Andreas Esau: "If you want to sell Blender addons, learn how to communicate"

Andreas Esau aka Ndee is one of the very original Blender Market creators; in fact, he published his first product just 1 week after Blender Market launched over 5 years ago. Despite only having two products on the Blender Market, his texture painting tool BPainter and asset-creating Asset Sketcher have sold thousands of copies with stellar reviews, making Andreas one of our bestselling creators.

Andreas, how did you get started with Blender?

I come from a 2D background. I started drawing as a kid, later got myself a first Wacom tablet and started with digital art. 

Later on, I noticed people creating amazing artwork with 3D software which got me curious. I first opened Blender in 2007 and after about 5 minutes of trial and error, I closed and uninstalled it again. Not the best first experience. Then, I didn't touch 3D for a whole year. 

But I was still curious and wanted my second attempt to be more productive, so I ordered a Blender book and dove deeper - that was still in the days of Blender 2.4x. I eventually learned enough to make a short film for my bachelor thesis in 2008. 

Is Blender your full-time job now?

For almost 10 years I've worked as a graphic artist and I use Blender on a daily basis. Besides work, I started diving into programming and created simple games with Blender logic bricks and Python.

So what started as a hobby has now evolved to be my daily bread. It's very rare for me not to use Blender every day.

What was the tipping point that made you decide to use Blender professionally?

Right from the beginning of my career, I used Blender. 

Other colleagues used 3DSMax, but luckily our projects were not so big and each pipeline was very unique, so I could use Blender. 

Nowadays, Blender skills are a requirement at our company and 3DSMax is only used by a few people. For me, using Blender in a professional environment has been a pretty smooth experience. I'm glad that I only learned Blender and not other 3D packages like Max or Maya.

3D-printed dinosaur, made by Andreas

You joined Blender Market very early on, in the first weeks after it launched. What has it been like selling on Blender Market?

I had developed addons for myself before the Blender Market existed. The Blender Market was an opportunity to offer these addons to a wider audience and even earn some extra money. 

The Blender Market not my main source of income, but it's certainly a nice addition and a great learning experience. 

Is creating addons for customers different than making them for yourself?

It's completely different. Making an addon usable for everyone is a long process with a lot of feedback required. I know exactly how to use an addon because I developed it. Other people quickly discover hidden flaws, because they often use it in an unexpected way.

This is something I had not experienced before the Blender Market.

Asset Sketcher allows you to quickly populate scenes by "painting" you assets 

Your Blender addons, Asset Sketcher and BPainter, are hugely popular. How did you come up with the ideas?

I like to optimize workflows and hate working in a non-productive environment. Blender has a great and efficient workflow which I really love, but it is meant for more general use and some specific workflows are not available in Blender. For example, populating scenes quickly: this is why I created Asset Sketcher

BPainter, on the other hand, has a different story. Painting in Blender was quite frustrating for me. There were so many things to set up before you could actually create a single paint stroke. I thought that the painting experience could be better, so I created BPainter - and now, other people seem to like it, too!

BPainter offers a streamlined painting workflow for Blender

What did you learn in the first year of starting a Blender-based business? Any surprises?

I am not a business guy. I just love to do stuff. For me, business is a necessity. 

I learned that social media plays an important role in promoting your products and that communication is essential. I am a guy that is not the most communicative. I share stuff on Twitter when I have something to share, but apart from that, I am relatively quiet. 

Running a business requires frequent communication. It is just not my nature, so this is something I need to get better at.

How do you attract new customers to your addons?

Mainly on Twitter. I have a Youtube Channel where I post new features, but currently, I don't have the time to post content there. BlenderNation has always been a great help in promoting my add-ons as well.

Brave Bran is a game Andreas developed with Godot Engine.

What are your thoughts on 2.8 and the future of Blender?

Blender 2.8 is awesome already. It will have a huge impact and increase Blender's userbase tremendously. 

But at its current state, the transition time from 2.79 to 2.8 also brings some uncertainties and tensions, at least for me as an addon developer.

Having an open-source development is great, but so many people have started using Blender 2.8 early on in production and expected the addons to work with 2.8 while it was still a Beta. One of the most asked questions of this year was: "will your addons work in 2.8?" 

To answer this for everyone: well, now they do.

What is your advice for someone wanting to start a Blender business? 

I think the best addons are those that creators make for themselves with the goal to improve their own workflow. So my advice would be, learn Blender as well as you can! 

Once you know Blender well, you will notice the weak spots or workflows that can be improved. That is a great starting point for an addon.

Besides having a good product, strong communication with customers is probably the most important part.

What are your favorite Blender addons at the moment?

I actually do not use a lot of third-party add-ons. At the moment I use Blender mainly for 2D purposes, that's why I use my COA Tools(Cutout Animation) addon a lot. 

But there are some really amazing addons out there which I like to follow. Decal Machine, for example, looks stunning.

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