From the 1980s sci-fi movies to the 2020s Hollywood action films, let’s examine how one of our favorite VFX changed in a few decades.
Even though paid VFX lessons are probably the most effective way to learn how to create amazing stuff in Houdini (I mean, when you spend money on a course you suddenly become 1000 times more motivated to finish it), there are tons of brilliant Houdini tutorials you can watch for free.
In this compilation you will find plenty of lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced Houdini users ranging from guides for complete newbies explaining what the interface of Houdini looks like to videos on how to create complicated visuals by coding with VEX.
Nine Between’s “Houdini Isn’t Scary” series is every newbie’s must-see since the tutorials are not just beginner-friendly – they were designed specifically for those who are not familiar with the software and are making their first steps in Houdini. In this video, you will find out what the Houdini workspace looks like, where you can find various tools and what they do, and how to interpret whatever you see on the screen in general.
As one of SideFX’s Houdini artists, Simon Verstraete sure knows how to create all sorts of mind-blowing visuals using Houdini. If you are getting into procedural modeling in Houdini, Simon’s lessons would be a perfect choice. This procedural bridge tutorial is a short, easy-to-follow guide that can get you started with Houdini’s procedural tools.
In this video tutorial, Saber Jlassi will show you how to utilize volumes to create highly complex geometry in Houdini. This is the perfect lesson for anyone who is looking for a unique way to create unique procedural generated shapes.
This 4-part free tutorial from CG Spectrum is a true gem for VFX artists who want to learn to create stunning cinematic visuals. In this video, Daniel Hourigan shows how to get started with the scene, set up the environment, and adjust the shape, size, and direction of the wave. This is definitely more of an advanced user type of tutorial as sitting through four 2-hour-long videos might be a bit overwhelming for a beginner.
Creating CG hair is truly a form of art and if you allow yourself to be even just a little bit lazy with it, that will show. In this tutorial, our CEO Saber Jlassi breaks down the process of grooming hair covering interpolation, clumping and layering of the hairs, creating variation in the length of the hairs, texturing the hair, and more. Importantly, the last section of the video explains what you need to import the hair into NVIDIA HairWorks (yeah, the one where Geralt of Rivia gets his hair done).
When it comes to Houdini tutorials, Doxia Studio’s videos are definitely the ones you need to check out. With this tutorial, you can learn how to create beautiful, incredibly realistic folds of fabric in Houdini using Vellum. Luís Almeida demonstrates the process of creating drapery in 3D from setting up the main shape the cloth is going to wrap around to adjusting the fabric and playing around with various parameters to achieve the desired look.
One of the most frustrating moments for an artist is when you can’t make your astonishing, groundbreaking, absolutely unique idea come to life simply because you do not have the skill required to create an artwork you have in mind. Understanding the physics of Houdini is key when working on simulations but even the very basics of it might be confusing. This tutorial will help you finally figure out what solvers are, how DOP networks work, and how you can experiment with the physical properties of your objects.
Material art can be trickier than it seems as it requires exceptional attention to detail and absolute clarity of artistic vision. In this video, Arvid Schneider shows the process of creating a gorgeous amber material from making a textured ellipsoid shape to working on the details and adjusting the lights to make sure the stone looks true to life. This is an excellent tutorial for confident Houdini users since it covers advanced shading and ACES conversion.
One of the filmmakers’ favorite visuals is the eerie, petrifying effect of something nasty slowly spreading everywhere, swallowing its surroundings inch by inch. This tutorial teaches you how to create this contamination effect (what a thing to learn during the pandemic, am I right?) from scratch using the Solver SOP and VEX. Considering the complexity of the tools the artist uses in the tutorial, it would be great for a confident Houdini user.
Vellum is a powerful simulation framework that allows you to create cloth, hair, and awesome soft-body objects like jelly, balloons, and many more. However, it might be a bit of a puzzle if you’re still learning how to do stuff in Houdini and are not very familiar with the software. If that’s the case, this tutorial from VoxelFX will be a lifesaver, since the artist explains the very basics of Vellum, how it works, what it can do, and how you can use it in your projects.
As easy as it seems, water can take forever to get right, especially when it comes to still images. In this video, Rob Au shares some useful tips on how to create realistic water for stills in Houdini using a simple grid. You will learn how to modify your image to achieve the effect you want without having to fiddle with simulations.
