From cgwiki

So you've decided to take a look at Houdini? Good for you! If you're not sure, maybe skim the MayaToHoudini page, it might convince you.

This site assumes you can navigate around Houdini and know the basics. If you don't, don't worry, the core UI is very simple, and shouldn't take more than an hour to learn. If that's you, then you probably want to do these steps first:

  1. Download Houdini Apprentice. It's free, and gives you access to everything you need.
  2. Watch the 'Start Here' videos by SideFX. The ordering is a bit random, but they're all bite-sized (most are under 4 minutes), and will give you the basics of navigating and where the basic buttons are.

Once you can move the viewport and get into a SOP network, you can start working through this site, I suggest in this order:

  1. Houdini - lots of quick examples
  2. HoudiniTutorials - conversational, borderline rambling tutorials. Like a text based, hour long vimeo tutorial you'd play at 2x speed
  3. Houdini_Lighting_Shading - how to place lights, assign materials, create an image
  4. HoudiniVolumes
  5. HoudiniVex
  6. HoudiniDops
  7. The rest. :)