Jason is a digital artist and also passionate about history, games, sports and travelling.
What is Blender?
Blender is being used for a variety of things, such as visual effects, creating materials and scripting. It's a free, open source software constantly being updated with new features. This article will focus on the basics of Blender used for 3d modeling, in order to hopefully help you learn to use it as fast and efficiently as possible.
The first thing I change is Blender's basic controls. Go to Edit > Preferences > Input > then select Emulate 3 button mouse
This is just personal preference because I find that type of control easier and more comfortable. This may also be ideal if you come from other 3d softwares (i.e 3d Max or Maya), since they use similar controls.
One of Blender's new features is the ability to have different layouts for different purposes. Most of the time, you will be working in the "Default" layout. Since we will be focusing on 3d modeling, feel free to delete the "Video Editing" and "Scripting" panels (I usually do this to keep things a little neat). Simply right click a tab and then select "delete".
Clicking the + sign on the right will let you add different panels. Click the + sign, select "General" then add "Rendering". This window is pretty useful when checking out your renders.
The windows can be resized depending on your needs. Simply hover over the edges of the different windows until your cursor changes into two opposite facing arrows. Click and drag to resize the windows.
As mentioned above, I'm using the "Emulate 3 button mouse" option. Having said that, here are the most important controls for navigating around Blender's 3d space:
Mouse wheel: Zooms in and out.
alt + left click (windows) or option + left click (Mac) or holding down mouse wheel: rotate view
alt + l-shift + left click (windows): pan view
option + l-shift + left click (Mac): pan view
Adding primitives is as simple as pressing shift + a and then selecting Mesh. Select the primitive you want do add then click it. Alternatively, you can click add in the tool bar below. For now, we will stick to the default Cube.
Moving, Scaling and Rotating
Now we will cover moving, rotating and scaling objects. Left clicking will select an object and you can do the following:
r = Rotate
s = Scale
g = Move
Left clicking again will apply the transformation. Pressing x, y or z will transform the object along their respective axis.
To edit an objects basic components (vertices, edges and faces), simply press tab. You will immediately notice a change in color. The object is now in so called Edit Mode. You can now transform the object's components to create whatever you like. The symbols from left to right are: Vertex mode, Edge mode, Face mode. Most of the time I use the following tools while in Edit Mode:
Edge mode: ctrl+r (windows) or command+r (Mac) to insert an Edge Loop (similar to the Slicing Tool in 3d Studio Max). Left click to apply the edge loop.
Face mode: Select a face the press e. This extrudes the faces and is undoubtedly one of the most important functions when modeling. Again, left clicking will apply your extrusion.
Any mode: pressing k activates the "knife tool", meaning you can cut along the mesh's edges to create additional ones. Press enter to accept and exit knife tool.
I recommend trying out all the tools and options described above to get to know them a little better. If you are feeling up to it, try modeling something simple like a simple plane or car.
Cameras are not that important at first until it's time to render your scene. Unlike other 3d softwares, Blender currently does not have the option to render your current view. It only renders whatever is within the active camera's view. Here are two controls I find very useful when working with Blender's cameras:
ctrl+alt 0 (Windows) or control+option 0 (Mac) = Matches selected camera to your current view.
shift + tilde (key left of 1) = Enables "fly mode". You can basically move the selected camera around using the w, s, a, d keys. Left click to accept and exit fly mode.
As mentioned, this article focuses on the modeling side of Blender. Rendering in Blender can easily take up entire books to explain (plus there are a lot of in depth tutorials out there). I will just briefly explain how to actually render things in Blender.
The two most important render types are Eevee and Cycles. Eeevee allows real time rendering within the active viewport. Cycles on the other hand is what most 3d artists understand as "rendering" (it computes lighting etc.). Unlike Eevee it's not considered "real time". Again this would be a broad topic to cover in one article.
I will cover a more "advanced" topic, which is modeling a simple sword using the methods discussed here. I will also touch upon other topics such as unwrapping and texturing. It will be linked to this tutorial once available.