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Local TutorialBlender For The Faint Hearted - 01 : Introduction

SphynxSphynx191 Posts: 455Member
edited January 2015 in Tutorials #1
Blending for the faint hearted - Sphynx's guide to Blending

Tutorial 1: Introduction
Some of us do not have much money. Some of us have money, but need to
justify to ourselves when we spend large amounts of it. Some of us try only to
use Open Source products. Some of us like a challenge. Some of us just like to
be different.

It does not matter which of the above categories you fall in to, if you are
reading this then chances are that you have something in common with me ? you
chose Blender as your 3D application, and now you want to learn to use it to its
full advantage.

Well, that may not be easy. Not because Blender is a pain ? in actual fact, from
a learning and interface standpoint, Blender has drastically improved in only a
few recent releases. The main hinderance, is that even experienced BlenderHeads
still learn new short cuts and capabilities on a daily basis. There are manuals,
there are tutorials, and there are FAQs all over the place and still there are
capabilities and methods of using Blender that are continually being discovered.

This is the first, and most non-3D oriented tutorial in a long series that
ultimately hopes to explore each and every section of Blender. I certainly will
not even tempt fate by being arrogant and saying that we will cover everything,
because we won't. We can't ? it's as simple as that. If I tried, if I made sure
that each and every thing that I show you also includes all of the other
alternative ways of doing the same thing, you would end up with a document that
was totally unreadable.

Instead, what I intend to do is to introduce you gradually to Blending and 3D
modelling. If you are a little more experienced; if you have been using Blender
a while and just want to know more, or you have come to Blender from another 3D
application, just bear with us ? from the numbers that I see on various forums
week after week, there are plenty of new Blender users who desperately need
help, and who are very new to 3D let alone Blender. As the tutorials progress,
there will be less hand-holding and more core information.

As a result, all of these tutorials (except this one) will each follow the same
format. First, they will show something basic. Something that is a key to the
particular tutorial in question. In the first tutorial for example, we'll just
build a simple cube. For the rest of the tutorial, we'll use what we built to
explore a set of Blenders menus and capabilities, taking in both Blender and
general 3D concepts along the way.

First however, lets look at some general concepts that it would be useful to
know about before we even start the tutorials properly. Start up Blender and
we'll take a look around.

sb001_001.jpg
A pretty mush standard Blender screen after install

Windows
As you can probably see, the Blender screen is made up of a number of
windows or frames. Unlike other applications, any window in Blender can be used
for any task - but you will typically place a window into a particular position
on screen and always use that window for the same purpose. If you want to change
the function of a window however, you will use the Window Type button which is
always located in the left of the window title bar.

To change the purpose of a window (the Window Type), click the double-arrow
button to display a drop-down menu of the different types available.
sb001_002.jpg

Exercise
Pick a window, and remember the icon and type that it is displaying.
Display the menu and choose a few options ? just to see what they look like. You
may not understand what they all do or mean, but just get used to this
window-type menu. It's pretty typical of drop-down menus in Blender. When your
comfortable, put the window back to what it was before.

Editable fields and settings buttons
Many of the buttons that you can see on the Blender screen are just
buttons - nothing more. You click the button, and something happens. Others
however - and it is not always obvious as to when something is not just a button
- do more. There are essentially two different types of these 'other buttons'.

One type is used to display a setting - usually in a numeric form, but sometimes
with or using an accompanying slider.
sb001_003.jpg
These buttons will contain the name of the setting, the current value,
and the optional slider. They may also however, contain an arrow on either side
of the button. There are a number of ways that you can change the current
setting on these buttons.

If you click the arrows, or often anywhere on the button on the general side of
the button where the arrow is located, Blender will move the setting up or down.
On some buttons (not all), where you click will effect how much the setting is
moved up or down. If you click one of the arrows or the slider bar but hold down
the mouse button, then drag the mouse left or right the setting will usually
change in a continuous motion.
sb001_004.jpg
You can also click the numeric setting itself. This will place the
button into a text-field editing mode and allow you to type the setting that you
require - useful if the current setting is 2 and you want to enter
80,000!

Exercise
If you've started up an empty Blender file, then chances are that you
are on the Render menu. Take a look at the button marked [Xparts] in the second
menu, titled [Render]. You can see that is follows the pattern of what I just
described, and that currently it probably has the setting of 1. Click on the
arrow on the right hand side of the button and it should jump to 2. Click and
hold on the arrow then drag the mouse around, and you'll see the numbers change
pretty rapidly. Try the same type of thing with the left button.

sb001_005.jpg

Finally, click pretty much in the centre of the button and it should switch into
text-editing mode. Don't worry if it does not work first time, your probably
just a little off in your position. Try it a few times till you get the feel of
how it works. When the field is editable, delete what is there and return it to
1, the press [Return]. Do it a few more times, till you are happy with how it
all works.
A similar button is used to display the names of objects, materials, and
a wide variety of information that require naming with a text value. In order to
change the name of the information (usually these are names of data blocks - see
later), just click on the button and the button will enter into a text-editing
mode. Change the text to what is required then press [Return].

