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Stop That Slouching! The Importance of Ergonomics as a 3D Artist

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As a 3D artist you're more than familiar with working at a desk, and whether you're a student or professional, chances are you spend 80% of your day sitting in front of the computer. Whether you're feeling it now, this can start to take a toll on your body in the future and can be a real problem for your career as a 3D artist. You may already start to feel pain in the palms of your hands, your wrists, or maybe your back. Whatever the case may be, this article will help you find ways to create a more ergonomically correct and comfortable work situation.

You're Not Invincible

Despite how you feel now, you never know how you're going to feel ten years down the line. You may feel invincible - you haven't had any problems yet and you even sit in the most incorrect position that would make the creators of those cheaply-made office ergonomic instructional videos cringe. Sure, those things are often ridiculous, with over-the-top rules. You must sit exactly 8 inches from the desk, and the keyboard must not be any less than 11 inches from the corner of the desk and your monitors better be at the perfect angle so you don't have to move your neck a single inch! Basically, sit like a complete robot and you'll be fine. People hardly adhere to those rules, because after about thirty minutes you'll look around the office and everyone is slouched over, the monitors a good three inches from their face. Or the alternative is that you find yourself so sunk into your office chair that your neck is barely above the edge of the desk. While those office ergonomic videos are usually over the top, there is still quite a bit of truth in them. Of course, you don't have to sit like a robot, but it's a good idea to keep some of those things in mind. Because right now you may think you'e invincible, but 10+ hours a day at a desk can start to take its toll.

Use a Tablet

Tablet One area of your body that can really start to take a toll is actually your hands and wrist. Why? Well, because as a 3D artist you're constantly moving the mouse around, and your hand is stuck in that "mouse position" for hours on end. You've probably seen many 3D artists utilize a pen tablet, and even if you might not be a digital painter, the tablet is a great alternative to the traditional mouse. Yes, if you're not use to a tablet it can be pretty difficult to get comfortable with. Maybe you tried it out, but just couldn't get the hang of it. After all, the computer has used a mouse since its inception, so years of the same habit can be hard to break. A great technique to do when switching to a tablet is to simply unplug your mouse, because first instinct is to reach over there and use it. But avoid that instinct altogether and get rid of it! After awhile using a pen and tablet will feel like second nature to you. You might be wondering why using a tablet is so much better than a mouse, because wouldn't using a pen mean your hand is stuck in that "pen position" for hours? Sure, it would be. But the main problem with a mouse is actually how your wrist rotates, with a mouse you move your wrist horizontally, left to right. This is actually very unnatural movement for the wrist, and overtime it causes a lot of strain on your wrist. With a pen, you're moving your wrist up and down, or vertically. This is much more natural rotation for the wrist, and will not ware down your joint. To test this out, simply rotate your hand like you would if you were moving your mouse; there is probably a stopping point where there is just a very slight uncomfortable feeling. This uncomfortable feeling overtime will start to build up until it's painful to move your wrist in that way. If you want to make the switch to the tablet, check out the Wacom tablets to see the different options available.

It Isn't Your Recliner

Relax You've probably seen in the ergonomic instructional videos the "proper" way to sit in your chair. Despite how uncomfortable it may look, and even if your first instinct is to learn forward, not even using the back rest, throw that instinct out the door! You should try to keep your back straight up and down without a whole lot of bend in it. No, you don't have to sit completely still like a robot, but you should still be conscious about how you're sitting in your office chair. You may start in an upright position after sitting down for the first time in the morning, your cup of coffee at easy reach next to you. You probably feel like you're doing a pretty good job at this point and the creators of those instructional videos would probably be proud. However, after about an hour of working, the office chair has suddenly turned into your recliner and your slouched so far down that a passerby might not even think anyone was sitting in the chair. However, this can cause a lot of strain on your back and neck, so try to avoid this position if at all possible. If you're prone to lean far forward, see if your chair is adjustable so the backrest will follow you, that way you'll still get a little support in the back area.

Adjust Your Desk

If your chair is not adjustable enough for the backrest to follow you as you move closer to the monitor you can always adjust your desk to fit your needs. For example, if you find yourself constantly leaning forward to get a closer look at your work, whether it's really examining that animation curve in the graph editor, or sculpting in the fine details on a model. Instead of always leaning forward out of your chair to get a closer look, try simply bringing your monitors a few inches closer to you, enough to where you can get a close look at your work without having to lean in. Of course, you also don't want it so close to where it burns your eyes, but you'll be able to find that sweet spot.

Get a Standing Desk

Standing A standing desk may sound pretty horrible to you, who would want to stand all day long? While it may sound uncomfortable it's actually becoming very popular among the CG industry. Having to sit 10+ hours a day takes a toll, especially on your back. No matter how proper you sit in your chair, your spine is always going to be bent, and there is always going to be a little slouch in your posture. Having a standing desk helps to keep your spine straight up and down, and keep the blood flowing more smoothly through your body. Of course, standing for 10 hours a day can also be a struggle, but you can split up the time that you stand and sit.

Stretch

Stretching is a huge part of avoiding any pains in your body a few years down the line. You should always set time throughout the day to do a little stretching. It can be as simple as stretching your arms and wrists out for a few minutes at your desk, to getting up and walking around for 5-10 minutes every few hours. Sure, it can be hard to pull yourself away from your work, especially if you're in the zone, but try to be cautious of how much movement you're getting throughout the day. Getting up and walking around might even help you see your work with fresh eyes once you get back to your desk. At the end of the day, all 3D artists want to be able to work in the career they love for as long as they can. Taking these tips into consideration will help you avoid any pains down the line that could be a detriment to your work. You don't have to sit like a robot, but you want to have the correct posture that will allow you to work for hours on end without any problems.