Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Advanced Tutorials/Blender Scripting/Object, Action, Settings

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Blender


Knowing Before Making[edit]

Blender is a powerful and complex 3D modeling and rendering package. Before you can use it effectively to make things, you need to know a few things about how it works:

  • the process of 3D modeling and rendering (what Blender does)
  • some rudiments of 3D analytic geometry (axes and coordinates)
  • orthographic and perspective views of a 3D object
  • local coordinate systems and child objects
  • the fundamentals of Blender's user interface (hotkeys, windows, and menus)
  • how to view a 3D scene from different vantage points (in Blender)

This unit is entirely devoted to this sort of background knowledge. You won't create your first Blender model until the next unit.

Knowing this, you might be tempted to skip ahead. Depending on your background, this might or might not work. For instance, if you've used other 3D graphics packages, you might be able to skim (or skip) ahead as far as the user interface tutorial. But if there's any doubt, please proceed through the tutorials in sequence.

Blender is not the kind of software you can launch into and grope about until you find your way. It's not like exploring an unfamiliar city. It's more like flying a spaceship. If you hop into the pilot's seat without knowing the fundamentals, you'll be lucky to ever get off the ground, and it'd take a miracle for you to reach your destination safely.

A Word about Jargon[edit]

Like any subject, 3D modeling has its own jargon: terminology specific to the subject and ordinary words that have special meanings in the context of computer graphics.

In this book, important new words are highlighted on first appearance and defined soon after. If you suspect you've missed (or forgotten) the meaning of a word, try looking it up in the Glossary.

Things You'll Need[edit]

In order to work through the tutorials, you'll need access to a computer that has Blender installed (download the latest stable release).

Depending on what is installed on your system you may also need the appropriate Python installation. Each version of Blender works only with one specific version of Python, which is generally included in the download.

Blender version Python version
2.49 2.6
2.5x 3.2
2.6 3.3
Installation instructions

Since Blender is open-source software, you can download the source code and build it yourself, but it's easier to download a pre-built install package. Install packages are provided for each supported operating system:

  • Microsoft Windows (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Linux (32-bit and 64-bit x86)
  • Apple Mac OS X (PowerPC and Intel)
  • FreeBSD (32-bit and 64 bit)
  • Solaris
  • Irix

For example, to install Blender on a Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution (such as Ubuntu), you can enter the following command into the terminal:

  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get install blender

Windows users get to choose between an executable installer ("setup wizard") and a ZIP archive.

Once that finishes, Blender should appear in the Graphics section of your desktop environment's application menu.

You may also want to download 2D image editor, such as GIMP ([1]), Paint.NET ([2]), or Photoshop. For viewing video files, you may want to install VLC ([3]) media player.

It's also a good idea to have pencil and paper handy for sketching and taking notes. There's a lot to absorb. Taking notes as you go will pay dividends later.

Where to Go for Help[edit]

In case you get stuck, you can ask for help from other Blender users in the appendices.

Additional Resources[edit]

Many modules have a section like this at the bottom, listing websites with information on the topics covered in the module.

What Blender Can Do[edit]

In this module, you'll learn what Blender does, both in terms of the product (images) and the process (3D modeling).

Contents

Blender is a free software package for authoring "three-dimensional" (3D) graphics (also known as computer graphics or “CG”), including still images, games, and video.

While the end-product of most Blender projects is a two-dimensional (2D) raster image on a flat surface (be it a monitor, movie screen, or sheet of paper), the images are said to be "3D" because they exhibit the illusion of depth. In other words, someone looking at the image can easily tell which parts are meant to be closer and which are farther away.

An Example[edit]

Here's a realistic still image that was authored with Blender.

"A Lonely House", by Mayqel

Look closely at the building.

  • Because it is obscured by the building, you can tell that the tree-lined hillside is behind the building instead of vice versa.
  • The way the top and bottom edges of the front wall appear to converge toward the base of the tree allow you to judge the angle between the front wall and your viewpoint.
  • Your brain interprets dark portions of the wall as shadows, allowing you to estimate where the light is coming from, even though the sun is outside the frame of the image.

While an illusion of depth can be authored by hand with 2D graphics software (or a paintbrush!), Blender provides a much easier way.

It's likely that the lonely house never existed outside of the artist's mind. Instead of building a big set on a rural lot in Germany, waiting for the right light, and photographing it, the author built a scene in a virtual 3D world—one contained inside a computer. He or she then used Blender to render the scene (convert it into a 2D image). You can view more of what Blender can do at the Blender gallery: http://www.blender.org/features/

Steps in the 3D Production Process[edit]

To produce an image like the one above involves two major steps to start with:

  • Modelling, which is the creation of your little 3D world, also known as a model or scene. This involves defining the geometry of the objects, making it look like they are made out of particular materials, setting up the lighting, and defining a camera viewpoint.
  • Rendering, which is the actual generation of the image of the world from the viewpoint of the camera (taking a “photograph” of the scene, if you like), for your audience to enjoy.

3D is often used to produce, not just single still images, but animations as well. This requires some additional steps:

  • Rigging — setting up a rig, namely a way of deforming (changing the shape of) a character in various repeatable ways to convincingly mimic joint movements, facial expressions and other such actions of real-life people or animals.
  • Posing — choreographing the positions of the objects and their parts in the 3D scene over time, using the previously-created animation rigs
  • Rendering now involves creating a whole sequence of frames representing movement over time, rather than just a single still frame.

But that’s not all. There are frequently additional processes to embellish the results of the above, to make them look more realistic:

  • Sculpting — a more organic form of modelling objects by shaping them as though they were made out of clay. This produces more complicated, irregular shapes which mimic real objects found in nature, as opposed to clean, simple, geometrical ones which mostly only exist in the world of mathematics.
  • Texture painting — You’re probably familiar with programs that let you paint an image on a 2D digital canvas. Such programs are commonly used in 3D production, to create textures which are “wrapped” around the surfaces of 3D objects to give them a more interesting appearance. 3D programs also often allow direct painting on the surfaces of those objects, so the effect of the design can be observed immediately, instead of having to go through a separate paint-on-a-flat-surface-then-wrap sequence of steps.
  • Physical modelling — simulating the behaviour of real-world objects subject to real-world forces, for example hard balls colliding, soft cloth draping itself over an obstacle under gravity, water flowing and pouring. Mathematical formulas are available for these that give results very close to real life, all you need is the computing power to calculate them.
  • Motion capture, or mocap: producing convincing animations, particularly ones that look like the movements of real people (walking, running, dancing etc) can be hard. Hence the technique of capturing the motions of live actors, by filming them with special markers attached to strategic points on their bodies, and doing computer processing to track the movements of these markers and convert them to corresponding movements of an animation rig.
  • Compositing — this is where 3D renders are merged together with real photographic/live-action footage, to make it look like a rendered model is in the middle of a real-world scene, or conversely a real live actor is in the middle of a rendered scene. If done with proper skill, in particular due care to matching the effects of lights and shadows, the viewer becomes unable to tell what is real and what is not!

And just to add another complication to the mix, there are two kinds of rendering:

  • Real-time rendering is rendering that has to happen under tight time constraints, typically for interactive applications like video gaming. For example, most gamers nowadays consider that the screen has to be updated 60 times per second in order to render smooth motion and respond quickly enough to player actions. These time constraints impose major limitations on the kinds of rendering techniques that can be used.
  • Non-real-time rendering is where the time constraints are not so tight, and quality is the overriding factor. For example, when producing a single still frame, it may not matter so much that it takes minutes or hours to do so, because the beauty and detail of the final image is worth it. When rendering a Hollywood-quality movie, it may still take hours per frame, but the use of a renderfarm of hundreds or thousands of machines, all working on different frames at the same time, allows the entire sequence to complete in just a few weeks.

But wait, there’s more: There are also some areas, which might be considered to be stepping outside of traditional 3D production work, where Blender provides functionality:

  • Video editing — having rendered your animation sequences and shot your live-action footage, you will want to combine them in a properly-timed linear sequence to tell a coherent story.
  • 3D printing — Though still in its early days yet, many people are already experimenting with creating objects using 3D printers. The shape data may be obtained from real objects with 3D scanning, or it may be created from scratch using 3D modelling, or you can even combine both processes.

Blender is a capable tool for every single one of these processes. There’s quite a lot there, isn’t there? But don’t be too intimidated: this Wikibook will take things step by step, and you will be able to produce some fun stuff from early on.

Additional Resources[edit]

3D Geometry[edit]


If you haven't previously studied 3D graphics, technical drawing, or analytic geometry, you are about to learn a new way of visualizing the world, an ability that's fundamental to working with Blender or any 3D modeling tool.

3D modeling is based on geometry, the branch of mathematics concerned with spatial relationships, specifically analytical geometry, which expresses these relationships in terms of algebraic formulas. You may have studied geometry in school, in which case, some of the terminology will seem familiar.

Coordinates And Coordinate Systems[edit]

Look around the room you’re in. The odds are it will have a cuboidal shape, with four vertical walls at right angles to each other, a flat, horizontal floor, and a flat, horizontal ceiling.

Now imagine there’s a fly buzzing around the room. (If there really is a fly buzzing around, feel free to look at it instead of imagining.) The fly is moving in three-dimensional space. In mathematical terms, what that means is that, at any moment, its position within the room can be expressed in terms of a unique combination of three numbers.

Now, there are an infinite number of ways—coordinate systems—in which we could come up with a convention for defining and measuring these numbers—the coordinates. And each convention will give different values for the numbers, even if the fly is in the same position—coordinates only make sense with reference to a specific coordinate system! To narrow down the possibilities (in a purely arbitrary fashion, of course), let us label the walls of the room with the points of the compass: in a clockwise direction, North, East, South and West. (If you know which way is really north, feel free to use that to label the walls of your room; otherwise, choose any wall you like as north.)

Consider the south-west corner of your room, the point at floor level. We will call this (arbitrary) point the origin of our coordinate system, and the three numbers at this point will be (0, 0, 0). The first of the three numbers will be the distance (in some suitable units, let’s say metres) eastwards from the west wall, the second number will be the distance northwards from the south wall, and the third number will be the height above the floor.

Each of these directions is called an axis (plural: axes), and they are conventionally labelled X, Y and Z, in that order. With a little bit of thought, you should be able to convince yourself that every point within the space of your room corresponds to exactly one set of (x, y, z) values. And conversely that every possible combination of (x, y, z) values, with  0 \le x \le W , 0 \le y \le L and 0 \le z \le H (where W is the east-west dimension of your room, L is its north-south dimension, and H is the height between ceiling and floor) corresponds to a point in the room.

The following diagram illustrates how the coordinates are built up, using the same colour codes that Blender uses to label its axes: red for X, green for Y and blue for Z (an easy way to remember this if you're familiar with RGB is the order -- Red X, Green Y, Blue Z). In the second picture, the value for x defines a plane parallel to the west wall of the room; in the third picture, the value for y defines a plane parallel to the south wall; and in the fourth picture, the value for z defines a plane parallel to the floor. Put the planes together in the fifth picture, and they intersect at a unique point.

BlenderCoordinates.png

This style of coordinate system, with the numbers corresponding to distances along perpendicular axes, is called Cartesian coordinates, named after René Descartes, the 17th-century mathematician who first introduced the concept. Legend has it that he came up with the idea after watching a fly buzzing around his bedroom!

There are other ways to define coordinate systems, for example by substituting direction angles in place of one or two of the distance measurements. These can be useful in certain situations, but usually all coordinate systems in Blender are Cartesian. However, switching between these coordinate systems is simple and easy to do in Blender.

Negative Coordinates[edit]

Can coordinate values be negative? Depending on the situation, yes. Here we are only considering points within our room. But supposing, instead of placing our origin in the bottom southwest corner, we put it in the middle of the room, halfway between the floor and ceiling. (After all, it is an arbitrary point, we can place it wherever we would like to, just as long as we all agree on where it is.) Now, remember that our X-coordinate is the distance east from the origin; How do we express the fact that a point lies west of the origin? Simple: We give it a negative X-coordinate. Similarly, points north of the origin have a positive Y-coordinate, while those south of it get a negative Y-coordinate; and those points above the origin get a positive Z-coordinate, while those below it get a negative Z-coordinate.

Handedness Of Coordinate Systems[edit]

It is conventional for most Cartesian coordinate systems to be right-handed. To see what this means, hold the thumb, index finger and middle finger of your right hand perpendicular to each other:

Figure 1: The three axes form a right-handed system

Now you can orient your hand so that the thumb points along the X-axis in the positive direction (direction of increasing coordinate numbers), the index finger along the positive Y-axis, and the middle finger along the positive Z-axis. Another way of looking at it is, if you placed your eye at the origin, and you could see the three arrows pointing in the directions of positive X, positive Y and positive Z as in Figure 1, the order X, Y, Z would go clockwise.

Axes Of Rotation[edit]

Consider a spinning ball. Every point on it is moving, except the ones right in the middle: these form a line of stillness around which the rest of the ball spins. This line is called the axis of rotation.

More precisely, the axis of rotation of a rotating object over a period of time is a point or a line connecting points that do not change position while that object rotates, drawn when the observer assumes he/she does not change position relative to that object over time.

Conventionally, the direction of the axis of rotation is such that, if you place your eye looking in that direction, the rotation appears clockwise, as illustrated below, where the yellow arrow shows the rotational movement, while the purple one shows the rotation axis:

RotationAxisDirections.png

To remember this convention, hold your right hand in a thumbs-up gesture: Blender3D DirectionOfRotation.png If the rotation follows the direction of the curled-up fingers, then the direction of the axis of rotation is considered to be the same as the direction which the thumb is pointing in.

This gesture is a different form of the right-hand rule and is sometimes called the right-hand grip rule, the corkscrew-rule or the right-hand thumb rule. From now on in this book, it will be referred to as 'the right-hand grip rule'.

When describing the direction of a rotating object, do not say that it rotates left-to-right/clockwise, or right-to-left/counterclockwise. Each of these claims on their own are useless, because they're relative to the observer. Instead of saying this, find the direction of the axis of rotation and draw an arrow to represent it. Then people who know the right-hand grip rule will be able to figure out what the direction of rotation of the object is, by using the rule when interpreting your drawing.

Additional Resources[edit]

Coordinate Transformations[edit]


Coordinate Transformations[edit]

A transformation is any kind of operation that changes coordinate values in some way. For example, if you pick up an object and move it to a different place in the room without changing its orientation, then the coordinates of each point on the object relative to the room are adjusted by an amount that depends on the distance and direction between the old and new positions; this is called a translation transformation.

Object at original location
Object translated to new position


If you simply turn the object around without moving it from its original location, then that’s called a rotation.

Object rotated 45°


If the object were to get bigger or smaller, then that would be called a scaling transformation. In the real world, only a few objects can be scaled in this way—for example, a balloon can be inflated or deflated to a larger or smaller size, but a bowling ball cannot be re-sized. Regardless of what can and can't be re-sized in the real world, any object can be scaled (re-sized) in the world of computer graphics. Scaling may be uniform (applying equally in all dimensions) or non-uniform.

Object uniformly scaled to 50% of original size
Object scaled vertically to 50% of original size


Linear Transformations[edit]

The main kinds of coordinate transformations we’re concerned with here are called linear transformations. Lines that were straight before the transformation remain straight after; they do not turn into curves. For example, the following diagram illustrates three linear transformations applied to the square in the center: a scaling, a shear or skew transform, and a rotation, plus one transformation that isn’t linear, because it introduces curves where there were none before.

LinearTransformations.svg

Multiple Transformations[edit]

It is possible to concatenate or compose a series of transformations. The resulting transformation can do a whole bunch of things in one operation—translation, rotation, scaling etc. However, the order of composition of the component transformations becomes important—in general, transformations are not commutative. For example, compare the result of moving our model a certain distance along the Y axis followed by rotating it about the X axis (If this doesn't make sense, consider that the axes are fixed, they aren't moving with the object. More on that later Global and local coordinates):

Translation followed by rotation

versus the result of doing the rotation first:

Rotation followed by translation

In some instances, three of the forms of transformation may be applied on a single object concurrently. Such a feature exists in Blender and is normally implemented in creating animations. Therefore, you can decide to pick up the object (first transformation - translation), twist it (second transformation - rotation), and, in a 3D modeling environment, increase the size of the object (third transformation - scaling).

Inverse Transformations[edit]

There is quite commonly a need to find the inverse of a transformation—that is, the opposite transformation that undoes its effect. For example, a rotation of +45° about the X axis is undone by a rotation of -45° around the same axis.

Inverses have many uses, one of which is to simplify the construction of certain kinds of transformations.

For example, it is easy to construct a rotation transformation about the X, Y or Z-axis of the coordinate system. But what about a rotation of Θ° around an arbitrary axis? This can be made out of the following parts:

  • a translation that makes the rotation axis pass through the origin.
  • rotations about the Y and/or Z axes, as appropriate, so the rotation axis lies along the X axis.
  • a rotation of Θ° about the X axis.
  • the inverse of the rotations that aligned the rotation axis with the X axis.
  • the inverse of the translation that made the rotation axis pass through the origin.

Most of the transformations we deal with in 3D modelling have an inverse, but not all—see the next section for some that don’t.

Projections[edit]

Most of our display and output devices are not three-dimensional. Thus, three-dimensional images need to be projected onto a two-dimensional surface (like a display screen or a printed page) before we can see them.

There are two main ways to perform such projections. One is orthographic projection, where parallel lines are drawn from all points of the three-dimensional object until they intersect a plane representing the display surface:

OrthographicProjection.svg

More on orthographic projections

The other way is perspective projection, where the lines drawn are not parallel, but intersect at a point representing the location of the eye of the viewer:

PerspectiveProjection.svg

Projections are also linear transformations. But since they take a three-dimensional space and flatten it onto a two-dimensional surface, some information is lost. Which means these are non-invertible transformations; they cannot be undone, at least in a unique way—the depth information is gone.

More on perspective projections

The mathematics of perspective were first worked out in the 11th century by Alhazen, and used to great effect by the Italian Renaissance painters four hundred years later.

--

Orthographic Views[edit]

Blender provides two different ways of viewing 3D scenes:

  • orthographic view

and

  • perspective view.

In order to use these views effectively, you need to understand their properties.

An orthographic view (or projection) of a 3D scene is a 2D picture of it in which parallel lines appear parallel. An additional property of such views is that all edges perpendicular to the view direction appear in proportion, at exactly the same scale.

Usually such views are aligned with the scene's primary axes. Edges parallel to the view axis disappear; those parallel to the other primary axes appear horizontal or vertical. The commonly-used orthographic views are the front, side, and top views, though back and bottom views are possible.

Uniform scale makes orthographic views very useful when constructing 3D objects—not only in computer graphics, but also in manufacturing and architecture.

Here's one way to think about orthographic views:

Imagine photographing a small 3D object through a telescope from a very great distance. There would be no foreshortening. All features would be at essentially the same scale, regardless of whether they were on the near side of the object or its far side. Given two (or preferably three) such views, along different axes, you could get an accurate idea of the shape of the object—handy for "getting the feel" of objects in a virtual 3D world where you're unable to touch or handle anything!

Example[edit]

Here is a drawing of a staircase:

An isometric view of a staircase

and here are three orthographic views of the same staircase, each outlined in red:

Figure 1: Orthographic views of a staircase

The views are from the front, top, and left. Dashed lines represent edges that, in real life, would be hidden behind something, such as the left wall of the staircase. (Think of each view as an X-ray image.)

The leading edges of the steps are visible in both the front and top views. Note that they appear parallel and of equal length in 2D, just as they are in 3D reality.

Additional Resources[edit]

Perspective Views[edit]

As you know, the main reason for modeling 3D objects in Blender is to render images that exhibit the illusion of depth.

Orthographic views are great for building a house, but seriously flawed when it comes to creating realistic images of the house for use in a sales brochure. While a builder wants blueprints that are clear and accurate, a seller wants imagery that's aesthetically pleasing, with the illusion of depth. Blender makes it easy to use tricks like perspective, surface hiding, shading, and animation to achieve this illusion.

How does perspective work?

The essence of perspective is to represent parallel edges (in a 3D scene) by edges (in the 2D image) that are not parallel. When done correctly, this produces foreshortening (nearby objects depicted at a larger scale than faraway ones) and contributes to the illusion of depth.

Perspective is challenging to draw by hand, but Blender does it for you, provided you give it a 3D model of the scene and tell it where to view the scene from.

If you're confident that you understand perspective, you can skip the rest of this module and proceed to the "Coordinate Spaces in Blender" module.


Note:

Blender only does 3-point perspective, not 1-point or 2-point.

 


One-point Perspective[edit]

Figure 1: 1-Point Perspective.

Drawing classes teach several different kinds of perspective drawing: one-point perspective, two-point perspective, and three-point perspective. In this context, the word "point" refers to what artists call a vanishing point.

One-point perspective works when you're looking at a 3D object head-on and it's centered in your view.

Imagine looking down a straight and level set of train tracks. The tracks will appear to converge at a point on the horizon. This is the vanishing point.

The image on the right is a 2D image of a cubic lattice or framework. Like any cube, it has six square faces and twelve straight edges. In the 3D world, four of the edges are parallel to our line-of-sight; they connect the four corners of the nearest square to the corresponding corners of the farthest one. Each of these edges is parallel to the other three.

In the 2D image, those same four edges appear to converge toward a vanishing point, contributing to the illusion of a depth. Since this is one-point perspective, there is a single point of convergence at the center of the image.

Two-point Perspective[edit]

Figure 2: 2-Point Perspective.

Now the cube is at eye level, and you're near one of its edges. Since you're not viewing it face-on, you can't draw it realistically using one-point perspective. The horizontal edges on your left appear to converge at a point on the horizon to the left of the cube, while those on the right converge to the right. To illustrate the cube with a good illusion of depth, you need two vanishing points.

Three-point Perspective[edit]

3-Point Perspective.

Now imagine that you're above the cube near one of its corners. To draw this, you'd need three vanishing points, one for each set of parallel edges.

From this perspective, there are no longer any edges which appear parallel. The four vertical edges, the four left-right edges, and the four in-out edges each converge toward a different vanishing point.

Additional Resources[edit]

Coordinate Spaces in Blender[edit]

Figure 1: Objects in a three dimensional space. In the center of the coordinate system is the origin of the global coordinate system.

We'll start looking at how 3D scenes are represented in Blender.

As was explained in the "3D Geometry" module, Blender represents locations in a scene by their coordinates. The coordinates of a location consist of three numbers that define its distance and direction from a fixed origin. More precisely:

  • The first (or x-) coordinate of the location is defined as its distance from the YZ plane (the one containing both the Y and Z axes). Locations on the +X side of this plane are assigned positive x-coordinates, and those on the -X side are given negative ones.
  • Its second (or y-) coordinate is its distance from the XZ plane, with locations on the -Y side of this plane having negative y-coordinates.
  • Its third (or z-) coordinate is its distance from the XY plane, with locations on the -Z side of this plane having negative z-coordinates.

Thus the origin (which lies at the junction of all three axes and all three planes) has coordinates (0, 0, 0).

Global and local coordinates[edit]

Blender refers to the coordinate system described above as the global coordinate system, though it's not truly global—each scene has its own global coordinate system. Each global coordinate system has a fixed origin and a fixed orientation, but we can view it from different angles by moving a virtual camera through the scene and/or rotating the camera.

Global coordinates are adequate for scenes containing a single fixed object and scenes in which each object is merely a single point in the scene. When dealing with objects that move around (or multiple objects with sizes and shapes), it's helpful to define a local coordinate system for each object, a coordinate system that can move with the object and follow the object around. The origin of an object's local coordinate system is often called the center of the object even though it needn't coincide with the geometrical center of the object.

3D objects in Blender are largely described using vertices (points in the object, singular form: vertex). The global coordinates of a vertex depend on:

  • the (x, y, z) coordinates of the vertex in the object's local coordinate system
  • the location of the object's center
  • any rotation (turning) of the local coordinates system relative to the global coordinate system, and
  • any scaling (magnification or reduction) of the local coordinate system relative to the global coordinate system.

For example, the teacup in Figure 1 is described by a mesh model containing 171 vertices, each having a different set of local (x, y, z) coordinates relative to the cup's center. If you translate the cup (move it without rotating), the only bits of the model that have to change are the global coordinates of the center; the local coordinates of all its vertices would remain the same.

Coordinates of child objects[edit]

Figure 1b: A parent serves as the source of the global coordinates for its child object. The child is the cup; the parent's orientation is shown with the colored arrows.
Animation of the above

Any object can act as a parent for one or more other objects in the same scene, which are then referred to as its children. (An object cannot have more than one direct parent, but parent objects may themselves be the children of other objects.)

If an object has a parent, its position, rotation, and scaling are measured in the parent's local coordinate system, almost as if it were a vertex of the parent. That is to say, the position of the child's center is measured from the parent's center instead of the origin of the global coordinate system. So if you move a parent object, its children move too, even though the children's coordinates have not changed. The orientation and scaling of a child's local coordinate system are likewise measured relative to those of its parent. If you rotate the parent, the child will rotate (and perhaps revolve) around the same axis.

Parent-child relationships between objects make it simpler to perform (and animate) rotations, scaling and moving in arbitrary directions. In Fig. 1b the teacup is a child object of the coordinate cross on the right. That cross is itself the child of an invisible parent. (It is both a parent and child.) In the cup's local coordinate system, it is not rotating, but as the cross on the right rotates around its Z axis, it causes the cup to rotate and revolve. In real animations, it will be much easier when the character holding the cup rotates, the cup changes its position respectively.

View coordinates[edit]

Figure 2: View coordinates and Projection Plane

Taking the viewer of the scene into consideration, there is another coordinate space: the view coordinates. In Fig. 2 the viewer is symbolized by the camera. The Z axis of the view coordinates always points directly to the viewer in orthographic projection. The X axis points to the right, the Y axis points upwards (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: View coordinates in viewing direction

In fact you always work in view coordinates if you don't set it any other way*. This is particularly handy if you have aligned your view prior to modeling something, e.g. if an object has a slanted roof and you want to create a window to fit in this roof, it would be very complicated to build this window aligned to the local coordinate system of the object, but if you first align your view to the slanted roof you can easily work in this view coordinate system.

(* In the Blender 2.6 series, the default has been changed to global coordinates. View coordinates remain as an option.)

If you work in one of the three standard views (Front/Top/Side) the alignment of the view coordinates fits the global coordinates; therefore it is quite natural to model in one of the standard views and many people find this the best way to model.

Normal coordinates[edit]

Figure 4: Normal coordinate spaces for faces. The normal is shown in blue.

Although Blender is a 3D program, only the faces are visible. The orientation of the faces is important for many reasons. For example, in our daily lives it seems quite obvious that a book lies flat on a table. This requires the surface of the table and that of the book to be parallel to each other. If we put a book on a table in a 3D program, there is no mechanism that forces these surfaces to be parallel; we have to ensure that ourselves.

The orientation of a face can be described with the help of a so-called surface normal. It is always perpendicular to the surface. If several faces are selected, the resulting normal is averaged from the normals of every single face. In Fig. 4 the normal coordinates of the visible faces are drawn.

This concept can be applied to individual points on the object, even if the points themselves have no orientation. The normal of a point is the average of normals of the adjacent faces.

The images for this tutorial were produced with Blender v2.46.

UV Coordinates[edit]

In later parts (for example, talking about textures) you will come across coordinates labelled “U” and “V”. These are simply different letters chosen to avoid confusion over “X”, “Y” and “Z”. For example, a raster image is normally laid out on a flat, two-dimensional plane. Each point on the image can be identified by X and Y coordinates. But Blender can take this image and wrap it around the surface of a 3D object as a texture. Points on/in the object have X, Y and Z coordinates. So to avoid confusion, the points on the image are identified using U and V to label their coordinates instead of X and Y. We then refer to “UV mapping” as the process of determining where each (U, V) image point ends up on the (X, Y, Z) object.

User Interface Overview[edit]

Blender's user interface (the means by which you control the software) is not particularly easy to learn. However, it has improved over time and is expected to continue doing so. The current version of the Blender software is 2.72. You can download it from the Blender Foundation's website.

The tutorials in this section will familiarize you with the basics of the user interface. By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • resize, split, and merge any Blender window;
  • change the type of any Blender window;
  • access user preferences;
  • access panels containing buttons and other controls;
  • change the viewpoint of a viewport.

For those new to Blender, this is a fundamental section of the book.

Advice on Customization[edit]

Blender is a complex software package with many customizable features. You can customize the user interface to assign new functions to buttons and hotkeys. In fact, you can change almost anything to suit yourself. However, this complicates the giving and following of directions. It is recommended that you adhere to the default screen arrangements of Blender in order to be able to follow well in the remaining parts of these tutorials. Blender ships along with some 4 to 5 screen-content arrangements which are suitable for almost any kind of job you'll want to use it for - from creating motions and animations to doing games.

We recommend leaving Blender's user interface in its "factory settings" while working through the Noob to Pro tutorials. At the very least, wait until you've mastered the basics before you customize the interface - and we know you definitely will when you master it!

Keystroke, Button, and Menu Notation[edit]

As you read through these tutorials, you will encounter cryptic codes such as  SHIFT + LMB  and Timeline → End Frame. These codes describe actions you perform using the keyboard and mouse. The notation used in this book comes from the Blender community, and it is standard there. We will try to import those standards here to facilitate our studies.

If you're reading this book online, you may wish to print this page for future reference. In addition, you can bookmark in your browser for faster reference when behind your PC.