Many buttons have several functions and will change their appearance and usage
depending on circumstance. A good example of this is the button that is used to
attach a material to an object. We can't really look at the material button till
we create something, so we will look at it a little later. For now, this is how
it works:
sb001_006.jpg

Initially, this button will appear as a simple button marked 'Add New', but with
an up-down arrow next to it. Clicking on the 'Add New' part of the button
creates a new material (usually just called 'Material') and attaches it to the
mesh (see below).

Next to this button however, is an up-down arrow similar to that which we saw on
the 'Window-Type' button (above). Clicking this up-down arrow will display a
menu of materials that already exist, and allow you to select one. Once
selected, the material is attached to the object in place of the words 'Add
New'.
sb001_007.jpg

Once a material has been selected however, the name of the material is displayed
on the button (usually prefixed with a few characters indicating what the data
block is - in this case MA for MAterial). To change the name of the material,
just click the name being displayed, change the text and press
[Return].

The Cursor
You will see even now, a cursor in the 3D view that comprises of black
horizontal and vertical bars and a red and white circle. The 3D cursor will
appear in all 3D view windows as it reflects a point in 3D space and not just on
a 2D monitor screen. If you want to know where it really is, take a look at it
on two different 3D views, preferably at right angles to each other so that you
can see depth as well as its horizontal and vertical position.
sb001_008.jpg

The cursor is used for a number of different purposes ? not least of which being
that the current position of the cursor will be used to locate the centre of any
new primitives meshes that you create (see later). It will also be used as an
anchor point for various operations that you perform to modify the contents of
your 3D view. We?ll take a look at these as and when we get to them.

We position the cursor in the 3D world by clicking the mouse button at some
point in space on a 3D view. Remember again however, that you are clicking a 2D
monitor screen. To really position the cursor at a point in 3D space, you need
to also click at a point in another 3D view ? again, preferably at right-angles
to the first so that you can account for depth as well as horizontal and
vertical position.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, and one of the few annoyances with Blender is the
inability to specify accurately and numerically where you want the cursor to be.
There are a couple of different ways to position the cursor specifically by
using a context-menu that will appear when you press shift-S, but these allow
you to jump the cursor to the nearest gird intersection (remember that it?s an
x, y and z grid!), or to the current selection (such as a mesh).

Usually these are sufficient, but often you?d like to specify an arbitrary but
specific point in space ? such as if you are building a realistic, accurate
model based on real plans or otherwise accurate information. I'll show you a
work-around for this later, but it?s not ideal as it takes more than a few
keystrokes ? sound?s petty, but when you?re being productive, those additional
keystrokes can become a bit of an annoyance.

Exercise
Click somewhere in the 3D view and watch the cursor move about.
Unless you've made some changes, it will be the left-button that you need to
click. Put the cursor in various random positions until you feel comfortable,
then try putting the cursor back in the very centre of the view. It's not easy
(or overly important at this stage that you get it right) ? even if you think
that its in the perfect centre, its probably not. Remember that you are limited
by the resolution of your monitor screen, but the position of the cursor goes
down to 3 decimal places!

Mouse buttons
Blender seems to have been designed by a left-hander! Within the 3D
windows, the more common operations of selecting an object, vertex, face or edge
(see later) is performed by using the right-mouse button. Meanwhile, the left
mouse button is relegated to positioning the cursor and clicking the menu items
and buttons. Arguably, 'positioning the cursor' fits in with modern UI (user
interface) thinking, but the problem is that in terms of overall use it is far
more likely that you'll be selecting rather than positioning so it makes sense
to reverse the buttons.

To do this either switch one of the windows into configuration / information
mode or, which I recommend to avoid confusion, use the existing window. Wonder
where that is? Simple ? it?s the menu bar at the top, with the majority of what
we need hidden from view.

Exercise
Use your mouse and grab the bottom of the menu bar (left mouse click
and hold - your mouse pointer will change when you are over it) and drag it
downwards a few inches. This should reveal some configuration options that we
can choose. Explore this configuration area and get a feel of whats here.

sb001_009.jpg

Don't change anything too important, or if you do, make sure that you put it
back the way it was. When you are finished, grab the botton of the window again
and drag it back up to the top ? you can't drag it too far, and Blender will
make sure that that the menu bar is always visible.
If you do want to change your selection mouse button (I did...), select
the option that reads [View & Controls] and this should display an area labelled
[Select with:]. To switch the mouse buttons, just select 'Left Button'.

