Basic Blender: An Introduction

You’ll learn how to: Add basic shapes Add materials Add textures Animate an object Add lights and adjust them Render an image Use Smoothing Author: Artofwot Designed for: Blender 2.3 Level: Beginner Last Updated: November 22nd, 2003

What Is Blender?
If you downloaded it, you must have some idea, but let me get you really excited about it! Blender 3D is a fully functional 3D modeling and animation suite. Best of all, it’s completely free. No catches. That means there’s no watermarks, no reminders to register, no spy software, and not many restrictions. You can even charge for your services! It is completely possible to do digital effects better than in films such as Star Wars: Episode One, and atleast as good as in newer films such as Star Wars: Episode Two! Remember, this is freeware we’re talking about! It’s pretty amazing. Combine the powers of Blender with the power of being able to write your own plugins, and even modify the source code, you get... Well, let’s just say it’s pretty neat.

Let’s Get Started
Now that you’re all excited, let’s get our hands dirty. I assume you’ve installed Blender already, and it is easily accessible. The default start up set up for Blender 2.3 looks something like Figure 1. Get used to it, because every time you start it up, it will be this way (unless you change the default user settings). Let’s think about what we want to create.

Figure 1: The default start-up scene for Blender 2.3

Basic Blender: An Introduction
I’m going to first get an idea, and then create a sketch. Now personally, although I’m good at 3D renderings, I cannot draw, so don’t worry if that’s the same with you. We’re just trying to get the basic idea of what we want to create, not down to the exact detail, but clear enough that you understand what you wanted to create. Look at the (odd) Figure 2. I drew a (rough) picture of a sphere with random noise on it. The arrow indicates that it moves across the screen. Notice how I added a caption. This further describes the scene I wish to create. It reads: “Over a period of 90 frames a green sphere with animated black noise moves across the screen.” Very simple. Although this scene is not very complex, it is good practice to do it every time. It especially comes in handy when you’re doing very complex scenes. If you’re doing a lot of camera moves, you might want to create a couple of pictures that Figure 2: A quick sketch of the scene clearly depict the camera angle you wish to have. Now we can start on the fun stuff... Actually creating the project in Blender. You already have Blender up and running. Please select the plane (square) that is in the middle of the large screen that has the grid by pressing “A” to make sure that the four dots are yellow. Press the “x” key on your keyboard. This brings up a menu that looks something like Figure 4. Select “Vertices”, by clicking on it. This should erase the plane. Now that we’re all on a clean slate, let’s get started! First of all, we need to add a sphere. To do this, press the space bar. This will bring up a menu that looks like Figure 5. Click on “UVsphere”, like what’s highlited in Figure 5. A box will appear that will ask you to provide the number of segments. Just click “OK”. A second box will appear, asking you to provide the number of Figure 3: The rings. Again, just click “OK”. These boxes allowed you to basically set plane that must the resolution or quality of the sphere, and how many sides it will have. We be deleted. didn’t worry about these, because we will discuss how to smooth them a little later. Please look at Figure 6 to see how Figure 4: The the sphere should look (note, the pink is after we hit TAB, delete menu with which we’ll do right now). Hit TAB to switch off edit mode. vertices selected. The sphere you see now should be a pink wire frame. The edit mode happens when you add an object (or when you switch on edit mode). It allows to to edit every single point on the sphere. When you switch off edit mode (pink), you turn to object mode. This Figure 6: The sphere. allows you to manipulate the object as a whole. It is One in edit mode important not to mix edit mode and object mode up. (yellow), one not We will be switching around a lot, and it will be easy Figure 5: The Add menu (pink). The modes to get confused. Now that we’ve added the object, with UVsphere selected. serve different we will add both a material and a texture. functions.