Hotkeys[edit]

A typical numpad

Most computer keyboards have number keys in two different places: in a row above the letters and in a numpad (numeric keypad) on the right side of the keyboard. While many applications use these two sets of keys interchangeably, Blender does not. It assigns different functions to each set. If you're using a laptop keyboard without a separate numeric keypad, this might cause some difficulty. You'll need to use your function key to do some things. It is possible to indicate to Blender the type of keyboard you are using, but we strongly recommend you use a standard external keyboard even if you're on a laptop for these tutorials as it will make your studies and usage of Blender much more straightforward and enjoyable.

This book often assumes that your keyboard has a numpad. If yours doesn't, consult the tutorial on Non-standard Input Devices for alternative ways to access the numpad's functions.

Notation[edit]

Notation Action or Key
 Alt  (press and hold) the Alt (Option) key
 Cmd  (press and hold) the Command or Super key (On a Windows keyboard, the key bearing the Windows logo; on a Macintosh, it bears the Apple logo.)
 Ctrl  (press and hold) the Ctrl (Control) key
 Fn  (press and hold) the Fn (Function) key (generally found only on laptops)
 Shift  (press and hold) the Shift key
 Enter  (press) the Enter (Return) key (on the main keypad)
 Esc  (press) the Esc (Escape) key
 F1  through  F12  function keys F1 through F12 (often in a row along the top of the keyboard)
 Space  (press) the space bar (usually unmarked)
 Tab  (press) the Tab key
 A  through  Z  the letters (on the main keypad)
 0key  through  9Key  the numerals (above the letters) on the main keypad
 Num0  through  Num9  the numerals on the numpad
 NumLock ,  Num/ ,  Num* ,  NUM− ,  Num+ ,  NumEnter , and  Num.  other keys on the numpad
 Delete  (press) the Delete key (not  NUM.  !)
 Down Arrow  (press) the down Arrow key (not  Num2  !)
 Left Arrow  (press) the left Arrow key (not  NUM4  !)
 Right Arrow  (press) the right Arrow key (not  NUM6  !)
 Up Arrow  (press) the up Arrow key (not  NUM8  !)

Combinations that involve holding down a key while performing another action are written with a plus sign (+). Thus:

  •  Shift + Tab  means to  Tab  while holding down  Shift 

and

  •  Shift + Ctrl + F9  means to  F9  while holding down both  Ctrl  and  Shift .

Mouse Notation[edit]

Blender uses three mouse buttons and the scroll wheel as well, if you have one. If your mouse only has one or two buttons, consult the tutorial on Non-standard Input Devices for alternative ways to access the functions assigned to these buttons.

Notation Action or Button
 LMB  click with the Left Mouse Button
 RMB  click with the Right Mouse Button
 MMB  press down on (don't turn) the scroll wheel or Middle Mouse Button
 SCROLL  turn the scroll wheel in either direction

Mouse and keyboard actions are often combined.  Shift + RMB  means to click  RMB  while holding down  Shift .

Navigating Menus[edit]

Blender uses both pop-up and pull-down/pull-up menus. Many menus have sub menus (menus that are reached by going through another menu). If a menu item displays a triangle, that means it leads to a sub menu. For instance, the pull-down menu shown below has seventeen items, four of which lead to sub menus:

The File menu

You can move through items in a menu by:

  • moving the mouse pointer up and down

or

  • pressing  Up Arrow  and  Down Arrow 

You can enter a sub menu either by:

  • moving the mouse pointer to the right

or

  • pressing  Right Arrow 

You can leave a sub menu either by:

  • moving the mouse pointer to the left

or

  • pressing  Left Arrow 

To initiate a menu action, you can either:

  • click  LMB 

or

  • press  Enter 

You can escape from a menu either by:

  • moving the mouse pointer away from the menu

or

  • pressing  Esc 

For each menu, Blender remembers which item you chose last time and highlights it for you the next time you enter the menu.

Notation[edit]

Menu notation is fairly self-explanatory.

 Shift + A  Mesh → UV Sphere

Means:

  1. Press Shift+A
  2. In the menu that pops up, move through the items until Mesh is highlighted
  3. Enter the Mesh sub menu
  4. Move through the items until UV Sphere is highlighted
  5. Press Enter or click the left mouse button to initiate the action

Additional Resources[edit]

Non-standard equipment[edit]

This module is applicable only to users with non-standard input devices. If you have both:

  • a three-button mouse

and

  • a keyboard with a numpad,

then you can skip this module.

Keyboards lacking a numpad[edit]

Most modern laptops have a pseudo-numpad, a set of keys in the main keypad which double as a numpad. The keys typically used for this purpose are:

 7key   8key   9key   0key 
 U   I   O   P 
 J   K   L   ; 
 M   ,Key   .Key   SLASH 

When used as a pseudo-numpad, these keys typically act as the following keys from a true numpad:

 Num7   Num8   Num9   Num/ 
 Num4   Num5   Num6   Num* 
 Num1   Num2   Num3   NUM− 
 Num0   NumENTER   Num.   Num+ 

The numpad functions of these keys can often be toggled with  F11  or  NUMLOCK  on PCs or with  F6  on Macs. Alternatively, you can often temporarily activate the numpad behavior by holding down  Fn .

If your keyboard has the alternate labellings but you don't know how they work, consult your laptop's owner manual.

As a last resort, you can use the "Emulate Numpad" feature of Blender. This will allow you to use the normal numeric keys as if they were numpad numerics. Instructions for enabling this feature may be found in the "User Preferences Windows" module.

Blender uses the numeric keypad quite a bit. If you envision using your laptop for this kind of work, it may be worth investing in a USB Numeric Keypad. On eBay, prices for simple external numpads start around $10 USD.

Non three-button mouse[edit]

For single-button mouse users, make sure that View & Controls (Input for Blender 2.54) (under "User Preferences" on the left-most drop-down menu) → Emulate 3 Button Mouse is enabled.

On many computers with two-button mice,  MMB  can be emulated by simultaneously clicking  LMB  and  RMB . On Windows machines you'll need to set this up in the mouse settings in your Control Panel. On a Mac, open the Keyboard and Mouse preference pane and enable Use two fingers to scroll. Alternatively, by selecting Emulate 3 Button Mouse under User Preferences,  MMB  can be emulated by simultaneously clicking  Alt  and  LMB .

Recent IBM Thinkpad laptops allow you to disable the 'UltraNav' features of the middle mouse button in order to use it as a 'normal' third button. Alternatively, some laptops allow areas (called gestures) on the movement pad to act as  MMB  or  RMB , and these can be set up in the Control Panel in the Mouse Pointer options, selecting gestures and editing features there.

Apple single-button mouse[edit]

Apple single-button mouse substitutions
Notation Single-button Substitute Description
 LMB   MB  the Mouse Button
 RMB   Cmd + MB  Apple key + the Mouse Button
 MMB   Alt + MB  Option (Alt) key + the Mouse Button

While Mac OS X natively uses both the  Ctrl + MB  and  Cmd + MB  to emulate  RMB , recent Blender releases for Mac OS X use only  Cmd + MB  for this purpose. This behavior is documented in the OSX Tips file that comes with the Mac version. You can also set in System Preferences for the mouse to sense a right-click.

Note also that in the new, "unibody" design, the mouse button is under the trackpad, and the shortcut for  RMB  is clicking with two fingers simultaneously, which can be enabled in the System Preferences.

Laptops lacking a middle button but with a smart-pad[edit]

Many laptops have smart pads. Smart-pads can use gestures to give the effect of  MMB . The default for an Elan® Smart-Pad is two-finger tapping equivalent to clicking a  MMB . Dragging two fingers is the same as turning a mouse wheel.

Tablet PCs[edit]

To get the effect of  MMB  in a viewport, drag your pen around while holding down the  Alt  key.


Additional Resources[edit]

Operating System specific notes[edit]

This tutorial covers user-interface issues that are specific to particular operating systems or window managers. Read the section that applies to your computer; you may skip the rest.

GNU+Linux[edit]

 Alt + LMB  is used for changing the angular view on two angular axes of the 3D View window, if  Alt + LMB  moves the current window, then there's a conflict with your window manager. You can resolve the conflict or use  Ctrl + Alt + LMB  or  MMB  instead. (Also, you may have activated Compiz->Rotate Cube. Default configuration for rotating the Cube is also  Ctrl + Alt + LMB ; you may have to change this binding to an alternative configuration.) If you are running KDE this can be resolved by:  RMB  on the title bar of the main Blender window → select Configure Window Behavior → go to Actions → Window Actions → in the Inner Window, Titlebar and Frame section → select the Modifier key to be  Alt  and set all the select boxes beneath it to Nothing. An alternate method within KDE might be to  RMB  click on the title bar of the main Blender window; then select AdvancedSpecial Application Settings...Workarounds and then click Block global shortcuts with Force selected and checked.

In Gnome, Click System → Preferences → Window Preferences. Look for the last three options Control, Alt and Super. Select Super. Now you can press and hold  Cmd  to drag windows around, and use  Ctrl  and  Alt  as normal.

KDE[edit]

Under KDE,  Ctrl + F1  through  Ctrl + F4  are by default configured to switch to the corresponding one of the first four desktops, while  CTRL + F12  brings up Plasma settings. You can change these in System Settings.

Gnome[edit]

You'll want to disable the Find Pointer functionality in Gnome, which will impair your ability to use certain functions such as Snap to grid and the lasso tool. If your mouse pointer is being highlighted when you press and release  Ctrl , go to: Mouse in Gnome's Desktop Settings and uncheck the box Find Pointer.

Ubuntu[edit]

As of Ubuntu versions prior to about 09.10 (“Karmic Koala”), there was a known incompatibility between Blender and the Compiz Fusion accelerated (OpenGL) window manager used in Ubuntu. By default, Compiz Fusion is enabled in Ubuntu, causing the problems to manifest themselves in Blender as flickering windows, completely disappearing windows, inconsistent window refreshes, and/or an inability to start Blender in windowed mode.

The fix for this is simple. Install compiz-switch (might be in universe). Go to Applications → Accessories → Compiz-Switch. This will disable compiz temporarily. Do the same to turn compiz back on when you're done using Blender.

This is no longer needed for current releases of Ubuntu.

Mac OS X[edit]

On Macs with the new thin Apple Keyboard, you may need to press  Fn  in order to use the  F1  through  F12  keys.

To expand a section in Blender, you would usually press  Ctrl + UpArrow . On a Mac, if “Spaces” is enabled, you may have to use  Ctrl + Alt + UpArrow .

Microsoft Windows[edit]

Two Ways to Launch Blender[edit]

Blender requires a console for displaying error messages, so if you launch Blender by means of an icon, two windows will appear: the graphical user interface plus a console window. Closing either window will terminate Blender. These windows are indistinguishable in the Windows taskbar in versions of Windows before Windows 7, which leads to confusion. Also, launching this way does not provide any way to pass command-line arguments to Blender.

Launching Blender from a command prompt is extra work, but it overcomes these issues:

  1. Start → Run...
  2. enter cmd
  3. enter cd c:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender
  4. enter blender

EDIT: Blender 2.6 doesn't have this problem, and hides the console window by default. You can show it by clicking Window > Toggle system console

Sticky Keys[edit]

Pressing  Shift  five times in a row may activate StickyKeys, an accessibility option which alters how the computer recognizes commands. If a StickyKeys dialog box appears, you should  LMB  the "Cancel" button.

If you don't need the accessibility features, you can disable sticky keys:

  1. Start → Control Panel
  2. double-click on Accessibility Options
  3.  LMB  the Keyboard tab
  4. for each of the options StickyKeys, FilterKeys, and ToggleKeys:
    1. clear the Use … checkbox
    2.  LMB  the Settings button
    3. uncheck the Use Shortcut checkbox in the settings
    4.  LMB  the OK button for the settings
  5.  LMB  the OK button for Accessibility Options

Multiple Keyboard Layouts[edit]

On systems with multiple keyboard layouts, pressing  Shift + Alt  can alter the layout. (For instance, it might change from QWERTY to AZERTY or vice versa.) Because of this issue, Noob to Pro avoids  Shift + Alt  hotkeys.

If you find your keyboard layout altered, press  Shift + Alt  again to change it back.

You can also disable the hotkey:

  1. Start → Control Panel
  2. double-click on Regional and Language Options
  3.  LMB  the Languages tab
  4.  LMB  the Details button
  5.  LMB  the Key Settings button
  6.  LMB  the Change Key Sequence button
  7. uncheck the Switch Keyboard Layout checkbox
  8.  LMB  the OK button

Additional Resources[edit]

Blender Interface[edit]


Here's a screenshot to give you a preview of Blender's interface.

For those familiar with older (pre-2.5x) versions of Blender, this will look very different. The redesign made it much easier to find things.

For a detailed rationale explaining the redesign, read this.

Blender 2.70 Startup.png


Why Doesn’t It Follow UI Conventions For [Insert OS Of Choice Here]?[edit]

Blender follows its own user-interface conventions. Instead of making use of multiple windows as defined by your particular OS/GUI, it creates its own “windows” within a single OS/GUI window, which is best sized to fill your screen. Many people accustomed to how applications normally work on their platform of choice get annoyed by Blender’s insistence on being different. But there is a good reason for this.

The essence of the Blender UI can be summed up in one word: workflow. Blender was originally created by a 3D graphics shop for their own in-house use. Being a key revenue engine for them, they designed it for maximum productivity, speed and smoothness of operation. That means avoiding “bumps” that slow down the user. For example, windows never overlap, so there’s no need to keep reordering them to see hidden stuff. You don’t have to click in a window to make it active, just move the mouse. There is a minimum of interruption from popups asking for more information before performing some action; instead, the action is immediately performed with default settings, which you can then adjust afterwards and get immediate feedback on the results.

Blender may not be “intuitive” to start learning, in that you cannot simply sit down in front of it on your own and figure out things by messing about from a position of knowing nothing at all. But once you have picked up some basic conventions, you will find it all starting to make sense and then you will be free to experiment and discover things on your own.

Why Doesn’t It Prompt To Save Changes?[edit]

Most applications on whatever platform nowadays will ask for confirmation if you try to close a document that has unsaved changes. Blender is frequently criticized for not doing so.

But think about it: what constitutes an “unsaved change”? Are switching tools or adjusting the window layout changes worth saving? In Blender’s case, the answer is “yes”, because all that is part of the document state to be restored on opening. So Blender would have to prompt for confirmation practically every time you closed a document or quit Blender.

Instead, Blender always saves changes when it closes, to a file called 'quit.blend'. The next time you use Blender, simply select File --> Recover Last Session and you can resume right where you left off.

Blender Windowing System[edit]

The Blender user interface may appear daunting at first, but don't despair. This book explores the interface one step at a time.

In this module, you'll learn about Blender windows:

  • recognizing windows and their headers,
  • the different types of windows,
  • how to activate and resize windows,
  • how to split and join windows.

You'll also practice launching and leaving Blender.

An Interface Divided[edit]

Blender's user interface is divided into rectangular areas called windows (or sometimes, areas). The overall arrangement of windows is called a workspace.

If you haven't already launched Blender, go ahead and do so. You should soon see something that resembles the following.

Blender has had some major changes to its user interface (UI) since version 2.4x. Some of these changes include moving buttons and changing the space bar hot key from the “add menu” to the “search menu” ( SHIFT + A  is now the "add menu” hot key). This is important to know when trying to follow tutorials.

Other changes include the addition of the tool bar and window splitting widget. The shelf widget (indicated by a plus sign) opens hidden tool shelves. The object tool shelf can be toggled on and off by pressing  T . The properties tool shelf can be toggled on and off by pressing the  N . The split window widget allows you to split and join windows. Blender 2.69 is shown below.

Blender269DefaultView.png

If you see something substantially different...
  • You may be running a different version of Blender - maybe a higher version. The screenshot was made using the 2.69 release.
If you're running an older version, you should probably upgrade. Download instructions are in the Introduction.
  • The user-interface settings on your computer may have been changed.
    Try resetting the user interface with File → Load Factory Settings.
To take a screenshot in Blender, press  Alt + F3 , and click Make Screencast. This will record what's on your screen until you click the red Close button on the info header. The screencasts will be saved in the tmp folder-In Microsoft Windows, tmp folder is located on 'C:\tmp'.

Window Headers[edit]

Did you find all five headers?

Every Blender window has a header. A header can appear at the top of the window, at the bottom of the window, or it can be hidden. Let's take a closer look at the headers.

Blender-2.57 headers.jpg
The header of the Info window is outlined in green.

The header of the 3D View window is outlined in red. Note that it runs along the bottom of the 3D View window, not the top.

The header of the Properties window is outlined in blue.

The header of the Outliner window is outlined in white.

The header of the Timeline window is the one on the bottom (not outlined)

If you click with  RMB  on the header, a menu pops up which lets you move the header (to the top if it’s at the bottom, or vice versa), or maximize the window to fill the entire workspace:

Blender269HeaderMenu.png

To hide the header completely, move the mouse to the edge of the header furthest from the edge of the window (i.e. the top edge of the header if it is at the bottom of the window, or vice versa); it will change into a vertical double-headed arrow. Now click with  LMB  and drag towards the window edge, and the header will disappear. In its place, you will see the following symbol appear at the corner of the window: Blender255RevealShelfIcon.png. Click this with  LMB  to bring the header back.

Window Types[edit]

Blender has many types of windows (there are 16 of them in Blender 2.69) and a Console for the Python programming language. You've just encountered the Info, 3D View, Properties, and Outliner windows. The rest will be introduced as needed in later modules.

Every window header in Blender has an icon at the left end to indicate the window type. For instance:

  • Blender 2.59 Info ico.png = Info
  • Blender 2.59 User Prefs ico.png = User Preferences
  • Blender 2.59 3d view icon.png = 3D View
  • Blender 2.59 Outliner ico.png = Outliner
  • Blender 2.59 Properties ico.png = Properties

If you  LMB  on the icon, a menu will pop up. (If you don't know what  LMB  means, please review the Keystrokes, Buttons, and Menus Notation module.)

Blender269 3DViewWindowType.png
By matching the icon in the header to the icons in the menu, you can tell that the window here is a 3D View window.

The menu can be used to alter a window's type. In this screenshot, the user is about to change the window into a Properties window.
Note:

Any window can be changed to any type. Blender doesn't mind if there are multiple windows of the same type.

 

Note:

The workspace layout is saved along with the document. Anybody subsequently opening the document will see the last-saved layout.

 

If you've changed any window's type, please change it back (or reload the factory settings with File → Load Factory Settings) before continuing with this tutorial.

The Active Window[edit]

The active window is the one that will respond if you press a key. Exactly one Blender window is active at any given time.

The active window is usually the one containing the mouse pointer. (Blender uses a "focus follows mouse" user interface model. When a hotkey fails to work as expected, it is often because the mouse pointer has strayed into a neighboring window.) To change the active window, simply move the mouse pointer into the window you wish to activate.

Practice changing the active window by moving your mouse between the 3D View and the Timeline windows. The Timeline window is exactly below the 3D View header. At this point, it is worth mentioning that the header for the 3D View window and Timeline window is at the BOTTOM of its own window instead of the top as the name "header" implies.

Note:

When a window becomes active, its header gets brighter.

 

Resizing Windows[edit]

Resizing windows is easy.

Dragging on a Border[edit]

Blender 2.63 init factory bottom.png
Step 1
Move the mouse pointer to the border between two windows (the area outlined in red below. The pointer will change to an up/down arrow.
Steps 2-4
Press and hold  LMB .
Drag with the mouse to move the border up and down.
When the border is where you want it, release  LMB .

Whenever you increase the size of one window, you decrease the size of another. That's because Blender has a non-overlapping window interface: unlike many other programs, it does not permit windows to overlap.

Maximizing a Window[edit]

Another way to resize a window is to maximize it. When Blender maximizes a window, it makes it as big as possible. The previous window configuration is saved.

  • To maximize the active window, press  Ctrl + UpArrow  ,  Ctrl + DownArrow  or  Shift + Space .
  • When a window is maximized, use  Ctrl + UpArrow  ,  Ctrl + DownArrow  or  Shift + Space  to restore the previous (unmaximized) window configuration.


Practice maximizing and un-maximizing the 3D View and Timeline windows.

Note:

If you are running a version of Blender before 2.57, you cannot maximize a User Preferences window.

 

Shelves[edit]

You will notice that the 3D View Blender2693DViewIcon.png window (the largest window in the above screenshots) has several buttons down the left. This rectangular portion is called the Tool Shelf. This is like a window within a window, and you can drag the boundary between it and the main part of the 3D View to resize.

If you drag all the way to the window boundary, the shelf will disappear. In its place, the following symbol will appear: Blender255RevealShelfIcon.png. Click that to bring the shelf back

Too Much To Fit[edit]

If a window or shelf contains too much information to fit within its display area, scrollbars will appear along the bottom or right edge. You can scroll the contents by dragging these with  LMB ; alternatively you can drag with  MMB  directly within the contents.

A window header may also contain more than fits within its displayable area. There is no explicit visual clue for this (except maybe the tell-tale of widgets being cut off at the right edge), but if it happens, you can drag sideways within the header with  MMB  to scroll its contents.

Splitting And Joining Windows[edit]

At the top right and bottom left of every window, you will see something like this: Blender254WindowWidget.png. If you move the mouse over this icon, you will see the pointer turn into a cross. At this point, you can do one of the following by clicking and dragging with  LMB :

  • Split the window into two copies horizontally by dragging horizontally away from the edge.
  • Split the window into two copies vertically by dragging vertically away from the edge.
  • Join the window to the adjacent one horizontally (getting rid of it and taking over its space) by dragging towards it.
  • Join the window to the adjacent one vertically (getting rid of it and taking over its space) by dragging towards it.

Of course, the last two are only possible if there is in fact another window in that direction. Note also that you can only join windows horizontally that are the same height, and windows vertically that are the same width.

The Default Workspace[edit]

If you look at the above screenshot of the default workspace, you will see the following window types:

  • The menu bar at the top (outlined in green) is actually a window, called Info Blender269InfoIcon.png. In previous versions of Blender, you could resize this to reveal the User Preferences, but in 2.5x they have been moved to their own window type. Instead, all you can see here if you enlarge the window are some debug messages, which will probably be removed once this version of Blender goes to final release.
  • The largest window on the screen is the 3D View Blender2693DViewIcon.png. This is where you work on your model.
  • The Properties Blender269PropertiesIcon.png window is the tall area on the right; this is where most of the functions are located for performing operations on models, materials etc. In previous versions of Blender this was called the Buttons window, and was degenerating into a disorganized grab bag of functionality that made it difficult to find things. This has been cleaned up in a major way in 2.5x. Note also that it defaults to a vertical layout, rather than the horizontal one of previous versions. The new design prefers a vertical layout, which works better on today’s widescreen monitors.
  • The Outliner Blender269OutlinerIcon.png (at the top right) gives you an overview of the objects in your document. As your models get more complex, you will start to appreciate the ability to find things quickly here.
  • The Timeline Blender270TimelineIcon.png (across the bottom) becomes important when you’re doing animations.

Of course, this is just the default layout. For example, if you’re doing a static model or scene, not an animation, you can get rid of the Timeline. If you’re doing heavy script development, you’ll probably want the Console available to try things out. And so on.

Workspace Presets[edit]

Up in that Info window/titlebar, you will see a menu with an icon like this Blender267ScreenLayoutIcon.png. Clicking on it with  LMB  will show the following menu:

Blender255WorkspaceMenu.png

Selecting from this menu lets you quickly switch between various predefined workspace layouts, tailored to various workflows. Try it and see—you can return to the default layout by selecting “Default” (but note that any changes you make to the layout are immediately associated with the name being displayed here). The menu even has a search box at the bottom: typing some text in here will restrict the menu to only showing items containing that text. Hard to believe it has much use here, but perhaps in complicated projects which need dozens of different layouts, a search function could become very useful indeed!

Note also the “+” and “X” icons to the right of the menu; clicking “+” creates a new entry which is a duplicate of the last-selected entry, while clicking “X” gets rid of the currently-selected entry. You will see these conventions appear consistently in menus elsewhere in Blender’s new, revamped interface.

One Document At A Time[edit]

Blender can only work with one open document at a time. To save changes to the current document, select one of the Save options from the File menu (or press  Ctrl + S  to save under the last-saved name). To open a new document (actually load a copy of your last-saved user preferences), select “New” from the File menu (or press  Ctrl + N ), and select “Reload Start-Up File” from the little popup that appears, but be aware this will not automatically save changes to the previous document—you should have remembered to do that first.

Scenes[edit]

A scene is like a separate Blender document-within-a-document. Different scenes within the same document can easily share objects, materials etc, so you can define them once and make different renderings and animations from them. You create, delete and switch scenes using the scene Blender267SceneIcon.png menu in the info header. A new document starts by default with just one scene, called “Scene”.

Leaving Blender[edit]

To close down Blender:

  1. If there's a tool active, press  Esc  to exit the tool.
  2. Press  Ctrl + Q . This brings up an OK? menu.
  3. Confirm Quit Blender by clicking  LMB  or pressing  Enter .
Note:

Blender will not prompt you to save your work. However, you can easily restart Blender and then pick up where you left off using File → Recover Last Session.

 

Additional Resources[edit]

User Preferences Windows[edit]

In this module, we'll take a closer look at the User Preferences window. In the process, you'll encounter three different user-interface controls: radio buttons, toggle buttons, and sliders.

Saving User Preferences[edit]

Most other applications have a place to keep user-configured settings (including document defaults), separate from any actual documents the user creates. Blender works in a slightly different fashion: all your user-configured settings are saved in every document you create. Each time you create a new Blender document, it actually just reloads your default document, which is called .B.blend. To save your current state as the default document, press  CTRL + U . This will save everything you’ve done to the current in-memory document, including objects and materials created, to .B.blend.

Accessing the User Preferences[edit]

First we must open the User Preferences window. There are 3 ways to do this:

  • Click  LMB  File → User Preferences...
  • Change the window type of the top header to User Preferences Blender269UserPrefsIcon.png and drag the header down.
  • Press  CTRL + ALT + U , which will open the User Preferences into a separate window which you can resize at will.


The User Preferences window should look something like the screenshot below.

Blender-2.5 user preferences.png

Configuring Your Preferences[edit]

So as to get to modeling and rendering sooner, this tutorial will cover only a few of the many preferences which you can set.

Auto Save[edit]

Auto Save is a very useful feature that automatically saves the current .blend after a specified period of time. The settings are:

  • Auto Save Temporary Files: This enables/disables the auto save feature.
  • Timer (mins) slider: This specifies the time in minutes between each auto save.
Blender-2.5 user preferences files.png

Number of Undo Levels[edit]

Next we'll look at the undo settings. By default, Blender remembers your last 32 actions and allows you to undo them one at a time by pressing  Ctrl + Z . If your computer has plenty of memory, you may wish to increase that number. If it has relatively little memory, you might consider decreasing it to 10 or 20. The Memory Limit slider specifies the amount of RAM (in megabytes) to use for storing the undo levels. Undo level "0" is unlimited.

Blender-2.5 user preferences editing.png

Numpad Emulation[edit]

Blender uses numberpad keys (such as  Num7 ) to control the 3D View and ordinary numeral keys (such as  7Key ) to change layers. If you are working on a laptop or if you find the numberpad inconvenient, you can select Emulate Numpad to reassign the 3D View controls to the ordinary numeral keys.

Blender-2.5 user preferences input.png


If you ever need to restore Blender to its factory settings, you can either delete your personal ".blend" file and then restart Blender or click  LMB  File → Load Factory Settings

Note:

The second method only affects the current session. To make the settings persist, you would need to save them with  Ctrl + U  or File → Save User Settings - This menu name has been changed to Save Startup File in Blender 2.67b.

 

Additional Resources[edit]

Buttons Windows[edit]

The Properties Blender269PropertiesIcon.png window is where you will find most of the functions that Blender can perform with objects and materials, animation, rendering and so on. Here is also the area where you will see the greatest changes from earlier versions of Blender (where it was called the Buttons window). Hopefully you’ll agree that the new layout makes it much easier and quicker to find things!

In the header of the Properties window, you will see a row of buttons that looks like this: Blender267PropertiesTabs.png The actual icons will vary depending on the type of object selected in the 3D view; also in the default layout, the Properties window may be too narrow to show the entire row, in which case you can either widen the window, or click drag across the buttons with  MMB  to scroll the button row, or use your mouse wheel within them. Each of these buttons gives you access to a different context, or subsection of the Properties settings. Unlike older Blenders, there are no more “subcontexts” — no additional buttons will appear in the header when you click any of these.

The Contexts[edit]

Render Context Blender255RenderContextButton.png[edit]

In here are the settings that control overall rendering of the final images: what resolution to use, output format, performance, post processing, etc.

Render Layers Context Blender267RenderLayersContextButton.png[edit]

Here are additional settings that offer finer control over rendering of the final images: which scene layers to render, which separate parts (passes) of the rendering process to actually perform, and how to group them into render layers (not to be confused with the scene layers) for input into subsequent compositing.

Note:

In versions of Blender prior to 2.67, these settings were combined into the Render Context.

 

Scene Context Blender255SceneContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings for colour management, choosing which camera to use for rendering, and units and gravity settings for physical modeling.

You can also select another scene to be a “background” for this scene. That is, all renders of this (foreground) scene will also include the contents of the background scene, as though they had been copied into this scene. While the background appears in the 3D viewport when editing this scene, none of its contents are editable, or even selectable; that has to be done in the background scene itself.

World Context Blender255WorldContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that govern the surroundings in which the model is rendered: background sky color, mist and star settings, environment lighting etc.

Object Context Blender255ObjectContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that apply to all kinds of objects: overall transformations, layer assignments, grouping etc. The settings shown here (and any changes made) apply to the last object selected. This is also the case for the following object-specific contexts.

