Attention Students- What barriers are you facing when learning Rhino?

I came to Rhino around the launch of v7 - learning was on-the-job so-to-speak, driven out of necessity/exasperation with Solidworks and certain difficulties it presented to rapid prototyping needs. (Had been Rhino-curious for years, but it was the pandemic and lockdown that provided the opportunity to actually dive in and learn the ropes).

Learning outside of an instutional setting, and without real-world access to anyone who had even heard of Rhino - the most helpful resources were videos that are accompanied with insightful narration/commentary mainly the official McNeel Youtube channel, (and Vimeo, I recall at the time that many useful videos where there exclusively) - and certain videos from skilled users like @sgreenawalt (I happened on these early on when they were way over my head, but have returned time-and-again more prepared).
And I don’t know where I would have picked up the nuances (and massive value) of sub-object-selection technique without watching @theoutside 's tutorials, (the pen, the sharpener, the goggles - these were foundational!) - and this is now my main workflow where I’m working in dense, tight geometries.

There’s a world of difference between videos that simply go through a sequence of steps demonstrating how to accomplish a goal, and those that contain a meta-narrative about “why” certain tools and methods are used. This goes a long way to developing a coherent context in the students mind, about the relative significance of different tools/features/approaches etc.

Other main learning resource being this forum of course.

Overall I found that gaining insights into the underlying structural nature of Rhino to be somewhat elusive, at least at first this was an unrecognizable obstacle that I bumped into quite a bit. (This has gotten better by the way, and the fact that that is even possible is a testament to the richness of the resources available, both the helpful humans and documentation and vastness of the possibilities of the software). I have some theories as to what this could be about.

There’s a tendency that can be observed with software of a certain age/depth/complexity to accumulate tools (at later phases of development/sophistication) and features that go beyond the initially conceived logics and structures of the originating paradigm. Usually this is a great thing, and a response to user wishes, and developer ideas about what is possible/useful. Sometimes new tools blend seamlessly with the existing flows, other times they come with lots of special-cases and caveats.
The trouble occurs when newcomers are not able to discern, (or even be aware an issue exists) - when higher level tools and functions are mixed together and presented in the same toolbox as more fundamental tools. A large part of the backtracking and fumbling around that I’ve encountered had to do with attempting to understand why different tools like Booleans and Fillets worked strangely. Learning (from here on the forum) that things like Blend (iirc), and (maybe) Match use Sweeps under the hood was helpful in developing this situational awareness. Hearing long-time users decry certain tools as being less reliable for “reasons” - but not offering any explanation tantalizingly suggests that there might be some merit in discovering which tools are more fundamental in the historical development. But this is relatively undiscoverable without being able to access earlier releases.

I suspect there’s also a tendency to want “love all our children equally” and not want to relegate more newly developed features to a different status, but perhaps some indication that certain tools depend on or reference the structures of others could create a compounding effect in accelerating learning and insight-development. A hierarchy of fundamentality is what I’m hoping for - I’ve purchased some of the early Rhino textbooks in the interests of plumbing these historical questions, (but for now they’re still on the shelf!).

My uses of the software are for product/industrial-design, small-precision features, developable surface extraction for multi-material rapid prototyping, organic surfacing and mold-making, so for me the surgical qualities of the environment are exactly what I’m after.

I have said this maybe thousand times in one form or another:

The biggest blockage for most Rhino newbies is that they are encouraged to never learn how trimming and joining surfaces works.

When there boolean fails (as it will often do) the new rhino user is mystified.

The reason for their confusion is pretty simple - they don’t know how to do the process by themselves.

And the reason they don’t know is because they were never taught how to do it themselves, but far worse than that they were also mostly encouraged to never learn how to do it themselves. They were taught that booleans will work so no need to find out how to do it by themselves.

The second biggest lesson newbies need to learn:

Rhino is a minefield. Once you learn how to avoid stepping on the mines you can accomplish a lot. But if you never learn how to avoid the mines you productivity will always be severely limited.

And don’t expect McNeel to tell you how to avoid stepping into the many pitfalls that will destroy your productivity. Mcneel is embarrassed by things that crush your productivity and does its best to market Rhino as not having these problems.


I’m not a student, but I believe that the first thing that students must be taught is to NOT overuse the “Network surface” tool. Too many people rely only that tool for their primary surfacing, especially with extremely dense settings that lead to even more dense nearby surfaces. On top of that, these surfaces are difficult to edit and produce unwanted deviations.

