artist, Maya is really your only choice.
What about hobbyists?
Whatever tool gets the job done is the one you want to use! If you like Blender, if you aren’t planning on working professionally, then don’t worry about it! Keep on creating with the tools you like best.