The Basics of Blender

If you’re as new to Blender as I was when I started, its seems bewildering. That’s because it is!

But, once you get it, the program becomes easier and powerful, and, dare I say it? fun!

Let’s start by opening the program. If it brings you options, take the General workspace. Once you save a model, it will ask you if you want to open that. But we haven’t, so we choose General.

What is that, a cube?

So, what is all this? On the left of the screen, you’ll see an arrow in a blue box. Below that, there’s a target-looking thing, some direction arrows, a roundy-round sort of thing, a box in a box, a compass, and a few other icons down there. You’ll get to all of these someday.

The cube – and you know it’s a cube because, if you look in the box on the far right, up near the top, you’ll that the word “cube” is highlighted – is outlined in orange. This means that it has been selected (for the moment, it is the chosen one).

Movement

Let’s start by clicking on the third box down, the one with the four arrows. Hey, check it out! Now the cube has arrows on it! Click on the green arrow and drag it to the right, and the cube follows! Click on the blue and drag it up and down, or on the red left and right, and you can see how the cube moves across or above and below the grid floor beneath it.

So, for giggles and grin, do you see, over there on the right, the white Camera icon? It’s the third down below that X-Y-Z gizmo. Click on that. Whoa! It’s a viewer sort of thing. Click on it again to turn it off. When you go to render your video, someday, that will be the viewport that gets rendered. More on that in a later post. If your cube doesn’t show up in the camera viewport, it’s because you moved it out of the way. Slide the cube back to where the red, green, and blue lines meet on the grid, and now it will show up in the camera.

Things to See

Before we do anything else, here are elements that are helpful on the screen.

First is that X-Y-Z Gizmo. Sadly, it is CALLED the gizmo. Click within it, and hold down the mouse button, and scroll around, and you’ll see that your view of the model moves in 3D. The salient point to remember here is that the model is not moving, only your view of it. Prove it by clicking on that camera icon again. See? Same place. If you wanted to move the cube, you’d click on the four-arrows button over on the left.

Next, just above the camera icon, is The Hand. Click and hold on that, and you’ll see that the viewport moves around, but doesn’t rotate. This is helpful when you’ve zoomed in really close and need to see more of the model.

The little Plus Magnifying Glass is pretty fun. Click and hold, and the cube zooms in and out.

Again, neither The Hand nor the Plus Magnifying Glass actually moves the model. Just the viewport.

Notice that when you zoom out, there’s an odd looking, black pyramid sort of thing on the upper left. That’s the camera. When you click on the Camera button, that’s what you’re looking through.

The White Grid at the bottom shifts you to a surprisingly ugly orthographic view. Ick.

The Buttons of Change

Back on the left side of the screen, click on the fourth button down, the Rotator. Now the cube has that rotational thing on it. Click on the blue arc inside the cube and drag it – the cube spins. Red and green do the same thing, in different axes.

This time, you are changing the position and attitude of the cube. Check by clicking on the camera icon – now it’s different.

Something to see, too, is all the way on the right, there’s a menu kind of thing. It has the word “Transform” at the top, and the headings Location, Rotation, and Scale down below. As you rotate the cube, see how the rotation numbers change.

If you wanted to, you could change the position, rotation, and size of the cube by changing the numbers in there. To test that, change the rotation numbers all back to 0. Just click on the number that’s in there, type a 0, and press ENTER. One, two, three, and now click on the camera. Back home again.

Under the Rotator button is the Scale button. Click on it, and you’ll see that the arrows on the cube have turned into, well, lines with boxes. Grab a box, and you can change the shape of the cube into a no-longer cube sort of thing. Again, watch the Scale numbers in the box on the right, and you’ll see them change. Like with rotation and location, you can enter your numbers right in there if you want to.

The Transformer button, below the Scale button, is not for you. I often refer to it as the Button of Instant Regret. It brings you all of the move, rotate, and scale functions all at once, and, wow, is it confusing! Don’t use this button. Just. Don’t.

Annotate and Measure, the next two button. Blobbity, blobbity, blobbity, nobody care.

But, that last button, the Add button. Hello, nurse.

Before we click on it, use your eyes to look at the menu bar, second from the top. It begins with the word “Object Mode,” and continues for a few to the right. If you click on the word “Add,” go ahead and do it, we’ll wait… you get this amazingly long list of things you can add to your scene.

At the top of the list is the word “Mesh.” Just between you and me, our cube is a mesh. Now, click on the little arrow to the right of the word “Mesh” and scroll down to “Cube” and select that.

Bango, another cube, right where ours started out. Go back up there, click “Add” and “Mesh” and arrow down to “Cone” and add that. Boom. Right on top of the cube.

Look up in that box on the upper right, and you’ll see Cube.001 and Cone have been added to our list of things, right along with our original cube. You’re making models!

So, all of that is to tell you about the Add button on the lower left side. Click on the button, and then click anywhere in our scene. You get this odd looking grid thing. Now move the mouse, and look, you can build a cube in any shape you want!

Wrap It Up

Okay, so we could sit here chatting about this stuff all night long. But look at what you’ve learned:

How to add a mesh object (a cube and a cone)

How to transform the mesh’s position, scale, and attitude (and how to change them by directly changing their values in the Transform box on the right)

How to turn the camera on and off (and thereby the difference between the viewport and camera views)

And how to manipulate the viewport with the Camera, The Hand, and the Plus Magnifier buttons (we’ll just forget we ever talked about that Orthographic View button. Ick).

Play, my friend, play! Move them about, squish them together. Click on the Camera in the box on the upper right, and move THAT around!

Save it if you wish, but it really has no value.

Next up: Connect Shapes to Build Models

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