Onyx Academy’s courses – a great opportunity for prospective 3D Artists

Tatjana Ristić,
Content Creator, SGA
If 3D is your thing and you’ve dabbled in it already, there is a great chance for you to extend your knowledge and gain hands-on experience. The international Onyx Academy is about to organize two courses this fall!

With tuition on the house, practical education in 3D has become more accessible with Onyx Academy, a team of industry veterans who have crafted a step-by-step curriculum featuring the tried and tested mentoring techniques with a high success rate of future employment.

The Autumn-Spring semester starts on the 1st of November and lasts for 22 weeks. Applications open here on the 1st of October and close on the 20th. You can apply for the Environment or the Props course, and all you need to do is send a basic portfolio showcasing your skills in modeling, UVing and texturing. 

Reading about the courses on the Academy’s website is one thing while hearing from one of their alumni first-hand might be significantly more meaningful to you. That is why we had a chat with Teodor Codau, a recent graduate of the Props course, who has as of even more recently started working at Onyx Studio!

SGA: What was needed to apply for the course?

Teodor: You needed some basic skills and knowledge in 3D modeling, game optimization (which I wasn’t well-prepared for but learned a lot about) and texturing. Having a portfolio that showcases your work is a must. It doesn’t have to be super advanced, but showing that you have some experience and a good handle on the basics will help your application stand out.

SGA: How did Onyx Academy’s curriculum help you develop your skills in 3D modeling, texturing and rendering? What were the most useful things you’ve learned? 

Teodor: Besides solidifying my workflow, there were a lot of technical details I wasn’t sure how to use or apply properly. But the biggest takeaway for me was learning how to plan a project from start to finish. From gathering reference images to figuring out how to render the model to tell the story I wanted.

In texturing, I really got the hang of things. I learned how to take a simple model and tell a story through it, like showing wear and tear, exaggerating certain details and paying attention to how different materials change over time or with use. I find this very important because it adds so much value to the final model in the end.

SGA: What technologies or tools are you most proficient in, as a result of your training at Onyx Academy? Have you had a chance to apply your new knowledge in practice since you’ve finished the course?

Teodor: During my time at Onyx Academy, I worked with various tools for each project. I feel like I made steady progress in all areas, but texturing was where I really poured in my effort. I focused a lot on developing my texturing skills, and it’s where I saw the most significant improvement. Additionally, I learned a new workflow involving CAD software, which has been a game-changer for creating hard surface models. This new pipeline lets me build models more efficiently and quickly convert them into high and low-poly versions.

Since completing the course, I’ve been applying what I’ve learned to some personal projects. I’m currently working on these to add them to my portfolio. It’s exciting to see how the skills I gained at the Academy are coming to life in my new work! And I can proudly say that I started working at Onyx Studio a week ago!

Besides the content and the way it was presented being top-notch, the course format itself was a big win for me. We had 2-4 hours of classes in the morning, followed by another 4-6 hours practicing in the afternoon, which made it like a 9-to-5 work schedule from Monday to Friday.

SGA: Can you explain one of the projects you’ve completed during the course in detail and how you approached it?

Teodor: M18 Power Drill was the final project I worked on during the academy, where the main focus was on storytelling and texturing. I will break the process into a few steps. 

Modeling in Fusion 360: At first glance, Fusion 360 might seem complicated but you’ll quickly realize it offers great freedom for hard surface modeling. I created the model in real dimensions, closely following the actual power tool I used as a reference. In these pictures, the model is in the final blockout stage. The next step was to export it to ZBrush, where I worked on the high-poly version. 

High-Poly in ZBrush: In ZBrush, I leveraged its power to create the high-poly model. I started by using Dynamesh and applying masks to different areas so I could work on and refine them separately. This process helps to polish and sharpen the edges of the entire object, resulting in a clean and smooth high-poly model.

