► Really Getting Started in Carrara

DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 21,080
edited January 2014 in Carrara Discussion

In the future, I'll be writing some more illustrated articles for the Carrara Cafe. In the meantime, just some friendly advice for anyone who may be new, or has even had Carrara for some time and might be having a bit of a time getting started.

This Forum
This place is an excellent source for finding out just about anything Carrara. But what if you're not even sure what to ask? It feels differently, but when I check the calendar, it really hasn't been that long ago that I felt the same way. Through speaking to many people here, I've eventually figured out what I wasn't doing. Carrara is really easy to use - and even better, it's easy to learn to use.

This community has members ranging from less than a day old to total veterans from the days before DAZ 3D became Carrara's home. We all work together in learning and sharing, showing off our renders, asking for advice. So this is always the spot when you're stuck and need some help, that's for sure!

The Carrara Manual
The manual that comes with Carrara is the best place to begin, in my honest opinion. With any sort of complex software, it's good to know what the documentation has to say, especially when it's written as nicely as this one. Carrara can do so much for you compared to any other software of its type, that it really takes a little time to breathe it all in. The cool thing is that it works very much like some of the apps you might have used before it, like Poser or DAZ Studio. This can help you play around a little along the way. In those situations, I still recommend sitting back with the manual, going through each chapter. If you get to a topic that you know you're going to want to wait for a while before learning it, at least you've now seen that it's there, so you do know that you may revisit the topic when you need to.

You might hear people say that the manual is out-of-date, and this is true, at this time. So when you need more in regards to the new stuff that's been added since Carrara 7 Pro, you'll need to come here. But don't let this sway into thinking that the manual doesn't help... it truly has a lot to offer - even in some good concepts that are great to know for any software of this type, so it really pays to read through - take your time.

As you're reading through the manual, open up Carrara and try the stuff it's teaching you. Practice everything, including the different ways to do the same thing like, "Cntrl D" is the same as "Edit > Duplicate". The manual usually has at least two ways of gaining access to nearly anything you can do in Carrara.

For further help and manual downloads of different resources, links to many questions already asked, helpful articles, etc., visit the
►►► Carrara Information Manual ◄◄◄
That might even be how you've found this! LOL
The first post on that page gets updates without notice, sometimes. It is a set of links to various threads within the forum and other spots that can help you to learn.

Also many of the links that the first page lead to get updated without notice as well. So sometimes it helps to come back for another look. The Forum Help Links is one example, as it links to many topics that have been solved, are ongoing, or are still seeking advice - but most are subjects that several people have requested help of the same nature - so it really helps to have a categorized list of like - links. I use it all the time myself, rather than trying to pass forward page after page. There are also times, like now, when the forum gets really busy with questions during times when I am too bust to keep lists like that updated - so it does need some work as I type this, but it still remains to be an excellent way to read how others have found answers already.

It also has links to some of the great professional courses you can buy for Carrara training, as well as a full index of Cripeman's awesome free video tutorials, and our resident Epic writer: Steve at Sci Fi Funk has a growing index of videos as well - one which always has something new! It needs updates again!

Most of all, if you're here you must use, or are thinking about using, Carrara and in that regard, I hope that you have an excellent time of it! I know that I sure do!

Post edited by Dartanbeck on


  • DartanbeckDartanbeck Posts: 21,080
    edited December 1969

    I first got excited about Carrara as I grew excited about using Poser, but lacked the tools I really wanted access to. The ability to actually model was foremost on that list. Modeling and creating morphs. I realize that many others approach Carrara from other dreams, but I mostly write in regards to how I achieved such happiness from Carrara from my own experiences.

    Coming from Poser and earlier versions of DAZ Studio, I found immediate similarities in the interface, allowing me to get right to work without having a whole pile of learning to do. I also had the incredible "Carrara 5 Essential Training - by Jack Whitney" from Lynda.com before I ever bought Carrara, which was (and still is) an invaluable introduction to what tools there are, where to find them, and what they might do. As I've mentioned, I also printed out a hard-copy of the 800 page manual, which is a very interesting and informative read.

    One of my biggest joys at that time, the time when I was first able to open the Carrara interface for myself, was the new work space in front of me. No clutter covering up my huge screen - but tinier versions of them, neatly arranged around the edges - more like a professional styled software, yet far more friendly and, for the most part, self-explanatory. Surely, it may not be so self-explanatory to all, but you'll quickly agree that it is much easier to understand than some 3d applications.

