Introduction to Blender 3D

You might be wondering, why are we learning Blender? Aren’t there other software which are the “industry standard” for 3D modelling?

Well, this is because, for our particular use, which is modelling for concept explanation, Blender offers the maximum flexibility at minimum effort, should you be ready to learn it.

After learning Blender, learning other software becomes easier as the underlying design of these modelling packages does not vary too much.

In this course we will be guiding you through Blender’s current and stable version, v2.79b. Blender v2.8 is still in beta and needs bug fixes and more stability which will be provided in its official release sometime around July 2019(we may release a refresher for the same). 2.79b has a comparatively more confusing UI(to a beginner) than v2.8 but to transition to the new version will not bring much difficulty.

What you’ll be learning this week

Navigation in Blender, shifting views, hotkeys for various functions, selecting/deselecting objects, adding/deleting objects, rotating, scaling, moving etc.

Remember to replicate the steps given, try everything out and tinker on your own!

Prerequisites: Computer capable to run Blender 2.79b, 3 button mouse, keyboard with numpad, basic 3D intuition

NOTE: All  Blender keyboard shortcuts mentioned in the document are written in the format: <keyboard shortcut>

1. Absolute Confusion

If you haven’t already, go ahead and download Blender 2.79b from https://www.blender.org. When you open Blender this is what you see, you are greeted by the splash screen. Blender has many capabilities, which combine in powerful ways, all in a package of just ~100 MB.

It is encouraged that you spend around 10-15 minutes just messing around on Blender, doing random things, clicking random buttons, pressing various keys(just don’t press Alt+F4 xD). In fact, given enough time, you will be able to figure out some basic functionality. Since Blender is all about non-destructive actions, if you manage to mess things up, you can always restart the application, by opening a new window. However, since figuring things out in such a manner will leave you with an improper and incomplete understanding(as well as take an immense amount of time), a basic exploration is provided below:

  • Rotating the view: Rotating the view(or orbiting) is done by pressing the middle mouse button on the three button mouse that you have, and dragging in various directions(refer below if you do not possess a 3 button mouse).
  • Panning the view: Panning the view(simply try it for an intuitive understanding of panning) in Blender is performed similarly to orbiting, just with the addition of holding the shift key. Hold down the shift key and the middle mouse button and move your mouse on the mousepad to pan.
  • Zooming the view: To zoom in and out, scroll the middle mouse button forward and backward, respectively.
  • Selecting objects: You must’ve tried clicking all over the place and noticed no change in the viewport except for a small red-white cursor following your clicks. This is the 3D cursor and can be moved using the left mouse button. The right mouse button is used to select objects in Blender, not the left, which most conventional software use. This can be changed by doing the following:-
    1. Press Ctrl-Alt-U to open user preferences or go thru the process shown in the picture on the left.
    2. Under user preferences, select input.
    3. Under input, on the left hand side of the page, you will see ‘select with’ and under that the options of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Select left if you wish.
    4. Additionally, if you are using a laptop which doesn’t have a number pad, tick the box that says ‘Emulate Number pad’. This will allow your regular numbers to act as numbers on the number pad, the significance of which you will understand in the next section.
    5. If you cannot use a middle-mouse-button, also click the ‘Emulate 3-button-mouse’ button to use the functionality by pressing the alt-key and left-clicking/dragging

There, now you can at least move around in Blender. Let us go through some more navigational shortcuts to complete the section on navigation through the 3D world in Blender.

Note: While you can use the left-mouse-click for selection, if you are able to adapt, try sticking to the right-mouse-click for selection, as choosing the other will prevent usability of certain shortcuts

Number Pad Shortcuts

The number pad refers to the 17-key keypad found on the far right of extended keyboards. Here’s a link to clear any confusion on this.

NOTE: The numbers on the Numpad are different in Blender than the numbers above the letters.

In Blender, Numpad keys can be used to change between fixed viewpoints, like front view, top view, bottom view etc. These are extremely handy, as it allows you to view the profile of your object from multiple different views, allowing you to better fundamentally grasp its shape.