Basic Blender: An Introduction Adding A Material and A Texture
The sphere is now selected in object mode as a pink wire frame. But how do you add color? The answer is materials. Materials add color, and other information of the surface of the object. For other details on the surface, use textures. Be very careful not to confuse Figure 7: The lower toolbar with the materials/textures button highlighted in materials with textures, red (click this first) and the materials button highlighted in blue (click this as they are very different second to get the materials buttons. things! I have read a lot of tutorials on materials, and it took me a very long time to figure them out. I will try to uncomplicate things. First of all, do what Figure 7 tells you (click on the gray scale image of the sphere in the lower toolbar. and then click on the red sphere that is a couple of buttons to the right). To add a material, click on the double arrows next to the Add New button (figure 8) and select “ADD NEW” (figure 8 part 2). A whole array of buttons will appear Figure 8: The material (figure 9). An easier way to add a new material is just to buttons and clicking “Add click the “Add New” purple button next to the double New” from the materials menu. arrows. At first glance, all of the buttons seem very overwhelming. Atleast, they were Figure 9: The material buttons after clicking “Add New”. A whole truck load of to me. However, with a little training buttons appear. and a lot of practice, you will become a master! The first thing we want to do is name the material. To do this, we “shift” click on the name field (see Figure 10). Enter “Green Sphere”. This a descriptive name that will allow us to identify it later. Now that we’ve named it, let’s set some basic properties. We want to set the color to green (remember our description). Notice the RGB “sliders” (Figure 11). They’re next to the big gray “thing in the box”. The RGB sliders control the color of Figure 10: Name button. To rename a the material. R stands for Red, G texture, “Shift” click on the purple stands for Green, and B stands for Blue. field (entry), and enter in your new Adjust the G slider to 1.0, and both the name. R and the B slider to 0. A higher Figure 11: The RGB sliders green value will result in a greener color. It’s like mixing three different colored control the color of the paints in different amounts, and getting every single color in the universe! The material. R stands for Red, 1.0 G value, and the R and B set to 0, we’ll get the purest green you can get. G stands for Green, and B There’s our material. But remember, we wanted animated random noise stands for Blue. Adjust the on the sphere. This can be achieved easily with a texture. What is the difference G slider to 1.0, and both the between a material and a texture? Well, the material sets basic parameters, and R and the B slider to 0.

Basic Blender: An Introduction
the texture adds to the material. It puts something on top of it. We add a texture by using the texture settings. To add a texture, we first have to click on the texture button, which is the mustard yellow square Figure 12: The texture button in the toolbar is highlighted in blue. with the cheeta dots on it in the tool bar right next to the materials button (see Figure 12). Next, just like we did with the materials, click the “Add New” button (Figure 13). This should bring up more buttons like the ones shown in Figure 14. Figure 13: The Add These probably don’t make much sense now, and it New button. like there are a lot less buttons then in the materials buttons, and there are. We’re going to add a texture. The textures that are built into Blender are fabulous, and the best Figure 14: The Texture buttons after pressing the “Add one is “Image Texture”. We’ll get into that in a New” button. later tutorial. What wee need is noise, and for that we’re going to use “Noise”. Not many more buttons come up, but the preview changes. It now looks like that in Figure 15. Also, we want to name this texture. So, up to the right of the top of the preview box (which now contains the noise), shift click on the purple button that says TE:Tex.001. Just like with the materials, you can name your texture. We’ll name this “Noise”, so that we can identify it later. If you switch back to the materials buttons now, you’ll see something... well... interesting, but not what we want (Figure 16). We obviously need to change this. To do this, we’ll click the “Map To” button (Figure 17) which is way over to the right of the screen at the top of the materials buttons (Figure 18). As you can see, they Figure 15: The noise are pink, which is causing our little Figure 17: The “Map To” button texture. highlited in blue. problem. What we need to do is make that color black. To do this we need to crank all of the sliders (R,G,B) down to 0. This will create a nice black. As you can see in Figure 19. Figure 18: The “Map our material is now set To” RGB sliders up. The sphere on the unadjusted. screen has not changed color yet (if you haven’t hit “Z”). That is Figure 16: The material because it is not displaying materials yet. Hit the Figure 19: The green preview, unadjusted. material set up perfectly. Z key to see the sphere. It is green, and does not have noise on it yet. This is because Blender is not displaying textures. Will not view the texture until

Basic Blender: An Introduction
we have set up some lights. For now, take a quick glance at the green sphere (Figure 20), and then press “Z” to shut off the viewing the materials again.

