Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/3D View Windows
|Applicable Blender version: 2.70.|
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
- 1 The Viewport and its Contents
- 2 Modes
- 3 Viewport Options
- 4 Changing Your Viewpoint, Part One
- 5 Positioning the 3D Cursor
- 6 Changing Your Viewpoint, Part Two
- 7 View Navigation
- 8 Visibility Layers
- 9 Count Your Polys
The Viewport and its Contents
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.
- Launch Blender.
- Just so we're all looking at the same scene, load the factory settings using File → Load Factory Settings.
- Confirm the “Load Factory Settings” popup with (or ).
- If the NumLock indicator on your keyboard is unlit, press so that numpad hotkeys will work properly.
(If you're unsure what the Keystroke, Button, and Menu Notation module.)means, please review
You should see something like this:
A Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Peer into the viewport at the default scene provided by the creators of Blender and find the following eight items:
- In the Center
- This is the default cube, your first Blender object!
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- This represents a lamp, a light source for the scene. (It is an object.)
- 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 until it becomes visible.
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.
Blender has a lot 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 how to get out of them.
Object Mode vs. Edit Mode
The 3D View windows are normally in Object Mode. In this mode:
- The mouse pointer is a white arrow (on MacOS it is black).
- 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.
- is used to select vertices, faces or edges of the current object.
- Press 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.
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.
The options in this section only affect 3D View viewports. They do not affect renders.
Solid vs. Wireframe
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:
- Activate the 3D View window.
- Press .
Alternatively, you can choose these and other drawtypes from the "Draw type" menu in the 3D View window header.
Orthographic vs. Perspective
By default, viewports draw orthographic views. To toggle a viewport between orthographic and perspective views:
- Activate the 3D View window.
- Press .
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.
Changing Your Viewpoint, Part One
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:
- Orbiting/View Rotation
- Perfect Views.
Additional techniques will be covered later in this module.
Blender offers several ways to zoom in and out:
- Use SCROLL
- Click and drag vertically with + .
- Use and 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
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.
- Activate the 3D View window by placing the mouse pointer inside it.
- Now you can:
- Click and drag with to orbit freely around the center of the view.
- Use SCROLL to rotate the viewpoint vertically around the center of the view. + +
- Use and to rotate the viewpoint vertically around the center of the view in 15-degree increments.
- Use SCROLL to rotate the viewpoint around the Z axis. + +
- Use and 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.
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.
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.
|Hotkey||View||Axis Pointing Right||Axis Pointing Up|
The following screenshot shows all three perfect views plus camera perspective for the Suzanne primitive:
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 (+ + ).
Positioning the 3D Cursor
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?"
- Go into either Object Mode or Edit Mode.
- Move the mouse pointer to the desired position (in any viewport).
- Click .
||This technique will fail if the 3D manipulation widget is enabled and your desired position is too close to it. Clickingon or near the widget (the white circle with the colored arrows) will initiate a transform operation; the object's outline will turn white and the mouse pointer will begin dragging the object around. If this happens, press to cancel the transform operation.|
||Clickingin a viewport can only reposition the cursor in two out of three dimensions. (The cursor's projected distance along the central line-of-sight remains unchanged.) For this reason, any time you reposition the cursor this way you should immediately verify its position using a different viewpoint.|
Challenge #1. Using only tools presented thus far, try positioning the 3D cursor on the virtual camera.
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.
- 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.
More Ways to Position the Cursor
Here's an easy way to position the cursor at the center of an object:
- Make sure Blender is in Object Mode, with the object selected.
- Move the mouse pointer to any 3D View window.
- Snap the cursor to the selected object using either:
- + Cursor to Selected
- Object → Snap → Cursor to Selected
Here's 2 easy ways to relocate the cursor to the scene's origin (0, 0, 0):
- Move the mouse pointer to any 3D View window.
+ 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.
- A better way is to click Object → Snap → Cursor to Center
- You can also do this by + → Cursor to Center.
Changing Your Viewpoint, Part Two
Now you'll learn some additional techniques for obtaining the view you want:
- Jumping to the camera's viewpoint
- Zooming in on a selected area
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:
- Activate a 3D View window by placing the mouse pointer inside it.
- Now you can:
- Use SCROLL to pan up and down. +
- Use + and + to pan up and down in small increments.
- Use SCROLL to pan left and right. +
- Use + and + to pan left and right in small increments.
- Click and drag with
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
In version 2.74 use+ to center the view to the cursor.
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:
- Press .
To center the view on an arbitrary point:
- Move the 3D cursor to the point of interest.
- Verify the cursor position from a second viewpoint.
- Press + to center the view.
To center the view on an object in the scene:
- Make sure Blender is in Object Mode.
- Zoom out until the object is in the viewport.
- If any objects are selected, use (or Select → Select/Deselect All) to deselect them.
- Select the object of interest by clicking on it.
- Press to center the view.
Jumping to the Camera's Viewpoint
To see the scene as the virtual camera sees it, press. Afterwards, you can rotate, pan, and zoom normally, but the virtual camera will not follow. To go back to your previous view, press 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 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
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:
- Activate a 3D view window that contains the area of interest.
- Press + . A crosshair appears in the viewport.
- Click and drag with to draw a rectangle around the area of interest.
- When you release , the viewport will zoom in on the area you selected.
You can also change your viewpoint in the 3D view by “walking” or “flying” through it. To activate this, press+ . 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, pressor or to end the navigation mode and stay there, or or to abandon the navigation mode and be teleported immediately back to your original position and orientation.
In this mode, you move the mouse to turn your view up/down/left/right, and, , and or the corresponding arrow keys to move forward, left, back or right, and and to move up or down respectively. Hold the movement keys down to keep moving; movement stops as soon as you release them. Pressing will “teleport” you close to whatever objects lie within the crosshairs at the centre of the view.
You can also useto 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 to make jumps. Just again to turn gravity off.
In this older mode, moving the mouse to change the view works the same as in Walk mode, but the above direction keys (, , , , , 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.
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.
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.
- To view just one of layers 1 .. 9, press .. .
- To view just layer 10, press .
- To view just one of layers 11 .. 19, press + .. +
- To view just layer 20, press + .
- To toggle the visibility of one of layers 1 .. 9 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press + .. + .
- To toggle the visibility of layer 10 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press + .
- To toggle the visibility of one of layers 11 .. 19 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press + + .. + + .
- To toggle the visibility of layer 20 without affecting the visibility of the other layers, press + + .
- To make all layers visible at once, press . Press again to return to your previous layer visibility setting.
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.
Holding down 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,
- on German, Swedish, Finnish and Hungarian ones,
- on Danish ones,
- on AZERTY ones,
- on Norwegian ones,
- on Spanish ones,
- on Brazilian Portuguese ones,
- on Italian ones, and
- on Russian ones.
After pressing the aforementioned key, holding downwhile 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
If you want to count the polygons in your scene, this data is available in the Info Header.
As you can see in the above image, this scene has 507 vertices and 500 faces (polygons).