Chapters 2 and 3 (and 1, why not)

Before I start, just a note:

This isn’t a CliffsNotes of the Blender Foundations book (nor will it be of any other sources)! Don’t expect me to list all the new shortcuts and tools I learned. In fact, the author already does a great job at being succinct and to the point, so this is in no way a substitute of reading the book. What this actually is is:

  • a report of my experiences with it;
  • added info from my own off-road ventures;
  • possibly another source for you to make an informed decision on whether or not to invest in this book;
  • hopefully, if you’re trailing the same path, a way for you to relate with my experiences; and
  • ideally, a place for you to share your own experiences so we can both learn even more!

So with that said, here are my highlights from the first three chapters.

Chapter 1, An Introduction to 3D: Recreating the World Inside Your Computer, or Not

The world is stupifyingly large and deceptively complex.

(Yeah, I’ll start out each chapter with an appropriate quote from the book. That makes a nice bit of editorial line.)

I was about to skip reporting on this chapter, but then I thought “if I didn’t skip reading it (for the second time, mind you), it’s gotta be important”. And as a matter of fact it is. Now that I think of it I got a few a-ha moments that make further information much more simple to assimilate. It makes you understand things you already know – you know a chair is a chair, but why and how do you know it? Without this the rest of the book would be incomplete, because it gives you the mental framework to start seeing things as an artist (and a 3D one at that), on top of which you should build your technical skills.

Chapter 2, Understanding Blender’s Interface

The new interface is like the old one, but more consistent, more logical, and more… Blenderish – which is fantastic.

This one is obviously a must. There are absolutely no specifics on how to do this or how to do that. Instead, just general knowledge of how the UI works and useful shortcuts to keep in mind. It gives you a broad idea of where to look for stuff, and the rest will come with experience. Way to go.

By the way, Fax, don’t forget: Shift + Space! (Sometimes I speak to myself. Sorry. I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.) This is incredibly useful to get some more screen real estate, and I somehow forgot about it. Also on the same subject of real estate, Shift + Dragging a window creates a new application window, which will be awesome when I get that second screen I’m hunting for.

Another thing: Roland mentions the Add Tool control on the tool shelf, which is supposed to be a nifty thing for (you guessed it) adding tools to the tool shelf when you realize you use them often. I say it’s supposed to be a nifty thing because there’s no Add Tool control on the current version of Blender (2.56a at the time of writing). I googled it and apparently the Blender guys took it out on version 2.53 because it wasn’t fully implemented. It is expected to return eventually though, so keep an eye out for it.

Finally, ready for the first “off-road” venture? The book mentions the Grease Pencil in passing in this chapter but doesn’t explain its use, here or anywhere else. I got curious, since Roland said it was a “note-taking tool”, and I found Blender’s documentation page on it, and…

Demonstrating the grease pencil tool

It really is, especially if you have a pen and tablet to draw with. You can sketch stuff on the 3D view and then model to match your sketch, for example. Now that I think of it one of the first videos I saw of speed-modeling used this approach, and my imaginary judge friends deemed the technique “very smart”, so it’s really that cool.

Chapter 3, Object and Animation Basics

A monkey! In the 3D view! Isn’t that significantly better than a teapot?

If someone comes up to me and says “Hey Fax, I heard you’re into the 3D scene now – say I want to make a really simple animation, with really simple blocky characters, how do I do that?”, I’ll say “Download Blender, take this book and read the first three chapters. You’re good to go. Just bring me my book back when you’re done.”

OK, maybe I wouldn’t lend my copy that easily, but the rest is all true – building on the first two chapters, the third one lets you start playing around with objects and animation. No fancy stuff, but stuff you’ll be doing all the time. The author teaches you how to manipulate the 3D view, object creation, selection, transformation and deletion, and then moves on to basic keyframe animation. Finally he gives you important notions on object management and object relationships, introducing concepts like layers and parenting. Then like all that wasn’t enough, he throws in a summary with all the important shortcuts for reference.

Like I’ve said, it’s the second time I’m going through this part of the book, and it is allowing me to really appreciate the importance of things I didn’t commit to memory. Examples!

  • The Home and Numpad-period keys, for when I can’t get a good look at the model anymore, after too much rotating and panning and zooming!
  • The Lasso Select (Ctrl + LMB) and Paint Select (C)! How could I just give up using Border Select and start selecting vertices one by one, and not think “there’s gotta be a better way”?!
  • The 3D Cursor. I’m almost ashamed to mention this. I’ve always struggled with the 3D cursor, obviously because I was doing it wrong. It’s a three-dee cursor, Faxie, it needs two clicks in two different views to get it right!
  • The Layers, because stuff can get real messy real soon!
  • The Empties. When I read this section this time around I thought “that’s smart, but I don’t think I’ve ever needed it”. Well, more likely I DID need it but made stuff the hard way because I didn’t think of it. So from now on, remember empties!

That was a good (re)start. Next up is modeling, so you won’t want to miss that one. Check back tomorrow for some flowery stuff!


This post is part of a series on the book Blender Foundations.
You can find the base post of the series here.

Next post on the series: Chapter 4 (Modeling), Part I


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