This week we did some basic modelling in Blender. Blender is a very powerful 3D graphics package that is free and open-source. It is supported across all major desktop platforms.
Blender is so large and fully featured that it can be quite intimidating to learn. Knowledge of a few shortcut keys for common operations can really improve the experience of working with the program. We were indebted to Giuliano D’Angelo’s wonderful Blender shortcut infographic for providing us with some quick reference in this regard:
Moving About and Zooming
The first thing we covered in Blender was moving about. Practically speaking, Blender requires a three button mouse to operate. In Blender the middle mouse button (MMB) is used to control the view. Used on its own, it tilts the camera. When used with the SHIFT key, it pans the camera instead. CTRL and the MMB are use to zoom, but this is also more often achieved by scrolling the mouse wheel.
Object Mode and Edit Mode
We used Blender in two modes: Object Mode and Edit Mode. The TAB key can be used to switch between these. In Object Mode we can create, select and reposition objects but we cannot do any detailed editing on them. In Edit Mode, we can do any detailed editing we require on the currently selected object. Note that selecting items in Blender is done with the right mouse button (RMB).
Vertices, Edges and Faces
Items in Blender, as in other 3D programs, objects are composed of:
- Vertices: Points in space
- Edge: A lines between two vertices
- Face: A flat surfaces bounded by three or more edges [aka. Polygon]
In Edit Mode, you can switch between selecting and editing Vertices, Edges and Faces using these buttons:
A Selection of Basic Editing
To show some Blender basics, we made a simple tower shape from a cube:
- Entered Edit Mode (TAB key)
- Selected Face editing mode (see buttons above)
- Unselected all faces (A key)
- Clicked on the top face of the cube (RMB to select)
- Inset the face (I key followed by mouse to set the size of the inset and LMB to confirm)
- Extruded the face downwards along the Z-axis (E key, followed by the Z key to lock extruding in the Z-axis, followed by moving the mouse to set the depth of the extrusion, followed by LMB to confirm)
- Inset this face again, as before.
- Extruded the face again, this time upwards.
- Scaled the face (S key followed by moving the mouse to set the size followed by LMB to confirm)
This is illustrated here:
The last thing we did was to cut an arch at the bottom of a tower.
- Return to Object Mode
- Add a cylinder using the Mesh|Add|Cylinder menu
- In the Object panel on the right-hand-side, set the cylinder’s position to [0, 0, -1], its rotation to [90, 0, 0] and its scale to [0.4, 1, 2]
- Select the tower again (RMB)
- In the Modifiers panel on the right-hand-side, add a modifier of type “Boolean”. Change the Operation to “Difference” and select the cylinder in the Object field [If you have the option to choose between “Carve” and “BMesh” (depending on the Blender Version) choose “Carve”] and then press the Apply button.
- Delete the cylinder
For those who do not have Blender already, it can be downloaded from here.