Usually it takes years for the users to stop using “Network surfaces” and change their workflow by using more appropriate surfacing tools.

If I remember correctly, last year I used “Network surface” just one time, and zero times this year. I’m not saying that it’s a useless tool, but its positives are fewer than its negatives.

The next thing that students must remember is that “Match surface” exists for a reason. It’s one of the most neglected tools in Rhino. Having a good continuity between the adjacent surfaces (even if it’s just G1 tangency) is a key factor to achieve NURBS models that could be actually used for manufacturing.

I’m not a student, but I often get basic rhino questions from students. Tired of repetitive answers, I started writing my own guide to asking questions about Rhino, which of course is in Chinese.

In my district, at least in the student body I come into contact with. The biggest obstacle they encounter isn’t where to find study materials. The learning material is very rich, flooded with video sites and teaching sites, and many people share their knowledge about rhinos.

Mcneel does a lot of documentation, tutorials, and localization, and as a long-time user, I can find materials and materials from Mcneel to help me solve my problems. But the reason a lot of students ask me is that they don’t know how much effort McNeel has put into helping them get started, and they’ve learned imperfect tutorials or even pirated tutorials that don’t have an after-sales service. Based on an imperfect body of knowledge, a lot of strange problems arise.

I know that McNeel has a program for online tutorial instructor certification, but as far as I know, there is no such activity in Chinese mainland.

In my opinion, the biggest problem for students to learn on the Internet is to find a suitable and good tutorial at a low cost.
There are a lot of tutorials and materials on the internet, but perhaps because of stereotypes or simply a reluctance to use translation tools, students are reluctant to seek McNeel’s help in the first place when learning and solving problems.

As a final year student, I can attest to Rhino being fundamental to my academic projects. I picked it up during my industry year because I was tired of Solidworks’ unreliable feature tree (though in hindsight, it was probably because I didn’t understand how to use it well).

In any case, someone has mentioned it here but on-the-job learning really forced me to learn Rhino quickly and in-depth.

I bought @alexandre_galin 's Intro to Rhino course on Udemy, as well as his Intro to surface modelling course, and those were essential to getting me off the ground.

However, I find that most of the tutorials felt more about what to do rather than why it was being done that way.

So to answer the question: I think an updated Level 1 and Level 2 Rhino manual with a theory explanation section at the end of each chapter may help. Or if that might put off some users, then perhaps some way of integrating it into the tutorials such that we don’t just learn about the Rhino UI but also learn how to navigate Rhino’s strengths (freeform objects, quick iteration, aliases, macros, scripts, plug-ins, popup toolbars) and weaknesses (camera navigation, fillet responsiveness and editability, history).

I learned on my own that Rhino’s history feature is obsolete if anything is done to the object afterward, however in terms of using it to view changes in real-time, it’s been indispensable.

For example, projecting a planar curve onto a non-planar surface to see how a Boolean Difference in later steps might affect the split lines is really helpful.

Perhaps other users share in this experience as well but I found Rhino’s 1980s UI and ‘feel’ to be quite off-putting at first.

To be honest, I had known Rhino was used in industrial design for a while, but its prehistoric looking UI incentivised me to learn a more modern-looking software. While judgmental, the various posts begging for a new UI that I’ve seen in the last year indicate to me that I’m not alone in this experience.

Rhino 8 has improved, but it still feels clunky in a way that’s hard to describe.

In conclusion, I think updating the Rhino Lvl 1 & 2 Manuals, and including theory sections on why things are done in certain ways in Rhino, as well as an updated UI, would help reduce the friction in learning the software.


I agree, but it sure would be nice if that tool got some love to fix it’s long standing issues.

1 Like

great feedback thanks!

Along with “Match surface”, nearly all NURBS surfacing tools need a major rewrite, because they were almost unchanged since the last two decades (with a few minor improvements here and there) and lack the functionality that competitor CAD programs offer these days. :slight_smile: Including static Zebra and Light lines analysis, which is non-existent even in Rhino 8. The VSR plug-in for Rhino 5 is a good start for inspiration.


Agreed, but that’s covered in the vsr thread, so we’ll stick to student barriers here.

But I do hear you about the Nurbs surfacing stuff.


