Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Background Images

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You will often need to use reference photos to guide your modeling. Among the many things you can do with photos and other images in Blender, it is possible to use them just as guides in the 3D view, such that they do not appear in the final render. Furthermore these images will only be visible when the view is orthographic and exactly aligned to one of the X, Y or Z axes (or the camera view). This way, they can be used as a precise reference for positioning elements of the model.

In the 3D view, make sure the Properties Shelf  N  is visible. Look for the Background Images panel; it will most likely be collapsed, so expand it. Initially it will look like at right, with no background images in your view.

Check the box at the top. Click the “Add Image” button once, and this will add one entry to the list of background images, as at right. Initially there is no image opened in this entry; you will need to click the “Open” button and select an image file.

Once you have chosen an image file, the list entry expands with additional options.

Clicking on the eye icon lets you temporarily hide a reference image, without actually removing it from the document. Or you can uncheck the box at the top of the Background Images panel to temporarily hide all reference images; just check it to make them visible again. Click the X to delete an entry from the list of background images.

If you have multiple scenes in your document, the document’s background image settings apply to all of them.

If you don’t have an image handy to experiment with, how about downloading this simple 2D one from Wikimedia Commons. Flat images with no perspective work best for use as a precise modelling reference.

Having loaded your image, it might not immediately appear in the 3D view. For it to show, you must be in a perfect (axis-aligned) view (i.e. one of  NUM1 ,  NUM3 ,  NUM7 ,  CTRL + NUM1 ,  CTRL + NUM3  or  CTRL + NUM7 ) which is in orthographic, not perspective, mode (use  NUM5  to toggle between these), or alternatively it will show in  NUM0  the camera view.

You may not want the same reference image visible in all views. For example, you might have one reference image for top view, another for a side view, and so on. The Axis menu lets you choose which view this image is visible in.

Other Ways To Bring In Reference Pictures[edit | edit source]

Maybe you don’t want to use a reference image for precise, axis-aligned modelling, but only as a rough guide. There is a standard Blender addon called “Import Images As Planes”, which will create a plane object and apply an imported image to it as a texture. This can then be aligned whichever way you want in the scene.

In Blender 2.58 or later, an empty with the type of image can be created. In the object data pane an image can be selected. Like the image plane, the image will be present in the 3D view and can be aligned in any orientation.