How to Learn Unreal Engine (2022)

by | Last updated Apr 26, 2022

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How do you learn Unreal Engine?

It takes a stable and reliable render system to create images with remarkable fidelity. With Unreal render engine, you can set up and manage your materials and textures, apply realistic lighting and create stunning visual effects when building your virtual worlds.

Let’s get to know more about Unreal – what it does, what it takes to master the software program, and what’s the best way to learn the Unreal engine in this guide. 

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What is Unreal Engine?

Unreal Engine is a rendering system that lets you create entire virtual worlds using industry-leading interactive tools in real-time. The rendering software was developed in 1995 by Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney, a self-taught developer, along with James Schmalz and Cliff Bleszinski, who are legends in the gaming and visual effects field. 

Unreal was initially created to produce a game that would later become “Unreal,” a first-person shooter game. It was developed for years until it made its debut in 1998. Sweeney wrote 90% of the code in the engine, “including the graphics, tools, and networking.”

Unreal consists of features, concepts, and tools that you use for any visual project, including cinematic films, TV series, mobile gaming, and architectural creations with stunning resolution and quality. It harnesses the power of NVIDIA’s RTX graphics and Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing (DXR) framework to create visually impactful, realistic effects, including physically accurate reflections, soft shadows from area lights, ambient occlusion, translucency, Sky Light illumination, and image-based lighting. 

Other features, concepts, and tools that you can find on Unreal are: 

  • Real-time ray tracing
  • Global Illumination
  • Lighting basics
  • Textures
  • Materials
  • Physically-based materials
  • Render targets
  • Scene capture
  • Render to Texture Blueprint toolset
  • High Dynamic Range Output

Unreal can be used in virtually any visual production and post-production environment, including sports broadcasting, live concert visuals, virtual sets, motion graphics, and virtual/augmented reality. And that is just the beginning! This versatile program is unmatched in rendering, you are only limited by your imagination!

When it comes to lighting for animation, its rendering system uses DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 pipelines, which include:

  • Deferred shading
  • Global illumination
  • Lit translucency
  • Post-processing
  • GPU Particles

Why should you learn Unreal Engine?

Rendering is a complex process and will require multiple solutions to achieve high fidelity results. When you learn Unreal engine, you’ll determine ways to solve rendering performance issues and identify common points of rendering scalability without affecting the quality of your work. Here are reasons why it’s important to learn Unreal engine. 

To further your career

By studying the Unreal render engine, you can get the best start in your animation career. The 3D animation and VFX industry is highly competitive. You won’t stand out if you’re not presenting compelling visuals. Being an expert on 3D software programs like Unreal makes you a stronger candidate because hiring managers are always looking for trained artists. 

No matter what areas of animation you’d like to specialize in, your career will benefit greatly from mastering industry-standard software programs like Unreal render engine. This includes a career in 3D lighting. For example, you can take our lighting for animation courses and become a light artist. The career path of a lighting artist are: 

  • Lead Lighter
  • Lighting Supervisor
  • CG Supervisor
  • CG Asset Lead
  • Character artist
  • Environment artist
  • Texture artist
  • Look Dev artist

Immediate results

As a light artist, you’ll need to master tools like the Unreal render engine to create astounding, true-to-life images. And the best thing about using Unreal is that the results are immediate. You can preview all the updates you made in real-time, so you don’t waste time redoing all the shots you made after rendering. 

Shorter render times

Ask any seasoned 3D animation artists about how long render times are, and you’ll probably get the same answer: a long time. With Unreal, the render times are cut short. That means you will spend less time waiting to see the results of your work and more time perfecting your shots. 

Also, the system doesn’t render the animation by frame. The lights, for example, are baked into the scene and are calculated in real-time, so essentially, you’ll only render the exporting shots into the clips. The render times remain swift and efficient no matter how long the animation is. 

Highly detailed, realistic shots

Because you can work faster, you’ll have more time envisioning every scene, executing the proper effects, and creating many iterations of your work to achieve the most desirable outcomes. 

Creating updates on your work is much easier on Unreal. Animations tend to be more rigid than still images when it comes to updating different parts of the content. The quick rendering means you have more free time to improve the scenes and achieve the most realistic results. And for iterative projects like architectural designs, you can modify your work as many times as you need. 

Support and Compatibility

Unreal is not only versatile, but it also plays well with other software programs and mobile platforms. Games developed with Unreal can be exported to major mobile platforms such as Android and iOS, game consoles, and HTML5 pages. It supports Windows, macOS, and Linux. What’s more, the Unreal engine supports standard file formats and external software programs, allowing developers to create familiar game applications. 

Improved technical skills

Unreal engine is rapidly growing in popularity in the filmmaking and gaming industry for architectural visualization, VFX, and Animation because it’s stable and dependable. By honing your technical skills, you’ll become a multifaceted artist. You’ll be better at what you do, making you marketable for all types of jobs. 