Screens and Scenes
When you first start up Blender, chances are that you'll be in the
modelling screen. At first, grasping what a 'screen' actually is can be a little
difficult as other 3D applications often only have a single main screen then
open up other windows to display details of a particular task that you need to
perform. We are not really talking about anything physical here, just a
reconfiguration of what you are seeing.

In effect, a 'screen' in Blender is a particular configuration of windows that
have been set up to perform a particular task. The default modelling window has
a single 3D window in the main part of the screen, with the menus and toolbars
along the bottom. This is not however, the best set up for other editing
practices such as sound, animation of material editing, so Blender allows you to
configure a screen that is more suited to the task. Blender allows you to switch
back and forth between these window configurations in the form of 'screens'.
Nowadays, Blender has a series of these already configured for you, but we'll
show you later how to change them if you want to.

How do you know what screen you are currently using? Simple - look to the main
menu bar along the top and find the button that contains the prefix 'SCR:'
followed by a name. Older versions of Blender had these screens named 'screen',
'screen.001' etc. but later versions have more intuitive names, such as '1 -
Animation' and '2 - Model'. Remember that this is one of those examples of an
editable data block name ? click in it and you can change the name (just press
[Escape] to abort without changing it if you tried this).

You'll also see an up-down arrow next to it - click this, and Blender will give
you a drop down menu to show you the screens that are available or even create a
new one. The big 'X' at the side just allows you to delete the screen
configuration if you no longer want it ? though I would not really advise it in
this case unless you really know what you are doing!
sb001_010.jpg

Exercise
Click on the arrow next to the screens button and switch into some of
the other screens. Take a look at the layout and how it differs from your main
modelling screen. Just be confortable with fact that there are differences for
now ? don't bother trying to understand what they do. We'll come back to it all
later. When you are finished, go back to your modelling screen.
The 'Scenes' button is right next to the Screens button in the menu bar
but this is prefixed with 'SCE:'. Don't get confused by the two! We won't say
much about the scenes button for now - we'll come back to it later.

Reconfiguring Windows
If, like me, you have come to Blender from another 3D application then
you may be confused by the state of the modeller screen. A single window? Well,
OK, you can use this single window to jump around different views, and this also
may not be new to you for some 3D applications or if this is your first
application. Those who have used older applications and those of us who come
from an old style technical drawing background however, will probably want
something familiar - such as the traditional 'three-view'. Curiously enough of
course, this three-view actually comprises of four windows - a top, left and
side view and a 3D or camera window.

For this example, we'll look at how to get the typical layout as used by the
Lightwave modeller ? we?re looking at configuring a modelling environment here,
but this window setup process is pretty standard for creating other types of
window as well.

(Note: Because of the menus along the bottom of the screen, this layout may not
be ideal even for modellers who are used to Lightwave unless you've got a big
screen with a good resolution. This is because the new windows we are going to
create are relatively small compared to the whole screen. Lightwave positions
menus in a very narrow bar down one side of the screen, so there is much more
room to play with.)

Exercise
First, we need to make some more windows in the centre of the screen.
To do this move the mouse to the bottom of the 3D window (the one with all of
the grid lines on it) and position it until the cursor changes to the 'up-down'
arrow that would allow you to re-size the window (as we did above with the
information window).

sb001_011.jpg

Don't click the left button this time however, instead click the right to
display a context-menu. To split the window in two, select the menu item 'Split
Area'.
sb001_012.jpg

A vertical line will now appear dividing the window in two and attached to the
current position of the mouse. Move the mouse left or right until the line is
pretty much in the middle of the screen then click the left mouse button again
to confirm the position of the split.

Do the same thing, but this time on the vertical window border between the two
new windows that you have just created. This time, the split will appear in the
left hand side and when confirmed by clicking the mouse button in the place that
you want to split, this left window will divide in two. Do the same with the
right hand window by moving the mouse to the right-most border of that window
and repeating the process. You should now have four 3D view windows, in a 2x2
arrangement.
sb001_013.jpg

At present, because we have split the same window multiple times, they are all
displaying the same thing. To change this, click the [View] menu on each window
and select the view that you want to see. Normally, the top left window is used
as the Top view (or select NumPad 7 with the top left window activated); the
bottom left is the front view (NumPad 1); and the bottom right is the side view
(NumPad 3). The top right view is normally reserved for the 3D view or the
camera (Numpad 0).