Basic Animation
This has got to be the best part about modeling... Animation. If you remember our description, the sphere will move from one side of the camera to the other over a period of 90 frames. In order to do this, first we need to switch views. Views are Figure 20: The well... views. They allow you to move around in 3D space. We want the “Camera green sphere. View”. To get there, we need to press “0” on our number pad. Now you should see the sphere, with two dotted rectangles around it. The rectangles are what I’m going to explain right now, because they’re very important. Please take a look at Figure 21. It is a screen shot of the camera, with two “zones” highlighted by me. The blue highlite with the red highlight is the “Rendered Area”. This means that when you actually render an image, this is what will be included. The object you wish to show onscreen must inside the outer most rectangle (blue in Figure 21). The red (or, in Blender the inner most) rectangle marks the TV Safe Zone (normally known as Safe Title Zone). What I mean by “Safe Zone” is this. If you’re making TV commercials, or anything that will be viewed on TV, some parts of the image will be clipped. The TV does not show everything that is rendered. If you stay in that inner boundry, you should be fine. Now, to actually animate the sphere. The first thing you need to know is about frames. Frames are Figure 21: The camera with the Rendered Area a sequence of images that when played back rapidly and the TV Safe Zone highlighted (Rendered area create the illusion that there is motion. Frames in Blender in blue, TV Safe Zone in red). are assigned a number. The frame number is displayed down in a little box on the very right of the toolbar (Figure 22). Press the right arrow on your keyboard. You’ll see that the little number one in the box changes from 1 to 2. No press “SHIFT” Figure 22: Frame box highlighted. right button. The number changes from 2 to 12. When you press the right or left arrow, the frame number moves up or down. When you press “SHIFT” right or left arrow, the number goes up or down by 10. The number is the number of the frame. Now that I’ve explained that, go back to frame 1. Blender uses an animation method known as “Keyframing”. Instead of animating frame by frame, you insert keyframes. So if we set a position keyframe at frame one, and a position key frame at frame thirty, our object would move smoothly across from frame one to frame thirty. Neat, huh. Inserting keyframes is actually pretty easy. Okay. We’re on frame one. What we need to do is drag the sphere off the camera view and set a

Basic Blender: An Introduction
keyframe for that position. To drag the sphere, we want to hit the “G” key. This activates “Grab” mode, in which we can drag the object that is selected. We want to move it over past the outer dotted line (Figure 22). Now we need to set a keyframe. To do this, make sure you are on frame one, and hit the “I” key (I is probably for insert). Up will pop a menu (Figure 23). Here you can insert different types of keyframes. What we want to do is select “Loc”. This will insert a keyframe for just the position. Easy, huh. Now we need to advance to frame 90. You Figure 22: Frame 1 can either “SHIFT” click on the frame box, or “SHIFT” right arrow 9 times. Now, we need to drag the sphere over to the other side of the camera. Again, hit the “G” key and move the mouse to move the sphere to the other side of the dotted lines simulating the boundaries for the rendered area. Now, once more, hit the “I” key and select Loc. Figure 24: Frame 90 There! You’re done! Pretty easy, huh. To preview the animation, go back to frame one and hit “ALT” - “A”. The sphere sould move Figure 23: The across the screen. To end the animation hit “ESC” on your keyboard. Loc menu with “Loc” selected.

