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Best Free 3D Coat Tutorials For Beginners

Resources3D Written by Ben Traje Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you buy something we get a small commission at no extra cost to you(learn more)

3D Coat is a 3D asset creation package that focuses on modeling, sculpting, retopology, UV-mapping, and texture painting.

The software is popular for boutique studios and indie developers alike. But it does not have a rigging and animation toolset, although really it doesn’t need one. What 3D Coat does, it does it well.

With the vast 3D software landscape it can get confusing so let’s simplify it: 3D coat is somewhat of a combination between ZBrush, Mari and Substance Painter – at an affordable price. Definitely worth learning if you can use such a sculpting and modeling tool in your arsenal.

3D Coat For Noobs

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Aimed for all newcomers, this three-part video series will teach you the fundamentals in working with 3D Coat.

It’s actually a funny demonstration where you’re greeted by a 3D mascot that proceeds to explain all the basics of 3D Coat.

The video will guide you with creating high poly sculpting and generating low poly models with retopology. You’ll also UV map your model for preparation in texturing/painting – all within 3D Coat.

The author also clarifies that you have two ways of creating models: either in sculpting or in retopology. Throughout this process you’ll learn several tricks such as creating chains, duplicating objects, and creating masks to isolate a modeling area.

The author also shows common pitfalls for beginners and how to avoid them. Be sure to check part 2 and part 3 for the rest of the series.


Learning The Interface

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The usual bottleneck for the unsuspecting beginners is not necessarily the software’s features, but actually its interface.

With this tutorial you learn the heart of 3D Coat’s interface: the rooms (or called workspaces in other applications).

You’ll learn about the sculpt, retopology, and UV rooms, among many others. The user interface is dynamic so with every room switch you’ll get different tools and panels.

Later in the video you’ll learn how to customize your interface such as resizing panels and even tearing them off for a floating panel – handy if you have more than one monitor.


Importing Objects For Painting

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3D Coat offers several importing options on any particular tasks, say for retopology or painting.

And in this case you’ll deal with the latter. While importing is a fairly easy task, the import dialogue box is a bit heavy handed for new users.

This tutorial guides you the pertinent parameters to change(or not to change) such as renaming UV sets, bringing in an external normal map, or changing the map size. You’ll also get some pointers for the paint tools as well.

If you need some practice you can download the project file to follow along.


Hardsurface Design

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Here you’ll learn how to make a sci-fi gun – a good case study for hard surface design work.

First you’ll import a block out model from Maya. Alternatively you can create the block out in 3D coat with simple primitive tools(if you know what you’re doing).

For the most part though, you’ll create details with voxel sculpting.

You can easily follow along as the author enables a key logger that shows the buttons he presses which is incredibly helpful. You’ll also learn several tips such as cut-off, relocating a selection, and creating rounded corners.

If you want exclusive content from the author you can also check his Patreon page to become a patron.


Sculpting in 3D Coat (Livestreamed)

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In this detailed live stream you’ll learn how to speed up your workflow with the transform tools.

You’ll also create pipes, bolts, and screws to detail an asset from scratch. The artist also shows handy tricks such as changing views, toggling symmetry on and off, or using the voxel hide tool in a real-world scenario.

Later in the presentation you’ll tackle a complex sci-fi bust and prepare it for exporting to other applications. By the end of the video you’ll pick up a lot of 3D Coat’s advantages over other sculpting tools such as Mudbox.

If you want to stay updated with any future stream content you can check this Streamlabs page.


UV Mapping

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Generally, UV Mapping is a boring process. It’s the time where you put on your headphones and grind through till the end. It’s really bland.

But it doesn’t have to be.

UV Mapping in 3D Coat is surprisingly fun and interactive.

Whenever you create a seam, the UV editor automatically updates both for the 2D and 3D viewer. It will also automatically color in the specific segments.

You’ll even have proper packing features that allow you to pack UV Islands neatly.

And here’s another handy feature not available in other software: when you run a loop seam it knows when to stop when it meets another seam. What a time save!

Even if you bought this software just for UV Mapping it would still be worth the price tag.


Unwrapping and Texturing

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In this free tutorial you learn how to unwrap an organic object (in this case, a bust) as opposed to a hard surface object(which is what the previous tutorial teaches).

Here you’ll find the process intuitive since symmetry also works in unwrapping.