Object Constraints Context Blender255ObjectConstraintsContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that limit the motion of the object for animation purposes. The limits can also be tied to the motion of other objects in various ways.

Object Modifiers Context Blender255ObjectModifiersContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings for applying modifiers to the object geometry—these make changes to the geometry that only take effect at rendering time. Note that lamps, cameras and empty objects cannot have modifiers.

Object Data Context Blender267ObjectDataContextButtons.png[edit]

In here you will find settings specific to the type of object: mesh vertex groupings, text font, lamp settings, camera settings, all that kind of thing. This is reflected in the icon, which changes according to the type of object selected.

Material Context Blender255MaterialContextButton.png[edit]

The material settings for an object control how it looks: its colour, whether it has a shiny or dull surface, how transparent it is, and so on.

Note:

The chosen rendering engine—Blender Internal (the default), Blender Game, or Cycles—will impact the choices available for material and texture settings.

 

Texture Context Blender255TextureContextButton.png[edit]

The texture settings specify patterns that break up the uniform appearance of a material: these patterns can affect the colour of the material, or give it a rough surface, or modify it in other ways.

Particles Context Blender255ParticlesContextButton.png[edit]

An object can be set to emit particles, like smoke, flames or sparks. The concept of “particles” (and the underlying algorithms) also includes the generation of hair or fur. Or particles can be entirely custom objects, to produce effects like blades of grass interspersed with flowers in a field, water droplets on a wet surface, or even scatterings of entire buildings to make up a large cityscape!

Physics Context Blender255PhysicsContextButton.png[edit]

In here you will find settings that control how the object reacts to forces like objects in the real world: whether it behaves like a rigid body that keeps its shape but can be knocked around, such as cloth, something soft e.g a pillow, or a flowing liquid.

Where Did The Old Stuff Go?[edit]

For those used to older (pre-2.5x) versions of Blender...

... the old Logic Context has been moved into its own window type, the Logic Editor.

The old Script Context has gone: Python scripting is now much more closely integrated into the Blender UI, and old scripts will not work anyway.

The functions of the other contexts have been rearranged into the new contexts as listed above. Once you get used to the new arrangement, it should make much more sense than the old one.

3D View Windows[edit]

3D View Blender2693DViewIcon.png windows in Blender are used to visualize 3D scenes. You’ll do a lot of work in these windows, so you will need to learn your way around.

Note:

The 3D view only shows an approximation to the final appearance of the scene. The overall geometry should be correct, but don’t expect accurate rendition of materials, textures, lighting etc, since that can be very time-consuming, and the 3D view is designed to respond to your actions at interactive speeds. Plus there are additional view options (like wireframe, hiding etc) that make it easier to see what parts of the model you’re working on, that have no effect on the final render. Also you can change your viewpoint at any time (which will be essential while working on your model/scene), while the viewpoint of the render is controlled by the camera position.

 

In this module, you'll learn:

  • to recognize 10 things commonly seen in viewports
  • to tell which mode Blender is in
  • how to change viewport options and viewpoints
  • how to position the 3D cursor

You'll also learn the fundamentals of:

  • visibility layers

The Viewport and its Contents[edit]

Aside from its header, the remainder of a 3D View window is its viewport. In Blender, you use viewports any time you need an up-to-date view of the scene you're working on.

Viewports are busy places. Go on a scavenger hunt and see what you can find in a simple viewport.

  1. Launch Blender.
  2. Just so we're all looking at the same scene, load the factory settings using File → Load Factory Settings.
  3. Confirm the “Load Factory Settings” popup with  LMB  (or  Enter ).
  4. If the NumLock indicator on your keyboard is unlit, press  NumLock  so that numpad hotkeys will work properly.

(If you're unsure what  LMB  means, please review the Keystroke, Button, and Menu Notation module.)

You should see something like this:

Blender-2.57 viewport outline.png
Here the viewport has been outlined in red to focus your attention on it.

A Virtual Scavenger Hunt[edit]

Peer into the viewport at the default scene provided by the creators of Blender and find the following eight items:

In the Center

1. Blender-2.5 cube object mode.PNG a solid gray cube with orange edges.

  • This is the default cube, your first Blender object!

2. Blender 3D Manipulator screenshot.png Three big arrows, one red, one green and one blue, their tails joined to a white circle

  • This is not an object (part of your model/scene), but part of Blender’s user interface for manipulating objects. It is the manipulator, also known as the 3D transform widget.
  • The arrows represent the directions of the X, Y and Z axes of the currently-chosen transform orientation coordinate system. Initially this is the global coordinate system.
  • The circle represents the center of the selected object (namely, the cube).
  • If you don't know what a "global coordinate system" is, please review the module on Coordinate Spaces in Blender.
If you don't see the manipulator...
  • It's possible that a tool is active. Press  Esc  to cancel any tool action.
  • Another possibility is that the manipulator has been disabled:
    • Toggle it on or off with  Ctrl + Space .

3. Blender 2.49b cursor.png A red-and-white striped circle with black cross-hairs

  • This is not an object. It is the 3D Cursor, which indicates where newly-created objects will appear in the scene.
  • The cursor is similar to the insertion point in a text editor, which indicates where newly-typed text will appear in a document.
In the Lower Left Corner

4. Blender 3D mini axis screenshot.png

  • This is not an object. It is the mini axis, and its orientation matches that of the global coordinate system, with the usual conventions: red for X, green for Y and blue for Z. Think of it as a little compass, reminding you which way is left/right, front/back and up/down.

5. The notation "(1) Cube"

This is not an object. It is object info, indicating that:
  • You're viewing the first frame of an animation.
and
  • The current or most recently selected object is named "Cube".
In the Upper Left Corner

6. The notation “User Persp”

This is not an object. This is telling you something about the view being displayed by the viewport. The first word will change if you select one of the perfect views or the camera view (see below), otherwise it just says “User”, and the second word is “Persp” or “Ortho” to indicate whether this is a perspective or orthographic view.
To the Right of Center

7. Blender 2.49b lamp icon.png A black round thing that resembles a sun-symbol

This represents a lamp, a light source for the scene. (It is an object.)

8. Blender 2.49b camera icon.png A pyramidal wireframe thing

This represents a camera, a viewpoint that can be used for rendering. (It, too, is an object.) The direction it is looking is out the base of the pyramid. The solid triangle attached to one side of the base is to remind you which way is up in the image that the camera takes.
On a small display, the camera might initially lie outside of the viewport and thus be invisible. In that case, zoom out by scrolling with  MMB  until it becomes visible.
Throughout

9. A dark gray background, divided into squares by lighter lines. This is the grid floor, which you can (but don’t have to) use as a ground plane for positioning your models.

Each grid square is one blender unit (or BU) on a side. A BU can be whatever you wish: an inch, a centimetre, a mile, or a cubit. Blender lets you decide what the scale should be for your scene in the Scene tab of the Properties Panel.

10. Three mutually-perpendicular coloured lines associated with the grid floor: the red and green ones lying horizontally in the floor and the blue one running vertically. These are the global coordinate axes for orienting your scene: as usual, red is the X-axis, green the Y-axis, and blue the Z-axis.

  • In Blender 2.67a, you can't see the blue line for Z-axis here because you can see it in Front or Side view.

Modes[edit]

Blender has lots of modes, that is, settings that affect its behavior, and this is especially true of 3D View windows.

Sometimes it's not obvious what modes are active. This leads to mode errors where Blender will do something you didn't expect because you thought it was in one mode and it was actually in another.

In Blender, the function performed by a hotkey or mouse button can depend on:

  • what mode the user interface is in,
  • whether the keyboard is in NumLock mode,
  • which window is active,
  • the mode the active window is in,
  • which item or items are selected,
  • whether you've initiated a hotkey sequence.

It helps to recognize the common modes and get out of them.

Object Mode vs. Edit Mode[edit]

The 3D View windows are normally in Object Mode. In this mode:

    • The mouse pointer is a white arrow (on MacOS it is black).
    •  RMB  is used to select objects in the scene

If there are objects in the scene, you can get into five other modes:

  • Edit Mode: used to edit the shapes of objects
    • The mouse pointer is a thin inverse-video cross.
    •  RMB  is used to select vertices, faces or edges of the current object.
    • Press  Tab  to enter/exit this mode.
  • Sculpt Mode
    • The mouse pointer is now a thin, orange circle.
  • Vertex Paint
    • The mouse pointer is the same as in sculpt mode, a thin, orange circle.
  • Texture Paint
    • The mouse pointer is a thin white circle.
  • Weight Paint
    • The mouse pointer is again, a thin orange circle

These modes are also indicated by a menu in the 3D View header. You can use this menu to change modes.

Blender-2.5 mode menu.png

These modes are a setting shared by all 3D View windows. In other words, when you change the mode in one window, any other 3D View windows change mode also.

Viewport Options[edit]

Note:

The options in this section only affect 3D View viewports. They do not affect renders.

 

Solid vs. Wireframe[edit]

By default, the 3D View window draws objects using the Solid drawtype, in which surfaces are opaque. To toggle between Solid and Wireframe drawtype (edges only, no faces) for a particular viewport:

  1. Activate the 3D View window.
  2. Press  Z .

Alternatively, you can choose these and other drawtypes from the "Draw type" menu in the 3D View window header.

Orthographic vs. Perspective[edit]

By default, viewports draw orthographic views. To toggle a viewport between orthographic and perspective views:

  1. Activate the 3D View window.
  2. Press  Num5 .

(If you're unsure what the difference is, please review the "Orthographic Views" module and the "Perspective Views" module.)

Note this perspective versus orthographic setting for the 3D viewport is completely separate from the similar setting in the camera properties; the former takes effect while you’re working on the model, the latter when you render.

So why have this separate setting for the 3D view? It’s because, regardless of what you want for the final render, certain aspects of modelling are easier in one view than another. If the final render will be using perspective, then naturally showing perspective in the 3D view gives you a better idea of how the final render will look. But perspective foreshortening can sometimes make it hard to ensure the model has the proper shape, which is why there is the option to flip to orthographic view if it helps.

If you have trouble distinguishing between orthographic view and perspective view

... you should activate the View Name option. This is enabled by default and causes the name of the current view ("User Persp", for instance) to appear in the upper left corner of every viewport. If there is no text, then you can enable it by:

  1. Accessing the User Preferences window.
  2. Click on the Interface tab.
  3. Enable View Name.

Changing Your Viewpoint, Part One[edit]

Each viewport has a viewpoint, which takes into account:

  • the location of the viewer in the 3D scene (There doesn't need to be an object at that location.)
  • the direction the viewer is looking
  • the magnification (or zoom factor) used

Changing your viewpoint allows you to navigate your way through a 3D scene.

We'll start with three very basic techniques:

  • Zooming
  • Orbiting/View Rotation
  • Perfect Views.

Additional techniques will be covered later in this module.

Zooming[edit]

Blender offers several ways to zoom in and out:

  • Use  SCROLL 
  • Click and drag vertically with  Ctrl + MMB .
  • Use  Num+  and  NUM−  to zoom in and out in small increments.

Note the following limitations of Blender's zoom feature:

  • If the viewport is in orthographic mode, Blender zooms as if looking through a telescope. You can increase the magnification, but the viewpoint's location doesn't change. For this reason, you cannot zoom into or through objects in orthographic mode.
  • If the viewport is in perspective mode, Blender zooms to a point—namely the center of the viewport. The viewpoint can pass through objects, but it can't pass beyond this point, no matter what you do. Zooming only gets slower and slower and slower. If the center of the viewport is somewhere you don't expect, zooming may appear to be broken.

Orbiting and View Rotation[edit]

Let's fly around in the default cube, viewing it from different angles. In this way you'll see that it really is a cube, centered on the origin, half above the X-Y plane and half below it.

  1. Activate the 3D View window by placing the mouse pointer inside it.
  2. Now you can:
    • Click and drag with  MMB  to orbit freely around the center of the view.
    • Use  Shift + Alt + SCROLL  to rotate the viewpoint vertically around the center of the view.
    • Use  Num2  and  Num8  to rotate the viewpoint vertically around the center of the view in 15-degree increments.
    • Use  Ctrl + Alt + SCROLL  to rotate the viewpoint around the Z axis.
    • Use  Num4  and  Num6  to rotate the viewpoint around the Z axis in 15-degree increments.

If this is all very confusing for you, don't worry! You'll learn as you get more experience.

When you are finished flying around the cube, you can restore the original view by reloading the factory settings with File → Load Factory Settings.

If the hotkeys don't work...

You may have pressed number keys above the letters instead of the ones on the numpad. If you do so, the default cube will vanish. This is because the scene consists of multiple layers. The default cube is in layer 1, and you've told Blender to switch to another layer of the number you just pressed. The selected object (the cube in this case) remains in layer 1, which isn't shown anymore. For instance,  2Key  tells Blender to switch to layer 2. To switch to layer 1 again, press  1Key . You can view the different layers by clicking on the little squares on the layer map: Blender-2.5 layers.png

Note:

Because the center of the viewport is invisible (not marked in any way), it's hard to tell where it is. This sometimes results in unexpected behavior during rotation.

 

Perfect Views[edit]

It's often useful to get a perfect view of a scene—in other words, to view it along one of the main axes, with the other two main axes oriented up-down and left-right.

Perfect View Hotkeys
Hotkey View Axis Pointing Right Axis Pointing Up
 Num7  "top" +X +Y
 Ctrl + Num7  "bottom" +X -Y
 Num1  "front" +X +Z
 Ctrl + Num1  "rear" -X +Z
 Num3  "right side" +Y +Z
 Ctrl + Num3  "left side" -Y +Z

The following screenshot shows all three perfect views plus camera perspective for the Suzanne primitive:

Blender-2.5 perfect view quad.png

In fact, this layout of four viewports showing top, front and right views plus camera view is so commonly used that it has its own menu item (from the “View” menu, select “Toggle Quad View”) and keyboard shortcut ( CTRL + ALT + Q ).

Positioning the 3D Cursor[edit]

Positioning the 3D cursor is a very basic operation, yet one that many beginners find challenging. It touches on an issue common to all 3D graphics software: "How do you specify points in a 3D scene when we can only see two dimensions at a time?"

Basic Technique[edit]

  1. Go into either Object Mode or Edit Mode.
  2. Move the mouse pointer to the desired position (in any viewport).
  3. Click  LMB .

Two Challenges[edit]

Challenge #1. Using only tools presented thus far, try positioning the 3D cursor on the virtual camera.

Try it!

When you're done, check your work by orbiting the camera.

Perhaps you thought you were done when you clicked on the camera. But the moment you changed your viewpoint, you probably found that the 3D cursor was actually behind (or in front of) the camera.

Hints:

  • Try positioning the cursor in two different perfect views.
  • Use orthographic views, not perspective ones.

Challenge #2. Using only tools presented thus far, try repositioning the 3D cursor at the origin (that is, at the center of the cube).

As before, check your work by orbiting the cube. Don't spend too much time on this.

User Comments

"I found that I would select the cube when left clicking on it in object mode, if the "Use 3d transform manipulator" button was enabled. To toggle this off, you click on the gray pointing hand in the 3d panel header, or (Ctrl Space)."

"When you want the cursor back into the cube, just select the camera with RMB, put the cursor into the cube following the steps above, and re-select the cube with RMB."

"I've discovered it helps a lot if you are in Object Mode and not in Edit Mode. I wrote the following before discovering this: The problem with this exercise, for me, is that left clicking on the cube selects the cube instead of moving the 3d cursor. If I click on the cube outside of its central white circle I can get the cursor to move there, but only to outside of this white circle, and even then this only works sometimes."

"I failed at this until I had zoomed in close enough to the cube. When I was too far zoomed out I kept selecting the cube rather than creating an edit point."

"I had the same problem and found it was because the cube was selected. I made sure I was in object mode, right clicked on the camera to select the camera instead of the cube, and I could then position the edit point in the cube. However, doing this messed up the next part of the tutorial because you cannot switch into edit mode with the camera selected! Perhaps the suggestion of trying to put the 3D cursor in the cube should be dropped as it raises too many questions at this stage."

"You can deselect all by pressing the AKEY or the select button in the 3D View."

"Use wireframe mode works better to get the cursor in."

"To get it back in the cube: 1) Make sure you're in object mode. 2) Select the cube. 3) Object > Snap > Cursor to selection (cursor refers to the 3D cursor here) so it puts it right in the middle of the cube."

"I think it's an essential point to note that in order to place the cursor inside the cube, the cube must NOT be selected. AKEY was probably the best way to deselect the object."

"If I remember correctly, undo history gets cleared when you switch between object and edit mode."

"I wasted a lot of time here. Thank you to the reader who suggested (on the 3D view header) Object > Snap > Cursor to selection. It was the only thing that worked to get the cursor visible again and placed where clicked."

"I missed the point of the exercise first time around. You can't set a 3D point on a 2D screen without technique. Orthographic views are crucial. I am just learning, but take that, at least, away from it."

"Positioning the 3D cursor in othographic views always made it snap to the cube surface, making it impossible to center precisely. Fix this by disabling "Cursor Depth" on the "interface" tab under "User Preferences".

More Ways to Position the Cursor[edit]

Blender-2.5 snap menu.png

Here's an easy way to position the cursor at the center of an object:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode, with the object selected.
  2. Move the mouse pointer to any 3D View window.
  3. Snap the cursor to the selected object using either:
    •  Shift + S  Cursor to Selected
    or
    • Object → Snap → Cursor to Selected

Here's 2 easy ways to relocate the cursor to the scene's origin (0, 0, 0):

  1. Move the mouse pointer to any 3D View window.
  2. Press  Shift + C  to reset the cursor to the origin.
    • Note that this also changes the view location, meaning that when you zoom in, you won't zoom in to the scene origin.
  3. A better way is to click Object → Snap → Cursor to Center
    • You can also do this by  Shift + S Cursor to Center.

Changing Your Viewpoint, Part Two[edit]

Now you'll learn some additional techniques for obtaining the view you want:

  • Panning
  • Centering
  • Jumping to the camera's viewpoint
  • Zooming in on a selected area

Panning[edit]

When you orbited the cube, the viewpoint's position and direction both changed at the same time. You also can shift the viewpoint up-down or left-right without changing its direction. (This is similar to the side-scrolling effect in the classic Mario and Sonic video games.)

This is called panning, and it's an important skill to master. Try it now:

  1. Activate a 3D View window by placing the mouse pointer inside it.
  2. Now you can:
    • Use  Shift + SCROLL  to pan up and down.
    • Use  Ctrl + Num2  and  Ctrl + Num8  to pan up and down in small increments.
    • Use  Ctrl + SCROLL  to pan left and right.
    • Use  Ctrl + Num4  and  Ctrl + Num6  to pan left and right in small increments.
    • Click and drag with  Shift + MMB  or  Shift + Alt + LMB  to pan freely in the viewplane.


You will likely find this to be a distraction in some cases. To move the viewpoint position back to the center, snap the cursor to the center, then click View → Align View → Center View to Cursor. You could also snap the cursor to the center then press  Ctrl + Num. .

Centering[edit]

When you zoom or rotate the view, you always zoom or rotate around the center of the view.

To make sure everything in your scene is visible:

  1. Press  Home .

To center the view on an arbitrary point:

  1. Move the 3D cursor to the point of interest.
  2. Verify the cursor position from a second viewpoint.
  3. Press  Alt + Home  to center the view.

To center the view on an object in the scene:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Zoom out until the object is in the viewport.
  3. If any objects are selected, use  A  (or Select → Select/Deselect All) to deselect them.
  4. Select the object of interest by clicking  RMB  on it.
  5. Press  Num.  to center the view.

Jumping to the Camera's Viewpoint[edit]

To see the scene as the virtual camera sees it, press  Num0 . Afterwards, you can rotate, pan, and zoom normally, but the virtual camera will not follow. To go back to your previous view, press  Num0  again. (In the latest versions of Blender, the virtual camera can be made to follow all the changes made in viewpoint while in camera view by checking the option "Lock Camera to View" on the Transform panel. Hit "N" on your keyboard to bring the transform panel. To disable this option you can uncheck that and get back to previous settings.)

Zooming into a Selected Area[edit]

Suppose you want to get an extreme closeup of a particular area. Because there's no center mark on the viewport, you might have to pan and zoom several times to get the desired view.

The shortcut for zooming to an area is:

  1. Activate a 3D view window that contains the area of interest.
  2. Press  Shift + B . A crosshair appears in the viewport.
  3. Click and drag with  LMB  to draw a rectangle around the area of interest.
  4. When you release  LMB , the viewport will zoom in on the area you selected.

View Navigation[edit]

You can also change your viewpoint in the 3D view by “walking” or “flying” through it. To activate this, press  SHIFT + F . By default in Blender 2.70, this puts you in “walk” mode, while earlier versions only offered “fly” mode. (In Blender 2.70 and later, you can choose which one you prefer in your User Preferences, under the Input tab.)

In both modes, helpful prompts appear in the header of the 3D view window to remind you of the key functions while the mode is in effect. When you have reached the position and orientation you want, press  LMB  or  ENTER  or  SPACE  to end the navigation mode and stay there, or  RMB  or  ESC  to abandon the navigation mode and be teleported immediately back to your original position and orientation.

Walk Mode[edit]

In this mode, you move the mouse to turn your view up/down/left/right, and  W ,  A ,  S  and  D  or the corresponding arrow keys to move forward, left, back or right, and  E  and  Q  to move up or down respectively. Hold the movement keys down to keep moving; movement stops as soon as you release them. Pressing  MMB  will “teleport” you close to whatever objects lie within the crosshairs at the centre of the view.

You can also use  TAB  to turn on gravity—make sure there is a floor or other object under you to land on! With gravity on, you can no longer use the vertical-movement keys, but you can use  V  to make jumps. Just  TAB  again to turn gravity off.

Fly Mode[edit]

In this older mode, moving the mouse to change the view works the same as in Walk mode, but the above direction keys ( W ,  A ,  S ,  D ,  E ,  Q  and the arrows) apply “thrust” in the respective directions, so you keep moving after releasing the key; press the key repeatedly to increase your speed in that direction, or press the key for the opposite thrust direction to reduce your speed. Also you can scroll up the mouse wheel to apply forward thrust, or scroll it down to apply backward thrust.

Your current velocity vector automatically changes direction with you when you turn. Thus, for example, you can apply a single burst of sideways thrust while facing an object, and then, without applying any further thrust, keep turning to face the object, and you will go right around it.

Visibility Layers[edit]

Every object in the scene is assigned to one or more of 20 visibility layers.

Visibility layers have many uses:

  • You can put scenery, characters, particles, and lamps in different layers, to help organize your scene.
  • By changing which layers are visible, you can simplify your view of the scene and work with only one or two layers at a time.
  • When rendering, only visible layers are included. You can use this to render your scene layer by layer, checking each layer separately.
  • You can configure lamps to illuminate only objects in the same layer.
Left: Viewing layer 1 only.
Right: Viewing all 20 layers.

In Object Mode, you can tell which layers are visible by looking at the twenty small boxes located in the 3D View header between the Transform Orientation menu and the "Lock" button. The top row of boxes represents layers 1 through 10, with 1 being the leftmost and 10 being the rightmost. Similarly, the bottom row of boxes represents layers 11 through 20.

Hotkeys[edit]

  • To view just one of layers 1 .. 9, press  1KEY  ..  9KEY .
  • To view just layer 10, press  0Key .
  • To view just one of layers 11 .. 19, press  ALT + 1KEY  ..  ALT + 9KEY 
  • To view just layer 20, press  ALT + 0KEY .
  • To toggle the visibility of one of layers 1 .. 9 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press  SHIFT + 1KEY  ..  SHIFT + 9KEY .
  • To toggle the visibility of layer 10 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press  SHIFT + 0KEY .
  • To toggle the visibility of one of layers 11 .. 19 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press  ALT + SHIFT + 1KEY  ..  ALT + SHIFT + 9KEY .
  • To toggle the visibility of layer 20 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press  ALT + SHIFT + 0KEY .
  • To make all layers visible at once, press  ~ . Press  ~  again to return to your previous layer visibility setting.
Note:

The hotkeys in this section will not work if you've enabled numpad emulation in the User Preferences window. See the "User Preferences Windows" module for more details.

 

Note to AZERTY users:

On the AZERTY keyboard layout, the standard number keys are the &é"'(-è_çà keys. Do not use  Shift  unless you want to toggle visibility as explained below.


Holding down  Shift  while selecting a layer (by keyboard or mouse) will, instead of making only that layer visible, toggle the visibility. In this way, you can select combinations or to hide particular layers.

The key to press to select all layers at once differs by keyboard layout. It is:

  •  ¬'  (the key under Esc) on UK keyboards,
  •  `~  on US ones,
  •  ö  on German, Swedish and Finnish ones,
  •  æ  on Danish ones,
  •  ù  on AZERTY ones,
  •  ø  on Norwegian ones,
  •  Ñ  on Spanish ones,
  •  "  on Brazilian Portuguese ones, and
  •  ò  on Italian ones.

After pressing the aforementioned key, holding down  Shift  while pressing it again will restore the visibility settings you had before you made all layers visible.

When only one layer is selected, new objects are automatically assigned to that layer. When two or more layers are visible, new objects are assigned to the layer that became visible most recently.

Count Your Polys[edit]

If you want to count the polygons in your scene, this data is available in the Info Header.

Blender-2.5 polycount.png

As you can see in the above image, this scene has 507 vertices and 500 faces (polygons).

Blender Interface (version 2.5)[edit]

This is the revised interface in Blender 2.5x. If Blender 2.49 looks like something out of Star Trek, then the new Blender must be Star Trek: The Next Generation!

The major interface revision was initially resisted by many experienced blender users; but it has turned out that noobs are able to find things easier. The updates have also brought it much closer to on par with mainstream 3D content creation suites.

For the rationale behind the redesign, read this.

Blender254Screenshot.png

Blender Windowing System (version 2.5)[edit]

Warning: Display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x Windowing System" overrides earlier display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x Interface".


The Blender Workspace[edit]

Blender prefers to run full-screen, because it manages its own windowing system. This divides the screen up into rectangular, non-overlapping windows (sometimes called areas). These are marked out with coloured borders in the following screenshot of the default Blender 2.55 workspace layout:

Blender255WindowsMarked.png

Each window has a header, which always shows an icon at its leftmost end which identifies the contents of the window. This icon has a pair of upward- and downward-pointing triangles next to it. If you click with  LMB  on this icon, a menu pops up which allows you to change what the window is showing:

Blender255EditorMenu.png

The header can be at the top or bottom of the window. If you click with  RMB  on the header, a menu pops up which lets you move the header (to the top if it’s at the bottom, or vice versa), or maximize the window to fill the entire workspace:

Blender255HeaderMenu.png

To hide the header completely, move the mouse to the edge of the header furthest from the edge of the window (i.e. the top edge of the header if it is at the bottom of the window, or vice versa); it will change into a vertical double-headed arrow. Now click with  LMB  and drag towards the window edge, and the header will disappear. In its place, you will see the following symbol appear at the corner of the window: Blender255RevealShelfIcon.png. Click this with  LMB  to bring the header back.

Note:

Any window can be changed to any type. You can have multiple windows of the same type.

 

Note:

The workspace layout is saved along with the document. Anybody subsequently opening the document will see the last-saved layout.

 

The Active Window[edit]

The active window is the one that will respond if you press a key. Exactly one Blender window is active at any given time; this is the one containing the mouse pointer. (When a hotkey fails to work as expected, it's often because the mouse pointer has strayed into a neighboring window.) To change the active window, simply move the mouse pointer into the window you wish to activate.

Note:

When a window becomes active, its header gets brighter.

 

Resizing A Window[edit]

When you move the mouse to the boundary between two windows, the pointer changes to a double-headed arrow. The arrows indicate the directions in which you can drag the boundary with  LMB , to resize the adjoining windows accordingly.

Shelves[edit]

You will notice that the 3D View window (the largest window in the above screenshot, outlined in yellow) has a bunch of buttons down the left. This rectangular portion is called the Tool Shelf. This is like a window within a window, and you can drag the boundary between it and the main part of the 3D View to resize.

If you drag all the way to the window boundary, the shelf will disappear. In its place, the following symbol will appear: Blender255RevealShelfIcon.png. Click that to bring the shelf back

Too Much To Fit[edit]

If a window or shelf contains too much information to fit within its display area, scrollbars will appear along the bottom or right edge. You can scroll the contents by dragging these with  LMB ; alternatively you can drag with  MMB  directly within the contents.

A window header may also contain more than fits within its displayable area. There is no explicit visual clue for this (except maybe the tell-tale of widgets being cut off at the right edge), but if it happens, you can drag sideways within the header with  MMB  to scroll its contents.

Note:

Wraparound Mouse: If, while scrolling by dragging with  MMB , the mouse reaches the edge of the display area, it will “magically” disappear and reappear on the opposite edge. This lets you keep on scrolling without having to let go and reposition.

 

Panels[edit]

Within certain windows, you will see occurrences of the following symbols Blender255PanelShowHide.png with headings next to them: click on the rightward-pointing one to make the panel appear, whereupon the symbol is replaced with the downward-pointing one; click that to make the panel disappear, and change the symbol back to the rightward-pointing one.

Splitting And Joining Windows[edit]

At the top right and bottom left of every window, you will see something like this: Blender254WindowWidget.png. If you move the mouse over this icon, you will see the pointer turn into a cross. At this point, you can do one of the following by clicking and dragging with  LMB :

  • Split the window into two copies horizontally by dragging horizontally away from the edge.
  • Split the window into two copies vertically by dragging vertically away from the edge.
  • Join the window to the adjacent one horizontally (getting rid of it and taking over its space) by dragging towards it.
  • Join the window to the adjacent one vertically (getting rid of it and taking over its space) by dragging towards it.