ShortcutFunction
Numpad 0Camera view
The camera is an essential component of Blender functions, which in detail will be explained in later weeks. The camera can be seen in the viewport as a rectangular pyramid with an upward black arrow.
Numpad 1Front view
Ctrl-Numpad 1Back view
Numpad 3SIde view (Right)
Ctrl-Numpad 3Side view (Left)
Numpad 5Toggle Perspective/Orthographic
Perspective view shows the world as we see it, from a 3D perspective, while orthographic view would show the same in a fictional view where all distances are represented as equal regardless of distance from camera. The former is used for observing the look of object in the real world, while the latter is useful for precise measurements.
Numpad 7Top view
Ctrl-Numpad 7Bottom view
Numpad +Zoom in
Numpad –Zoom out
Numpad .Focus on selected object

These are the main Numpad functions that you will be needing to navigate through Blender.

2. Objects and basic Object Manipulation

So now you know how to shift your viewpoint in blender. Practice this skill a little, as it lies at the very base of modelling in blender. Now we move on to adding objects to your project.

To add an object you can either go to the left hand side bar and select ‘create’ where you will find a list of objects to add, OR you can use the shortcut Shift + A to open a drop down menu with a list of types of objects that can be added, under which are more child drop down menus.
At the moment, we will be only concerned with the ‘mesh’ child drop down menu.

Try adding a few meshes. You will notice that they’re all spawning at the same place. This is the location of your 3D cursor(recall how to change its location). Wherever it lies, the object you added will be added at that point in the 3D world. To delete a particular object, select it and use the hotkey X.

Translation/Movement of Objects

You might have noticed that on every selected object, there are three arrows perpendicular to each other which appear from the center of the object. They are of the colours red, green and blue, representing the X, Y and Z axes respectively.

The objects in the scene can be moved using these arrows by right click-holding them and moving the mouse on the mousepad. Alternatively, the hotkey G for ‘grab’ can be used. Pressing G will lock your mouse to the object relatively and movement of the mouse will mean movement of the object. However, G enables free movement of the object, not restricted to one axis. Once the movement is done, left-click to fix the position of the object.

To restrain movement of an object to a particular axis, press G and then the axis letter i.e.

  • For movement along the X axis, press G and then X
  • For movement along the Y axis, press G and then Y
  • For movement along the Z axis, press G and then Z
    • For more precise movement, enter the number of numerical distance after grabbing and selecting an axis.
    • For movement along multiple axes, press G and then press <shift+ the axes along which you don’t want to move (locking it) >

Rotation of Objects

The hotkey R is used to rotate objects in blender. Just like the grab function, pressing R will lock your mouse to the object and any mouse movement will result in the rotation of the object. Pressing R and not specifying the axis along which the object is to be rotated will enable free rotation along a random axis, similar to grab.

To restrain rotation of an object to a particular axis, press R and then the axis letter i.e.

  • For rotation along the X axis, press R and then X
  • For rotation along the Y axis, press R and then Y
  • For rotation along the Z axis, press R and then Z
    • For more precise rotation, enter the number of degrees of rotation needed after pressing R + an axis/axes(if any)
    • For rotation along multiple axes, press R and then press <shift+ enter the axis along which you don’t want to rotate (locking it) >

Scaling Objects

The hotkey S is used to scale objects in blender. Like the other functions, pressing S will lock your mouse to the object and any mouse movement will result in the scaling of the object. Not specifying the axis of scaling will result in the overall scaling of an object.

To restrain scaling of an object to a particular axis, press R and then the axis letter i.e.

  • For scaling along the X axis, press R and then X
  • For scaling along the Y axis, press R and then Y
  • For scaling along the Z axis, press R and then Z
    • For more precise scaling, type in numbers after carrying out the above process.
    • For scaling along multiple axes, press S and then press <shift+ enter the axis along which you don’t want to scale (locking it) >

Once you have learnt how to use these few basic functions, practice them to attain a certain level of mastery before we move on to the next week. Using these skills, you can make some cool stuff, for example a stick figure, a snowman, a simple tree, etc.

If you want to have all the Blender shortcuts in a list, go and download Blender Guru’s keyboard shortcut PDF.


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