Here is another awesome Houdini lesson for environment artists, and this one is from Diogo Guerreiro. In the tutorial, the artist talks about how you can use procedural modeling to create stunning realistic scenes and goes through the process of building up the peaceful forest river scene. Diogo gives an in-depth explanation of how to create terrains in Houdini, demonstrates how to work with materials and maps, and more.
There are thousands of ways to create grass – it can be stylized or hyper realistic, tall or short, artificial or natural, messy or trimmed, fresh and juicy or dead and dry, and the list goes on. One of the most commonly known methods of creating grass in 3D is by using the same tools you would make fur with. However, in this video, Ben Nelson explains a different way of creating procedural grass that will give you a nice clean result and allow you to control basic variables like color, the direction of the grass, and scale.
There can never be too many procedural modeling tutorials, and with this one, you will learn how to create a slick, glossy pawn from a simple shape using Houdini’s procedural tools. In the second half of the video, Chetal Gazdar demonstrates how to make a short animation with a pile of pawns falling onto the table. Though not quite fitting for a complete newbie, the tutorial is pretty clear and straightforward.
Melting is one of the essential visual effects for VFX artists often used in film production, video game design, and animation. In this tutorial, Dave Bergin explains how to create a gorgeous effect with an alligator’s head melting down to a pool of gold. You’ll learn how to melt any object using Houdini’s Particle Solver as well as how to control the density, distribution, and flow of the molten particles.
Creating minerals in 3D is quite the challenge since it requires solid skills in composition, coloring, lightwork, and a good understanding of geometry. In this 2-hour-long detailed walkthrough, Armin Lotfi explains how to create a basic shape for the future crystal, play with colors, transparency, and sharpness to find a look that feels right, and finally choose the lighting setup that will make your villiaumite truly shine.
If you are an environment artist you might want to watch this one for sure. In the tutorial, Konstantin Magnus explains how to make a donut from a circle, then turn it into a flower-like shape and finally sculpt it into a gorgeous detailed mushroom that looks just like a real-life chanterelle. To do this, the artist uses the standard procedural modeling tools as well as the VEX expressions, so this video will be great for those who want to explore coding in Houdini.
Going further with the nature-inspired art, here is a tutorial from Vladyslav Lavrenov where you can learn how to create an aloe flower in Houdini. The artist explains the process of making a hypnotizing animation of an aloe flower gracefully spinning around while slowly opening up. This one includes a great deal of working with VEXpressions as well so if you’re looking to improve your coding in Houdini, this would be a perfect tutorial.
If you are looking for a tutorial on an Inception meets The Matrix meets Avengers: Infinity War type of VFX, this would be a perfect one. In this video, Mike Stoliarov demonstrates how you can create a bold, colorful animation with broken pixels flying out of a TV screen. You will learn how to set up the scene, manipulate particles, adjust the lights and colors, and render the final piece using Mantra.
We probably should have named this compilation “Environments in Houdini: Beginner to Pro”. In this detailed newbie-friendly tutorial Tim van Helsdingen shows how you can create seaweed in Houdini from setting up the initial shape to animating it so it looks like real-life algae. If you want to take your seaweed to its final form, you can find parts 2, 3, and 4 of this tutorial on Tim’s channel and check out the rest of the videos in the artist’s Howdini101 series.
A fire-water interplay looks just as peculiar and mesmerizing as it sounds, and it is a really cool visual effect to have up your sleeve. Grayden Solman demonstrates how you can use the FLIP and Pyro solvers in Houdini to create astounding VFX where fluids, fire, and smoke interact. The artist notes that familiarity with VEX and SOPs is required for this tutorial so it would be great for an intermediate Houdini user.
Dust particles lazily floating in the air look weirdly hypnotic which makes this visual effect one of the industry’s most popular ones (I mean, the Upside Down in Stranger Things is basically dust particles and a blue tint). In this video, Daniel de Carvalho shows how you can use procedural modeling to make a stunning animation with specks of dust slowly falling down. In just 20 minutes, the artist covers every step of the creative process from defining the shape of your dust particles to rendering using Mantra.
