Learning From Tutorials

August 17, 2011 - By 

James White of Signal Noise writes about learning from tutorials vs learning on your own:

If you only do tutorials without exploring things on your own, then you learn only 1 thing: how to read. They’re a wonderful place to start, but it’s up to you after that. You should figure out how to do that thing you want to make instead of waiting for the tutorial to emerge. What does Fabio[1] do before he writes his great tutorials? He figures it out.

His post cuts to the heart of the difference between learning from watching and learning by doing. To be clear, I learned a TON from watching tutorials. They are a super fun and practical way to learn. If it weren’t for people like Brian Maffitt, Tim Clapham making great video tutorials for After Effects and Cinema 4D, I never would have gotten into this stuff. It’s one of the reasons I make tutorials today. To try and give back and help the next kid like me that is looking for good quality tutorials online.

Like James, However, I have always learned the most when trying to figure out how to do it on my own. Seeing something cool and trying to figure it out on my own is always WAY more fun, rewarding, and educational than following someone else’s directions.

Like most great things[2], moderation is key. Watch all the tutorial you wan’t, but for every hour of learning from tuts, spend four hours playing and experimenting with those concepts. Try this. After watching a tutorial, instead of just following it verbatim, try to see how you can use that technique in a different way. Maybe combine two tutorials together or try to use it with a logo or your name instead of just primitives. Experiment, combine, test, and break. Anyone can follow a recipe perfectly. But, be sure to combine all of what you learn and make something that doesn’t have step by step directions. That’s where the real learning happens.


1. Fabio from Abduzeedo.

2. Beer, Coffee, High Fives, Rage Against The Machine, etc.

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