Re-learn Blender!

A few years ago I wrote a guide to learning Blender. But recently they greatly changed the whole UI, so I’ve redone it.

In general I don’t like UI revamps: they break the program and muscle memory for existing users, and this is a big one– things that you used to know are hidden in new places, and it was never very easy to find things in Blender’s overgrown garden anyway. But now that I’ve gone over everything, I actually like the new UI.

  • Now you select things by left-clicking, like every other program in the world, not by right-clicking.
  • Similarly, you can select points by click-and-drag, as in 2-D graphics programs, and click outside your object to deselect.
  • They’ve added a toolbar allowing easy mouse manipulation, as an alternative to the R/G/S keys.
  • They’ve added a widget that allows one-click access to top/front/side views. There are still keypad alternatives.
  • They’ve added a mode that makes UV mapping far easier. (They just open two views for you, which you could have done before, but getting into and out of UV editing is now just one keystroke.)

It’s still not an easy program to use, but all these things are in the right direction. (Some things, like getting the program to display your textures, are non-intuitive… but they kind of were before, and the new methods avoid a few side details I no longer have to explain, like cameras.)

Now, why would you want to use Blender? Well, it’s free, and very powerful, and if you want to make 3-D models for anything, it’s a great choice. I explained some other choices in the Planet Construction Kit, Hammer and Second Life, but those are way outdated.

I put modeling in the PCK for the same reason I have a chapter on drawing things: because visual creation is a huge part of conworlding, and helps bring a world alive. There’s a reason movies, TV shows, and video games engage people so deeply. (I still want to create an Almean walking simulator, not necessarily a game.)

I’d also add: if you avoid visual creation because you can’t draw, then maybe 3-D modeling is the answer. Like,. suppose you want a city scene within your world, or a view of the dwarven ruins, or even a picture of a single room or building. That’s a tall order for drawing, because it requires not just imagination but a mastery of perspective, and good intuition in choosing viewing angle, lighting, etc. Plus, any of those scenes will require drawing dozens of things that you probably don’t know how to draw well.

But with a 3-D modeling program, you can create a scene out of smaller elements, then choose the camera angle that shows it off best. It really is simpler to (say) create a colonnade in Blender than to draw one that looks convincing. And though texturing 3-D objects is difficult, you could always use Blender to do the perspective for you, then finish the drawing in a paint program.

The problem is that 3-D modeling programs have a pretty frightening learning curve. Which is why I made my tutorial! So go try it out. And tell me if you want more, or a guide to creating a game in Unity. (Or Blender, which I hear is now possible…)