Blender Basics — Tutorial 01: Introduction and Interface
What is Blender?
Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline — modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. Advanced users employ Blender’s API for Python scripting to customize the application and write specialized tools; often these are included in Blender’s future releases. Blender is well suited to individuals and small studios who benefit from its unified pipeline and responsive development process.
Where can I download Blender?
You can download Blender for free at blender.org.
As of the time of this recording Blender 2.78c is the latest stable release from the Blender Foundation. To download it, go to the download page at blender.org and select your platform and location. I would recommend using the Installer option. Once you download the file you run the downloaded Installer just like any other executable file.
Can I use Blender on a laptop?
You can use Blender on a laptop however there are a couple of things that you will need in order to easily use Blender.
First, you will need a mouse. Using a trackpad in Blender can be very tricky and not very comfortable. It is recommended that you purchase a mouse to use instead of the trackpad.
Second, you will need to make a change to the User Preferences if you do not have access to a Number Pad. Simply go to Users Preference and open the Input Tab. Under the Input Tab place a checkmark next to “Emulate Numpad.” This will permit laptop users to use the numbers at the top of the keyboard in lieu of a numpad. Don’t forget to “Save User Settings.”
There are some useful addons that I would recommend you activate for future use.
Click on the Add-ons tab…
Import-Export: FBX Format — Allows for FBX meshes, vertex colors, materials, textures, cameras, lamps, and actions
Import-Export: Import Images as Planes — Imports images and creates planes with appropriate aspect ratios
Import-Export: UV Layout — Export the UV layout as a 2D graphic
Import-Export: Wavefront OBJ Format — Allows for importing and exporting OBJ meshes, uvs, materials, and textures
Don’t forget to “Save User Settings.”
When starting Blender, the splash screen appears in the center of the window. It contains help options under links and the recently opened blend-files.
To close the Splash Screen and start a new project, click anywhere outside the splash screen (but inside the Blender Window) or press ESC. The splash screen will disappear revealing the default screen.
*Note: Your Blender interface will appear gray since I have a theme applied to my interface.
To reopen the Splash Screen select Help > Splash Screen.
After starting Blender and closing the Splash Screen your Blender window should look something similar to this. Blender’s user interface is consistent across all platforms.
The Default Screen
By default Blender starts up showing the default screen, which is separated into five areas containing the:
1. Information Editor
2. 3D viewport
4. Properties Editor
Screens are essentially pre-defined window layouts. Blender’s flexibility with areas lets you create customized working environments for different tasks such as modeling, animating, and scripting. It is often useful to quickly switch between different environments within the same file.
3D View Full: A full screen 3D View, used to preview your scene.
Animation: Making actors and other objects move about, change shape or color, etc.
Compositing: Combining different parts of a scene (e.g. background, actors, special effects) and filters (e.g. color correction).
Default: The default layout used by Blender for new files. It is useful for modeling new objects.
Game Logic: Planning and programming of games within Blender.
Motion Tracking: Used for motion tracking with the movie clip editor.
Scripting: Documenting your work and/or writing custom scripts to automate Blender.
UV Editing: Flattening a projection of an object mesh in 2D to control how a texture maps to the surface.
Video Editing: Cutting and editing of animation sequences.
The application window is always a rectangle on your desktop. It is divided up into a number of re-sizable areas. An area contains the workspace for a particular type of editor, like a 3D View Editor, or an Outliner.
Blender uses a novel screen-splitting approach to arrange areas. The idea is that you split up the application window into any number of smaller non-overlapping areas. That way, each area is always fully visible, and it is very easy to work in one area and move over to work in another.
Changing the Size
You can resize areas by dragging their borders with the left mouse button (LMB). Simply move your mouse cursor over the border between two areas, until it changes to a double-headed arrow, and then click and drag.
Splitting and Joining
Area Split Widget
In the upper right and lower left corners of an area are the area split widgets, and they look like a little ridged thumb grip. It both splits and combines areas. When you hover over it, your cursor will change to a plus symbol (+).
Use the left mouse button (LMB) and drag it inward to split the area. You define the direction of that border by either dragging horizontally or vertically.
In order to join two areas, use the left mouse button (LMB), and click and drag the area splitter outward.
The area that will be closed gets a dark overlay with an arrow. Now you can select the area to be closed by moving the mouse over it.
Release the left mouse button (LMB) to complete the join. If you press ESC before releasing the mouse, the operation will be aborted.
The Properties Editor is being merged “over” the Outliner.
To open and close the Mesh Tools panel, use the T key. Most of these tools are also available as shortcuts (displayed in the Tooltips for each tool) and/or in the Specials menu (accessed with the W key), the Edge menu (accessed with CTRL E), and Face menu (accessed with CTRL F). The properties of each tool are displayed in the operator panel at the bottom of the Tool Shelf.
Even more mesh editing tools can be enabled in the User Preferences > Add-ons.
To open and close the Properties Region panel, use the N key.
In the Properties Region Panel, the panels directly related to mesh editing is the Transform panel, where numeric values can be entered for location, rotation, scale, and dimensions. We also have access to the Grease Pencil which allows you to write notes or draw in the 3D Viewport.
Blender has two options for rendering engines: Blender Render and Cycles. For the most part we will be using Blender Render for this video series but I will explain Cycles at the end of the series.
The Blender Internal Render is Blender’s non photo-real render engine.
Cycles is Blender’s ray-tracing production render engine. To use Cycles, it must be set as the active render engine in the Information Editor.
Cycles may be able to use your GPU to render. To see if and how you can use your GPU for rendering, see the documentation on GPU Rendering (a link will be in the description).
Saving Your Work
In order to save your work you simply go to File > Save. The native file extension for Blender is .blend.