If you want to remember these short-cuts just think about the way we've set up
these windows (Top, Front and Side) and take a look at the position of the 7, 1
and 3 keys on the keypad - they match their positions with the views on
screen.

Finally, if you want that little-bit more room then you can turn off the
menu-bars that are attached to each window. To do this, move you mouse over the
menu (Blender calls this a window header) of the required window and press the
right mouse button - here you can use [No Header] to remove the menu bar or
change its location and get that little bit more room for modelling. This may be
counter-productive long term however, as you'll see later that we need to use
the contents of this menu bar quite a lot. For some things, we can leave only
one window with the menu bar activated (tip: use the 3D view for this, so that
the other three remain consistant), but for others, the menu bar needs to affect
only the window that it is attached to. You may therefore need a separate
menu in each window.


Saving your environment
Right ? if you?ve been following all of this and trying things out on
your screen, then your Blender environment may well now be a total mess and your
starting to panic. Should I reinstall the entire thing to reverse my changes?
Well, the answer is no, you don?t need to. All of the changes that you have just
made are actually saved into the current Blender file that you are using. If you
have not saved your file yet, then the next time that you come into Blender all
of your changes will have disappeared. Phew!

But what if you get a really nice setup that you like and want to use all of the
time? There are two ways of doing this.

First, you can set your environment up then save it all down into a Blender file
with a name that you will remember. Each time you want to start a new 3D
adventure, just start Blender and load that file before you start adding
anything. Then, save the file down as a new file reflecting what you?ve been
doing.

A second option is to save all your changes down as a new set of defaults. To do
this, setup your environment then go to the [File] menu. Select [Save Default
Settings] (Ctrl-U) from this menu and all of your changes will be saved into the
default Blender file that gets loaded each time you start Blender.

The Blender file
Unlike other applications that store objects, images and scenes in
separate files, Blender stores everything about a project in one single file.
These invariably have the file extension ?.blend?, so you could have
?myproject.blend?, ?starship.blend? or ?3d_scene.blend?. Blender files can
therefore become quite large, but no more so than if you totalled the size of
all the files in the project directory of a different application.

Within this file, there can be lots of different, distinct data blocks (see
below).

One initial puzzle that many people have when coming from a different 3D
application, is how to re-use their models in different scenes. Well, rest
assured that this is not a problem ? Blender has a few answers to this. Within
Blender you can browse a ?.blend? file in a similar way to looking at a
directory or folder on the disk, then select different data blocks to ?append?
to your current project ? effectively importing them for re-use.

Alternately, it is also possible to tell Blender to use different ?.blend? files
for the foreground activity and for the background environment. We?ll deal with
both of these later as we come to them.


Data Blocks
A large amount of what you do in Blender will consist of ?data blocks?.
The best way to think of a data block is to regard it as its own unique set of
information regarding some aspect of a Blender scene. Amongst lots of other
things, a data block can contain mesh data (see below), details of a material or
texture, a sound or information telling an object how it is animated.

OK, so why should you need to know about the internals of Blender and how the
data is organised? Well, unlike other applications, data blocks are very visible
to the user and the names of data blocks in use are displayed all over the
Blender UI. By encapsulating this information into distinct data blocks we can
do all sorts of things far faster and with much greater ease. For example, a
data block can be created once ? say for a material ? but then attached to other
things multiple times. What this means is that all you need to do is to modify
one data block for everything that uses that same data block to be updated
automatically.

OK, so that?s not unique in 3D applications, but translate this to an animation.
If you set up the details of the animation once, for one mesh, then it also
means that you can attach that data block to a lot of different objects. Makes
sense to do it this way rather than having to set up the animation of every
single separate object now, doesn?t it? Again, there are lots more advantages
and uses of data blocks, but we'll see them as we come to them.

The one thing to watch however, is that by default if a data block is NOT being
used by something when you save your file, then it will not be saved at all
(this does not apply to mesh objects, which are always saved). The next time
that you load your Blender file, that block ? whether it?s a material, animation
or anything else that was not being used ? will simply have ceased to exist.

You may have seen while you have been browsing however, little buttons marked
?F? next to some fields that quite obviously could have text in them ? the
little ?F? means ?Force? and is the way in which you get around this default
feature. If you press ?F?, whatever data block was visible in that field when
you pressed it is ?forced? to be saved, even if it has no current users.

You may also have seen while moving your mouse around, a tooltip appear refering
to 'make single-user copy'. Don't worry about what this actually does for now ?
all it really means is that it allows us to make copies of data blocks so that
we can edit them and make them unique without having to build them totally from
scratch.