Of course, the last two are only possible if there is in fact another window in that direction. Note also that you can only join windows horizontally that are the same height, and windows vertically that are the same width.

The Default Workspace[edit]

If you look at the above screenshot of the default workspace, you will see the following window types:

  • The menu bar at the top (outlined in purple) is actually a window, called Info. In previous versions of Blender, you could resize this to reveal the User Preferences, but in 2.5x they have been moved to their own window type. Instead, all you can see here if you enlarge the window are some debug messages, which will probably be removed once this version of Blender goes to final release.
  • The largest window on the screen (outlined in yellow) is the 3D View. This is where you work on your model.
  • The Properties window is outlined in green; this is where most of the functions are located for performing operations on models, materials etc. In previous versions of Blender this was called the Buttons window, and was degenerating into a disorganized grab bag of functionality that made it difficult to find things. This has been cleaned up in a major way in 2.5x. Note also that it defaults to a vertical layout, rather than the horizontal one of previous versions. The new design prefers a vertical layout, which works better on today’s widescreen monitors.
  • The Outliner (in blue) gives you an overview of the objects in your document. As your models get more complex, you will start to appreciate the ability to find things quickly here.
  • The Timeline (in red) becomes important when you’re doing animations.

Of course, this is just the default layout. For example, if you’re doing a static model or scene, not an animation, you can get rid of the Timeline. If you’re doing heavy script development, you’ll probably want the Console available to hand to try things out. And so on.

Workspace Presets[edit]

Up in that Info window/titlebar, you will see a menu with an icon looking like four little squares. Clicking on it with  LMB  will show the following menu:

Blender255WorkspaceMenu.png

Selecting from this menu lets you quickly switch between various predefined workspace layouts, tailored to various workflows. Try it and see—you can return to the default layout by selecting “Default” (but note that any changes you make to the layout are immediately associated with the name being displayed here). The menu even has a search box at the bottom: typing some text in here will restrict the menu to only showing items containing that text. Hard to believe it has much use here, but perhaps in complicated projects which need dozens of different layouts, a search function could become very useful indeed!

Note also the “+” and “X” icons to the right of the menu; clicking “+” creates a new entry which is a duplicate of the last-selected entry, while clicking “X” gets rid of the currently-selected entry. You will see these conventions appear consistently in menus elsewhere in Blender’s new, revamped interface.

User Preferences Window (version 2.5)[edit]

Warning: Display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x User Preferences" overrides earlier display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x Windowing System".


Saving User Preferences[edit]

Most other applications have a place to keep user-configured settings (including document defaults), separate from any actual documents the user creates. Blender works in a slightly different fashion: all your user-configured settings are saved in every document you create. Each time you create a new Blender document, it actually just reloads your default document, which is called startup.blend. To save your current state as the default document, press  CTRL + U . This will save everything you’ve done to the current in-memory document, including objects and materials created, to startup.blend. If for some reason you want to restore the default settings to how they were when you downloaded Blender, you can either delete that file, or click Load Factory Settings in the File menu.

Accessing User Preferences[edit]

You can open your preferences by selecting "user preferences" from the file menu. When you bring it up, you will see a row of buttons across the top:

Blender255UserPrefsTabs.png

These buttons select which section of your user preferences to display.

You can also choose it from the window type menu in any convenient window, since the User Peferences is a window type like any other. But if you save your prefences in this state, the next time you create a new document, it will have the preferences window open... probably not what you want.

Configuring Your Preferences[edit]

This tutorial only covers a couple of essential preferences, so you are able to get to modelling and other fun quicker. Feel free to browse through and tryout some of the preferences though, you can always restore the preferences to the factory setting if needed.

Auto Save[edit]

Blender User Preferences - Auto Save

Here we have the Auto Save options in Blender. They are on the first screen you see in the user preferences window by default, under the File tab. Here's a brief description of each control:

  • Auto Save Temporary Files - Toggle checkbox to control whether or not Blender automatically saves.
  • Save Preview Images -
  • Save Versions - This selection controls how many copies of one file Blender should save.
  • Recent Files - This selection controls how many files total Blender is allowed to keep
  • Timer - This selection controls how often files are auto-saved.

Number of Undo Levels[edit]

Blender User Preferences - Undo

This is the Undo options. These options are located under the Editing tab in the user preferences window. Brief descriptions of the controls:

  • Global Undo -
  • Steps - This selection simply controls the number of times you can undo. How many is dependent on your system memory. For example, if you have 4 GB you might consider increasing this number.
  • Memory Limit -

Numpad Emulation[edit]

Blender NumpadEmu

The numpad emulation option located under the Input tab allows you to use the keyboard number keys (the 0-9 keys above the qwerty keys) instead of the numpad keys. This feature is especially useful if you are using Blender from a laptop and do not have a standard numpad.

Properties Window (version 2.5)[edit]

The Properties Blender269PropertiesIcon.png window is where you will find most of the functions that Blender can perform with objects and materials, animation, rendering and so on. Here is also the area where you will see the greatest changes from earlier versions of Blender (where it was called the Buttons window). Hopefully you’ll agree that the new layout makes it much easier and quicker to find things!

In the header of the Properties window, you will see a row of buttons that looks like this: Blender267PropertiesTabs.png The actual icons will vary depending on the type of object selected in the 3D view; also in the default layout, the Properties window may be too narrow to show the entire row, in which case you can either widen the window, or click drag across the buttons with  MMB  to scroll the button row, or use your mouse wheel within them. Each of these buttons gives you access to a different context, or subsection of the Properties settings. Unlike older Blenders, there are no more “subcontexts” — no additional buttons will appear in the header when you click any of these.

The Contexts[edit]

Render Context Blender255RenderContextButton.png[edit]

In here are the settings that control overall rendering of the final images: what resolution to use, output format, performance, post processing, etc.

Render Layers Context Blender267RenderLayersContextButton.png[edit]

Here are additional settings that offer finer control over rendering of the final images: which scene layers to render, which separate parts (passes) of the rendering process to actually perform, and how to group them into render layers (not to be confused with the scene layers) for input into subsequent compositing.

Note:

In versions of Blender prior to 2.67, these settings were combined into the Render Context.

 

Scene Context Blender255SceneContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings for colour management, choosing which camera to use for rendering, and units and gravity settings for physical modeling.

You can also select another scene to be a “background” for this scene. That is, all renders of this (foreground) scene will also include the contents of the background scene, as though they had been copied into this scene. While the background appears in the 3D viewport when editing this scene, none of its contents are editable, or even selectable; that has to be done in the background scene itself.

World Context Blender255WorldContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that govern the surroundings in which the model is rendered: background sky color, mist and star settings, environment lighting etc.

Object Context Blender255ObjectContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that apply to all kinds of objects: overall transformations, layer assignments, grouping etc. The settings shown here (and any changes made) apply to the last object selected. This is also the case for the following object-specific contexts.

Object Constraints Context Blender255ObjectConstraintsContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings that limit the motion of the object for animation purposes. The limits can also be tied to the motion of other objects in various ways.

Object Modifiers Context Blender255ObjectModifiersContextButton.png[edit]

In here are settings for applying modifiers to the object geometry—these make changes to the geometry that only take effect at rendering time. Note that lamps, cameras and empty objects cannot have modifiers.

Object Data Context Blender267ObjectDataContextButtons.png[edit]

In here you will find settings specific to the type of object: mesh vertex groupings, text font, lamp settings, camera settings, all that kind of thing. This is reflected in the icon, which changes according to the type of object selected.

Material Context Blender255MaterialContextButton.png[edit]

The material settings for an object control how it looks: its colour, whether it has a shiny or dull surface, how transparent it is, and so on.

Note:

The chosen rendering engine—Blender Internal (the default), Blender Game, or Cycles—will impact the choices available for material and texture settings.

 

Texture Context Blender255TextureContextButton.png[edit]

The texture settings specify patterns that break up the uniform appearance of a material: these patterns can affect the colour of the material, or give it a rough surface, or modify it in other ways.

Particles Context Blender255ParticlesContextButton.png[edit]

An object can be set to emit particles, like smoke, flames or sparks. The concept of “particles” (and the underlying algorithms) also includes the generation of hair or fur. Or particles can be entirely custom objects, to produce effects like blades of grass interspersed with flowers in a field, water droplets on a wet surface, or even scatterings of entire buildings to make up a large cityscape!

Physics Context Blender255PhysicsContextButton.png[edit]

In here you will find settings that control how the object reacts to forces like objects in the real world: whether it behaves like a rigid body that keeps its shape but can be knocked around, such as cloth, something soft e.g a pillow, or a flowing liquid.

Where Did The Old Stuff Go?[edit]

For those used to older (pre-2.5x) versions of Blender...

... the old Logic Context has been moved into its own window type, the Logic Editor.

The old Script Context has gone: Python scripting is now much more closely integrated into the Blender UI, and old scripts will not work anyway.

The functions of the other contexts have been rearranged into the new contexts as listed above. Once you get used to the new arrangement, it should make much more sense than the old one.

3D View (version 2.5)[edit]

Warning: Display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x 3D View" overrides earlier display title "Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Blender 2.5x User Preferences".


The 3D View looks slightly different in Blender 2.5x:

Blender2553DViewPlusShelves.png

The obvious visible difference is the addition of shelves: the Tool Shelf on the left, and the Object Properties on the right. You can toggle the visibility of these by pressing  T  for the Tool Shelf and  N  for the Object Properties. Alternatively you can drag the inner edge of the shelf to the window edge to make it disappear. Whichever way you do it, when a shelf is hidden, this symbol Blender255RevealShelfIcon.png will appear in the corner of the window, and can be clicked to make the shelf reappear.

Note:

The Spacebar Menu: In previous versions of Blender, pressing the spacebar would bring up a copy of the main Blender menu hierarchy. In 2.5x, it brings up a scrolling, searchable menu of all applicable operators. Type some text into the box at the top to restrict the items shown to those containing the specified text as a substring.

 

Apart from the above, operating in the 3D view is still largely the same.

Note:

The Add menu is directly accessible via the  SHIFT + A  hotkey.

 

However, some keyboard shortcuts from older Blender versions may not work any more. They may yet make a reappearance as development of the 2.5x version continues. But in any case, most of the operations are now also accessible from the menus in the window header, so keyboard shortcuts are no longer the only way to get to them.

Blender Memory Management[edit]

Note:

This section may be a bit bewildering on first reading. If you don’t understand it right away, don’t worry too much; but as you work more and more with Blender, making copies of objects, or sharing settings between objects, feel free to come back and re-read this and hopefully it will make some subtleties of Blender’s behaviour clearer.

 

Datablocks And Users[edit]

It is helpful to understand how Blender manages memory. Just about everything in a Blender document—objects in scenes, scenes themselves, materials, textures, whatever—is stored in a datablock. Each datablock has a name, which must be unique among datablocks of the same type. Each datablock may be referenced from one or more places, mostly in other datablocks—in Blender parlance, it has one or more users. For example, several different objects might share the same material, so when you change the characteristics of the material, it automatically changes the appearance of all those objects.

If the number of users of a datablock drops to zero, it still stays around in memory, but it will not be saved when the document is saved. Thus, if you save and reload the document, all the datablocks with zero users will disappear. (In some cases you may need to save and reload a couple of times before all zero-user datablocks disappear.)

But up until that point, the datablock will continue to appear in the relevant popup menus, so you can reassign it to more users.

You can also assign a fake user to a datablock; this is what the “F” button is for in the popup menus that list datablocks of that type. This ensures that the user count never goes to zero, so the datablock always gets saved in the document even if it has no real users. This is useful for “library” documents, which can contain collections of useful materials and textures, say, that can be linked or imported into other documents, without also having to include dummy objects in the library just to ensure those materials and textures get saved.

For example, here is the widget that lets you choose the material for an object:

Blender259ObjectMaterial.png

The main part shows the name of the current material, which is editable. The X button breaks the link to this material and decrements its number of users by one, while the F button assigns a fake user to this material. The + button lets you create a new material.

The material symbol on the left pops up a list of existing materials to choose from, plus a search box to search all existing materials:

Blender259ObjectMaterialMenu.png

Note the entry with the 0 symbol next to it; that currently has a user count of zero, and will disappear when the document is saved and reloaded, if it is not further used.

The widget also displays the current user count if it is greater than 1:

Blender259ObjectMaterialUsers.png

In this case the count was incremented because the F button was selected.

Note:

Clicking the number (if it’s greater than 1) makes a copy of the object, attached only to this particular user. The copy has a user count of 1, while the original has its user count decremented by 1.

 

This is the basis of the (slightly confusing) distinction in Blender between object datablocks and object data datablocks. Object datablocks contain the information common to all the types of objects in the 3D scene, regardless of whether they’re mesh objects, lamp objects, camera objects or whatever; whereas the object data datablocks contain the information specific to that instance of the type of object, e.g. the vertex, edge and face definitions for this particular mesh you might be using, or the colour and energy of a lamp you've set up for your project, or the field of view of a camera you have.

Which leads us to the difference between the two object duplication commands,  SHIFT + D  and  ALT + D : the former duplicates both the object datablocks and the object data datablocks (though this can be controlled in your User Preferences), while the latter only duplicates the object datablock. What that means is that in the first case the two objects are truly independent, but in the second case the new object continues to share the same object data datablock so a change in one will result in a change in both of them. So, for instance, if you use  ALT + D  on a mesh object and edit the vertices, edges or faces on one copy, the other copy will also be affected.

What is a Mesh?[edit]

The most fundamental step in the 3D development process is modeling, which entails creating 3D models of objects.

Blender supports many modeling techniques. "Mesh modeling" is the most basic and common modeling technique.

In this module, you'll learn the parts of a mesh, and you'll construct 2D meshes on paper and using Blender. You'll also learn how to create, select, and grab vertices in Vertex select mode.

Definitions[edit]

A mesh is a collection of vertices, edges, and faces that describe the shape of a 3D object:

  • A vertex is a single point. (The plural of vertex is "vertices")
  • An edge is a straight line segment connecting two vertices.
  • A face is a flat surface enclosed by edges. (Some other applications call these "polygons")

An Exercise[edit]

To give you a feel for how the components of a mesh fit together, you'll now draw a 2D mesh on paper.

Your sketch might look like this.
  1. Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
  2. Draw three dots that are a couple centimeters (about an inch) apart from each other.
    • Each dot represents a vertex in the mesh.
  3. Connect two of the dots with a line segment.
    • The line segment represents an edge in the mesh.
  4. Draw two more edges so that all three vertices are connected.
  5. You've drawn a triangle; fill it in.
    • The area you filled in is a face.
  6. Now draw a fourth vertex (dot) on the paper.
  7. Connect the new vertex to two of the vertices you've drawn previously.
  8. You now have another triangle; fill it in to create the second face.

Could you imagine creating a mesh of faces in 3D space? That's what mesh modeling boils down to.

You can keep filling up the paper with more vertices, edges, and faces if you want. You may want to try and create something interesting (like a letter of the alphabet) with your triangles.

More about Meshes[edit]

A character from the "Yo Frankie!" 3D video game in Edit Mode, showing edges and faces.
The model is "(c) copyright Blender Foundation: apricot.blender.org".

Early versions of Blender supported faces only with three edges (triangles) or four edges (called quads). However, faces with five or more edges (so-called N-gons) are supported in Blender starting from version 2.63. Before Blender 2.63, for creating a new face you'd had to select 3 or 4 verts in order and then create the face, repeating the process for every new polygon needed. Version 2.63 and following versions with BMesh, you can create N-gons, regardless the number of verts.[1]

Examine a 3D video game or CGI character for a while. Believe it or not, it is made up of little faces joined together. With modern technology, of course, there can be a lot of faces, so they may be tiny and hard-to-see. Surfaces that appear curved are composed of very many individual flat faces.

When you edit objects in Blender, you'll see every vertex and edge. However, vertices and edges are never rendered; only faces are rendered. The purpose of vertices is to provide 3D control points for faces.

Another Exercise[edit]

While it's possible to construct 3D meshes vertex-by-vertex, this is rarely done. However, doing it once the hard way will help you appreciate the powerful modeling tools built in by Blender. Along the way, you'll learn about Edit Mode and the grab tool, both of which you'll need in the next module.

First, summon the default cube:

  1. Launch Blender.
  2. If the NumLock indicator on your keyboard is unlit, press  NumLock  so that numpad hotkeys will work properly.
  3. Load the factory settings using File → Load Factory Settings.

(If you're unsure what  LMB  means, please review the "Keystroke, Button, and Menu Notation" module.)

Because you loaded the factory defaults, the 3D manipulator will be enabled. For mesh editing, it helps to turn the manipulator off:

  1. Make sure the 3D View window is active.
  2. Press  Ctrl + Space  to toggle the manipulator on or off. You also could turn it on/off with the manipulator button on the 3D View header.
In Object Mode, the cube will look like this.

Because you just loaded the factory defaults, Blender should be in Object Mode with the default cube selected.

In order to modify the cube's mesh, you must put Blender into Edit Mode. (Edit Mode is a special mode for making changes to a single object.)

  1. Press  Tab  once to go into Edit Mode on the cube.
In Edit Mode, the cube will look like this.
Edit Mode indicator in the 3D View header.
Note:

 Tab  puts Blender into Edit Mode only if it's in a different mode to start with. If it's already in Edit Mode,  Tab  returns it to whatever mode it was in previously. So pressing  Tab  a second time would put Blender back into Object Mode.

 

Select mode buttons in a 3D View header, showing Vertex select mode active.

Edit Mode has three (sub-)modes for selecting vertices, edges, and faces. Because you just loaded the factory defaults, you should be in Vertex select mode. In Vertex select mode, vertices show up as yellow, black, or white dots when they're selected and as pink dots when they're not. Because you just loaded the factory defaults, all eight vertices of the cube should be selected.

In Blender 2.59/2.60 the vertex(ices) that are either unselected/selected are the following colors: Unselected will be black; Currently selected will be white; Already selected (other than the current selection) will be orange. Also note that these colors correspond to edge selections as well.

To clear the boards for your first model, delete all of the cube's vertices:

  1. Press  X 
  2. A "Delete" menu will pop up. Choose Vertices.

Now you can repeat the previous exercise using mouse and monitor instead of pen and paper.

After step 3
  1. Create a vertex by clicking with  Ctrl + LMB .
  2. Create another vertex. Blender will automatically join the two vertices with an edge.
  3. Create additional vertices (and edges) by clicking  Ctrl + LMB , but don't attempt to close a loop yet.

To create a face:

  1. Press  A  to deselect all vertices.
  2. Move the mouse to one of the vertices you want in the face.
  3. Click  RMB  (or  Cmd + LMB ) to select the vertex.
  4. Move the mouse to another vertex you want in the face.
  5. Click  Shift + RMB  (or  Shift + Cmd + LMB ) to add it to the selection.
  6. Continue adding vertices until you have three or four selected.
  7. Press  F  to create the face.
Note:

Pressing  A  performs a “deselect all” operation only if something is selected. If nothing is selected, it performs a “select all” operation.

 

Note:

Pressing  Shift + RMB  does a "select" only if the vertex isn't already selected. If it is, it deselects the vertex.

 

Note:

If you make a mistake, you can undo your work step-by-step by pressing  Ctrl + Z .

 

A completed 3D mesh

Create additional faces until all vertices belong to at least one face. Congratulations! You've just created your first 2D mesh in Blender.

You can reshape your mesh by moving vertices with the "grab tool".

To move one or more vertices:

  1. Select the vertices using  RMB  and  Shift + RMB .
  2. Drag in the viewport with  RMB  (or press  G ) to activate the grab tool.

The 3D View header will be replaced by numbers: "Dx: 0.0000 Dy: 0.0000 Dz: 0.0000 (0.0000)". You're now using the "grab tool" and can drag the vertex around using the mouse.

The grab tool disables most of the normal hotkeys, so it's important to know how to get out. You can exit the tool at any time using:

  •  LMB  or  Enter  to confirm the changes

or

  •  RMB  or  Esc  to cancel the changes.

If you're up for a challenge, try making your mesh 3D:

  1. Change the viewpoint, perhaps to one of the perfect views.
  2. Add vertices and/or move the existing ones around in the new view plane.
  3. When you're done, rotate to a new viewpoint to examine your work.

Now that you know how to create and grab vertices, you're ready for a quick lesson in extrusion and merging.

Additional Resources[edit]

Quickie Model[edit]

Your goal.

In this module, you'll learn how to extrude and merge vertices of a mesh and how to save a model. This module also introduces the File Browser window type.

Your first model will be a house, with four walls and a pyramidal roof. Simple! And because you're going to use the default cube as a base, all you actually need to build is the roof!

Editing in Blender generally involves four steps:

  1. Selecting an object to edit.
  2. Activating Edit Mode on that object.
  3. Selecting part(s) of the object to act upon.
  4. Specifying the action(s) to be performed on those parts.

Bring up the Default Cube[edit]

The default cube in Object Mode.
  1. Launch Blender.
  2. Load the factory settings using File → Load Factory Settings.

This should give you a perspective view of a scene containing three objects:

  • a cube,
  • a light source,
  • a camera.

Setting up the Viewport[edit]

It will be easier to work on the roof of your house in a perspective side view:

  1. Press  Num3  to switch to a "perfect" right side view.
Note:

 Num5  puts the viewport into perspective only if it's not already in perspective. Otherwise,  Num5  switches the viewport back to orthographic view.

 

"Right Persp" will be shown on the top left of the 3D View. The "up" (Z) direction in the scene is now "up" on your monitor as well.

It will also help to zoom in a bit:

  1. Make sure the 3D View window is active (which means your mouse cursor is in it).
  2.  SCROLL  or press  Num+  a few times until the cube is about 1/3 the height of the viewport.

Because you just loaded the factory defaults, the 3D transform manipulator will be enabled. For mesh editing, it will help to turn the manipulator off:

  1. Make sure the 3D View window is active.
  2. Press  Ctrl + Space  to toggle the manipulator on or off.

Press  Tab  once. This puts you into Edit Mode on the selected object(s)—namely, the cube.

Note:

If the lamp and/or camera were selected instead of (or in addition to) the cube, you wouldn't be able to enter Edit Mode. (Cameras and lamps are edited in a different fashion.)

 

Here's how the cube should look at this point:

Cube persective mode.PNG
Examine the 3D View header to verify that Blender is in Edit Mode and Vertex select mode with Occlude background geometry "on".
Note:

The Occlude Background Geometry button is only visible when Blender is in Edit Mode and the draw type is Solid, Shaded, or Textured.

 

The default cube is constructed as a mesh. Now that you're in Edit Mode, you can access the individual vertices, edges, and faces that make up the mesh. The default cube consists of eight vertices, twelve edges, and six faces.

Adjusting the Height[edit]

Right now, all eight vertices are selected, so any vertex edits you make will affect them all. For instance, if you were to move a vertex, the other seven vertices would follow. In order to build a roof peak for the house, you need to alter just the four top vertices of the cube. To do that, you must change the selection so that only those vertices are selected.

  1. Turn 'Occlude Background Geometry' off, so you can see all vertices. Note, in newer versions, this button is called "Limit Selection to Visible." It is one of the buttons to the right of transform orientation which is to the right of the mode select which should be currently set to "edit mode".
  2. Deselect the bottom four vertices, one by one, using  Shift + RMB .
Blender-2.5 quickie model stage2.png

The picture on the right shows the cube (in right perspective view and occlude background geometry "off") with the correct vertices selected.

Note:

Remember, if you make a mistake, you can undo your work step-by-step by pressing  Ctrl + Z .

 

Now you'll adjust the height of your house's ceiling. Activate the grab tool:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Edit Mode, with the relevant part(s) of the object selected.
  2. Make sure the 3D View window is active.
  3. Press  G .

The 3D View header will be replaced by numbers: "Dx: 0.0000 Dy: 0.0000 Dz: 0.0000 (0.0000)".

You want to lower the ceiling without making the walls crooked. This is hard to do freehand, but happily the grab tool provides an option for doing just that.

With the grab tool activated:

  1. Press  Z  to limit movement to the global Z-axis.
Blender-2.5 quickie model stage3.png
Now when you move the mouse pointer around, Blender will adjust the height of your ceiling without making the walls crooked. (You can also limit grabs to the X and Y axes and in many other ways besides.)

When your ceiling is the height you want, confirm the grab with  LMB  (or  Enter ).

Extruding[edit]

Step 7: the extruded attic, ready to confirm

Now you're going to "add on" to your house by extruding. Extrusion begins by duplicating selected parts of an object. Then the new parts are pulled away from the old ones, with new faces and edges created as necessary.

To add an attic to your house:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Edit Mode, with the top four vertices selected.
  2. Make sure the 3D View window is active.
  3. Press  E  to activate the extrude tool.
  4. Restrict movement to the Z axis and move the mouse pointer upward.
  5. When the attic is the height you want, confirm the extrude with  LMB  or  Enter .
Note:

At the end of this process only the four new vertices (the upper corners of the attic) will be selected. The others (including the four that were originally selected) will not be selected.

 

Note:

If you cancel an extrude operation without confirming it, duplicate vertices and edges have already been created. If this isn't what you wanted, use  Ctrl + Z  to undo the duplication.

 

Merging[edit]

The Specials menu

You can change the roof from a flat one to a pyramidal one by merging the vertices of the roof:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Edit Mode, with the four top-most vertices selected.
  2. Make sure the 3D View window is active.
  3. Press  W  to bring up the Specials menu.
  4. Select Merge. (You can also access this by pressing  Alt + M .)
  5. The Merge menu should pop up, select At center.

A message should appear on the Info header saying that 3 vertices have been deleted, this is because in order to merge four vertices into one, three vertices must be deleted.

Your house now has a pyramidal roof!

Saving your Work[edit]

Saving the .blend

To save the current scene in a .blend file:

  1. Press  F2  (or select File → Save As). This temporarily changes the active window into a File Browser window.
  2. Navigate to the directory (folder) where you want to write the file by clicking  LMB  on directory names in the File Browser window. (Clicking on ".." will take you up one level.)
  3. If you wish to name the file something other than "untitled.blend", type a filename in the text box to the left of the "Cancel" button. (The .blend suffix will be added automatically.)
  4. Click  LMB  on the "Save File" button. As soon as the save operation is complete, the window will automatically revert back to its former type.

Saving Further Changes[edit]

Once you have saved your work to a file for the first time, you can save subsequent changes to the same file name by pressing  CTRL + S  and confirming you want to overwrite the existing file.

Additional Resources[edit]

Quickie Render[edit]

Blender-2.5 quickie model render.png

If you haven't completed the "Quickie Model" module, do so now. You will need the resulting model for this module.

Now that you've created your first model, you'll probably want to try rendering it. Your first render, with a single light source and only nine faces, should finish quickly. However, as your 3D scenes become more complex, you'll find that rendering can take a long time.

In this module, you'll render your quickie model and save the result in various file formats. You'll also learn how to aim cameras and create lamps.

Rendering the Quickie Model[edit]

  1. Launch Blender and load factory settings.
  2. To load the house model from the previous module:
    1. Press  F1  or select File → Open. This temporarily changes the active window into a File Browser window.
    2. Navigate to the directory (folder) where you wrote the file, by clicking  LMB  on directory names in the File window. (Clicking on ".." will take you up one level.)
    3. Click  LMB  on the name of the file you wrote.
    4. Click  LMB  on the "Open File" button. As soon as the operation is complete, the window will revert back to its former type.
  3. Press  F12  or select Render → Render Image. This opens the Image Editor so you can watch the render progress.
If F12 is in use by the window manager...
  • With the new Apple keyboard, use  Fn + F12  to avoid the Mac Dashboard.
  • With Macintosh OS X 10.5, use  Alt + Fn + F12 .
  • With Gnome, use  Alt + F12  to avoid the Gnome Search Dialog.


Note:

You can stop a render in progress by pressing  Esc  any time when the render window has the focus. Bear in mind that this will stop the rendering of the current frame and abandon any partial results; pressing  F12  will start rendering the image from the beginning again.

 

Seeing Your Render[edit]

By default, pressing  F12  will switch to the UV/Image Editor window, and show you your render there. You can switch back to the 3D view with  F11 . Pressing  F11  in the 3D view will switch you to the UV/Image Editor window without redoing the render—you will simply see the same image as last time.

Aiming the Camera[edit]

If you don't get a picture of the house, or if the picture is not framed well, try moving or re-aiming the camera:

  1. Press  Esc  to get back to Edit Mode, if needed.
  2. Press  Num0  to take the camera's viewpoint.
  3. Press  Shift + F  to put the 3D View window into camera fly mode.

In camera fly mode, you can:

  • Pan and tilt by moving the mouse pointer up, down, left, or right.
  • Accelerate by  SCROLL  forwards.
  • Decelerate by  SCROLL  backwards.
  • Press any key or button to exit fly mode.

(It works differently in version 2.70 and later, more like a FPS game with possibility to slide and so on, buttons are regular FPS controls)

When you're done positioning the camera, try rendering again.

Lighting[edit]

If your cube is completely black, you may not have a lamp in the scene. Either the default lamp got deleted, or you're using a version of Blender that doesn't provide a default lamp.

To add a lamp:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Place the 3D cursor where you want the lamp to go; or add the lamp then immediately grab it, and move it somewhere else.
  3. Press  Shift + A .
  4. In the popup menu, select Lamp → Point.

Saving the Render[edit]

Saving the scene (with  F2 , for instance) does not save any renders. Saving renders is a separate step.