    The fact that Carrara's interface is so friendly is amazing to me because it really has an endless amount of features for us to learn to use. It quickly become evident that the designer of the interface wanted the layout and the tools, switches, and menus, to help teach the user about the software - and it does! In my example, I simply opened up and started using Carrara as I would Poser or DAZ Studio, so I had a bunch of recognizable tools already, right where I would expect to find them. Some, not so much - like the file/folder icon that allows us to add our runtimes to this, most incredible browser system. That one I learned here, at the forums, simply by asking. As I worked withing this incredible space, trying to wrap my head around the idea that Carrara scenes can be so huge compared to what I was used to working with, I just kept experimenting with the habits I had already grown into using Poser. Victoria was bluish. There was a tutorial on how to fix that - which led me to learn how to optimize my shaders for best use in Carrara. This truly expanded my appreciation for Carrara, as I wasn't really expecting it to render so quickly! Then I realized that Ray Tracing is set at 8 passes by default, which I never changed, and it still blew away the speeds I was used to. Amazing!

    Learning to optimize the shaders on Poser models took up a great deal of my earlier days in Carrara. Not because it's difficult, but because there are so many ways to get just the look I want, and the Shader window, again, just seems to want to teach me how to use it by having great nomenclature set up for what's going on. There are still plenty more shader functions within the Texture room that I haven't yet explored, than those that I have. So I feel that, especially with the addition of plenty of new shader-enhancing plugin purchases, I still have a lifetime of shader bliss to look forward to.

    Eventually the buttons and settings that I haven't yet explored began tempting me. As this began to happen, I also remembered the days that I pondered the day that I would one day own Carrara. The way I would stare at the promotional pages. At that time, the Carrara promo pages more resembled a Sears catalog ad than what they do now. Plenty of images illustrating what they meant by the super-cool explanatory text. I wish I would have shot copies of those pages to show you now - for I liked them much more than what we have now, which doesn't even come close to showing off how wonderful this software really is. Perhaps one day DAZ will let me revamp their Carrara promos.

    So as I began to ponder things that were, so far, beyond my know-how I thought about adding some effects to my scenes. Fog came to mind so I dropped some in. Hmmm... it's a bounding box - and nothing more. But the scene switches to the model room, a version of it which contains all of the settings for adjusting and animating fog. Without looking into fog in the manual. I just slid some of the settings around and shot a render to see how I did. Wow! So this is fog in Carrara! Evilproducer still barks at me for using fog. It is his firm belief that, whenever I am using fog, I should be using Volumetric Clouds instead! Well, to each their own, I say. I truly enjoy how fun it is to play with fog in Carrara. Fun, and it can do a lot more as far as effects than what the V-Clouds can do - although those are very cool as well. The very next effect I wanted to try was the ocean primitive. Again, it launches us into the model room - a version set up specifically for setting up and animating Carrara's Ocean primitive. This and the fog (and fire) are excellent examples of what I meant by how the interface designer wanted the actual tools to help do the teaching of how they work, and what you do with them. Not all software was given such splendid treatment within!

    Long story a tad bit shorter, the Ocean works beautifully - even if you never read anything about it. It has built in settings that automate the waves moving in animation renders. So do the fog and fire and many other features of Carrara. Much of the time, when you load in one of these helpful effect items, the settings are so clear that getting at least satisfactory results require nothing more than a good, fun time messing around in this super-awesome piece of software! Setting up shaders isn't quite as simple to realize as these are. Although you can get some good results with just a few tips and tricks, like making sure that there are no colors being multiplied by the texture map (V4 being blue) and turning the highlights channel to black (removes the plastic look), the Texture Room has an enormous abundance of ways to create truly remarkable shaders without ever adding an image file. That would be called a procedural shader. But I'm not here to talk about that, just yet. But the fact remains that Carrara has been very thoughtfully designed to be an all-inclusive suite of tools that truly requires no additional content to realize your dreams. Truly! With Carrara, you may actually design, sculpt, paint, rig, animate, and film anything you want to - without ever needing to use another piece of software! It can even play back your video files!

    So with a software package so enormous, how does one learn to tackle it all? Well, with time, patience, and practice. But a good deal of help can speed things along, and as I've mentioned, Carrara was designed from the ground up to help you learn how to use it. The documentation (User Guide) that comes with Carrara is amazingly complete - even though it's still not really finished. The material it contains can truly get you so acquainted with Carrara, that you'll soon forget that Carrara has so much more to offer than what drove you to buy it in the first place. You see, we're all different and we all have different reasons for opening up Carrara. The developers want to meet the needs of us all - and they're doing a really great job of it. It's no wonder that the manual updates can get left behind - we're, after all, a pretty demanding lot!

    So that's where these forums come into play. Here we can test our thoughts and share them with others. Answer simple questions instead of saying: "Look, just open the manual"

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