Construction of a model
Well, we?ve mentioned vertexes, edges, faces and meshes already, so I
suppose we should explain what they are. At their very basic, these things are
the building blocks of a model.
sb001_014.jpg

A vertex is simply a ?point? in 3D space. A vertex will normally never be
visible outside the modelling environment, but they still show up in 3D views.
So if they are normally not visible, what use are they? Well, join two vertexes
together to form an ?edge? and you now get a line in 3D space. Take three or
more ?edges? joined in, well, lets say a triangle, and you can create a ?face?
(or a polygon , or ?poly? in alternative terminology).

Once you get to the stage where you have ?faces?, things start to take on a
whole new dimension (pun intended only if you think its funny, otherwise
disregard...:devil:), as these ?faces? can be joined into larger and larger
groups then ?rendered? into a final 3D image.


Blender faces
Blender has three different types of face: 3-point polygons (triangles),
4-point polygons (quads), and something called ?f-gons?.

3-point polygons are the basic building blocks of most 3D applications. Why?
Because any shape with three corners simply can?t be ?bent?. Some 3D
applications don?t use anything but 3-point polygons. Put four of these polygons
together, vertex to vertex, and you get a three-sided pyramid.

4-point polygons are the next step up and while they can be ?bent?, they are
also extremely useful. Think of a simple cube ? construct it out of square
polygons rather than triangles (two triangles together to form a square) and you
literally halve the number of polygons. There is more to it than that, but a
polygon count saving on this scale is a real benefit ? as well as making the
on-screen display during modelling a great deal easier on the eye.

Finally, Blender has ?f-gons? ? lovingly, but a little inaccurately referred to
as ?fake-polygons?. Primarily, ?f-gons? really exist in order to make the
modelling process easier. It is possible to take a number of triangle or quad
polygons and, as long as they are all ?flat? (in the same ?plane?) and visually
join them together so that only the multi-point outline is actually drawn. There
are some implications and side-effects to doing this, but only if you are using
some special modelling techniques. Otherwise, they are a God-send in the
modelling environment ? we?ll show you how to create f-gons later. We?ll walk
before we run..!

Take a look at the following example of a typical 32 sided circle made from 3
and 4 point polygons, and one converted to an f-gon (note: it's more usual for
quads to be used to create more conventional rectangles. This image is for
reference only).
sb001_015.jpg


Meshes (or 3D Objects)
What?s a mesh? Well, look in a dictionary and you?ll get some sort of
description sounding a lot like a net, or a series of lines, cords or ropes
knotted together at points. Curiously, once we join our vertexes, edges and
polygons together on screen, they start to look a lot like a well shaped, but
still clearly identifiable set of nets or? meshes. It?s as simple as
that.


Well, that?s enough concept for now. Let?s get Blending.

What's in tutorial 2?
In tutorial 2 we'll build our first mesh and perform a little more
configuration that will make working with meshes much more intuitive. Once we
have something to look at, we'll also look at how to move around in Blender's 3D
views.

From then on, we'll start to manipulate our simple mesh and get down to the real
beginnings of mesh modelling.
Post edited by Sphynx on
Tagged:

Posts

  • SphynxSphynx191 Posts: 455Member
    I've recovered this tutorial from an old source, so there may be some errors in it (spelling, grammer, minor mistakes etc.) that were ironed out during the life-time of the one on the site. If people see any, just shout and I'll amend.

    If the observation is a release issue (i.e. this is the way it was done way-back-when, and the system has now changed), please don't bother. The whole Faint-hearted tutorial set will be modified in one go and all of those will be fixed together.
  • DrCDrC0 Posts: 0Member
    Unfortunately, your graphics are only X'd out boxes from here. I have to learn this site bit better before I contribute, but likely will see what I can offer as for Blender discussions. How friendly is the forum to human anatomy?
  • Vortex5972Vortex597272 Posts: 1,003Member
    Human? Not very, if you want to do some Orion's, though.... :p
  • ldoldo0 Posts: 0Member
    Always good to see people discovering the power of Blender. Some things I might mention:
    * The A“Blender 3D: Noob to ProA” wikibook https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Noob_to_Pro has a fairly thorough UI introduction. (I ought to know, I contributed to it :)).
    * Blender does its windowing inside (mostly) a single OS-specific GUI window. This GUI window really needs to run full-screen. Within this window, Blender implements its own tiled (non-overlapping) windowing system.
    * A key thing to remember about BlenderA’s UI is that it is optimized for smooth workflow. Once you get up to speed with it, you will appreciate how it lets you work really fast, with a minimum of clicking and interruptions from popups etc.

    Anyway, itA’s a wonderful, versatile tool. Enjoy.
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