To save your current render:

  1. Make sure you are in the Image Editor. If not press  F12  to render
  2. Press  F3 . This temporarily changes the active window into a File Browser window.
  3. Navigate to the directory (folder) where you want to write the file.
  4. Type a filename in the text box (to the left of the "Cancel" button).
  5. To the left of the window, choose your preferred file type.
  6. Click  LMB  on the "Save as Image" button. As soon as the save operation is complete, the window will revert back to its former type.

Renderer Selection[edit]

Blender263RendererSelectionMenu.png

Blender offers a choice of different rendering engines for producing images. The menu for selecting from these appears in the Info window (the thin one that contains the menu bar at the top of the default layout). In most of these tutorials, you will leave this choice set at Blender Render. But it is worth knowing what other choices are available:

  • Blender Render—the oldest renderer, commonly known as the Blender Internal renderer. Built into Blender right from its early days. Can still produce good results with the right tricks, but considered by the Blender developers to be antiquated and not worthy of continuing development.
  • Blender Game—this is the renderer used by the Blender Game Engine. Designed to be fast enough for interactive use in a game, which means there are limitations in the quality of renders it produces. You also use this renderer to create rigid-body physics simulations.
  • Cycles Render—for this and other choices, see Advanced Rendering.

Render Control[edit]

Blender263RenderRender.png

The top panel under the Render tab Blender255RenderContextButton.png in the Properties window shows 3 buttons and a menu. The first button renders a single frame, equivalent to  F12 . The other two buttons are more relevant to animations.

Blender263RenderDisplayMenu.png

The “Display:” menu controls what happens when you press  F12 : the default “Image Editor” causes the 3D view to be switched to the UV/Image Editor showing the rendered image. “Full Screen” causes the UV/Image Editor display to take over the entire screen, while “New Window” makes it appear in a separate OS/GUI window (similar to how older versions of Blender used to work). Finally, “Keep UI” causes no changes to your window layout at all; you have to explicitly bring up the Image Editor with  F11  to see the rendered image.

Render Image Dimensions[edit]

Blender263RenderDimensions.png

You can control the size of image that Blender creates when rendering. This is specified in the “Dimensions” panel under Render Blender255RenderContextButton.png properties. Apart from the menu at the top, the settings in this panel are grouped into two columns:

  • The column on the left controls settings for a single image.
  • The column on the right specifies additional settings for rendering a whole sequence of images as part of an animation. These settings will be discussed later.

At the upper left, under “Resolution:”, we have the dimensions in pixels of the image (the default settings are 1920×1080 as shown in the screenshot), plus an additional scale factor slider below (showing 50% by default). With these settings, the image will actually be rendered at (1920×50%)×(1080×50%) = 960×540. Having the scale factor is a convenience; rendering smaller, lower-quality images is faster, which speeds things up when you are initially working on your model, but of course you want full quality for the final result. Instead of mentally having to work out numbers for initial- versus final-quality renders, you can simply set the resolution to the full final quality, and use the scale factor to reduce this to, say, 50% or 25% for interim work, and then set it to 100% for the final output.

Image File Formats[edit]

Blender263RenderFormats.png

You set the format and location for saving rendered images in the “Output” panel under the Render Blender255RenderContextButton.png properties.

In current versions of Blender, the default format for saving rendered images is PNG. This is a lossless format which has the option for alpha transparency (which means the sky background is replaced by transparent pixels—enabled by clicking the “RGBA” button). This is a good format if you intend to do further work with the image (e.g. in an image editor like Gimp or Photoshop), but the files can be large.

JPEG is a lossy image format, which means it throws away information that the human eye doesn’t see. This produces much smaller files than PNG, and is adequate if you just want to upload the render directly for use in a Web page or other such document, but is not the best choice if you intend to do further processing of the image. It also doesn’t support alpha transparency.

To change the render file format:

  1. Switch to the Render tab in the Properties window.
  2. Look for the “Output” panel.
  3. Click  LMB  on the popout menu with the current file format.
  4. Select your preferred format.

Additional Resources[edit]

Understanding the Camera[edit]

Real-World Cameras[edit]

Before discussing the camera in Blender, it helps to understand something about how cameras work in real life. We have become accustomed to so many of their quirks and limitations when looking at real photographs that 3D software like Blender often expends a lot of effort to mimic those quirks.

When taking a photo with a real camera, a number of important factors come into play:

  • the focus—because of how lenses work, only objects within a certain range of distances from the camera (the depth of field) will appear sharp in the image; objects closer or further than this range will begin to appear noticeably blurred, the blur getting worse the further they are outside the focus range. The narrower that range of in-focus distances (the shallower the depth of field), the more quickly this blurring happens with distance outside it.
  • the exposure time—how long the shutter remains open. The longer this is, the more light is captured, but also the more likely the image is to pick up motion blur from things moving.
  • the aperture—how wide the lens opening is. This is expressed, not as an actual distance measurement, but as a fraction of the focal length of the lens (loosely, distance between the lens and the image-capturing surface when the image is properly focused), written as f: thus, say, f/2.8 (“f over 2.8”, not “f 2.8”) is a larger number, hence representing a wider aperture, than f/8. A wider aperture increases the amount of light being captured without contributing to motion blur, but it does reduce the depth of field. The extreme case of a pinhole camera has a very tiny aperture with infinite depth of field (no need to focus at all), but captures very little light, so needs a very well-lit scene, a long exposure, or a very sensitive image-capturing surface.
  • the sensitivity of the image-capturing surface to light. In the days of film cameras, we talked about film sensitivity (“fast” film being more sensitive to light than “slow” film); nowadays with digital cameras we talk about the gain of the light-amplification system. High-sensitivity film was more likely to produce a grainy image; in a somewhat similar way, high light-amplification in a digital camera is more likely to produce a noisy-looking image under low-light conditions.
  • the field of view—how much of the scene the camera can see at once. A wide-angle lens gives a wider field of view, but you have to be closer to things to be able to see them, and there is also greater perspective distortion. At the other extreme, a telephoto lens gives a very narrow field of view, but can take pictures of things from much further away. A wide-angle lens also has a shorter focal length than a narrow-angle one (remember that aperture is expressed as a ratio of the focal length f), therefore the telephoto lens is going to capture less light than the wide-angle one with the same aperture width. You may also have heard of a zoom lens: this is one with a variable focal length, so it can be adjusted for anything from a wide-angle mode to a telephoto mode.

As you can see, many of these different factors interact with each other: the brightness of the image can be affected by any of the exposure time, the aperture, the gain sensitivity and the focal length of the lens, while each of these also has side-effects on the image in other ways.

Blender and other computer graphics software are, in principle, free of the problems of focus, exposure time, aperture, sensitivity and focal length. Nevertheless, it is common to want to introduce deliberate motion blur into an image, to give the impression of movement. Also sometimes it is useful to introduce a deliberately shallow depth of field, blurring objects in the background in order to draw emphasis to the important part of the image that is still in focus.

Exposure (the total amount of light captured in the image) is also less of a problem in computer graphics than in real-world photography, because in computer graphics you always have total control over the amount and placement of lighting in the scene. Nevertheless, if you’re not careful, you can still produce images that are overexposed (bright parts losing detail by saturating at a solid, featureless white) or underexposed (dark parts losing detail by becoming solid black).

The field-of-view issue arises from basic principles of geometry, and Blender’s camera is just as much subject to that as real cameras.

The Camera In Blender[edit]

Here we are going to concentrate on the important issue of field of view.

You can change the field of view in two ways--move the camera closer to or further from the scene (in film/TV production parlance, this is called dollying), or change the angle of the lens (this is called zooming). You do the latter in the Object Data Blender267CameraDataContextButton.png tab in the Properties window (the Camera has to be selected by  RMB  in Object Mode, or the required tab will not be shown).

Perspective is the phenomenon where objects that are further away from the viewer look smaller than those close by. More than that, different parts of the same object may be at different distances from the eye, leading to a change in the apparent shape of the object called perspective distortion. The mathematical theory of perspective was worked out by Alhazen in the 11th century, and famously adopted by the Italian Renaissance painters four hundred years later.

Here are two renders of the same scene with two different cameras, to illustrate the difference.

This one moves the camera closer but gives it a wider field of view:

BlenderPerspWidepng.png

This one moves the camera back, while narrowing its field of view, to try to give the scene the same overall size.

BlenderPerspNarrow.png

The latter is like using a “telephoto” lens with a real camera. Notice how the wider field of view gives you a greater perspective effect. The boxes are all cuboids, with parallel pairs of opposite faces joined by parallel edges; yet there is a noticeable angle between notionally-parallel edges in both images, which is more pronounced in the upper image. That is what perspective distortion is all about.

Specifying the Field of View[edit]

Blender267CameraDataContext.png

When you select a camera object, its settings become visible in the Camera Context Blender267CameraDataContextButton.png in the Properties window, which should initially look something like at right.

Photographers are accustomed to working in terms of the focal-length of the lens: longer means narrower field of view, shorter means wider field of view. But the field of view also depends on the size of the sensor (image capture area); modern digital cameras typically have a smaller sensor size than the exposed film area in older 35mm film cameras. Thus, the focal length measurements have to be adjusted accordingly, in order to give the same field of view.

Blender allows you to work this way, by specifying the focal length in the “Lens” panel, and the sensor size in the “Camera” panel. It even offers a “Camera Presets” menu, which sets the sensor size for any of a range of well-known cameras.

Also, you might be doing compositing of your computer-generated imagery on top of an actual photograph. In which case, to make the results look realistic, you need to closely match the characteristics of the camera and lens that were used to take the photo. So if you know the lens focal length and camera sensor size, it makes sense to be able to plug those values in directly.

Blender267CameraLensAngle.png

But if you’re not doing photo compositing, but generating completely synthetic imagery, you might consider this a somewhat round-about way of working. Why not specify the field of view directly as an angle?

Blender allows for this as well. From the popup menu in the Lens panel that says “Millimeters”, select “Field of View” instead, and the Focal Length field will turn into a Field of View field, showing the angle in degrees directly. This is much easier to relate to the geometry of the scene!

Note:

Relationship between the two: If the width of the sensor is d, the focal length of the lens is f, and the angle of view is θ, then they are related by \frac{d}{2 f} = \tan \frac{\theta}{2}.

 

See Also[edit]

Improving Your House[edit]

Your goal.

In this module, you'll refine the house model you created two modules ago. In the process, you'll learn how to access Blender's predefined meshes and how to set a pivot point. You'll also learn how to select, extrude, delete, and subdivide the edges and faces of a mesh model.


To begin, set up Blender as follows:

  1. Launch Blender and load factory settings.
  2. If you have a numpad, make sure NumLock is on.
  3. Load the house model you created in the "Quickie Model" module.
  4. If the 3D manipulator is active, disable it.
  5. Adjust the viewpoint until you can clearly see two walls of the house and two sides of the roof.

Adding a Ground Plane[edit]

Your house needs some ground to rest on. You can model the ground as an object in your scene. Blender has many predefined mesh objects built in. Happily, one of these is a flat, square surface.

Recall that new objects are added at the 3D cursor. Before creating the ground, you should position the cursor at ground level:

  1. Select the house by clicking  RMB  on it.
  2. Enter Edit Mode by pressing  Tab .
  3. Select one of the bottom vertices by clicking  RMB  on it.
  4. Bring up the Snap menu by pressing  Shift + S .
  5. Choose Cursor to Selected.
  6. Leave Edit Mode by pressing  Tab  so that your ground is created as a separate object.
Note:

There's an "Aligned To View" setting in the "Editing" tab of User Preferences which is off by default in 2.5x. When this setting is on, the orientation of new objects depends on the current viewpoint. Pre-2.48a releases of Blender had "Aligned To View" on by default. If you've turned this setting on (or are using an old release) go to "top view" (by pressing  Num7 ) before creating the ground object.

 

The ground added.

Now create the ground object:

  1. Activate a 3D View window.
  2. Press  Shift + A .
  3. Choose Mesh → Plane.
The scaled ground.

To enlarge (or scale) the ground object, use the scale tool:

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Select the ground by clicking  RMB  on it.
  3. Activate the scale tool by pressing  S .
  4. Type  7key  to enlarge the ground 7x.
  5. Press  Enter  or  LMB  to confirm and exit the scale tool.

Scaling with a Pivot[edit]

Suppose you want to shrink the house by 50%. As you can probably guess, this would be done with the scaling tool. However, if you did so right now without the right pivot point, the reduced house would no longer rest on the ground. Blender scales (and rotates) objects around a pivot point, which by default is located at the median point (geometric center) of the selected object(s).

In order to scale the house while keeping its base on the ground, you need the pivot point to be at ground level. Since the 3D cursor is at ground level, you can do this as follows:


Origin to 3D Cursor Menu Item.
  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Select the house by clicking  RMB  on it.
  3. In a 3D View header, click  LMB  on menu item "Object" and put the mouse cursor over Transform and select Origin to 3D Cursor from the pop-up menu. This can also be done with Ctrl+Shift+Alt+C, select Origin to 3D Cursor from the pop-up menu.

The origin of the house is now at the center of the 3D cursor. If you scale the house, the place where the 3D cursor is located will remain fixed, and everything else will expand or contract from that point. The pivot is marked with an orange-filled circle; do not mistake it for a selected vertex.

Edge Selection[edit]

It is often useful to select edges instead of vertices.

The select mode buttons.
  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Select the house by clicking  RMB  on it.
  3. Press  Tab  to enter edit mode.
  4. Click  LMB  on the Edge select mode button in the 3D View header.

In Edge select mode, edges appear as orange or white line segments when they're selected and as black line segments when they're not.

Just as you selected vertices in Vertex select mode, you can now select (and deselect) edges in the same way as vertices. This is also the same for Face select mode.

If you have difficulty selecting particular edges with the mouse...

It may be because those edges are doubled. This can happen if you cancel an extrude operation and forget to undo the duplication. Here's a solution:

  1. Switch to Vertex select mode.
  2. Activate a 3D View window.
  3. Select all vertices by pressing  A  once or twice.
  4. Press  W  to bring up the "Specials" menu.
  5. Choose Remove Doubles.

Extruding Edges[edit]

You can extrude edges in much the same way as you extrude vertices.

Step 5

To add an overhang to the roof of your house, first move the pivot point to the peak of the roof:

  1. Switch to Vertex select mode.
  2. Select just the vertex at the peak of the roof.
  3. Press  Shift + S  to bring up the Snap menu.
  4. In the Snap menu, choose Cursor to Selected to move the 3D cursor to the peak.
  5. Use the "Pivot" menu in the 3D View header to change the pivot to "3D Cursor".
After step 2

Now extrude by scaling from that point:

  1. Switch to Edge select mode.
  2. Select just the four edges at the base of the roof.
  3. Press  E  to activate the extrude tool.
  4. Press  S  to extrude by scaling uniformly from the pivot point.
  5. As you move the mouse pointer away from the pivot point, the roof of your house will expand.
  6. When the roof is the size you want, confirm by  LMB  (or pressing  Enter ).
  7. Press  CTRL + SPACE  to toggle the manipulator on then make the overhangs slanted by holding  LMB  on the blue arrow that appears in the center of the house, and dragging down.
After step 7

Face Selection[edit]

It is often useful to select faces.

The select mode buttons after step 2
  1. Make sure you're in Edit Mode on the house.
  2. Click  LMB  on the Face select mode button in the 3D View header.

In Face select mode, the center of each face is marked with a small square. Faces appear as orange or stippled grey areas with orange edges when they're selected (depending on which face is active), and as grey areas when they're not.

Just as you selected edges in Edge select mode, you can now select (and deselect) faces:

  • If any faces are selected, press  A  to deselect all faces.
  • If no faces are selected, press  A  to select all faces.
  • To select a single face (and deselect the rest), click  RMB  (or  Cmd + LMB ) on the center of the face.
  • To toggle the selection status of a face (without affecting the rest), click  Shift + RMB  on the center of the face.
The three faces on the +X side, selected

Use these techniques to select all three faces (two roof and one wall) on the +X side of your house, as shown.

  • This reader would like to remind others that the positive direction of the axis is the direction the arrows point.

Extruding Faces[edit]

Just as you extruded edges to grow the roof, you can extrude faces to grow the entire house.

After step 6

To double the size of your house without changing the pitch of the roof:

  1. With the three faces on the +X side selected, activate a 3D View window.
  2. Press  E  to activate the extrude tool.
  3. Press  X  to extrude along the X axis
  4. As you move the mouse pointer in the +X direction, the +X half of your house will expand.
  5. Press  2  to expand by exactly 2 Blender units. (If you scaled your house earlier, you must change this value accordingly, e.g. scaling by 50% means you press  1 .)
  6. Confirm and exit the extrude tool by clicking  LMB  (or pressing  Enter ).

Deleting Edges[edit]

After step 2

If you look closely at the model, you'll notice an extra edge connecting the seams between the two halves of the roof. To delete this edge:

  1. Edit the house object in Edge select mode.
  2. Select just the edge you want to delete.
  3. Press  X  or  Delete .
  4. When the "Delete" menu comes up, choose Edges.
Note:

Deleting an edge automatically deletes any face(s) that include that edge.

 

Subdividing Faces[edit]

In order to add openings such as doors or windows to the walls of your house, you'll need to subdivide the wall (vertical) faces into smaller faces.

After step 2

To subdivide each wall face into a 10x20 grid:

  1. Make sure you are not in wire-frame mode (otherwise the occlude hidden geometry button will not appear)
  2. Edit the house object in Face select mode.
  3. Select all six wall faces of your house.
  4. Press  W  to bring up the Specials menu.
  5. Choose Subdivide.
  6. Set the number of cuts to 9 in the Operator panel (also accessible through F6).

You might be wondering why to make 9 cuts instead of 10, the reason is that in case of dividing a finite surface along one axis there will be always n-1 cuts to generate n single faces. Here the number of cuts is applied in 2 dimensions. So, if you count the number of faces on the subdivided walls, you will find a 10x20 grid. The reason why there are 20 faces instead of 10 lengthwise is because you doubled the size of the house along the X axis (lengthwise).

After step 6
Step 2
After step 3.2

Now you can extrude windows and doors:

  1. Edit the house object in Face select mode.
  2. Turn on the "Limit selection to visible (clipped with depth buffer)" (for old Blender versions "Occlude background geometry") option by clicking  LMB  on the toggle button in the 3D View header.
  3. For each wall of the house:
    1. Go to the perfect view for that wall:
      •  Num1  for "front"
      •  Ctrl + Num1  for "back"
      •  Num3  for "right"
      •  Ctrl + Num3  for "left"
    2. Select faces where you want to create a window or door. An easy way to do this is by:
      1. Deselecting all faces by pressing  A  once or twice.
      2. Pressing  B  to activate the Border Select tool.
      3. Clicking and dragging  LMB  to delimit a rectangular area.
      4. After you release  LMB , all faces in the rectangular area will be selected.
    3. Press  E  to activate the extrude tool.
    4. Extrude inward 1/10th of a BU by typing  -.1  and confirming it with  Enter  or  LMB .

Final Steps[edit]

  1. Adjust the position of the lamp and aim the camera until you obtain a good render.
  2. Save your work!

Modeling a Simple Person[edit]

Your simple person will look like this.

In this module, you will model a simple human figure. Along the way, you will practice using extrusion and learn additional ways to select vertices, edges, and faces.

Start a New Scene[edit]

  1. Start with the default cube (File → Load Factory Settings) and NumLock "on".
  2. Press  Tab  to edit the cube.
  3. Scale the cube down 50% by pressing  S   .   5KEY   ENTER .

Selection Methods[edit]

Just as you did for the house model, you will begin by selecting the top four vertices of the cube. This section presents six methods for doing so.

Ease of selection depends partly on the viewport settings and viewpoint. For greatest ease, you want a view in which the parts you are trying to select are both visible and close together.

For clarity, use a view of the cube in which all vertices are visible:

  • Go to right side view with  Num3 .
  • Disable the manipulator widget with  Ctrl + Space .
  • Make sure the Limit selection to visible option is "off".
Blender-2.5 quickie model stage2.png

The picture on the right shows the cube with the correct vertices selected.

To begin, make sure you start in Vertex select mode.

Border Select Tool[edit]

The border select tool selects things that lie in a rectangular region of the viewport.

  1. Activate (place the mouse pointer in) a 3D View window.
  2. Deselect all vertices by pressing  A .
  3. Press  B  to activate the border select tool. Two dashed gray lines should appear, one vertical and one horizontal, forming a crosshair in the viewpoint.
  4. Click and drag  LMB  diagonally across the area you want to select. The area will be outlined in dashed gray lines.
  5. When you release the mouse button, the vertices inside the rectangle will be added to the selection.

Practice selecting the top four vertices this way. If you make a mistake, press  A  and try again.

Circle Select Tool[edit]

The circle select tool selects or deselects things that lie in a circular region of the viewport.

  1. Activate a 3D View window.
  2. Deselect all vertices by pressing  A .
  3. Press  C  to activate the circle select tool. A dashed gray circle should appear. note: Prior to Blender 2.5  B  B  twice.

When this tool is active, you can do various things:

  • To move the select area, simply move the mouse pointer.
  • To resize the select area, use  SCROLL  or  Num+ / NUM− ..
  • To select all vertices within the circle, click  LMB .
  • To deselect all vertices within the circle, click  MMB  or  Shift  +  LMB .
  • To deactivate the tool, press  Esc  or  RMB .

Practice selecting the top four vertices this way. If you make a mistake, press  A  and try again.

Lasso Select Tool[edit]

Like many graphics programs, Blender 3D has a lasso select tool.

  1. Activate a 3D View window.
  2. Deselect all vertices by pressing  A .
  3. Click and hold  Ctrl + LMB .
  4. Drag the mouse pointer in a loop around the vertices you want to select. As you drag, a dashed gray line will appear.
  5. You can deselect with lasso by pressing  Ctrl + Shift + LMB .
  6. Release the  LMB  when you're done.

Vertex by Vertex Selection[edit]

You can select (or deselect) vertices one by one, as you did in the "Quickie Model" module.

  1. Click  RMB  on a vertex to make it the only selected vertex.
  2. Toggle the select state of additional vertices by clicking  Shift + RMB .

Edge Select Mode[edit]

You can select (or deselect) edges one by one, as you did in the "Improving Your House" module.

  1. Click  LMB  on the Edge select mode button in the 3D View header.
  2. Select the top left edge of the cube by clicking on it with  RMB .
  3. Toggle the select state of top right edge of the cube by clicking on it with  Shift + RMB .
  4. Switch back to Vertex select mode by clicking  LMB  on the Vertex select mode button in the 3D View header.

After you switch back to Vertex select mode, all four vertices in the two selected edges are selected.

Face Select Mode[edit]

You can select (or deselect) faces one by one, as you did in the "Improving Your House" module.

  1. Click  LMB  on the Face select mode button in the 3D View header.
  2. Select the top face of the cube by clicking on its center dot with  RMB .
  3. Switch back to Vertex select mode by clicking  LMB  on the Vertex select mode button in the 3D View header.

After you switch back to Vertex select mode, all four vertices in selected face are selected.

Extruding Limbs[edit]

The view menu.

The illustrations in this section are in front orthographic view, so:

  • Use  Num5  (or View → Orthographic) to switch to orthographic view.
  • Use  Num1  (or View → Front) to switch to front view.

Region Extrusion[edit]

  1. Make sure you're still in Edit Mode, with the top four vertices selected. (Only two will be visible in front ortho view.)
  2. Activate the extrude tool by using  E  (or Mesh → Extrude Region).
  3. Move the mouse pointer upwards. As you do, four new vertices will appear, each connected to one of the four that were previously selected.

The new vertices and their associated edges will move with the mouse pointer. You can lock them into place with  LMB  or  Enter ).

Extruding a Leg[edit]

Blender-2.5 simple person snapping.png

Suppose you want to extrude a region the same size as the default cube -- in other words, one Blender unit on a side.

  1. Undo your previous extrude by pressing  Ctrl + Z .
  2. Activate the extrude tool again by using  E  (or Mesh → Extrude Region).
  3. This time, as you're moving the extruded vertices around, hold down the  Ctrl  key. You'll see that the new vertices will only move in multiples of a Blender unit. This is called snapping, and it makes it easy to extrude by exactly one blender unit. The size of the snapping depends on the zoom level; if you are zoomed out a long way from the object the snapping will be done in large increments and if you are zoomed in close you can snap in finer amounts.

Continue extruding until you have five cubes of equal size stacked atop one another. This will be one leg of your figure.

Note:

Another way to extrude by exactly one Blender unit is to press  1key  while the tool is active.

If you press  2key  when no tool is active, Blender will switch to the second layer, and your (first-layer) object will disappear. To make it visible again, press  1key .

 

Note:

If you are not using Front Ortho view, the blender unit will be much larger than the cube. Switching to that view will allow for the proper size, although you can manually enter the extrusion as 0.4 units.

 

Note:

Don't extrude any cube more than a unit at a time. You'll want those extra vertices, edges and faces later in this tutorial.

 

Note:

If the mesh gets too big for your view, you can zoom out using  SCROLL  or  NUM− 

 

Extruding the Pelvis[edit]

Blender-2.5 simple person step2.png
  1. Press  A  until all vertices are deselected.
  2. Rotate the view (by dragging  MMB ) so you can see all four vertices on the right face of the top cube.
  3. Select those four vertices.
  4. Extrude twice to the right.

Extruding the Rest of the Body[edit]

The same trick is repeated over and over to build the rest of our simple body.

Note:

To speed things up, you may want to switch to Face select mode. In Face select mode, you can select a face with a single click.

 

  1. Create a second leg by extruding down four times from the last cube of the pelvis.
  2. Create the torso by extruding up five times from the middle cube of the pelvis.
  3. Extrude to each side from the next-to-top cube of the torso to create arms. (Making sure there are five on each side. Refer to the picture on the top of the page)

To be safe, remove any double vertices you may have inadvertently created:

  1. In Vertex select mode, press  A  until all vertices are selected.
  2. With a 3D View window active, press  W  to bring up the Specials menu.
  3. Choose Remove Doubles.

Now check your work:

  1. Return to Object Mode by pressing  Tab .
  2. Make sure the viewport draw type is Solid. (Press  Z  if it isn't.)
  3. Rotate the viewpoint and examine the body from every side (it might be useful to return to perspective view for this).
If any faces are missing...

This is easily fixed. To create a face:

  1. Press  Tab  to go back into Edit Mode.
  2. Select four vertices.
  3. Press  F  (or choose Mesh → Faces → Make Edge/Face from the 3D View header).
  • Note that you can also make edges with this tool if you select two vertices.

Adding the Head[edit]

Editmodewithhead.PNG
  1. Move the 3D cursor to a point above the neck by clicking with  LMB .
  2. Adjust the cursor position in orthographic top, front and side views ( Num7 ,  Num1 , and  Num3  respectively) until the 3D cursor is about where the center of the head should be. It may help to use  Shift + S SnapCursor to Grid.
  3. Make sure you're in Edit Mode with a 3D View window active. (If you create the head in Object Mode, it will be a separate object from the body, and changes to the body later in this tutorial won't affect the head.)
  4. Create a sphere using  Shift + A MeshIcosphere.
  5. Leave the default settings for subdivisions and size in the bottom left of the screen. (Note: Your computer may slow down if you set subdivisions above 6)

You should now have a small sphere at the top of the body. To make it more proportional to the body, resize it using the scale tool:

  1. Make sure you're still in Edit Mode, with a 3D View window active and the head selected.
  2. If necessary change the pivot point to Median Point.
  3. Activate the scale tool by pressing  S  (or Mesh → Transform → Scale).
  4. Move the mouse pointer until the head is the size you want.

You may also adjust its position using the grab tool:

  1. Make sure you're still in Edit Mode, with a 3D View window active and the head selected.
  2. Activate the grab tool by pressing  G  (or Mesh → Transform → Grab/Move).
  3. Move the mouse pointer until the center of the head is where you want it.
Note:

If you deselect the head and then decide that you want to select it again:

  1. Hover the mouse pointer over any vertex/edge/face.
  2. Press  L . In Edit Mode this will select all vertices that are linked to the vertex nearest the mouse pointer.

 

Now check your work:

Objectmodeverification.PNG
  1. Return to Object Mode by pressing  Tab .
  2. Make sure the viewport draw type is Solid. (Press  Z  if it isn't.)
  3. Rotate the viewpoint and examine the body from every side. Make sure that the head connects properly to the neck.

Save Your Work[edit]

You will continue working on your simple person model in the next module.

To save the scene in a .blend file:

  1. Press  ctrl  +  S  (or select File → Save).
  2. Navigate to the directory (folder) where you want to write the file.
  3. Type a filename in the text box to the left of the "Cancel" button.
  4. Click  LMB  on the "Save Blender File" button.

Detailing Your Simple Person 1[edit]

Your goal.

Few real-life objects have perfectly sharp edges. People, in particular, consist of mainly smooth surfaces. How does one model a smooth object using flat faces and sharp edges?

In this module, you'll learn how to smooth a mesh by using subsurfaces and smooth shading.


You'll need the simple person model from the previous module. If you haven't done it, either go back and do it now or download the pre-made model from Yosun Chang's website at http://www.nusoy.com/blender.


If the model doesn't look solid, your Viewport Shading setting may be set to Wireframe. To switch to Solid shading:

  1. Activate the 3D View window.
  2. Press  Z .

Subsurfaces[edit]

The sub surface modifier.

So far, all the meshes you've created have had sharp edges, giving them a faceted appearance like that of a cut diamond. To model a smooth object (like a human body) you might think you'd need a huge number of vertices and faces. Subsurfaces partly solve this problem by automatically subdividing a mesh into a finer mesh suitable for smooth rendering.

You subsurface in Blender by adding a subsurf modifier to a pre-existing mesh object. A modifier is simply an algorithm (automatic process) which can be added to an object. (Blender modifiers are analogous to Photoshop adjustment layers.)