Adding Lights

Without lights, when you rendered, all you would see would be black. You need lights to see objects. This is not an indepth tutorial on lighting. I am not going to discuss the different types of lights and what they do, and I’m not going to give a lecture on shadows. Those topics are for another tutorial. We’re going to add three lights. One will go just behind the camera, and two will go on either side of the camera ahead of it. First of all, press “7” on your numberpad to switch back to top view. You are now looking at the scene from the top. To add a light, press “SPACEBAR”, and move your mouse over “ADD”, and then click on “LAMP”. (Figure 24). A pink target like object should appear (Figure 25). This is the lamp. You can press “G” to move it. We want it behind the camera. The symbol that represents the camera is a triangle like that in Figure 26. So move the lamp behind the camera, click to place it. Now, to copy the lamp, we’re going to press “SHIFT”- “D”. Grab mode is automatically initiated. Figure Drag the lamp to the other side of the camera and ahead of it. Again, hit 25: A “SHIFT”- “D”. Drag the light so it is on the opposite side of the camera. lamp. The set up should look like Figure 27. We’re not going to worry about the settings of the lamps right now, that is for a later Figure 24: The add tutorial. You can now do a quick test menu with “lamp” Figure 26: A render. I advise that you switch to frame Figure 27: The lamp selected. forty or so. Press “F12”. camera. setup.

Basic Blender: An Introduction Rendering & Last Minute Touches
We’ve got our test render, and it should look something like that in Figure 28. There’s one thing we need to do before we can render. If you have done a test render, you’ve probably noticed that the sphere appears pretty blocky, and doesn’t look nice. To smooth the sphere, we need to apply smoothing. To do this, we need to click on the edit button. It’s the little button the the toolbar (where we clicked on the material button) that looks like a square with four yellow dots on the corners (Figure 29). Now, if the sphere is selected (right-click), in the array of buttons that appear, click “Set Smooth” (Figure Figure 29: The edit button is high30). There, that’s it! Now lighted in red. we can really render! Press “F10” to get to the render buttons. First, we need to set Figure 28: Our first test render. the beginning frame and the end frame of the animation. For this, well use the Sta: and End: buttons (Figure 31). Sta: Represents the start of the rendered frames. Our animation begins on frame one, so we can leave the default value. Our animation ends on frame ninety, so we need to change the end frame from 250 to frame 90. To do this, we “SHIFT” click on the button Figure 30: The set and enter 90. Next, we find the “OSA” button (Figure 32) smooth button is highand click on it to set antialiasing to on. Without the OSA, Figure 31: The Sta: lighted in red. all curves would have jagged edges. Now, we must select and End: buttons as the file format in which we wish to render. We click and default. hold on the button that by default says “Targa”. Targa is the rendered file format by default. We want “AVI Raw”. So click and hold on the button and select “AVI Raw” (Figure 33). Now we have the \ last step. Click the big “ANIM” button (Figure 34). And there you go! You might need to do some searching for the Figure 32: The OSA file, because Blender will save it as something like “1_90” button highlighted in red. in a “render” folder on your harddrive. Welcome to the start of your Blender career! Figure 34: The big “Anim” button.

If Something Didn’t Work & Closing Words.

I understand that there might be some confusion. If something didn’t work you might want to check these things: 1). When you assigned the material/texture, was the sphere selected (pink

Figure 33: The “save image as” menu.

Basic Blender: An Introduction
wireframe). If not, go back and select it by right clicking on it. If the sphere is all dots, hit “TAB”. 2). If the animation didn’t work, make sure you inseretd a keyframe (“I”) both frames (1 and 90). 3). If you see a bunch of files on your hardrive instead of just one AVI file, make sure that you selected AVI “Raw”. One thing that I didn’t mention was to save reguarly. This is very important, especially when you’re working in Blender. Sometimes it will crash, and everything is gone. So save reguarly. What we’ve done today might not seem very amazing, but think of all you’ve learned that you can apply to making your own basic animations. If you don’t believe me, check at the very top of the first page. Yeah. It says: “You’ll learn how to: 1) Add basic shapes 2)Add materials 3)Add textures 4)Animate an object 5)Add lights and adjust them 6)Render an image 7)Use Smoothing” And believe it or not, we have done all that! Think of how much you’ve learned! Check out our next Blender beginner tutorial coming soon! Good luck, and kick some butt!

Ronald Hill “artofwot”