For the most part you’ll get hands-on for texturing. You’ll also discover the many texturing types 3D Coat offers such as per-pixel painting, micro vertex painting, and vertex painting.

Be sure to check out part 2 of the tutorial to pick up even more tips.


PBR Texturing

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In recent years Physically Based Rendering (PBR) has been the standard of authoring materials.

Originally popularized in games, it has since been used in all types of production. Fortunately 3D Coat is prepared with a texture toolset specifically for your PBR needs.

To practice your PBR work in this video you’ll texture a screw.

Yes, it’s not super interesting. But the techniques are.

You’ll check your UV map first using a checkerboard. Then you proceed with a base metal layer and an additional layer for the paint. You’ll break up the pattern using several brushes and generate procedural maps such as curvature and ambient occlusions maps.

Needless to say, since you are working on a PBR environment, you can see the results in real time and learn very quickly.


Add Your Own Smart Materials

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To meet deadlines you’ll often be using presets that you customize for your workflow.

This is where smart materials come in.

It’s technically a material preset but better, as it generates procedural maps automatically. For instance, you can generate the dirt where crevices exist with any model.

3D Coat ships with useful smart materials but the software also provides an option to make your own. You can also alternatively use Photoshop to aid your material creation.


Baking Models For Painting

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So you’ve got a high-poly mesh. Yet due to its heavy footprint, you can’t use it in a real-time production environment.

A common workflow is to get those high poly details and transfer them all to low poly. This is the process known as baking and it comes in handy a lot.

In this video you’ll learn how to generate complete baked maps for painting.

As a full example you’ll generate a low poly cage that encompasses the high poly object. The author also shows how you can adjust the baked maps in Photoshop with ease.


Column Destruction Sculpting

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In this tutorial you create a worn out column from start to finish.

It’s not as complicated as it looks – and it certainly doesn’t need any explosions.

You’ll convert your mesh to voxels and slowly chip & chisel the edges with the extrude tool using several alphas and noises.

The author gives a few pointers like when using stencils, you should keep a depth of 1% to 2%. Voxel comes with limitations but the author provides a workaround to still be able to achieve a pretty nice result.


Low Poly Debris Pile

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Another easy-to-follow tutorial showing how you can quickly create a debris pile.

These types of assets are essential to set dress your environments.

You’ll start the project by creating a base to scatter your debris. You’ll utilize an object import tool to populate your base too.

This tool is handy as it is just like your painting through the base, but instead of color you’re painting with objects.

The technique can also be used to create a pile of rocks that resembles a letter or logo. At the very end you’ll perform retopology for exporting.


Retopology With 3D Coat

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Retopology is essential to convert your high poly objects(either from sculpting or photogrammetry) to low poly objects for scene manipulation.

Like UV Mapping, retopology is a bland and tedious process.

Fortunately 3D Coat offers several tools for an efficient workflow.

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to retopo a character. For the most part you will be using the add geometry tool.

You’ll also use symmetry to speed up the process.

Using the brush tool you’ll troubleshoot cases where you need to manually modify a point or an edge where 3D Coat’s algorithm fails to detect polygon faces.

3D Coat also offers a relax function to adjust polygon faces resulting in a uniform size. Another handy technique is using strokes that automatically create loops for cylindrical objects such as human arms.


Sculpting a Rocky Floor

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One more awesome environment tutorial to keep you going: here you’ll be creating a rocky floor.

While the asset is simple, rocks are ubiquitous in any environment so they can always vary quite a bit.

You’ll learn several commands here such as jitter and merge. The author also makes it look so easy by following a workflow using a build brush and chipping away with a scrape brush using an alpha.

You’ll complete the workflow with the retopology, UV mapping, and finally projection painting.


Arid Arch Tutorial

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In this multi-part series you’ll produce an arid rock arch completely inside of 3D Coat.

You’ll start with the block out using the built-in primitives such as cubes and spheres. Then you’ll convert the primitives to voxels.

With just the use of the scrape tool you’ll be able to create the arch close to completion. Along the process you’ll be using the fill and pose tool since the scrape tool does not work on concave areas.

You can continue with the rest of the series in part 2(Medium Forms) and part 3(Small Forms) where you’ll end up doing the retopology and final texture painting.

Author: Ben Traje

Ben is a stylized character rigger based in Davao City, Philippines. Proficient in Maxon, Cinema4D, and Autodesk Maya, he's available for remote freelance work with plenty of samples in his portfolio.