Beginner Blender: How to Model and Animate a Robot

The best way to learn Blender is by getting your hands dirty and working on a project. In this tutorial series, you will model and animate a robot, create a simple scene and render a final video. You will learn how to make the robot we used in the final episode of The Hello World Program, ‘What is Artificial Intelligence?’:

Here’s the final product of this tutorial series:

Let’s begin!

Download the Blender, audio and image files here: https://github.com/nielsenjared/blender-robot

To use Blender, you will need a keyboard with a numeric pad and a 3-button mouse with a scrolling wheel. If you haven’t already, download Blender. This tutorial was created using version 2.77, but you should be okay with the latest release. After you start Blender, you will see the default setup below. The interface can be a bit intimidating at first, but don’t worry, it will all make sense in the end. The main panel is the 3D View. At the bottom is the Timeline. On the right are the Outliner and Properties.

When possible, I’ll be teaching you keyboard shortcuts, rather than selecting actions via menus. To get good and fast at Blender, you will want to know all the shortcuts, so why not start now? In this tutorial, keyboard and mouse actions will be in BOLD. Shortcuts that read NUM1, NUM2, NUM3, etc. refer to the keys on the numeric pad. LMB and RMB refer to the Left Mouse Button and the Right Mouse Button. In a nutshell, the LMB is used to click buttons and the RMB is used to select objects.

With your cursor in the 3D view panel, press N to open the Transform tab. This provides you information on, and allows you to enter values for, the position, rotation and scale of objects in your scene. We’ll be using it a lot later.

Now press NUM1 to switch to front view and NUM5 to switch to orthographic perspective.

See how the Cube is highlighted in orange? That means it’s the object currently selected.

Press X to delete the Cube.

A popup menu will ask you to confirm. Click with the LMB or press ENTER.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s build our robot. Press SHIFT+A to access the Add menu. Under Mesh, select Cylinder.

Zoom in with scroll wheel and press Tab to enter Edit Mode. In Edit Mode, you can see the points and lines that compose the Cylinder highlighted in orange. These points and lines are called vertices and edges and 3D objects composed of vertices and edges are called meshes.

With your mouse hovering over the Cylinder, press CTRL+R to access the Loop Cut and Slide tool. You will see a violet line appear around the center of the Cylinder.

Press 2 to create two loops, and hit ENTER twice, once to confirm two loops and twice to confirm placement.

CTRL + TAB opens the Mesh Select Mode menu. Select Edge

ALT + SHIFT + RMB to select the lower loop.

Press S to Scale and type 1.1, then press ENTER.

Select an edge on the upper loop and press ALT + SHIFT + RMB to select all of the edges in the loop.

With the edge loop selected, press G to Grab it, Z to move it only on the Z-axis and type in .5. Press ENTER.

CTRL + TAB and select Face

ALT + SHIFT + RMB to select the upper loop of faces.

Press S to Scale and enter .9, then press ENTER to confirm.

Press NUM7 to switch to top view and RMB to select the circular face.

Press E for Extrude, then ENTER. This creates a new face on top of the old face.

Press S to Scale and enter .5, then press ENTER to confirm.

Press NUM1 to switch to front view.

Then E to extrude a new face, ENTER to confirm and G to Grab, Z to constrain it the move to the Z-axis and enter .2. Then press ENTER.

Switch back to top view with NUM7. Press K to access the Knife tool.

Slice the circle in half by hovering the cursor over the ‘top’ vertex. Click LMB to start the cut, then move the cursor to the ‘bottom’ vertex. Click LMB to place another point, then press ENTER to finalize the cut.

NUM1 to front view, then press NUM2 six times to rotate to the bottom of the mesh.

Select the bottom face.

Using the Knife tool again, with K, slice the circle in half, pressing ENTER to finalize the cut.

That’s the body. Now let’s add a head. Press NUM1 to return to front view, then press Z for wireframe view.

Add a Cube with SHIFT + A.

Scale it down .8 with S. Press ENTER to confirm.

Press G to Grace, Z to constrain the move to the Z-axis, and 2, to move it two Blender units. Press ENTER to confirm.

Scale the Cube on the Z-axis by pressing S, then Z and .6, followed by ENTER.

Press Z to return to solid view. Then select the front face of Cube.

Press E to Extrude a new face and scale it down with S and enter .8, followed by ENTER.

Press NUM3 to switch to side view and press E again to Extrude a new face. Then G to Grab it, Y to constrain it to the Y-axis and enter .1 to move, followed by ENTER to confirm.

Add a Cylinder with SHIFT + A.

Press R to Rotate and X to do so on the X-axis and enter 90 to rotate it 90 degrees. Press ENTER to confirm.

Press S to Scale and enter .25, then press ENTER.

Press G to Grab and, Z to constrain to the Z-axis and enter 2, then press ENTER.