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Is Unreal Engine difficult to learn?

No, Unreal is easy to learn because our online workshop is designed for newbies! By learning industry-standard software tools like Unreal, you’ll have the best start in lighting and animation then shoot for higher positions in the future. 

Take our instructor Jordan Jenkins, a Lighting Artist based in England currently working at Blue Zoo Animation Studio. Just seven months after working with Unreal, he landed a lighting and compositing job on feature films and television. Before he started his career in 3D lighting, he worked in animation. 

Just goes to show that even if you don’t have the background, you can land the job of your dreams by investing in quality learning. With our Introduction to the Unreal Engine Workshop, anyone can become a lighting artist and gain the proper knowledge to make the most out of this groundbreaking software program. 

How long will it take to learn Unreal Engine?

How long it takes to learn Unreal will depend on your technical skills, how long you’ve been in the animation industry, and your experience using other render engines.

It will take months to master the software if you’re new because its tools have layers after layers of features. 

If you’re not well-versed in these kinds of software programs, you might feel overwhelmed at the start. That’s why we suggest to learn unreal engine at your own pace through our online workshop. The Introduction to Unreal Render Engine workshop is beginner-friendly. 

On the other hand, if you’re a professional with experience using other render engines, you might find it easier to learn Unreal engine. 

While easy to learn, the Unreal engine has a more complex workflow. You’ll need other software to export the model from your 3D application into the editor, making the workflow more complicated if you’re not used to this process. Also, the model and textures should be compatible with the Unreal Engine. Unreal engine is different because it doesn’t render frame by frame. Even if you have experience with other render engines, you’ll still need the proper training to maximize Unreal.

Can you learn Unreal Engine without coding? 

While knowing how to code is an important skill, and many hiring studios prefer artists with at least basic coding knowledge, it’s possible to create an entire game without using codes through Unreal Engine. 

Unreal has a visual scripting language called “Blueprint,” allowing rapid prototyping. This visual script language is a high-level programming language that’s very similar to C#. 

Blueprints use a node-based presentation instead of text. Thanks to Unreal’s visual scripting language, it’s possible for newbies to build an entire game by themselves, even those with ZERO experience in 3D animation and game development. 

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Where can you learn Unreal Engine?

How do you learn Unreal Engine? Here are your options: 

Self-study

Because Unreal is a popular software that’s been around for a while, there are free resources that you can use for self-study, like YouTube and Vimeo tutorials. Again, it’s possible to create a game on Unreal from scratch using the platform’s visual scripting language, so you don’t need much experience to use this software.

That said, the program is quite comprehensive, and not all free tutorials go deeply into every feature and toolkit. If you want to get the best start in your career as an animator or lighting artist, you have to invest in your studies. 

College

The traditional route involves enrolling at an art school and earning a degree. Going to school means enrolling in a 4-year course. In terms of the tuition prices, these vary from school to school but generally, fees and tuition have an average net cost of $15,000 – $20,000 per year. 

While almost all schools offer courses for different software programs, not all offer courses for specific programs like Unreal. Also, going to art school means taking a 4-year course and not all people have the time or budget to take this route. 

Online courses

Taking an online course is an excellent alternative to enrolling in an art school. For one thing, most online courses focus on specific software programs, like Unreal render engine. Taking an online technical course is perfect if you’d like to specialize in certain areas of the study in animation. 

Here at the Academy of Animated Art, we’re not letting the “tech” get in the way of achieving your dream as an animation and lighting artist. We offer a host of 3D animation and lighting courses for beginners and seasoned pros. Our technical courses include the Introduction to the Unreal Engine Workshop.  

For as little as $199, you can start a self-paced study of the Unreal render engine. You decide when to start and finish the entire course. Our Introduction to the Unreal Engine workshop is conducted by AAA alum Jordan Jenkins. Jordan is a lighting artist based in the UK. He is currently working at the Blue Zoo Animation Studio. From being an animation student, Jordan switched to 3D lighting and never looked back. 

In this course, Jordan will help you unlock Unreal’s many features to improve your work! And get this, once you sign up for our Unreal technical workshop, you will get unlimited lifetime access – across any and all devices you own. From exploring the world settings and menu levels to environment setups and rendering, Jordan walks you through the process step-by-step to get you working quickly into creating stunning images that will impress hiring managers. 

Over to you!

Unreal is a dependable, stable render engine used by top studios for architectural visualization, VFX, and animation. Learning this render engine will give you a multifaceted skill set that makes you marketable for all types of animation jobs. 

While easy to learn, you’ll need proper training to get the most out of Unreal. We can help you master this award-winning render engine. Sign up to learn Unreal engine online. Click here to know more about our Unreal technical course!

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