Cleaning and Preparing the Model: The next step was to clean up the model. I used Moi3D to convert the geometry from Fusion 360 into a clean and low-poly count version that’s usable. After obtaining a clean low-poly model, I unwrapped it and prepared both the high-poly (HP) and low-poly (LP) versions for baking.

Baking: Baking is a process where we take the detailed information from the HP model and transfer it onto a texture file that wraps around the LP model. This step helps preserve the detailed look of the HP model while maintaining the efficiency and performance benefits of the LP model.

Texturing: Once I achieved a good and clean bake, I moved on to the final part—texturing. My goal was to follow the reference images closely, especially focusing on replicating the same level of wear and tear as seen in the photos. The main objective was to tell the story behind the tool, showing the hours of work and the type of environment where it was used. This helped to bring out the character and history of the M18 Power Drill, making it look realistic and true to its background.

This process not only helped me improve my modeling skills but also enhanced my understanding of the entire workflow, from initial blockout to preparing for texturing and rendering.

When it came to feedback, it was constant but less frequent in the areas where I already knew what to do, thanks to what I had learned from previous projects. Certainly, reaching this point wouldn’t have been possible without the instructor’s support. He’s been incredibly encouraging throughout my journey, always guiding me in the right direction as I improved my technique and the quality of my work.

Besides solidifying my workflow, there were a lot of technical details I wasn’t sure how to use or apply properly. But the biggest takeaway for me was learning how to plan a project from start to finish.

SGA: Were there any particular instructors at Onyx Academy who significantly influenced your career path?

Teodor: Definitely, taking the course at Onyx Academy was a huge turning point for me. I’ve always been into games, sci-fi and fantasy, and game dev just seemed like the perfect fit. The course really helped me solidify my path. Javier Benitez was our instructor and he was incredible. He guided us through the whole pipeline and process. What stood out about Javier was his teaching style. He didn’t just hand us the answers—he taught us how to think critically and solve problems independently. It was exactly what I needed to get past the challenges I struggled with before. Instead of just copying what he did in class, we learned to come up with our own solutions, which was empowering and a big boost to my confidence.

SGA: Was the fact that the course was held remotely a pro or a con? Ho time-consuming was it?

Teodor: The fact that it’s remote is definitely a huge plus, making it possible for everyone to join, no matter where they are, and even if they’re in a slightly different time zone. Besides the content and the way it was presented being top-notch, the course format itself was a big win for me. We had 2-4 hours of classes in the morning, followed by another 4-6 hours practicing in the afternoon, which made it like a 9-to-5 work schedule from Monday to Friday. This was important for me because it helped me get into a routine and boosted my productivity. It felt like I had a regular job, so I could focus better and make the most of those 8 hours each day.

SGA: How do you think Onyx Academy prepared you for the professional world?

Teodor: First, I’d like to mention how the teaching was done. In the beginning, we received step-by-step guidance, which gradually shifted to encouraging us to make our own decisions. We were asked to seek feedback only when we truly needed it. This approach helped me build confidence in myself and my skills.

Another great aspect of the course was working in teams. This not only improved my teamwork skills but also enhanced my ability to communicate and give feedback within the group. Collaborating with others was a big plus, as it helped us learn how to work together effectively and support each other’s growth. Now, with these experiences, I’m confident that I’ll adjust well to any job.

SGA: What advice would you give to other prospective 3D Artists who might still be reluctant to dip their toe in the water?

Teodor: Start with small and simple projects—don’t stress yourself out by trying to make complex scenes right from the start. And seek feedback! This is exactly how our course begins—we start with easier objects so we can become comfortable and get to know each other. We also talk a lot during this time to share feedback and help each other improve. This is the advice I’ve been giving, along with all the information about Onyx Academy, to the people who reached out to me after I posted my projects. It made me happy to see that everything I made during this time was noticed and appreciated.

SGA: Thank you very much for the interview, Teodor!

Teodor: Thank you so much for the opportunity! I have really enjoyed it!

You can check Teodor’s other projects made during the course on his Artstation profile. If his experience inspired you to apply, mark the 1st of October in your calendar!