To get started, make sure Blender is in Object Mode, with only the simple person object selected:

  1. If Blender is in Edit Mode, press  Tab .
  2. To select the simple person,  RMB  on it.

To add a subsurf modifier to the selected object:

  1. Click on the modifiers tab (wrench icon) in a Properties window.
  2. Add Modifier → Subdivision Surface.

The object's appearance should immediately become more faceted and more rounded. In addition, several subsurface controls will appear in the Modifiers tab.

Note:

The modifier has been added, but it hasn't actually been "applied" yet. (Applying a Blender modifier is analogous to flattening a Photoshop adjustment layer.)

 

If a few faces don't subsurf...

The model may include some double vertices. To get rid of these:

  1. Edit the model in Vertex select mode.
  2. Select all vertices.
  3. Mesh → Vertices → Remove Double
  4. Try again.
If Blender crashes when you attempt to subsurf an object...

You need to look in to upgrading (or possibly even downgrading) your graphics drivers. Having the right graphics driver can avert a lot of problems.

What just happened? The default subsurf modifier (one level of Catmull-Clark) subdivided each face of the object into four smaller faces that are progressively angled. This softened the sharp edges of the original model where faces met at 90-degree angles.

Controls[edit]

For this model, one level of subsurf isn't quite enough. To increase the number of levels to two, just increase the number in the text box directly underneath Subdivisions. The View setting controls the number of subdivision levels visible in the viewport. This can be very useful when you have a high-poly scene, just decrease the number of visible subdivisions to speed up viewport action.

You can specify additional levels of subsurfing to be used during renders. For extra smooth renders, you might want three levels of subsurfing. Set this with the Render control immediately below the View control.

The Apply button applies the modifier to the mesh. Do not click it yet; we'll be playing with the model a bit longer before we want to apply the changes. While useful with some modifiers, applying a subsurf modifier produces a very complex mesh, and there's no need to do so here.

Remember that you can undo any accidental modifications with  Ctrl + Z .

Blender can combine a series of modifiers by stacking them. For this reason, the Modifier tab includes buttons for arranging and removing modifiers.

You can hide edges created by the modifier by activating the Optimal Display toggle button. The effect of Optimal Draw is especially clear with the Wireframe draw type.

You can edit the mesh in modified form (without actually applying the modifier) by activating the Apply modifier to editing cage during Editmode toggle button, a small button to the left of the Up/Down arrows (the arrows are for changing the position of the modifier in the stack) in the Modifier panel. Modifier editmode.png

Try this out:

  1. Press  Tab  to enter Edit mode.
  2. Make sure Blender is in Vertex select mode.
    Note that the vertices no longer lie on the surface of the object.
  3. Activate the Apply modifier to editing cage during Editmode button.
    Now all vertices lie on the surface of the object, and you can adjust the (modified) vertices directly. However, any additional vertices created by the modifier cannot be directly edited without applying the modifier.

You will be editing the boxy version of the simple person awhile longer, so before continuing, deactivate the Apply modifier to editing cage during Editmode button.

Smooth Shading[edit]

Your simple person after setting smooth.

Subsurfaces do a good job of smoothing out corners in meshes. Even with two levels of subsurfaces, however, the simple person does not look completely smooth; when viewed close up, it has a scaly appearance. This is because each face is flat shaded—shaded to resemble a flat surface—resulting in sudden changes in brightness at most edges. For a smooth object, you want smooth shading, which smooths out the changes in brightness.

  1. Go to Object Mode.
  2. Set the draw type of a 3D View window to "Solid".
  3. Select your subsurfed object.
  4. In the Toolshelf on the left, look for a caption called Shading. Under it should be a button called Smooth.
    All the mesh edges will be smoothed out, leaving no sudden changes in brightness. The faces blend smoothly into one another, making the edges nearly invisible. If the icosphere has not smoothed properly and is dimpled, enter Edit Mode by pressing  Tab , select all vertices (A) and recalculate the normal direction (CTRL+N). This is also available in the Toolshelf under Normals.
  5. Click the other button under Shading in the Toolshelf, named 'Flat'.
    The edges will reappear. Now you know the difference between Flat and Smooth.
  6. Since the model looks better with smooth shading, click  LMB  on the "Smooth" button again.

Note that if you didn't have subsurf enabled, then the mesh wouldn't look much different. This is because smooth shading doesn't affect the mesh shape, it just changes how the computer draws the triangles.

Smooth shading also removes a lot of definition. A good way to get rid of this is simply to add a subsurf modifier like you just did. The modifier will not only require fewer vertices, but add definition.

Save your work. You will continue refining this model in the next module.

Additional Resources[edit]

Detailing Your Simple Person 2[edit]

In this module, you'll edit a subsurfed mesh using the scale and grab tools, all the while improving your character.


You'll need the simple person model from the previous module. If you haven't done it, either go back and do it now or else download the pre-made model from Yosun Chang's website at http://www.nusoy.com/blender.

Widening the Torso[edit]

To be realistic, the simple person's torso needs to be three times wider. In order to keep the torso symmetrical, you'll expand it by scaling both sides from a central point.

Blender-2.5 simple person detailed2 torso scale.png

Select the sides of the torso:

  1. Enter edit mode on the simple person.
  2. In the 3D View header, set Face select mode.
  3. From the 3D View header, choose Pivot → Median Point.
  4. In the 3D View header, make sure Proportional Edit button is off.
  5. Select the two faces on both the left and right sides of the torso, between the armpits and the waist.
Note:
The cube icon toggles the visibility of certain components.

When editing in solid mode, the vertices, edges and faces on the back side of the model are, by default, invisible. This feature can be toggled by clicking  LMB  on the Limit selection to visible (called in older versions, "Occlude Background Geometry") button in the 3D View header. Toggle it on and off a few times and observe how the back faces appear and disappear.

 

We will now scale the torso with the scaling tool:

  1. Activate the 3D View window and press  S ,  X .
  2. Adjust the amount of scaling. Either:
    • Move the mouse pointer until the torso is the width you want.
    or
    • Press  3 
  3. Confirm and exit by pressing  Enter or clicking  LMB .
Note:

Scaling faces causes adjacent edges and faces to move, due to their shared vertices. You cannot separate a face or edge from its vertices.

 

Continue selecting different parts of the torso and scaling them to get more practice using the above scaling methods.

Bending the Arms[edit]

Removing the forearm

When you've got the basic shape of the torso, make the person hold up his hands. You'll do this by deleting the forearms and then extruding upward from the elbows.

Select both forearms:

  1. Enter edit mode on the simple person.
  2. In the 3D View header, set Face select mode.
  3. With the 3D View window active, press  A  until all vertices are deselected.
  4. Select the five faces at the end of the forearm.

Now erase them:

  1. Press  X  to open the Delete menu.
  2. Choose Faces.

The forearm will disappear, leaving a hole. Don't panic; we'll fix it later. Now to make the arm point upwards:

  1. Select the top face of the last remaining "arm cube".
  2. Extrude the region upward by two Blender units  E ,  Z ,  2  and confirm with  LMB  or  Enter .

(Newbie comment: on my system, using Blender 2.70a, you want E2 above, not EZ2. Z-axis constraint is on by default, so pressing Z turns it off and causes trouble.)

The hole in the elbow is caused by a missing face. To fill in the missing face:

  1. Deselect all vertices.
  2. Select the four vertices surrounding the missing face.
  3. With the 3D View window active, create the face using either
    • Mesh → Faces → Make Edge/Face
    or
    •  F 
Note:

If a Make Faces menu appears when you try to fill the hole, it may be that you have some doubled vertices. You can remove doubles by selecting the whole mesh in edit mode, then pressing  W  and in the appearing menu "Remove Doubles" and try again.

 

The new face should be smooth. If it isn't, make it so, using Mesh → Faces → Shade Smooth.

Repeat on the other side

Go through the same steps (erase, extrude, and fill) on the other arm. Be sure to deselect all vertices in the first arm before selecting any in the other arm. If you have difficulty making the arms symmetrical, undo your work and go through the steps simultaneously on both arms.

Making Feet[edit]

To make feet for your simple person, you subdivide the ends of the legs and pull the front edges forward.

  1. Edit the simple person in Face select mode.
  2. Select the two bottom faces of the legs (front of the feet) by clicking  RMB  on the first and then  Shift + RMB  on the other.
  3. Subdivide both faces, either with:
    •  W  Subdivide
    or
    • Mesh → Edges → Subdivide

Each face gets subdivided into four smaller faces.

Now select the front edges and pull them forward:

  1. Switch to Edge select mode.
  2. Press  A  until no edges are selected.
  3. Select the four bottom front edges of the soles (two for each feet) (where the toes should be).
  4. Press  G  and limit movement to the Y axis.
  5. Move the mouse pointer until the feet are the length you want.
  6. Confirm and exit by pressing  Enter  or  Space  or clicking  LMB .
Congratulations! You now have feet.

Reshaping the Head[edit]

When you're satisfied with the torso and limbs, you should do something about that head. A bit too spherical, isn't it? You can elongate it by scaling along the Z axis.

When scaling the head, you want to make sure that it stays connected to the neck.

First, place the 3D Cursor at the base of the head, where it meets the neck. An easy way to do this is as follows:

  1. Go into Vertex select mode.
  2. Make sure the Limit selection to visible option is "off".
  3. Select the vertex at the base of the head using  RMB .
  4. Snap the cursor to this vertex using  Shift + S  Cursor to Selected

Now select the entire head:

  1. Hover the mouse over a vertex/edge/face of the head
  2. Press  L  to select all parts linked to that part.
Note:

This works even when the head and body meshes overlap, so long as they aren't linked together anywhere.

 

Tell Blender that you want to pivot around the 3D Cursor by changing the pivot point to 3D Cursor on the Pivot menu.

Now scale the head along the Z-axis, using the scale tool ( S , scaling by 1.5 should be about right).

Blender-2.5 simple person detailed2.png


You'll need this simple person later, so remember to save your work!

Creating a Simple Hat[edit]

In this module, you'll create a hat for your simple person. Along the way, you'll learn how to use the Spin tool and use layers.


Creating a Generatrix[edit]

For future convenience, you'll create the hat as a new object in the scene containing the simple person. If you haven't created the simple person, either go back and do it now or else download the pre-made model from Yosun Chang's website at http://www.nusoy.com/blender.

Start by changing layers to layer two, then add the basis for your hat:

Blender-2.5 layers.png
  1. Make sure you're in Object Mode (so that a new object will be created).
  2. Click  LMB  on the second little square, this will make the viewport display layer two. (The top row is for layers 1 to 10, the bottom for 11 to 20, so layer 2 is immediately to the right of layer 1; layer 6 is across the space from layer 5.)
  3. Go to orthographic front view by pressing  Num1 .
  4. Create a mesh circle at the cursor, by activating the 3D View window, pressing  shift  +  A  and choosing Mesh → Circle.
Note:

The new circle will probably look more like a line segment than a circle. If so, it's because you're viewing the circle edge-on.

 

The new mesh object doesn't actually have to be a circle. You could use any sort of mesh object here because you're about to reshape it into a custom 2D mesh (called a generatrix) that describes the profile of your hat. More precisely, the generatrix describes one side of a vertical cross-section through the hat. You'll want your generatrix to have a slope; it should be higher on one side (which will become the top of the crown) than on the other (which will become the brim).

  1. The newly-created mesh should be selected. If it isn't, select it by clicking  RMB  on it.
  2. Press  Tab  to edit the mesh.
  3. Activate Vertex select mode.
  4. Press  A  until all vertices are selected.
  5. Press  X  to erase all vertices.
Note:

Some users are confused as to the purpose of creating the mesh only to delete it afterwards. The point of this process is to create a new "blank" object which you can then shape into a hat.

 

Blender3DNoobToPro-SimpleHat-Profile.png

Now draw your generatrix, starting with the brim and sloping upwards toward the top of the crown:

  1. Make sure you're still in orthographic front view.
  2. Press  Ctrl + LMB  to create the first vertex.
  3. Press  Ctrl + LMB  to one side of that vertex to extrude another vertex, connected to the first by an edge.

(If this doesn't work, make sure you are in vertex select mode.)

Keep adding vertices until you're satisfied with the shape of your generatrix. You can always undo using  Ctrl + Z  or go back and adjust the positions of particular vertices using the grab tool.

The mesh is then spun around an axis perpendicular to the viewplane. You want to spin around a vertical axis, so press  Num7  to switch to top view.

Spinning the Hat[edit]

The spun hat, drawn as wireframe in orthographic front view.

Now lets actually spin the hat:

  1. Move the 3D cursor to the vertex you want to spin around by pressing  LMB  on it. You can also use the snapping tool for positioning the cursor more precisely by pressing  Shift+S  after selecting that specific vertex. Cursor to selected positions the cursor.
  2. Press  A  to select all the vertices. The Spin control only spins vertices that are selected.
  3. Press  Alt+R  to activate the Spin tool.
    • The Spin tool is also available in the Tool Shelf under Add

You should now see 90° of a generatrix! To spin your hat all the way round, press  F6  or look in the Operator Panel just below the Tool Shelf. There should be an input slider named Angle, change this value from 90 to 360. There should also be a slider called Steps, increase the value from 9 to 15.

If your hat has a large hole in the center, you must have accidentally moved the 3D cursor away from the vertex you picked in step 1. Try again.

Remember that if you spin an object 360° there will be a double row of vertices at the row of vertices you spun. To fix this, press  A  to select all vertices, press  W  and select Remove Doubles. Note that this will only work in vertex select mode.

You may also want to merge the vertices at the top of the hat. Do this by selecting all the vertices at the top with  C  and pressing  Alt + M At Center. You may have to do this twice as some vertices might be beneath each other.

If the mouse pointer changes to a question-mark (?)...

You have more than one 3D View window, so Blender is asking which window to perform the spin in. Click  LMB  on the window that is showing top view.

Smoothing Your Hat[edit]

The finished product!

You'll probably have noticed that normal hats aren't usually as faceted as yours! To change this, first press  Tab  to go back to Object mode then change the shading to Smooth (available on the Tool Shelf).

Next, add a Subsurf modifier to the hat and set the subdivisions to two, as you did in the "Detailing Your Simple Person 1" module.

  1. Click on the modifiers tab (wrench icon) in a Properties window.
  2. Add Modifier → Subdivision Surface.


Save your work. You'll need this scene for the next module.

Additional Resources[edit]

Putting Hat on Person[edit]

Once you're satisfied with the shapes of individual objects, you'll want to combine them into a coherent scene. You do this in Object Mode.

In this module, you'll learn how to use move objects to and from layers. You'll also learn how to rename and parent objects, and you'll get an introduction to Outliner Windows.


You'll need the person-and-hat scene from the previous module. If you haven't done it, either go back and do it now or else download the pre-made model from Yosun Chang's website at http://www.nusoy.com/blender.

Adjusting an Object's Median Point[edit]

The person that you (yeah you!) made with the origin in his geometric center.
  1. Load the person-and-hat scene.
  2. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  3. Switch to Layer 2, select the hat and press  M . A dialog box will pop up for you to choose which layer to move it to. Either press 1 (the number on top of the keyboard, not the numberpad) or select the first box in the popup.
  4. Select the person you made earlier.

Just as you did in Edit Mode, you can specify the pivot for rotating and scaling objects in Object Mode. If you just finished the previous module, the pivot is probably set to "3D Cursor". If so, change it back to "Median Point".

In Edit Mode, the "Median Point" for pivoting is the geometric center of all selected vertices, edges, or faces. In Object Mode, however, it's the origin of the selected object's local coordinates, indicated by an orange dot. In other words, the origin might lie far from the object's geometric center.

You can use buttons in the Tools Shelf to reunify an object's origin with its geometric center:

  1. With Blender in Object Mode, click  LMB  on the "Origin" in the Tool Shelf and select Origin To Geometry to move the selected object's origin to its geometric center (without changing the object's appearance).
Note:

When more than one object is selected, Blender uses the average of their median points as the median point for pivoting.

 

This can be useful when you want a better picture of your object. With the origin set to the person's geometric center, you can now snap the object with  Shift+S  to the 3D cursor. This will let you view more of the model at one time and make for a faster editing workflow.

Positioning the Hat[edit]

Positioning the hat

Once you have the hat properly oriented, move it into position on the person's head. The grab tool enables you to position objects in Object Mode in the same way you positioned vertices, edges, and faces in Edit Mode.

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Click  RMB  on the hat object to select it.
  3. Activate the grab tool by pressing  G .

As you move the mouse pointer, the hat will move around in the viewport. By default, the movement plane is perpendicular to the view axis, so the hat will move differently depending on which viewpoint you're working in.

Just as in the Edit Mode grab tool, you can:

  • Restrict the direction of motion by pressing  X ,  Y , or  Z . Press once to move parallel to a global axis, twice to use a local axis. (Press the same key a third time to return to view-plane motion.)
  • To restrict motion to the global X-Y plane, lock the global Z by pressing  Shift + Z .
  • Hold down  Ctrl  to restrict motion to discrete steps (typically one Blender unit).
  • Hold down  Shift  to get finer control over the motion.
  • Click  LMB  or press  Enter  to finalize the position and exit the tool.
  • Click  RMB  or press  Esc  to return the object to its previous position and exit.

Use two different orthographic views to position the hat on the person's head. You will probably want to scale the hat to make it fit the person's head better. When you are doing this along the X or Y axis, make the changes symmetrical by specifying the axes you want scaling to be constrained to. This option is available in the Operator panel (just below the Tool Shelf) and also by pressing F6.

Parenting the Hat to the Person[edit]

The parenting menu.

Once you have the hat properly sized and positioned on the person's head, you'll want it to stay there. In order to maintain such a cozy relationship between two objects, you'd have to remember to select them both before rotating, moving, or scaling. A drastic solution might be to join them into a single object using  Ctrl + J .

A better compromise is to Parent the hat to the person. Parenting creates a relationship between two objects, such that certain changes to one object (called the Parent object) automatically affect the other (called the Child object). Changes to the child, however, do not affect the parent.

Note that an object can have many children, but only one parent.

Since the person is bigger than the hat, it's logical to parent the hat to the person (meaning: parent = person, child = hat) instead of vice versa.

  1. Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
  2. Click  RMB  on the hat object to select it.
  3. Click  Shift + RMB  on the person object.
    Both the person and the hat should now be selected. The order of selection is important here.
  4. Press  Ctrl + P  to parent the hat to the person.
  5. Select Object. The most recently selected object becomes the parent of all other selected objects.
Note:

Pressing  P  in the object mode instead of  Ctrl + P  will start the Blender game engine. To stop the game engine, press  Esc .

 

Now when you move the hat you will see a line from the hat to the person, indicating that the person is the hat's parent. And if you move the person, the hat will move with it.

You may get an error saying something like Loop to Parents, fix this by clearing all previous parents with  Alt + P .

Renaming Objects[edit]

The renaming dialog

When you have multiple objects in a scene, it helps to give each one a name.

Click on the Objects tab in the Properties panel (the one with a box icon).

  1. Now select the hat by clicking  RMB  on it.
  2. At the very top of the tab you should see a dialog box with the name of your object
    • The hat's name might be something like "Circle" depending on which mesh primitive you first built the hat from.
  3. Click  LMB  on the dialog box and type in a more descriptive name like "Hat".

You have now changed the name of the hat's object datablock. This name change will be reflected in the Outliner, which we will look at shortly.

Now select your person by clicking  RMB  on it and repeat the process, changing the name to something like "Person".

Outliner Windows[edit]

The Outliner window.

Once you give objects names, it helps to have a way to find objects by their name and parent. This is exactly what the Outliner is for and it comes in very handy when you are working with a large scene. The Outliner is usually just above the Properties panel, you may want to pull it down a bit to see it more clearly.

You'll notice that all the objects in your scene (Person, camera etc) are listed and that you can select these objects by clicking  LMB  on them. And if you click  RMB  on an object, a menu will pop up with options like Select, Deselect, Delete etc. If you select the Person and then click the "+" sign to its left, you will see that the Hat is listed below the person. This is because Blender lists all children objects beneath their parents.

On the right of each object there are a series of icons which represent the state of the object. For example, the eye icon means that your object is visible in the 3D viewport. You can turn off its visibility by clicking  LMB  on the eye, which will turn grey; click again on the eye to make it visible. If you hover the mouse over the icons a text box will pop up with a description of what that particular icon does.

Good on ya' mate![edit]

Congratulations!! You have now finished your simple character. Pat yourself on the back, and have a celebratory coffee! (Or pop!)

Additional Resources[edit]

When you get to the sites for the 'gestures and groups/parenting', these are for an older version of blender, just click on the drop down where it says "Blender 2.4" and choose 2.6. Im only a random user and I dont know how to edit the links on here.


Materials and Textures[edit]

In 3D graphics, materials and textures are nearly as important as shapes. Scenes would be boring if all the objects were gray.

The material system in Blender allows you to model a wide variety of materials and how they interact with light. The next few modules will introduce the available options.

Note:

Note that material and texture settings are renderer-specific. This page and the following ones describe settings appropriate to the Blender Internal renderer, which is the one selected by default when you open a new Blender document. Other renderers (both built into Blender and external) are available; you will learn about these later, in Advanced Rendering.

 

Material versus Texture[edit]

A material defines the optical properties of an object: its color and whether it is dull or shiny. A texture is a pattern that breaks up the uniform appearance of the material. Very few objects in the real world have completely uniform surfaces. Instead most of them have patterning or variation in color: consider the grain in a piece of wood or the pile in a carpet or the mortar in a brick wall.

Blender allows textures to influence materials in various ways, such as altering their colors. Multiple textures can interact with each other to produce interesting effects.

Note that textures have to be attached to materials to affect objects, you cannot apply a texture to an object without a material.

Other Material Settings[edit]

Additional settings you can specify for a material include shaders, ray-tracing and halo.

Shaders determine how the appearance of a material varies with the angle of the light: diffuse shaders give a non-shiny look, while specular shaders give a mirror-like finish. Blender's material settings always involve both kinds of shaders, but you can adjust a material's diffuse and specular colours separately to control their respective effects; if you set the specular colour to black, the surface will no longer produce reflections.

Ray-tracing is a technique for modeling the physical path of light through the scene. It is capable of producing exquisite reflection and refraction effects, including different degrees of reflectivity, translucency and transparency, and representing materials with different indexes of refraction. Blender provides two separate groups of ray-tracing settings, one for reflection of light and the other for its transmission through the material. You can control these settings on a per-material basis.

Halo rendering means an object no longer looks like solid matter, instead it appears to be made of bits of light. This can be used for real-world effects like fire, smoke and plasma, or to create fantasy effects with no connection to reality.

Note that reflections produced by ray-tracing are separate from that produced by the specular shader: the former are controlled by the material's mirror colour, while the latter is controlled by its specular colour.

Reflection is done in two different ways because, while ray-tracing produces the most realistic renders, it is also very CPU-intensive. It is therefore best to apply the ray-tracing effects when you're completely done with your modelling to help reduce high CPU usage. Enough practice with ray-tracing can also help you get stunning effects with just few clicks without you having to do much trial and error. You would do well to dedicate at least a few hours of your time to experimenting with it, so that in a future real production situation, you will be spared all that hassle.

Types of Textures[edit]

When you create a texture in Blender, you will see a popup menu listing a whole lot of different types for the texture. The Image or Movie texture type lets you use a scanned image to texture your object: for example, you can scan an actual piece of metal and use that to give your object a realistic metallic appearance, or use a photograph of an actual brick wall to texture the wall of a building model, and so on. You could even use a movie, which plays during the animation of the scene.

The other texture types are called procedural, which means the textures are generated according to algorithms built into Blender itself. These can be useful for simulating various effects when you don’t have an image of the real material handy; they can also be applied to augment the appearance in various ways. For example:

  • using a “cloud” texture to “dirty-up” a material
or
  • using one texture as a stencil to create an amalgam of two other textures.

Additional Resources[edit]

Quickie Material[edit]

In this module, you will create a new material called "green ooze". Along the way, you will learn how to alter the diffuse, specular, and mirror colors of a material.

Your First Material[edit]

Figure 1: The Materials context in the Properties window.

The cube in the default scene (which you get from File → Load Factory Settings) has a simple grey color. Now click on the Materials context Materials button.png in the Properties Blender269PropertiesIcon.png window.

The materials context contains various menus, but for now you only need diffuse, specular and mirror. The material is named and linked in the panel above the preview window. (Linking is a feature that allows materials to be shared between multiple objects (or datablocks). Changing a material affects the appearance of everything it is linked to.)

The first row of the window above the preview window indicates that:

  • there is one material assigned to this object and its name is "Material".

The second row of controls indicates that:

  • The current selected material's name is "Material".
  • This material will only be saved if it's in use.
  • It is not a "Nodes" material.
  • Instead of being linked directly to an object, the current material is linked to a datablock.

To rename the material, click  LMB  on the name and enter the name you want.

To unlink the material, click  LMB  on the X button to the right of the material name ("Material"). This deletes the link to the datablock, removing the material from the mesh. As a side-effect, most of the panels in the Material context disappear. You will see in a moment, however, that the material still exists. It hasn't been deleted; it is simply no longer in use.


At this point, you could click  LMB  the "New" button to create a new material, but instead we are going to reapply the old material:

  1. Click  LMB  on the Next new button.png button to the left of the "New" button.
  2. You'll see a nifty drop-down list containing all materials you've created so far. Choose 0 Material.

Materials whose names are preceded by "0" in this list are not in use. By default, Blender doesn't save such materials when it saves the scene. Thus, you can delete a material from the list by saving the scene and then reopening it. You can override this behavior by toggling the "F" button "on" for unused materials you want saved.


Your materials will be much easier to find and manage if you give them brief, descriptive names you can recognize at a glance. Change this one's name to "Green Ooze". In addition, naming of your materials and other objects in your scene is useful when such components of your scene will be appended in another scene of a different Blender file. Naming your materials and other stuff in the scene will enable you to choose the right objects and materials you need whenever you wish to append just a portion of a whole bunch of work you did. For instance, you're working on a new Blender project, but felt the material you used in this Blender file is worth it. Instead of going through the pain of creating a new material (of course you guessed in the initial one in getting the right material appearance), you just append the material to your new work. Pretty simple! Make naming a habit, as it's much used in a production environment.

Specifying Colors[edit]

Since changing the name of the material doesn't change its properties, you still have some work to do.


Simple materials are specified by three colors: diffuse, specular and mirror. Rectangular patches (swatches) of the colour in their own panel in the Material context allow you to see and change each of these. Diffuse color is the basic underlying color of the material, rendered by the diffuse shader. Specular color is for highlights (small bright spots on a shiny surface) as rendered by the specular shader. Mirror color is for true reflections rendered using ray-tracing.

There are many ways to define colours. Blender supports three:

  • RGB: By specifying relative amounts of red, green and blue primary colours, by giving a number from 0.0 to 1.0 for each component. For example, (R, G, B) = (0, 0, 0) specifies black (no colour at all); (0, 1, 0) is full green; (1, 1, 0) (full red + full green) is yellow; (0.5, 0.5, 0.5) is 50% grey, and (1, 1, 1) is full white (maximum intensity of all components). Note that this is additive mixing of colours, which is what happens when you shine lights of different colours onto a white screen, not the subtractive mixing that takes place when you mix different-coloured paints or inks on paper or canvas.
  • HSV: By specifying a hue (colour position on the rainbow) together with a saturation (strength of colour, from garish down to pastel, with zero giving shades of grey) and value (brightness). This is generally considered to be easier to use than RGB notation when you are trying to create new colours (as opposed to copying a colour spec from somewhere else), since it is easier to predict what the likely result will be. HSV is commonly represented on a colour wheel, where the hue is the angle around the circle, saturation the distance from the centre, and value controlled by a separate brightness slider (as shown below).
  • By specifying a 6-digit hexadecimal number. This is just an alternative form of RGB notation, commonly used for colour specifications in Web pages.
Blender’s colour picker popup

If you click on any colour swatch, the colour picker will pop up, allowing you to change the values. This is the most intuitive way. The window that appears will look like this and will include the following (Figure 2):

  1. A color wheel to change the color as you want. In HSV mode, H corresponds to angle around this wheel, while S corresponds to distance from the centre.
  2. Three color sliders that will change if you change the color in the colorwheel. You can also change the values with the sliders.
  3. A slider that controls the intensity of the color. This corresponds to the V in HSV.
  4. A pipette capable of sampling colors from any Blender window or render window.
  5. Buttons that can change it to "HSV" or "HEX" mode.
  • Alternatively you can specify hue, saturation and value components by clicking  LMB  on the "HSV" button and pushing the sliders around accordingly.
  • You can also press the last button and enter the hexadecimal (or HEX) code. This is simply a different representation for RGB, where the hex digits represent rrggbb.

HSV is probably the most easily understandable way of specifying and experimenting with colours. However, as is common with most computer systems, all colours in Blender are represented internally as RGB.

If you want to get rid of the window just click  LMB  anywhere else.

Note:

Duplicate intensity sliders? There are two ways to control the intensity of the colour: there is the vertical intensity slider at the right of the colour picker popup, and there are also the intensity fields at the bottom of the Diffuse and Specular panels (above), the final intensity being the combination of both values. Why two different ways?

Partly this is to allow a quick way to moderate or intensify the diffuse or specular components, without having to change the actual colour specification. But more importantly, this is to ensure that intensities are never set to 100%. The reason is that this can cause rendering calculation problems, leading to total light intensities accumulating to infinity instead of converging to a finite value. This is probably not a big issue with the Blender Internal renderer, but can become a problem with more advanced renderers.