Exactly the reason why I didn’t expand my post above with more details. :slight_smile:

1 Like

From a teacher’s view, the main obstacle is reading and perhaps understanding the command line. Which results in saying 100 times per day press enter when done …
Therefore I think CL2 is a good idea.
I very seldom see difficulties with the geometry itself.
Discovering helpful tutorials is not an issue at all .

1 Like

What are the different ways you look for and find tutorials?
Does it typically matter to you the format (text guide, video, course, etc.) or duration (if video, the length of it)?


can you clarify what you mean with this?

Command: TestCL2 (Enter)

interesting, first time I see this on Mac

or docked

1 Like

Please do not use this test command. I don’t know how it was even discovered and is only at the early prototype stage.

“Please do not eat the sausage” said the man to his dog… ; }

Probably best if I just remove this from Rhino 8 and only have it in the Rhino 9 WIP. It was an experiment I worked on during a business trip and didn’t get anywhere near to completing.

I’m still kind of in the learning mode for Rhino, I agree with David on some of this. The huge frustration with trying to learn the software is how hard it is to do things that other apps can do quickly. Mostly ran into with fillets that ended up making things harder than it should be. Eventually had to rework stuff in odd manners when I could bring it into Plasticity or Moi3D (both of which have added new kernels for handling complicated fillets with ease) and fix it relatively quickly.

Project based learning works well for me, I love the official videos where it goes from sketch/drawing to designing it. Alibre Design had a great PDF that would get you to a point creating multiple parts from scratch that interacted together, it highlighted the basic ways to make something to get you up to speed quickly. It got me to a point where I made my first complicated design in a weekend where I struggled in most other CAD apps prior. Seeing how to approach creating a real world thing helps with the workflows and commands needed to get it done.

Most everything I learned about Rhino was stuff I learned myself by reading the documentation and this forum. Super appreciate the doc writers, and also of plugins which come with “example files” like Pufferfish does!!!

Especially with Grasshopper, it was really useful seeing other people’s questions and the scripts they posted.

Rather than copying component-by-component what was shown in YouTube videos with random dubstep music playing, it was more helpful to see the discussion happening among other curious people. Being able to run the scripts and see the results of approaches different people took to the same problem helped tremendously, and allowed me to gain a better understanding of how the tools work.

To this effect I don’t think there are a lot of example files for Rhino, plus it would be difficult to have something like this since Rhino is used for a lot of different kinds of modeling and 2d and 3d applications from line drawings to renderings and simulation or digital fabrication.

Blender is known for being super beginner friendly and part of their success comes from having a few big tutorial projects you can learn from, like the famous Donut one. Even Maya has its tutorial now that shows up on boot which introduces you to viewport and main menu functions.

Since I mainly use command line, as most intermediate to advanced users do, I’m not sure it helps as much to teach where the icons of every tool is), but I still think for people starting out and not sure what project to do yet, it would do Rhino well to have a “hallmark” kind of beginner

There’s a lot of different ways you can do similar things in Rhino, and I think a lot of people get comfortable with the same few tools and never discover other commands that can really improve their workflow

I’ve been around from Rhino 5, but Rhino 6+ I would say a lot of newbies become increasingly reliant on Make2D and scary boolean operations.

In fact Rhino is quite powerful, and I wonder if anything can be done to improve visibility of some commands like MeshOutline, DupBorder, ExtractIsocurve, CurveBoolean, SelectionFilterEdges, ShowZBuffer, SetPt, SelBoundary, SelBrush, Trim, and to advocate/explain the use of these commands

The success I’ve had with learning Rhino, and why I didn’t fall into the same trap, was my extreme dislike for doing something with multiple steps, and the knowledge I had that this software is developed by people like me. So there is likely some obscure command that does what I want it to, or it may potentially be added in the future.

It’s this mentality of “there’s no way there’s no command that does x,” and then the curiosity which leads you to find some old forum post from the old website that really taught me a lot.

Maybe this is just architecture school and not having much of a need to do hard surface modeling the way product design would entail, but also a lot of my classmates have 0 working knowledge of subd and no common sense when it comes to working with meshes. Overall I think we could do better educating people about how to approach those and where Rhino stands in supporting those different things as well

And finally, I think there is another learning gap with V-Ray for Rhino as the documentation is not as nice/forum discussions are less common for that. Not that it is as relevant now maybe compared to before as students are increasingly reliant on Enscape and Twinmotion which require little setup and don’t produce black screens, but I (personally) do think V-Ray is still really worth learning and it’s unfortunate it’s such a pain to access resources for those