This tutorial by Nick Medukha explains how to create a simple yet pretty creepy animation that kinda looks like a moving spider web. All you need is a simple sphere and 6 Houdini nodes to make an abstract clew of wires. The artist then uses Octane Render to set up the lighting and finish off the scene.
We will never get tired of water simulations so here is another tutorial on working with fluids in Houdini. This is a thorough step-by-step tutorial where you learn to make a waterfall from very basic shapes by using solvers, forces, and other Houdini tools that allow you to create lifelike simulations. The artist also shows how to place the waterfall in a scene and adjust the lighting to make it look like your waterfall reflects the sunlight just as if it was real.
And if you liked that tutorial you may want to check out our Advanced Water FX in Houdini course taught by ILM Artist, Juri Bryan. Here’s the trailer for that course.
Is there anything more annoying for a digital artist than seeing a washed-out, lifeless image on your screen when you were going for a crisp, juicy picture? If this is something you can relate to, maybe it’s time to discover the possibilities of OCIO in Houdini. In this quick tutorial, Tyler Bay explains the basics of working with color spaces and getting started with ACES in Houdini.
Speaking of this mysterious abbreviation, if you don’t quite understand what ACES even means and what it is good for in the first place, here is an excellent explanation of this color system. The article explains how ACES compares to sRGB, how it works its magic, what drawbacks this seemingly divine system has, and most importantly how you can set it up in Houdini (as well as Nuke, Fusion, and Maya).
You can never go wrong with colored smoke as it somehow always looks irresistibly eye-catching and entrancing. In this video by Marcos Parmentier, you will learn how to create a colorful smoke effect that is easy to simulate and render using a picture of a galaxy you can easily find online. If you want to master the art of taming particles in Houdini or learn more about the Pyro Shader, add this tutorial to your watch list.
This looks so real we probably need to insert a trigger warning here (in case you thought this was a joke, TW: insectophobia, scoleciphobia, ew gross), but for those of you who love all things graphic and borderline revolting, this is a real find. This tutorial series from Linus Rosenqvist demonstrates how you can create thick, amazingly lifelike larvae swimming in the mud using Vellum. In this first tutorial, the artist explains how to make the body of the larva, and in parts 2–5 you can see how to create the rest of the scene.
Want to know how to create a believable condensation effect using Houdini in less than 7 minutes? Here is a quick guide from Raffi Bedross that shows how you can make water droplets sliding down the surface of your main object using Houdini’s Particle Fluids. You will see how a chunky opaque default droplet can be shaped into a thin transparent one by playing with geometry settings, shaders, and more.
If you enjoyed the aloe tutorial from Vladyslav Lavrenov, you need to check out this one where Chris Kopic explains how to achieve a similar effect. Only this time you are going to learn how to create a blossoming flower graciously dropping its petals. If you are comfortable with Houdini’s VEXpressions and simulations, this animation would be a great thing to try to recreate.
One of VFX artists’ favorite things to do in Houdini is destruction of all sorts, and knowing how to make a simple disintegration effect is vital. This video by Theodore Miesner demonstrates how you can create a simple particle breakdown system without using complex formulas. The author goes through every step of the process commenting on how to set up the shape for the animation, make a disintegration system, and finish off the scene using Adobe After Effects.
UV mapping and unwrapping can be a painfully long and boring process that takes forever to finish, especially when you have complex shapes consisting of neverending polygons. In this tutorial, Adrien Lambert shows how you can reduce the amount of suffering when it comes to UVing and create a UV layout in no time with as many as a million polygons. Using mesh grouping and a bit of math magic, you will be able to speed up the UVing process even for your heaviest projects.
In this video tutorial, Saber will show you how to create rock, cracks, and brick surface textures for environment design inside Houdini using the terrain tools. This is a very helpful tutorial if you’ve ever dreamed up creating hyper-stylized cliffs inside Houdini.
Though Houdini is especially great for working on various visual effects, it is also an excellent tool for hard surface modeling. If you want to use Houdini to create weapons, vehicles, and all things tech, this tutorial is going to be a useful guide for you. Here Viktors Anfimovs explains how to create a 2D poly model, bevel the edges to smooth out the lines, extrude and insert geometry to better define the shape of your object.