 

The most used method of creating a color of your own is using the color wheel, but because we want to be sure you will get the exact same color as us we will use the sliders. Use the above methods to set the diffuse color to R=0.149, G=1.000, B=0.446 (or use the HEX code: 6CFFB2). If you look in the "Preview" panel, you will see that the material is now bright green.

Most real-life materials (other than metals) don't alter the color of specular light. For this reason, Specular and Mirror are usually left at their default values (white). For green ooze, however, you'll disregard this rule-of-thumb:

  1. Click  LMB  the sample rectangle below the Specular window.
  2. Use the color selection dialog to adjust the specular color and watch the Preview panel to see how this color affects the sample sphere's highlight.
  3. Set the specular color to R=0.640, G=0.990, B=0.566 (or use the HEX code: D1FEC6).

With these values for Color and Specular, you should be able to get a good ooze later on. The Preview, Diffuse and Specular panel should now look like this:

Green ooze.png Green ooze props.png

As you can see, there are many other material buttons. Many of these will be explained in later modules. Suggestions for creating specific materials may be found in the "Every Material Known to Man" module.

Save this scene before proceeding. You will need it for the "Quickie Texture" module, in which you will perfect your ooze.

Note:

Copying/Pasting Colours: Quite often, you will want to duplicate or move a colour specified in one place to another. If the two colour swatches are simultaneously visible, you can use the eyedropper button in the colour picker. But if they are not, then the easiest way is to bring up the colour picker for the colour you want to copy, switch to the hex display, select the 6 hex digits, and copy them with  CTRL + C . Then go to the colour you want to make the same, bring up its picker in hex mode, select the hex digits, and replace them with what you copied using  CTRL + V .

 

Additional Resources[edit]

Multiple Materials Per Object[edit]

The finished render.

In this module, you'll create a beach ball with two alternating colours. Along the way, you'll learn how to apply multiple materials to a single object.

Many real-life objects have parts which are different colours, or are even made of different materials. One way to model such objects is to make each part a separate Blender object. However, Blender also allows you to assign different materials to parts of a single object.

Set the Scene[edit]

Begin by opening Blender and removing the default cube. Then select the lamp and change its type from 'Point' to 'Hemi' in the Light settings in the properties window (object data button), this has the advantage of it giving more light.

The options for changing lamp type in the properties window

Now create a mesh for the beach ball:

  1. With the 3D View window active, press  Shift + A ) and choose Add → Mesh → UV Sphere.
  2. Set the controls under "Add UV Sphere" at the bottom of the left panel to 8 segments and 4 rings.
    The initial result will be crude, but meshes with fewer vertices are easier to edit.



To make the mesh rounder and more organic, go to the modifiers context in the properties window (wrench icon) and add a Subdivision Surface modifier. Set the values in the 'View' and 'Render' settings to 2. And to get rid of that blocky look, go to the Tool shelf and set the shading to Smooth.

The ball is now round, but a bit prolate. To make it more spherical, scale it by about 1.1 along the X and Y axes. To select the X-Y plane, you select ′not Z′, by using the key combination  Shift + Z . The complete sequence is, then,  S ,  Shift + Z ,  1.1 .

Colorize Time[edit]

Now you're ready to begin adding colors to the object:

  1. Press  Tab  to put Blender into Edit mode.
  2. Select the "Materials" button Materials button.png and press New
    Several additional panels should appear in the Properties window.
  3. In the "Material" panel, set the Diffuse colour to one of your two chosen stripe colours, say, yellow.
    At this point, the entire ball is yellow.

Blender259BeachBall Yellow.png

In the "Materials" panel click the "+" button (indicated by the red box in the picture, below) near the top of the panel and to the right of the existing material list. This will create a new blank slot in the materials list. A "+New" button will appear (indicated by the blue box, in the picture below).

Blender259ObjectAddSecondMaterial.png

Click the +New button and a new material will appear in the materials list. Ensure it is selected in the list of materials and change the Diffuse color to the second color of your choice (the images in this tutorial use blue). Nothing will happen to the beach ball, yet.

All the vertices should still be selected from before; hit  A  to deselect them. Switch to front view with  NUM1 , and to "Face Select" mode with  Ctrl + Tab  then  F . To avoid accidents, make sure you have "Limit selection to visible" enabled. Now select a column of four faces that will make up one stripe of the beachball (using  SHIFT + RMB ):

Blender259BeachBall Selected.png

In the "Material" property window, highlight the second chosen material ("Material.002") in the materials list and click the "Assign" button.

Now rotate the view (e.g.  NUM6 ) so you can skip past a yellow stripe adjacent to the blue stripe, and select the second column that will become a blue stripe. Work your way around the ball to do this two more times. (Remember we made the sphere with 8 segments; four of these are the yellow stripes, and four are the blue). Now you see why I chose to make the sphere with only 4 rings: more rings would have meant more faces in each stripe, and more clicking to select them.

Image Textures[edit]

Image Texture Settings[edit]

Simple checkerboard

To understand how the texture settings apply to image/movie textures, start with an example texture. A nice simple one is this checkerboard at right—don’t forget to download it in (or convert it to) PNG format, as Blender cannot use an SVG file as a texture.

Blender268TextureTypeMenuImage.png

Start a new Blender document. Note the default cube already has a a default grey material, called “Material”, and this already has a single texture, called “Tex”, of type “None”, which means it has no effect.

Note:

Before proceeding, go to the World Blender255WorldContextButton.png context and turn on Environment Lighting (you can leave its default energy at 1.0). This will ensure the cube is more evenly lit, for easier visibility of the texture effect.

 

Blender268TextureContextImagePanelNone.png

Change the texture type to “Image or Movie”. You will immediately see some new panels pop up in the texture context. Look for the Image panel, as at right. This initially contains a popup menu icon for selecting from any previously-loaded images (this will start out empty), a “New” button for using one of Blender’s predefined test textures, and an “Open” button for loading an image from a file.

Click the “Open” button, and select your previously-downloaded or converted PNG version of the example checkerboard texture.

Blender268TextureContextImageSettings.png

Now a whole lot more settings will become visible. From the top, the panels are:

  • Preview — gives you a simple display of how the texture looks.
  • Colors — lets you make simple adjustments to the image brightness, contrast etc.
  • Image — lets you choose from any already-loaded images, and shows you the pathname of the file the image was loaded from. Note the two arrows in a circle to the right of the pathname display: clicking this will tell Blender to reload the image from the file, which is useful if you make changes to it in an external image editor.
  • Image Sampling — controls how the image can be interpreted in a different way from straight pixel values.
  • Image Mapping — lets you crop the input image, and apply fixed numbers of repetitions to it along each axis, even before it goes through the usual texture-tiling repetition process.
  • Mapping, Influence — these are more general panels that apply to all types of textures. They will be discussed in more detail shortly.
Note:

Image packing: the icon to the left of the image pathname lets you pack a complete copy of the image into the .blend file, so it no longer keeps reading the original image file. This can be useful if you want your .blend file to be self-contained, particularly if you want to send it to others. On the other hand, if your workflow depends on coordinating with someone else doing the image editing, it may be more convenient to leave it linking to a separate image file.

 

Projection: flat; axes: X→X, Y→Y, Z→Z

If you render  F12  now, you should end up with an image like this. Notice in the Projection menu (Mapping panel) the initial selection is “Flat”: this means that the texture X and Y coordinates go straight to object X and Y coordinates. Thus, the texture only appears on the top (and also bottom) of the cube, not on its sides. See also the three little popup menus just below the Projection menu, each containing the items X, Y and Z. These let you rearrange the object coordinates that the texture coordinates map to. If you change the first two, you can get the texture to appear on other pairs of sides of the cube, other than the top and bottom. The third menu (corresponding to the Z axis of the texture) has no effect (yet), because a flat image texture is only two-dimensional.

Texture size increased to 3.

Now try changing the three “Size” fields in the Mapping panel: give them all a value of 3. This will uniformly shrink the texture pattern to one-third of its original size. Or alternatively, it will require three times the number of texture repetitions to span the same distance as the original.

Texture projection set to Sphere

Now let’s try the other Projection types. Here’s what “Sphere” looks like. Imagine the texture pattern as a flat sheet stretched and curved around, and its edges joined to form a sphere surrounding the actual object; then the sphere is shrinkwrapped down onto the object.

Note the top and bottom edges of the sheet shrink down to single points at the north and south poles; this is why the squares of the checkerboard pattern turn into triangles next to these points.

Note:

Z-axis now works: because these projection types other than “Flat” turn the texture into a 3-dimensional object, you can now use all 3 of the axis-rearrangement menus to reorient the texture in interesting, not to say confusing, ways. What happens when you assign the same texture axis to more than one object axis?

 

Texture projection set to Tube

Here’s a Tube mapping. Here the texture pattern sheet is rolled round into a cylinder, with only one pair of edges joined together, the top and bottom left open.

Texture projection set to Cube

And lastly, here is a Cube mapping. Here 6 copies of the texture pattern are arranged parallel to the faces of a cube, before being shrinkwrapped onto the actual object. Which in this case, happens to be a cube.

Cube mappings are very commonly used in game engines, because they are just about the simplest way to wrap a texture around an entire object.

“Mapping” versus “Image Mapping”

Making Your Own Texture[edit]

Procedural texturing is very powerful; however, sometimes it is difficult or impossible to generate the desired realism with them. Image texturing is there for you when you need it. To review, the basic idea is to take an outside image and wrap it around your model. You can use any texture, or a seamless one if you want it to repeat to get a tiled effect. The following shows how you create a seamless texture, and then how to apply any texture (seamless or otherwise) to an object.

The difference between 'tiled' and 'seamless'[edit]

In many cases a simple material will just not cut it for an object, and you will want to apply a texture to it. However, depending on the object, you may want to apply either a seamless or tileable texture. A seamless texture is an image that will, when applied to an object, spread evenly across the surface of the object without any visible borders or 'seams' even if the object is many times larger than the resolution of the image (also called 'procedural textures' in Blender). These can be useful in many situations; such as when you want a texture for a carpet to seamlessly repeat itself without having a huge resolution.

A tileable texture on the other hand, is an image that will repeat itself across an object, but with noticeable seams. Any image can be used as a tileable texture, but often they will only be used in specific instances such as a vinyl floor with a tiled pattern on it.

See Using Textures for more details on applying images as textures, and using them to affect many other surface attributes such as luminosity, reflectivity, translucency, displacement etc.

How to make a tileable texture with the GIMP[edit]

MakeSeamlessSample.jpeg

It is easy to create a tiling texture image with the GIMP. Start with the photo you want to use. Crop out any part you don’t want. Here’s an example random photo of some plants in my garden:

MakeSeamlessSampleAfter.jpeg

Go to Gimp’s “Filters” menu, and find the “Map” submenu. In here you will find the entry “Make Seamless”. Select it. That’s it:

MakeSeamlessSampleUsage.jpeg

Just to prove it works, here’s a (scaled-down) use of the result as a tiled fill pattern:

Other Image Texture Editors[edit]

  • Wood Workshop A free utility (Requires Operating System: Windows 2000/XP) that generates surprisingly high quality tiling wood texture images. These textures can be exported as standard image files for use within Blender.
  • MapZone A free utility for Windows (works perfectly in Wine) that generates node based procedural texture maps. Mapzone can export diffuse, normal and alpha texture maps as standard image files. It can also import SVG regions created with Blender's UV mapping tools.

Procedural Textures[edit]

Procedural Textures

Texturing objects can be broken down into two categories: procedural and image texturing. Procedural texturing makes use of mathematical formulas to generate textures. This is nice because it can be used to make relatively nice looking textures without external images which are very temperamental where you put them. Procedural Textures are all stored in the .blend file. These textures are obviously generated within Blender itself. Image texturing uses images created or captured outside of Blender, either from an image manipulation program such as the Paint.NET, GIMP or Photoshop, or captured on a camera. We have already learned about image texturing, so let's move on to procedural texturing.

Current Procedural Textures

Blender currently supports many procedural textures, including: Clouds, Marble, Stucci, Wood, Magic, Blend, Noise, Musgrave, Voronoi and DistortedNoise.

A Simple Wood Texture[edit]

Let's define a simple wood texture:

  • Start a new Blender document containing the default cube.
  • Select the cube (and nothing else)
  • Go to the Materials tab Blender255MaterialContextButton.png in the Properties Window, and click the “New” button to create a new material.
  • Call it "Wood Material"

Let's add some color and texture. You can see the results at any time by pressing F12 to re-render the scene.

Start by painting cube a base color using the Wood Material's "diffuse" color:

  • In the “Material” tab,
  • Scroll down to the “Diffuse” properties panel and choose a darker brown color e.g. #A57E3F.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSL_and_HSV for where brown fits in the color wheel.

Next, let's add a texture to give the material some highlights.

  • Switch to the “Texture” properties Blender259 Texture Button.png, and again click “New” to add a texture to your material.
  • Call it "Wood Texture". Notice at the very top "Cube > Wood Material > Wood Texture"
  • Under “Type”, click on the popup menu that currently says “Clouds”, and change the type to “Wood”.

The texture sample will show parallel alternating black and white bars that don’t look very woody at all. Never fear! The black regions will be the material's base "diffuse" color. The white regions are like "highlights" that will be painted over the base.

Let's make some improvements to the texture:

  • In the “Textures” tab,
  • Scroll to the “Wood” properties panel that appears, change the waveform from “Sine” to “Saw”.
  • In the next row of buttons down, change the type from the default “Bands” to “Ring Noise”.
  • Increase the Noise Size to 1.0.

Now the texture sample should show something resembling wavy tree-rings. If you hit F12 to render now, you will see these rings covering your cube, except a) the colour is wrong, and b) normal wood patterns aren’t so nearly circular.

To make the pattern more elongated:

  • In the “Textures” tab,
  • Scroll to the “Mapping” properties panel,
  • Change the Size X value to 2.0 and Y to 0.4. This squishes the pattern down along the X-axis, and stretches it out along the Y-axis, giving the elliptical tree-ring shapes you commonly see on wood planks and boards.

Hit F12 to render again, and the shape of the texture should be looking a lot more woody now.

The final step is to color the highlights in the texture:

  • In the “Textures” tab,
  • Scroll to the “Influence” properties panel further down,
  • Click on the color swatch, and choose a nice brown colour.

For a nicer effect, I chose a very light brown e.g. #DEB887.

The result should look very woody indeed!

Blender259WoodTextureSample.png

  • Remember that you need to Render to see the wood grain on your object.

Quickie Texture[edit]

Textures are laid on top of materials to give them complicated colors and other effects. An object is covered with a material, which might contain several textures: An image texture of stone, a texture to make the stone look bumpy, and a texture to make the stone deform in different ways.

A texture may be an image or a computed function. What the texture does and how it is mapped onto your object is set in the material buttons. Some commonly used texture types are shown on the page Using Textures.

This tutorial uses the file from the Quickie Material tutorial. If you didn't do it before, go back and do it now.

Making It Mottled[edit]

Figure 1: A simple Clouds texture

The file we're working with has no texture by default.

To add a texture:

  • Bring up the Texture tab Blender255TextureContextButton.png in the Properties window.
  • The top panel shows a list of texture slots for the current material, all of which are initially empty. Click on the + New-button under this list. This will create a new texture, attach it to the current material in the first slot, and select it ready for adjustments to its settings.
  • The texture type Clouds should already be selected in the drop-down list; select it if it is not. You can also change the texture's name, as we have done for the material.

A preview appears, as well as some parameters to experiment with. A Clouds texture provides some irregularities.

  • If you check back in the Materials tab, you will see a preview of the texture applied to the material in a garish magenta colour. This is the default influence colour for a new texture; presumably it was deliberately chosen to stand out as a reminder to make you switch to settings other than the default!

Adjusting the Influence[edit]

Figure 2: Default texture mapping & influence settings

If you scroll down the Texture settings in the Properties window, you will see two further panels, titled Mapping and Influence. The Influence panel controls how the material is affected by the texture. Among the ways it can do this are:

  1. RGB color (all images, Magic, every texture with a colorband)
  2. Intensity, either as grey scale or/and an alpha value (most of the procedural textures, image textures with alpha, textures with a colorband)
  3. Normal values (Stucci, normal maps), which give the material a bumpy or grainy appearance

If you want to use textures you always have to be aware of the value a texture provides and the Influence settings for the material.

If you look at the above default Influence settings, there is just one box checked, in a group titled “Diffuse:” (which means the texture influences parameters for the material’s diffuse shader). The labels next to the checkboxes will probably not be visible in the default window width; if you widen the window, you should see the word “Color:” appear in the value slider. Alternatively, hover the mouse over either the checkbox or the slider, and you will see tooltips that mention “diffuse color”.

A Clouds texture provides a monochrome intensity value, ranging from 0 (where the texture is black) to 1 (where the texture is white). If you click on the colour swatch at the bottom of the Influence panel, you can alter the colour that is applied to the texture intensity value.

  • Set the influence colour to black.

Procedural textures are not shown in the 3D window (only if you would use excessive amounts of vertices), even if you use GLSL materials. This means that we have to render the image to see the texture properly.

  • Render the image (F12), or use the preview to judge the result of the texture.

CloudTexturePreview.png

Next we will add a Stucci texture to make our clouds look bumpy.

Making It Wrinkly (Bump Map)[edit]

CloudsPlusStucciBumpExample.png
  • In the Texture panel in the Properties window, click on the second (empty) slot in the list of textures at the top. All the settings for the texture you previously created should disappear. (But of course they haven’t really gone, as you can confirm by reselecting the texture in the first slot.)
  • Add a new texture here and set the type to Stucci.
  • In the Influence panel, uncheck the Diffuse Color influence and, in the group titled “Geometry”, check the first box (titled “Norm”). This means it affects the rendered normal, i.e. the angle the renderer treats the surface as - creating fake shadows on the surface.
  • Play with the Norm slider, but leave it on about 4.

The normal in physics and geometry is a vector perpendicular (“normal”) to a surface. It is used to calculate the effect of lighting. In computer graphics, we find we can achieve all kinds of interesting effects by having the normal point in some other direction than actually normal to the surface. As, in this example, by perturbing it from one pixel to the next according to the value of a texture function, we can give the impression of a more complex geometry than a simple smooth surface, without actually generating such a geometry. In other words, like many things in 3D graphics, this is a lie and a cheat, and you can tell because the outline border of the object is still smooth—the bumps only appear on the visible parts within the silhouette.

Such a use of a texture to fiddle the surface normal is called a “bump” map or “normal” map. If it were used to actually generate new geometry, then it is called a “displacement” map—of course, this becomes much more computationally expensive. Since bump mapping is fake 3D, it doesn’t necessarily look good under every circumstance, you will get a greater effect on smoothly curved surfaces with high specularity, only a little or no effect on flat surfaces with low specularity.

Halo Materials[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Halos are a neat effect. Instead of giving a colour/texture to the faces of a mesh, like normal Surface materials do, the Halo material ignores the faces and renders representations of the vertices instead. This can produce all kinds of ethereal, even ghostly, fantasy effects, of objects that look like they’re made out of light rather than ordinary solid matter.

A halo material can also produce a flare effect. This is the “lens flare” that happens when a physical camera is aimed at a very bright light source; the spillage of light bouncing around inside the optics produces coloured rings and other interesting artifacts on top of the image. This has become such an accepted part of photography that computer graphics programs like Blender, which do not suffer the imperfections of physical lenses, go to a great deal of trouble to offer a realistic flare effect.

This tutorial will show you how to create an image representing a flare effect in a picture of the Sun.

Setting The Scene[edit]

Open a new default Blender document. Get rid of the default cube. Insert a new UV Sphere mesh in its place, and set the number of segments and rings to 24 each. Also set Smooth shading. This will be your Sun. Create a new material for it, set the Diffuse colour to a suitable yellow. Under the Shading panel in the material settings, look for the “Emit:” slider and give it a value of 1.0 to make it look bright. Since the Sun emits its own light, you don’t need the separate default light, so get rid of that.

Go to the World properties tab Blender255WorldContextButton.png. In the “World” panel at the top, click on the colour swatch labelled “Horizon” and assign a nice deep blue colour for your sky.

If you do a render now, you should see your bright yellow orb, but without any flare effect.

Adding The Flare[edit]

Now add a new Circle mesh; the default 16 vertices should be enough. By default it lies in the X-Y plane, which again is fine. Move it along the Y-axis a little closer to the camera (negative-Y direction), until it lies outside your Sun sphere, but still close to it. Scale its size down by 0.5. (It will probably be invisible when first created, because it is initially inside your Sun sphere, but it will be initially selected, so you can immediately press  G   Y  and start moving the mouse without pressing any buttons, and make it appear from inside the Sun). Create a new material for it, and set the type to Halo.

In the Halo panel in the Material settings, increase the size to 3.0—this is the size of the fuzzy image that is rendered around each vertex, and this value is sufficient for them all to run together into a continuous ring. Reduce the Alpha to 0.05 to avoid overpowering the image with the halo effect.

Go further down the halo Material settings, and find the Flare panel. Check the title box to enable this. Set the number of Subflares to, say, 8 (this controls the number of separate halo reflections that will be generated, though you probably won’t be able to distinguish that many). Set the Boost to 10 to make the subhalos brighter than the original parent halo.

The Seed value in the Flare panel controls the particular flare pattern that you see; each number produces a different effect. I chose the value 3 for this example.

Where did the circle go? Like any object with a halo material, the circle object can be quite hard to see when it’s not selected. If you lose track of it, there are a couple of ways to find it again:

  • Select everything with  A . Now you can look for the ring of dots and  RMB  on it to select it exclusively.
  • Use the outliner window at the upper right. You should see it listed here under its default name of “Circle”; click with  LMB  to select it, and you should see the ring of dots appear in the 3D view.

If the circle object is still inside the Sun, then wireframe  Z  or bounding-box view modes may be helpful to find it again.

The Final Result[edit]

Now hit  F12  to render, and you should see something like this (the flare effect may not appear immediately with the rest of the image, give it a few more seconds to appear):

HaloFlareSunExample.png

Exercises: Try different positions for the circle mesh; move it near to the Sun (even partly in it), far from it, move it around to different sides. How does this affect the flare pattern? Also try changing the size of the circle mesh.

Aligned to view issue[edit]

After much struggling to follow many tutorials based on older versions of Blender, I have downloaded multiple versions to discover why the tutorials based on versions such as 2.43 don't work when attempted on updated versions such as Blender 2.48a and above. Newer versions such as 2.48 have added a new option to /not/ have added objects rotated to the current viewpoint. With older versions, being in top, front or side view would cause any newly added objects to face different directions on creation.

The location of the button to make the circle show up in the correct orientation

Newer versions of Blender introduced the ability to force all objects into the same global orientation; even worse, they set it up that way BY DEFAULT! This means that unless the user deliberately changes the settings in the new versions, many older tutorials will act as if they are broken.

Newer versions of Blender (such as version 2.48, or 2.49b ) can be set to act in the same way as the older versions, by setting the Align to view on the (i): USER PREFERENCES menu in the right way.

Making this simple changes will "unbreak" tutorials written under Blender version 2.43, by allowing new objects to be automatically oriented to whatever viewscreen orientation is selected in the active viewscreen.

Any time object rotations, lattices or whatever else end up completely out of alignment with what older tutorials say should happen, these steps are your first best fix for almost every such situation.


In 2.58 and 2.61

The settings mentioned above are found in "File->User Preferences" (shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+U) under the "Editing" tab. There's a drop-down called "Align To" where you can set "View" or "World".


Noob Note: What actually happens by default on newer versions of Blender is that the axis of rotation is perpendicular to the screen. It means that, instead of revolving around the vertical axis, the object will revolve in the plane of the screen. Another way to deal with this is to change the view just before performing the rotation (I used NUM1 view) and come back to NUM7 once done.

Noob Note: In version, 2.63 for Linux, after changing "Align To" to "View", when adding through "Add" menu, the mesh will still be aligned to "World". To get it aligned to "View" You have to add it with SHIFT-A.

Noob Note: In version 2.68a (unknown for older versions) there is a option to Align newly created mesh individually. When you create a mesh, (for ex. cylinder) there is a panel beneath the toolbox panel(left side of the 3D view) that shows up: Add "Mesh Name" (ex. Cylinder). Scroll down a bit and you'll see a check-box to enable "align to view". Checking it will align the mesh you added to the current view. Re-checking it after rotating the view around will align the mesh to new view.

Bones[edit]

Bones are used for shifting models and making them posable. If you are not ready for this yet and wish to continue simply modeling, please skip this tutorial to the next section.

Bones are a modeling tool that are especially important for animating characters. Bones allow you to move characters' limbs in a way that is much simpler than trying to re-arrange the vertices every time.

It works by associating a bone with particular vertices, causing them to move along with the bone when the position is changed in pose mode. Using bones is fairly simple once you get the hang of it, but, like many things in Blender, can be a little daunting at first sight.

Bones don't do much on their own; in fact, they turn invisible at render time. For this following module we'll use the previously made character from module Modeling a Simple Person. Note that while we will be using bones on a simple person, the process can be used with any creature or body type you imagine!

Laying down bones[edit]

Blender setup.jpg

Note: This just shows the basics of adding bones to an object. Go to the advanced animation page for a more comprehensive guide on this.

First of all, we'll need a model to put some bones on! For this tutorial, we're going to use a humanoid model. I'm using a quick model that I made based on the Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Modeling a Simple Person first tutorial. It's rather blocky, but this isn't a detailed tutorial. However, you can find a model pre-made just for you here.

Okay, first of all, here's our setup, with Block Dude standing on the plane.

Noob note: You will be placing armatures ("bones") inside your humanoid, so you must work in "wireframe mode," not "solid mode." Otherwise, you will not be able to see the armatures when you place them. To toggle between "solid" and "wireframe," press  Z .

Note: An alternative to working in "wireframe mode" is to turn "X-Ray" on for the armature. To do this, select the armature. In the properties panel under object data there is a display menu. Click "X-Ray" in the second field of buttons. This will allow the armature to show through other objects.

Add a bone[edit]

An armature.JPG

Now, let's put some bones on Block Dude! In Object Mode go to  Space  → Add → Armature. (Blender 2.5x note:  Shift + A  → Armature → Single Bone)

What we are looking at is an armature. This is a single bone. Now, we need to put the bone in Block Dude! Move and rotate the bone so that it's in the middle of Block Dude's chest.


In body.JPG

If your bone does not have the correct length, then change the size of the bone by moving one of the ends of the bone: switch to Edit Mode, select one of the ends of the bone, then move it using  G .

Extrude a second Bone[edit]

Boned.JPG

To create a second bone starting from one of the ends of the first bone, make sure you are in Edit Mode, select the end of the first bone, then press  E . The second bone appears, with its start point on the selected end of the first bone. Move the mouse to position the end point, then press  LMB ,  Enter , or  Space . Now, extrude ( E ) and scale the bone as needed to put the bones in his body! Make sure that you are in Edit mode, and click the pink dots at the end of the bone to do things like extrusion. These operate much the same way as vertices, you can extrude, rotate, move, and even subdivide. Your finished result should look something like this:






Name the bones[edit]

Naming bones.JPG

Now, just to make things easier, we're going to name the bones. For example, my bones are named RT_Forearm, Left_Forearm, RT_Upper_Arm, etc. Select the bone and press  F9  to display the Editing panel. In the "Armature Bones" sub-panel click the top left box to edit the name, indicated with a red arrow in the screenshot below. (Noob note: when you are naming the bones remember that if you are looking at the person from the front, your left is the person's right. To make the naming easier switch to viewing the person from behind using  Ctrl + Num1 .)


Blender 2.58

This is most easily done in the "outliner" (top right by default) by selecting each bone and renaming it under the "Bone" button in the Buttons-Panel (the button looks like a dog bone). You can select the bone and see it highlighted in the 3D view, then  Ctrl + LMB  to rename.






Parent the bones[edit]

Now, we need to parent the bones to the mesh. Go back into Object Mode and select Block Dude. Now, select the Armature as well, and press  Ctrl + P , a menu will pop up, select Armature (With Automatic Weights in 2.6x), then Create From Bone Heat (2.46+) (Create From Closest Bones before blender 2.46) (With Automatic Weights 2.5x and 2.6x).


Noob Note: the selection order is important in defining which object is the parent, so you cannot select both objects at the same time. You must select the armature last to make it the parent.

In depth info on selected bone topics[edit]

Add/remove mesh from bone control[edit]

Blender3d Edit mode assign remove buttons.jpg

Create From Bone Heat creates mesh areas within the parented object that are associated with armature bones. This is done automatically, according to the bones' position and size. Alternatively, choose Name Groups instead of Create From Bone Heat if you don't want Blender to assign groups automatically, and do it manually.

To manually change the mesh areas that the bones control, go to object mode,  RMB  on the MESH you want to add/remove (if it's inside the same object, then select the areas of the mesh you want to work with), go to Edit Mode, and make sure you're looking at the edit mode buttons in the bottom button window.

You should now see on the left a link and materials panel with a pair of Assign and Remove buttons( you may need to scroll with the middle wheel while hovering over the bottom button windows to make it appear, if it's off to the left of what you can see ). In Blender 2.59+ activate in the properties window the 'Object Data' and you will find the relevant data in the subwindow 'Vertex Groups'.

Now pick the bone group from the dropdown above the assign/remove buttons, and then hit assign, or remove. Usually vertices will be in one group, but can be assigned to multiple groups.

Mesh deforms like it's far away from the bones[edit]

If the mesh is properly assigned to the bones they will move regardless of whether the bones are inside the cylinder or not (HOW they deform WILL be affected however). The most common mistake in this step is creating and (more importantly) parenting the cylinder to the armature while it is outside the cylinder, which causes Blender not to assign vertices to any bones at all. You can check this by editing the cylinder, selecting a vertex group in the Links and Materials tab, and pressing select. This will highlight the vertices associated with the bone. If none are selected, it means none were assigned in the first place - in which case you need to assign them manually as explained above.