Press G to Grab, Y to constrain to the Y-axis, enter -.7, then press ENTER.

Press NUM1 to switch to front view, then G, X, .325 and press ENTER.

Press Z to switch back to solid view and select the front face of the Cylinder.

Zoom in if you need, using the scroll wheel. Then Press E to Extrude and ENTER. Scale the new face down with S and enter .75, press ENTER to confirm.

Press Z to switch back to wireframe view and NUM3 to switch to side view.

Press E to extrude a new face, then G to Grab it, Y to move it on the Y-axis, and enter .02, then press ENTER.

Switch back to front view with NUM1, and back to solid view with Z. Create a loop cut vertically around the head with CTRL + R. Click LMB or press ENTER to confirm.

That’s the head. Now let’s connect it to the body. Z back to wireframe, then add a new Cylinder with SHIFT + A.

Scale the Cylinder down on the X & Y axes by pressing S and SHIFT + Z to exclude the Z-axis. Enter .15, then press ENTER.

Move the Cylinder up by grabbing it with G, pressing Z and enter 1. Then press ENTER. Next create a series of loop cuts with CTRL + R. Be sure that you mouse is hovered over the neck and that the purple line is horizontal, then enter 32 and hit ENTER twice.

Z back to solid view. While holding ALT + SHIFT, select a vertical edge with the RMB.

Under the Select menu in the 3D View panel, select Checker Deselect

While holding ALT + SHIFT select any horizontal edge with the RMB.

Under the Select menu again, select Edge Ring.

CTRL + TAB and select Face.

Extrude all the faces with E and press ENTER. Press S to scale the selected faces and press SHIFT + Z to do so only on the X and Y axes, then enter 1.1 followed by ENTER.

With the cursor hovering over the neck, press L to select the entire Cylinder.

And SHIFT + H to hide everything else.

Select the top and bottom faces of the neck (hold SHIFT to do so together).

And press X to Delete and choose Faces.

Press ALT + H to unhide the hidden faces.

Now for the arms. Select a face on the neck, and press L to select the entire neck again.

Toggle to wireframe view with Z and duplicate the neck with SHIFT + D. Press ENTER or LMB to confirm.

Rotate the new Cylinder on the Y-axis with R, Y and type in 90, then press ENTER.

Press S to Scale the new Cylinder and SHIFT + X to exclude the X-axis, then type in .75. Press ENTER to confirm.

Grab the arm, G, and move it on the X-axis, X, 1.75. Press ENTER.

Move the arm down with G, Z, and enter -.35. Press ENTER. Press SHIFT + S to access the Cursor menu and choose Cursor to selected.

Add another Cylinder with SHIFT + A.

Rotate it 90 degress on the Y axis. R, Y, 90 and press ENTER.

Then scale it down, S, .15, ENTER.

Move it to the end of the arm with G, X, 1, ENTER.

Press A to deselect the Cylinder.

Now we’re going to cut the mesh in half. Press B to access the Box tool. Click and hold the LMB to draw a box around the left half of the robot.

Press X and Delete Faces.

Our goal is to have a smooth edge down the middle of the mesh. You might need to clean up leftover faces. Use B for the Box tool to select them and X to delete.

Tab to Object mode. In the Properties panel, select the Modifier tab.

Click the Add Modifier button and select Mirror from the menu. The click Apply.

Tab to edit mode.

Press SHIFT + S and select Cursor to Center.

Now let’s add a mouth. Z to wireframe mode. Then add a Cube, SHIFT + A.

Press S to scale the Cube, and enter .6, followed by ENTER.

Press S to Scale again, this time on the Z-axis, by pressing Z, and enter .1, then press ENTER. Move the cube up with G, Z, 1.5 and press ENTER.

Press NUM3 to switch to side view, then press S, Y, .5 and ENTER to scale the Cube .5 on the Y-axis.

Press G to Grab, Y to constrain the movement, and enter -.25 followed by ENTER.

Press SHIFT + H to hide everything else.

Press Z to switch to solid view and NUM7 to switch to top view. Select the top face. Press E to extrude a new face, then ENTER. Scale the new face down with S, .9, and press ENTER.

And scale it again with S, Y, .9 and press ENTER.

Switch to side view with NUM3. And back to wireframe with Z. Extrude a new face with E and press ENTER. Grab the new face and move it down on the Z-axis -.07: G, Z, -.07.

Press ALT + H to reveal the hidden faces and press A to deselect everything. Press NUM1 to switch to front view. Now, using L, select the head, eyes and mouth, but not the neck. Press NUM3 to switch back to sideview. Move the head forward slightly by grabbing with G, constraining to Y, and entering -.25. Then press ENTER.

Tab to Object mode and rename the mesh from Cylinder to Robot. Press Z.

Hello World!

In the next post we will add materials and shape keys to our model.