There are numerous tutorials on explosions, fire, smoke VFX but have you ever watched a video on how to create a drooling effect? This tutorial by Kate Xagoraris explains how to define the basic lines down which the fluid is going to flow, how to adjust the settings to make the dripping more realistic, and how to brush up and finalize the drooling effect.
There is no such thing as too much LEGO and if we can make digital LEGO bricks looking like the real thing, we sure will. In this lesson, Simon Verstraete demonstrates how to create a procedural LEGO brick generator in Houdini. This is a beginner-friendly step-by-step tutorial where the artist explains the very basic steps like creating the body of a brick, adding the little circles on top, cutting out the circles at the bottom, and applying color to the final shape.
For those of you who are ready to take a deep dive into Houdini and really take your skill to the next level, there is a creator even the strongest Houdini artists look up to and whose tutorials never fail to amaze the viewers, and it is Junichiro Horikawa. This tutorial is inspired by Kagome, a traditional Japanese weaving pattern used in basketry. It is incredibly intricate since the strands run in 3 directions forming hexagons surrounded by triangles. Junichiro demonstrates how to recreate this complex design using VEX and apply it to your geometry.
If you kept scrolling further down this post every time you saw it mention VEX because you struggle with coding and avoid the VEXpressions box at all costs, this article might be what you need. VEX might seem like an impossible riddle if you don’t have any training in programming but it is in fact pretty straightforward. In this post by Kenny Lammers, you will find an explanation of the basic functions of VEX and what they do.
If you liked that tutorial you may enjoy our VEX course here at Rebelway as well. Here’s the trailer:
Creating animals in 3D is way harder than it seems as even a tiny mistake can make them look like a poorly made taxidermy piece. In this two-part tutorial, Gabriela Salmeron gives a detailed explanation of how you can create an adorable realistic hairy piggy in Houdini. In the first part, the artist explains how to prepare geometry, analyze the reference material, and comb the long and short hairs on the pig’s head.
If you are only beginning your Houdini journey, tutorials from Houdini Kitchen are a must-watch as they have all you need to get started (and not give up the second you open the app). In this video, Susie Green talks about Houdini’s basic UV tools, discusses the different ways to create UVs in Houdini, and explains how you can edit your UVs and preview them.
Here’s one more Houdini intro for complete beginners who are learning the very basics of the software. Mao Torres made 4 hour-long videos that cover the essentials of creating 3D artworks from Houdini’s fundamental concepts to working with Booleans and coding. Even if you don’t know anything about Houdini at all, with these tutorials you’ll learn how to manipulate objects, perform auto UVing, and do many more cool things.
A VFX tutorial compilation is not complete without a guide on creating realistic fire. In this detailed beginner-level tutorial, Krishna Bala explains how to start working on your geometry using Pyro Source and begin building the base for the visual effect, talks about how to shape the flames using the DOP network, and shows how to render your CG fire in Redshift.
Well, this is probably not Mr. Sandman from The Chordettes’ song but that’s even better because monsters and creepy creatures of all sorts are a delight to VFX artists. In this three-part lesson, Erik Rasmussen explains how to create a terrifyingly realistic sandman using a pre-made animated model from Adobe’s Mixamo character library. In the first part, you’ll see how to set up the falling sand effect using Houdini’s POP Solver and apply it to the character animation.
As cool and impressive as realistic visuals are, stylized art has a special place in our hearts. If you want to learn how to create stylized rocks using procedural modeling, check out this tutorial by Alejandro Perez. The artist shows how to set up geometry for the rocks using Point VOP, talks about adding detail and color, and explains how to create multiple different rock formations using randomization.
Character animation is fun but it takes patience since creating organic movements and expressions is a very delicate process. If you are already a confident Houdini user but don’t really know how to navigate KineFX, this tutorial from Jeff Wagner is going to be your holy grail. Jeff explains the very basics of how to use this rigging and animation framework, talks about the instruments it has and how they work, and demonstrates how to rig different body parts using KineFX.
Rebelway has got some awesome free Houdini tutorials for you. Want to learn more about creating FX in Houdini? Fill out the box below to get access to free course lessons from Introduction to Houdini FX, our intro course that is perfect for Houdini artists who are looking to get started with developing high-end FX.
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From the 1980s sci-fi movies to the 2020s Hollywood action films, let’s examine how one of our favorite VFX changed in a few decades.
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