If there is no effect, in Edit or Pose mode select that bone (or bones) and choose Envelope display mode ( F9  → Armature → Envelope), then press  Alt + S  and increase its area of influence to cover all faces that should be influenced by the bone.

Moving the Bones[edit]

Pose example.jpg

Go into object mode, RMB on the armature to select it, then enter Pose Mode ( Ctrl + Tab ) (you need to select the armature for this option to appear!). Try moving a bone around by  RMB  to select it, and then hitting  G , or  R  to move it.

If you've done everything correctly, your mesh should move when you move the bones! If this doesn't happen, scale the bones up so that they fit better in the mesh, and scale up the bones until they do what you want (read comment in the parenting section above on adjusting the bones envelopes if you do not get an effect while moving/rotating the bones). With the bones now, you can put Block Dude into a lot of different positions without moving individual vertices.

To the right is an example of how you can move Block Dude with the bones.


To move individual bones, you have to go into pose mode. You will only see pose mode listed on the object/edit mode drop down when you have  RMB  on the bones from object mode. Also while in pose mode if after a  RMB  click you can't move bones with a  G , or  R , check the "Move Object Centers Only" button (just to the right of the Rotation/Scaling Pivot button).


Noob Note: If you've been adding bones to your simple person from the previous lessons, and have noticed the hat seems to stretch when you move the arms in pose mode, you will need to remove the hat from the arm mesh groups created in the prior bone heat step. To fix it, you need to go to object mode,  RMB  on the hat, go to edit mode, locate the vertex group assign/remove buttons as described in the bones in depth step, Now pick the left arm, and right arm groups in the dropdown above the buttons, and then hit remove.

Mountains Out Of Molehills[edit]

Now that we've created our simple person, it's time to give him somewhere to go. In this tutorial we'll create a mountain range using a few simple, and handy tools.

Creating a simple plane[edit]

Blender3DNoobToPro-SimplePlane.png

First we need a clean area to work with.

  • Start off with a new project, using File → New, or hit CTRL+N KEY. If you have a default cube or plane just delete them now (select them with RMB and press X KEY).

Our first step is to create a large plane that we'll use for the ground and grow our mountains out of.

  • Press on NUM7 to enter top view. This way our plane will be lying flat when we create it.
  • Press SHIFT+C. This sets the 3D cursor to (0,0,0) which will be the center of the plane we will add.(or use - SHIFT+S -> cursor to center)
  • Now add the plane with SHIFT+A → Mesh → Plane. This will be our canvas.
  • Change to Edit mode (TAB changes between edit and object mode)
  • Scale the plane up by about 15
First put the mouse close to the center of the plane and press  S  and drag the cursor away and watch the numbers in the bottom left of the 3D View. Hold  Ctrl  while dragging to increment by 0.1 for a more precise measurement. Alternatively, to enter the exact amount yourself, press  S , then simply type 15 and hit  Enter .
  • In the Tool Shelf at left, under Mesh Tools hit the Subdivide button 4 times. Alternatively, in the 3D View window you can press WKEY and select Subdivide. You can also just hit ENTER, because Subdivide is the first option under WKEY.

Note: As in many of the next tutorials, you may choose to add a grid instead of adding a plane and then subdividing it to have vertices throughout the plane. Adding a grid has the added advantage of allowing you to select the number of vertices along the x and y axes (the two edges) of the grid at the instant of creating the grid, so there is no need to make further subdivisions.

First mountain[edit]

Now that we have the ground, it's time to start growing our mountains.

  • Make sure you have nothing selected (AKEY).
  • Select a random vertex with RMB. I usually start at the one that is 4 down from the top and 4 in from the left (the 4th vertex if you count the edges).
  • Change to the side view with NUM3.
Blender-Noob-to-Pro Proportional Menu.png
  • Press O to change to proportional edit mode or use the button which shows a grey ring on the header of the 3D View. The button will change its color to blue. You can also use SPACETransform→Proportional Edit (By default this button is located just below the 3D view).
  • Once you've turned proportional edit mode on, another button appears to its right, the falloff button. Select Smooth Falloff here. Alternatively you can use the menu on the header of the 3D View (Mesh → Proportional Falloff → Smooth) or, using SHIFT + OKEY will cycle through all of the different falloff types while using the Proportional editing tool.
  • Press G to grab the vertex. We should now have a circle surrounding the vertex, this is our radius of influence. Basically any vertices inside this circle will be affected by any changes to the vertex itself.

Noob Note: If you're having trouble seeing or changing the radius of influence, try saving your scene and restarting Blender.

  • Use the Mouse Wheel or PAGE_UPKEY and PAGE_DOWNKEY to adjust the radius of influence to include just over 2 vertices on each side of our selected vertex. (Depending on your version of Blender, you may need to use ALT + NUM+/ PAGE_UPKEY and ALT + NUM-/ PAGE_DOWNKEY and may need to hold down the LMB while using the Mouse Wheel to adjust the radius of the influence.On Mac, hold the "fnKey" down and hit "page-up" or "page-down"). In 2.41 you must 'grab' the vertex first - only then can you alter the sphere of influence (in my version, 2.42a, the 3D cursor had to be snapped to the selection before the wheel appeared).

Noob Note: To change the radius on a Macbook press "fn"+ up/down. OSX uses function + arrow keys as replacements for "home", "end", "page up" and "page down" keys.

Blender3DNoobToPro-FirstMountain.png
  • Move the vertex up about 8 units on the Z-Axis. Do this by dragging the cursor up a little, and press the MMB; this should restrain the movements along the Z-axis. Now use CTRL to move it precisely. Alternatively you can use ZKEY to restrain movements to the Z-Axis and type 8 and hit ENTER. In older versions of Blender you may need to hit the NKEY before typing the number 8.

Congratulations, we just created our first mountain. Now it's time to see what other things we can accomplish with the proportional editing tool.

Peaks vs. hills[edit]

Blender3DNoobToPro-Sharpfalloff.png

The 2.37 and onward releases offer at least 6 types and 2 modes of proportional editing. The previous release only has 2 of these types: Smooth and Sharp Falloff. We'll take a look at the difference between these two now.

  • Change to top view again with NUM7. You'll notice that now your "mountain" looks like a few differently shaded squares in the grid; you're looking down on shaded tiles, but in the Z axis, they're all still perfectly aligned with the original grid.
  • Select another vertex away from the first. Let's say 4 from the bottom 4 from the right (counting the vertices on the edges).
  • Change back to the side view with NUM3
  • Select Sharp Falloff from the menu on the bar of the 3D View. Alternatively, using SHIFT+OKEY will switch from one to the next of the 6 proportional editing modes while using the Proportional editing tool.
  • As before, move the vertex up 8 units on the Z-Axis (Note: The radius of influence will still be the same size as when we last used it).
    • GKEY
    • ZKEY
    • Type 8 and hit ENTER
Blender3DNoobToPro-SharpVsSmoothFalloff.png

Now we can see the differences between the sharp and smooth falloff. The same number of vertices are affected in both cases; only the degree to which they are affected is different.

The different proportional editing modes can be selected from the box immediately to the left of the proportional editing type box. The mode box contains three options: Off, On, and Connected. "Off" means that proportional editing will not be used. "Connected" means that only vertices linked to the selected vertices will be affected by the radius of influence. "On" means that all vertices will be affected.


Shaping the world[edit]

Blender proportional smooth before rotation.jpg

Now that we've created a couple of Mountains, it's time to see how we can use proportional editing to shape them.

  • First make sure we're in side view (NUM3).
  • Then on the smooth falloff mountain, the first one we created, select the vertex that is immediately down and left from the topmost point.
  • Press RKEY to rotate, scroll the MMB to change effective radius so it includes other points. Your screen should look like the photo to the right.

You can see the size of the proportional editing circle, and that there is only one vertex on the mountainside selected.

  • Next hold CTRL and rotate everything by -90. Alternatively, use RKEY, NKEY, and type -90 and press ENTER. Your mountain should now look like this:


Noob note: be careful about the range of affected vertices. If the range is too small, then rotating will affect just the selected vertex. If the range is too large, it will rotate everything together. You can adjust the range by using the scroll wheel on the mouse.



Blender proportional smooth after rotation.jpg

Notice that the vertex itself did not move; since it is at the center of the circle it had no effect. The adjoining vertices within the edit circle were rotated around it in decreasing amounts the further from the center they are. Try doing it again with a larger proportional editing circle. Feel free to play around with scaling or rotating from different view points (don't forget that you can also use GKEY to move vertices vertically or horizontally).


Try viewing your world from top view while rotating with a large effective radius. You will see the nearby vertices move close to the full amount while vertices further away move less.

Smoothing things out[edit]

Blender3DNoobToPro-RoundedMtns.png

Now that we have a couple of budding mountains, you probably think they look kind of choppy. Sure they would be good if we were making an 8-bit console game, but we're working with 3D here, we want things to look sharper (or maybe smoother) than that. There are a couple of approaches to this. The first is to use more vertices when we create our plane. And I won't lie, it works. But it's also a HUGE resource hog. It would take your home computer hours of work just to keep things updated, let alone run it. So instead, we fake it. The easiest way to do this is to turn on SubSurfaces (we saw this in Detailing Your Simple Person 1.) For our purposes, let's set the subdivision (Levels) to 2. Also, ensure our SubSurf algorithm is set to Catmull-Clark (this is the default setting).

Now, you'll notice that with SubSurf on, we lose a lot of hard edges that we had, essentially we have no sharp corners any more. I don't know about you, but to me that doesn't make for a very interesting mountain range. So to restore our corners, we are going to use Weighted Creases for Subsurfs.

  • First turn off proportional editing with the OKEY , and ensure we're in side view with NUM3
    • Noob note: That means, the letter O key, not the zero key. Also, NUM3 means "3 on the numeric keypad," not on the top row of the keyboard.
  • Next, while still in edit mode, change to Edge Select mode with CTRL+TAB and select Edges. Alternatively press Edge Select Mode button at the bottom of the object window.
  • In the Tool Shelf at left, select the Options tab, then under Edge Select Mode, choose Tag Crease.
  • On our Sharp Falloff mountain, the second one we did, select the two edges on the right. (see image below)
    Blender3DNoobtoPro-SharpMtnCreasing.PNG
  • Press SHIFT+EKEY or SPACEEdit → Edges → Crease SubSurf, then move the mouse away from the edge until the edge Crease reads 1.000 in the 3D viewport header. If moving the cursor there seems to be impossible, just hit 1 and enter.

As you move the cursor away from the edge you will notice two things. The first is that the edge becomes thicker as we move from it; this is showing how much of a crease we have (with Draw Creases turned on). The second is that you will notice the subsurfed mesh moving closer to the edge as the sharpness increases.

Naturalness[edit]

Press CTRL+TAB and select vertices. Then go into front view NUM1. Select the second vertex from the top in the centre of our Sharp Falloff mountain, then go into side view NUM3. Push GKEY and drag the vertex inwards, not too far or your mountain will come out of itself on the other side. Just bring it in enough to make a small indent.

Then grab the top vertex and pull it down a small amount. You will notice that there is a small "crunch" in your mountain.

Don't forget to select all, press WKey and hit the shade smooth button to smooth everything out.

OK, so your mountains are starting to shape up. But they still look a bit too neat. You could spend time moving each individual vertex but the chances are your model will still lack the natural feel. What we need is some chaos. Thankfully this is quite easy to accomplish. Firstly select the vertices that make up your mountains, all of them and a few around the base (box and circle select will make this easier). Select a few vertices between the mountains too. Next we use something called fractals. Fractals are chaotically (i.e. randomly) generated variables. In short you can use these variables to give your mountains a "wobbly" look.

Fractal option in 2.6.x

In the Tools tab of the Tool Shelf, press Subdivide (under Mesh Tools), then look at the Subdivide submenu below. The value in the Fractal box is the strength of the fractal. 1 is very low and will barely change your model. 100 is very high and will twist your models into very odd shapes indeed. Have a play with different values until you find one that you like. Around about 15-30 should do it. Hit OK and presto, your mountains have been transformed from clinical neatness, to lumpy chaos.


  • If you make too many fractals, your computer will slow down. However, the more fractal you add, the more bumpy and realistic it looks!

Noob Note: Repeatedly using the fractal tool seems to rapidly multiply the amount of vertices on your canvas. I suggest using the tool once, and if the result isn't satisfying, undo the result (CTRL + Z) and try it again with a different fractal strength. Even after undo, your selected vertices remain selected.

Noob Note #2: If you have a new enough version of Blender (2.49 and up definitely has it, not sure about lower versions), there is a setting called Random in the Proportional Editing settings. Using this with a high radius may give a desired result for you without adding more mesh.

Adding your guy with the hat[edit]

If you changed to a new layer-- press (SHIFT) select the layer with your guy on it or (SHIFT + 1). This will display both layers. If you would like to move the landscape from the second layer to the first then with the landscape selected, press (M), and select the layer(s) you would like it on. note- make sure you're in object mode. If you started a new project-- To insert your guy with a hat, you can simply go to file > append or link(shift+F1).

  • Then select the file from the previous tutorial.
  • You will then see a list of objects you can insert or ‘append’.
  • First go into the 'Object' folder. Unless you renamed him/her, your person will probably be named “cube.” Select it.
  • Make sure that 'Append' button is pressed; otherwise you will not be able to scale or translate, or edit your model at all. (The 'Link' button will link a copy of your object into the current scene, and will update any changes when you reload the file. Unfortunately, this includes location and size, so we will not use it right now.)
  • Press 'Load Library' to place your guy into the mountain scene. Please note, the Load Library button is top right. Confusingly, there is some text bottom left that says Load Library as well, but isn't clickable.
  • Repeat the process to get the hat (probably named “circle”). To reset the parental relationship, see the instructions at the end of the Putting Hat on Person tutorial. To scale them to the appropriate size, go to object mode by pressing TAB (unless of course you are already there). Select the object you want to resize, then press the SKEY and use the cursor to scale as you see fit. To undo any mistakes, use CTRL+Z.

Noob Note: To import the file once you have the list select the item, i.e. cube, and in the bottom right select "Active Layer" that will append it to your current proj when you click "Load Library" your work should be visible now.

Noob Note: Multiple items may be appended simultaneously. For instance: both 'cube' and 'circle' objects can be appended at the same time by highlighting both object names within the file browser by means of a RMB Click. RMB on object again to deselect.

Modeling a volcano[edit]

In this module, you will create a volcano using the proportional edit fall-off tool. You should be comfortable with deleting and adding meshes.



Adding a Plane[edit]

Delete the basic cube. Add a plane, and  S cale it up by 10. Rotate it so you see it in top-view (make sure it's in Orthographic view too).

Enter Edit mode and subdivide (with  W ) 5 or 6 times. More subdividing will give you a "smoother" volcano, but it also needs more CPU power.

The difference between "Subdivide" and "Subdivide Multi"...

"Subdivide" divides every square in the plane into four new squares. So every time you press "Subdivide" you will have four times as many squares as before. "Subidivide Multi" will make x horizontal and x vertical lines through your existing squares, so the new number of squares is: (squares_old)*(x+1)2, whereas x is the number you enter.

Making the Mountain[edit]

In top view, select one of the points in the middle of the plane. With this point selected change to side view. Press the  O , which enables the "Proportional Edit Falloff" tool in the Menu-Panel beneath the 3-D-Window. As seen in the previous tutorial Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Mountains Out Of Molehills when you move a vertex while edit falloff is enabled, all vertices in a defined radius of the selected vertex will align with the selected vertex when its position is altered. How they are adjusted can be chosen in the tab on the right of the yellow dot. I propose using "smooth falloff".

Blender Smooth fallof.jpg

Now grab the vertex with  G . You will now see a gray circle. You can change its size with the mouse wheel. Every vertex inside this radius will be affected by the falloff. Change the size of the circle so almost the whole plane is in it.

Blender circle size.jpg

Now move the vertex a bit upwards, as seen in the picture. Optionally you can lock the z-axis to make the volcano go straight up by pressing  Z .

Blender grab 1.jpg

As you can see all the other vertices will shift upward. We could keep moving this vertex at the same rate, but that would cause the plane itself to rise and bend, and that's not very good. So press  LMB  to apply the changes, grab the same vertex a second time and repeat the previous exercise as before, except now choose a smaller radius for the circle, about half the diameter of the plane ( G  Z  → scroll  MMB ).

Blender grab 2.jpg

Repeat this two or three more times and you will get something like this:

Blender grab last.jpg

Forming the Crater[edit]

Now we're going to create the "hole" on the volcano. First change the falloff to "root". Grab the vertex one more time, change the size of the circle so it's more or less as seen in the picture.

Blender grab down circle.jpg

Grab this vertex down a bit, apply, grab it one more time with a smaller circle. You now should have something like this:

Blender grab down last.jpg

If yours has such a jagged border like mine, you should follow the following steps: First disable the fallout tool with  O . Then select a vertex and grab it, then pull it up so it's on the same height as the other. Do this for every vertex till they're more or less the same height.

You can also select the jagged vertices and the vertices around them then press  W  → Smooth (Older versions: Space → edit → vertices → smooth) and this will get rid of some of the jagged edges. (I suggest using this method since this is only a basic volcano, and using Subsurf after this will make the jagged edges all but invisible anyway.)

Blender edges corected.jpg


Subsurf[edit]

Now  TAB  to get into Object mode. Add a Sub-Surf Modifier to the Mesh, set at level two ( 'Modifiers' tab → Add Modifier → Subsurf → Catmull-Clark → Levels: 2; Render Levels: 2).

Blender subsurf.jpg

Do not apply these settings yet, first we'll do a test-render. Press F12 to enter Render, after adjusting the camera. If you like your volcano you may apply the modifier, but if you have some rather nasty edges like I do, don't apply the modifier yet. We'll correct this now.

First click on the marked button to disable the subsurf-modifier in Edit-mode.

Blender disable modifier.jpg

Then enter Edit-mode. Then select the vertices on the top and pull one after another a little bit outwards, so they form a nice circle.

Optional Enhancement Method to form the circle:

I found this nifty method to help "guide" making this circle with the manual vertex manipulation.

1. Enter Object mode, we will be creating a new temporary object.

2. Center your cursor (either Shift+S->Cursor to center(if your original plane HAS NOT shifted from center of grid) or Shift+S->Cursor to Selected(if your original plane HAS shifted from center of grid), basically you want the cursor centered in your plane.

3. Once you have the cursor centered, hit Ctrl+NUM7, to bring up Bottom Ortho view. You should now see the volcano from the inside out and your slightly edged crater opening.

4. Hit Shift+A->Mesh->Circle. This will create a circle at the cursor which will also be completely centered on the crater. Select the circle with RMB and Scale it with S, manually increase the size until it it slightly larger than your crater opening, or however large you want the out edge to be.

5. Once your circle is the correct size, make sure you have the translate manipulator turned on, select the circle and change to Front Ortho view (NUM1). Now move the circle through and above the volcano along the Z axis (blue handle). Finally, change to Top Ortho View (NUM7).

6. While still in object mode, deselect the circle and select the plane containing your volcano. You now have a nice "guide ring" to grab your vertices to! After you have finished positioning your vertices, deselect all with an A, spin your view by holding down MMB and moving the mouse, enough to be able to pick out the circle easily without selecting the plane. Tab to object mode, select the circle again with RMB and finally delete it with X.

  • Unity user GlennC

Make circle.jpg

Once you have done this exit Edit-mode and press the "Set Smooth" Button in the Link and Materials Button. If you Render now again, it should look a lot better. (Don't worry about the color)

Blender volcano render final.jpg

Adding Magma[edit]

Let's add some "magma" using lighting.

  1. Press  Shift + S  and choose Cursor to Center.
  2. Press  Shift + A  and choose Lamp → Point.
  3. Older versions only: press F5 to enter the shading menu
  4. Change the color to reddish-orange. (Red: 1, Green: 0.1, Blue: 0)
  5. Set the Energy to around 7.
  6. Raise the light until it's just above the bottom of the crater ( G rab along the  Z  axis).
  7. If the ground level of your plane is reflecting light from the lava lamp this is because the bottom of your crater is above ground level of the plane you created; you'll need to turn on ray-tracing. in the object data menu for the light, open the Shadow menu and click "Ray Shadow"
  • Alternate 1: Spot Lamp
  1. Change the light's type to Spot.
  2. Raise the light until it's covering most of the crater. If the light is not pointing down,  R otate and angle it downwards.
  • Alternate 2: Area Lamp
  1. Change the light's type to Area.
  2.  R otate along the  Y  axis: 180 degrees.
  3. Set Gamma to 2.
  4. Set Distance to around 5.

Experiment with the values and positioning to get something that works with your volcano.


It should now look like this:

Blender volcano magma.jpg

Varying the Terrain[edit]

Next, let's set the volcano's material.

  1.  RMB  on the volcano plane.
  2. Select the "Material" button Materials button.png and press New.
  3. Change the color to ashen gray. (Red: .260, Green: 0.230, Blue: 0.230)
  4. Select the "Texture" button and press New.
  5. Change the Type to Stucci.
  6. In the Influence panel, uncheck Color, and check Normal. Set the Normal slider to 0.5. This will render the texture as a bump-map.


Older versions:

Select the volcano and press F5. Keep Pressing F5 until the Materials Buttons (symbolized by a red ball) is highlighted. Then add a new material. You do this by clicking the Add New button in the Links and Pipeline Panel. Once you've done that, set the settings similar to the picture below. Now press F6, then add a new texture to the material. Choose a stucci texture, set the noise size to 0.15. Now switch back to the materials-window (F5) and click on the "map to" tab. Deselect the "col" button and select the "nor" button. This will render the texture as a bump-map on the volcano. Set the "nor slider" to 0.5, which should be the default. Switch to the "map input" tab and choose "tube".

Blender material volcano.jpg


If you now render you should get something like this:

Blender volcano stucci.jpg

This looks really smooth, like clay pottery. To get a more rough-looking volcano, try out these options:

  • Option 1: Subdivide and increase the fractal.
  • Option 2: Decrease the texture's basis size (in the "Stucci" panel when you select the "Texture" button).
  • Option 3: Proportional edit tool.
    1. Press  O  to turn on Proportional Editing mode. Select Random fallout.
    2.  G rab the center vertex, and raise it along the  Z  axis.


Older versions:

Go into Edit mode, select all Vertices, and use the fractal (set from 15 to 30) to really get things looking rocky and mountainous. TAB (Edit mode) → F9AKEY to select all → Mesh Tools → Fractal → 15 - 30 (15-low, 30-high) → OK → TAB (Object mode) In Blender 2.5 you can use the random proportional edit tool: use NUM7 to switch into top view, grab the central vertex of your volcano using a large-radius random proportional edit, and pull it slightly into Z-direction.

(A note: Seems there is no need in subsurf at all since fractal tool will dramatically increase vertex quantity.)


Penguins from spheres[edit]

Setup[edit]

Start with the default scene: it should contain a selected cube. Delete this cube by pressing  X Delete.

Blender 3D-cursor.png

Put the 3D cursor at the scene center by pressing  Shift + C .

Note: after deleting the cube you must be in Object Mode. If not, switch with  TAB .


Creating the body[edit]

Z-scaled sphere

Noob note: to ensure that you don't become confused, make sure that your viewport is set up in the same direction you see in these pictures. The colored arrows are red, green, and blue and they control the x, y, and z axes, respectively.)

  • We start by creating our main body from a sphere. Press  NUM7  to switch to top view, and then  SHIFT + A  → Mesh → UVSphere, then choose 16 segments and 16 rings.
    • Note: You have to manually switch to the Edit Mode after creating the sphere; do this by pressing TAB (In older versions of Blender before 2.45, Blender automatically switches to the Edit Mode. This is OK, since we will start editing the mesh now.)
      There was a report that in 2.61 it didn't have a pop up unless the  F5  key was hit immediately after placing the sphere

We're going to make it look like a penguin body:

  • press  NUM1  to switch to the front view,
  • with all the vertices selected (if not,  A ), choose the scale tool ( S ),
  • restrict scaling to the Z-axis ( Z ),
  • and move the mouse away from the 3D cursor while holding down the  CTRL  key (this snaps the scale values to whole numbers),
    • Note: Make sure the mouse cursor is not too far away from the sphere when hitting the  S  or else you may not be able to reach a 2.000 scale value. The scaling steps are proportional to the distance from the 3D cursor when calling the scale tool.
  • the current scale shows in the lower left corner of the viewport, click when you've reached 2.000  LMB ).
    • Note: You can also do this by typing in 2 after starting the scale and restricting movement to the Z-axis

This is our main body!

Shaping the head[edit]

We’re going to shape the penguin head from the top of the sphere.

Blender3D Limit selection to visible.png

Start by selecting the top-most single vertex as well as the top two smallest circle segments.

Note: selection has been explained in a previous tutorial. Here, the easiest methods are either box selection  B ) in the front view  NUM1 ) and Limit selection to visible off, or lasso selection ( CTRL + LMB ) in the top view ( NUM7 ) and Limit selection to visible (May also be labeled Occlude background geometry) on. You can also switch to top view, center your mouse on the topmost vertex and use the circle tool. Don't forget to deselect all first ( A )
Noob note: make sure the Limit selection to visible/Occlude background geometry button is in the right state each time you select vertices, edges or faces. When it's off, selection affects any item, visible or not.



Building the neck with the 3D transform manipulators[edit]

To turn on the 3D transform manipulator, either push down its button Blender Handicon.png or use  CTRL + SPACE  and choose Enable/Disable.

Moving the two selected circles up[edit]

Blenderpenguin2a.png

Choose the Translate manipulator (red triangle). Go to the front view ( NUM1 ). Drag the blue arrow while holding the  CTRL  key down to move the selected vertices 0.3 units up.

Noob note: you may not be able to snap the extrusion lengths to tenths of units.  CTRL  snaps to the grid size by default: if you can only translate by one unit (1.0), zoom in until the grid divides itself into tenths (SCROLL). Some Blender versions allow to snap to one tenth of the current step by holding both the  SHIFT  and  CTRL  keys while moving the mouse.
Noob note: instead of the Translate manipulator, you can use the  G  and constraint the movement to the Z axis ( Z ).


Rotating the neck[edit]

Blenderpenguin2b.png

Now switch to the side view ( NUM3 ) and make sure that the rotation/pivot point is set to "median point" either by selecting it from the third drop down menu right of the "Mesh" menu, or by pressing ";". Choose the Rotate tool ( R ). Move the mouse with the  CTRL  key down to rotate the selection 30 degrees counter-clockwise. Use  LMB  to validate the rotation.


Blenderpenguin2c.png

Select an additional ring of vertices by expanding the selection ( CTRL  +  NUM+  (Note: NUM+ Refers to the addition symbol on the NUM Pad, KEY+ will not do.). You can contract the selection by pressing  CTRL  +  NUM− . Move these vertices an additional 0.3 units up, then rotate them as previously 30 degrees counter-clockwise in the side view.


Blenderpenguin3c - 2.png

Repeat those steps (selection expansion, translation and rotation) two more times and you'll end up with the body seen in the below.

That doesn’t really look like a penguin, yet!


Blenderpenguin3c.png


Now move all of the selected vertices to the left 0.4 units by pulling the manipulator's green arrow (and of course holding the  CTRL  key down). This straightens out the neck as seen in the next picture.

Noob note: you can also use the  G  and translate the selection by -0.4 as displayed in the bottom left corner of the viewport. Still do this in the side view ( NUM3 ).


Noob note if you had to pull the red arrow, not the green one, then you probably didn't switch to side view, and modeled the neck in front view. If you realize here that you have this done from another view then press AKEY twice, then NUM7, then Space -> Transform -> Rotate and type 90 or 270

Creating the beak[edit]

Blenderpenguin4b.png

Switch to the front view ( NUM1 ), and select the frontmost vertex (the one that originally was the top vertex of the sphere) with the  RMB . Then switch to the side view ( NUM3 ) and translate this vertex to the left by 1.2 units using the manipulator's green arrow or the translate tool.

Note: some Blender versions allow moving the vertices from the keyboard with the following sequence:  G ,  Y , -1.2,  ENTER .


The main body of the penguin is now finished. The next step is to create some flappers for the poor little guy.

Extruding the wings[edit]

We are going to create the wings by extruding faces on each side of the penguin.

Noob Note: You can rotate the whole object by pressing A to select all of its vertex and then rotate it pressing R or using the Rotate Manipulator until the axis on your screen matches the axis on the example image. That way, also, you can practice a little more


Penguin from sphere - wing start.png

Choose the side view ( NUM3 ) and switch to the Face select mode ( CTRL + TAB Faces, or click on the triangle in the toolbar).



Blenderpenguin5b.png

Now, select two faces that will make up the penguin’s shoulder as shown on the right (either select the first one with  RMB  and the second one holding  SHIFT , or use box selection ( B ) to select them both in a single operation).


Wing extrusion

Then switch to front view ( NUM1 ) and extrude the selection:

  • choose  E Region,
  • constrain to the X axis ( X ),
  • hold  CTRL  to snap,
  • and move the mouse to extrude the shoulder by 0.2 to 0.3 units.




Bottom face selection

We'll now extrude the bottom face of this new extrusion. Rotate the view to show it with:

  • a  MMB  drag,
  • or several presses on  NUM2 ,
  • or  CTRL + NUM7  (bottom view).

Press the  A  to deselect all, and select the bottom face ( RMB ), switch to front view ( NUM1 ), extrude by 1.4 units down (