How to give useful feedback to artists

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Knowing how to give and receive feedback will help you become a better artist. And as with any skill, it requires practice. Sketchfab Master Alex Meister has been giving a lot of well balanced, structured feedback on our Work in Progress forum recently, and in this tutorial he shares his insights.

Probably the first question that you might have is, how does giving good feedback benefit me?

Aside from knowing that you may have helped another artist on his path, giving feedback can help you in various ways. For example by looking at the Wireframe of a posted model you will get a better understanding on how it should be. Where you could save a few lines and where someone might have made a mistake.

In short, by looking at artists of any level, you can learn how your own topography could be better.

You can also use work of others as a study, looking at details and knowing how to do them different/better, how to get certain effects to work in an online 3d viewer. By looking closely at other ways you might find something that fits your work pipeline.

It will also motivate other people to give your posts better feedback, which can improve your work in big or small ways.

What exactly is good or bad Feedback?

While a lot of things in art are rather subjective to the beholder, Feedback is one of the few aspects that can be classified into good and bad, the first step to notice if feedback is bad is by looking at it from the other side. Imagine you did spend the last few hours making the Art in front of you and you would get a feedback like “it’s bad, shitty light”.

Now what makes this bad feedback? Is it the fact that it’s not positive? No, feedback doesn’t have to be positive, but by writing something negative you should give a more detailed explanation what exactly is bad at it and if you have an idea, might say how you could improve it.

Would something like “it’s great, good work” be better? Well, slightly since it would make you happy to hear those words, but in a bigger perspective it’s just the same as the other. It’s a “like” in the end, something that might give a temporary boost in confidence but nothing that really changes anything.

Let us take a “bad” model for our example

Now this model isn’t terrible, but it has quite a lot of flaws that could be improved.

Bad negative feedback:

Your blade is okay, but not that good, make it better

“Good” negative feedback:

How is the fire part going to work? Wouldn’t the big blocks on the side create problem while cutting? Also, you have a few ngons and triangles in your model that you could avoid. Finally, you might want to have a look at your UVs, the bump map doesn’t seem to work correctly. I would try to fix the errors first and then restart on the blade.

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Now while both Feedbacks had nothing Positive to say about the model, the later was helpful, it did not provide a way to fix them, nor does it have to. If you have a good idea that might be useful, add it along with the feedback, but that isn’t necessary.

So what exactly could good feedback be? How can I do my best to give feedback that can be good and benefit both?

Well the answer to this is a rather simple one: time and effort, the only 2 things in life that really make a change. Because I will not lie and tell you good feedback won’t take more time than a short look at it and a “like”. But this is not Tinder or Facebook, it’s your passion for art. If you read this far you did the first step, so now let’s look at the details.

Part 1 – Overall View

Starting with the basic, it’s the general look of the artwork. While you might not be a fan of spiders or snakes or robot enhanced demonic kitties and you would probably just unlike it for that reason, try to look at it from a neutral perspective. Think of it as “what if I would like this sort of thing” is it well made? Did the artist put his heart and soul into it or is it just a bad copy of something you have seen before?

Especially if you dislike it, it is important to figure out what part exactly, is it the slightly wonky symbols? Or is it the colors of the piece that just hurt your eyes? Try to be specific even if you don’t know a way to improve it. Tell them what exactly you dislike.

Now what if I do like it? Do the exact same; tell them why you like it, what made you fall in love with the look of it. While this won’t improve the current work it will be of some help for the future.

  • To the best of your abilities try to be firm but not unfair, you don’t have to sugarcoat every word but remember that someone did spend a lot of time doing his best
  • If you want to stop at this point that’s totally fine, you already made a difference by giving a more detailed Feedback based on your first observation

Part 2 – The wireframe

This is the part of the feedback that probably will help you more than the artist you are writing it for. Looking at the wireframe is rather simple with Sketchfab, all you need to do is enable it.

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Click “Rendering Options” (1), then select the color you like, in the best case something that is a color that is not in the model (2)

Now that you see the lines in a nice color, you can start to analyze how the model was made, most models will be humans or objects that you probably know or did yourself once. Try to look for errors like ngons, tris (unless you triangulate the entire model for game engines), evenly spaced subdivisions, extra edge loops for animation, ngons due to bevel or other automated artifacts, clippings due to the current animation/pose.

If you do find something, take a screenshot of it, add some annotations in a paint program and attach it to your feedback. On the Sketchfab forum, you can upload it by pressing ctrl+g or using the button below. Model comments don’t support image uploads, but you can use a site like Imgur to store your images and then just paste a link to them in the comment.

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Now that you made a Feedback with a detailed look on the Overall View and the Wireframe you can get a fresh drink out of your own fridge. But wait there’s more!

Part 3 – Matcap

This part is mostly for finished models, or almost finished ones, since it’s a way to look at the model with Bump/displacement map, but not the texture itself. This mode is especially good for looking at seams, things that look wrong somehow but you are unsure if it’s the model or the texture, or if you just want to have a general look on how the model would look like without a texture.

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Click “Rendering Options” (1) and then on Matcap (2), this can be enabled with the Wireframe at the same time if you want.

In this part you can again point out things similar to the Wireframe part.

Part 4 – Ideas/ General Concept

Now this part can be used for both ways again, having a model that might not be exactly the way you would do it can in fact benefit your next idea. For example looking at a sci-fi train station might inspire you to create your own train but during another era or an alternative dimension.

But this is about feedback, how can this help? We all tend to get stuck with an idea or a concept that we work so long on it that the illogic parts just blend out and you fail to notice little things, like the fact that a gun might need a way to reload the bullets or that a lamp might need some sort of power source. Finding “errors” or inconsistencies in other people’s work will help you to remember those moments for your own projects.

Or maybe someone will point them out to you, since they decided to give you just as much feedback as you did.

Feedback (like in our bad example) can significantly improve a model in the end. Even enhance the General Concept of it.

Afterword

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to give feedback to other artists, I hope that some of the lines I wrote did help in improving the feedback you give and receive in the future.

About the author

Alex Meister

I'm working as a Freelancer since 4 Years, currently living in the Kingdom of Wonder, Cambodia. Since February 2016, I'm a member of the Sketchfab Masters program.


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