Blender Basics

Basic blender concepts

3D Viewport

3D Viewport

The 3D Viewport or 3D View is one of the most important windows in Blender. Basic controls for the 3D Viewport include:

  • Middle click drag - Orbit/Rotate Camera

  • Scroll - Zoom in/out

  • Shift + Middle click drag - Pan/Move Camera

You can select objects in the 3D Viewport, however you cannot select "groups" of objects. When you import CAD or other objects into Blender, they will often come inside of "groups." You cannot select groups in the 3d viewport, but you can in the Outliner.

Outliner

The Outliner

The Outliner is the window in the top right of your screen in Blender. It contains a list of objects in a "hierarchy." You can select a "group" of objects by clicking on it inside of the outliner. The outliner is a great tool to select objects when your 3d viewport is cluttered.

A "group" selected inside of the outliner

Working with Objects

Basic controls in Blender are fairly straightforward for moving, scaling, and rotating objects. Blender works in a 3-axes space. The Z axes is up, and both X and Y are sideways. X is represented with a red color, and Y with a green color.

Controls for moving, rotating, and scaling objects all work around the idea of these 3 axes. After pressing the key to move, you can press the key corresponding to any axes in order to move on that object. Here are the basic controls for moving, rotating, and scaling:

  • G - Move

  • R - Rotate

  • S - Scale

For example, in order to move the object vertically, you would press G for move, then Z for the vertical axes. You can now either type in the number of meters to move the object then press enter, or you may drag your mouse until the object has moved the amount desired. Scaling on the X axes would involve pressing S then X, then typing in the value and pressing enter, or dragging. This same pattern works for most tools in the 3d viewport for blender. If you import your CAD, it will import in a "group." You can select this in the outliner by clicking on it, then using movement/rotation/scaling controls to move it around the scene.

Blender works on a real-world scale. This means that 1 unit is 1 meter. Due to this, scaling imported objects will mess up their scale and is not recommended

3D Viewport Panel

The 3D viewport isn't only a place for viewing the scene and navigating it, it also has panels important to the Blender workflow. You can open the 3d Viewport Panel by pressing N in the 3d viewport. This panel has a few default tabs including "Item", "Tool", and "View." The Item and View windows will be the ones used most often. The item tab allows you to view and change the scale, dimensions, rotation, and location of the selected object, while the view tab has utilities that will be explained later.

3D Viewport Panel

Materials/Shaders

Shaders, often called materials, define the appearance the object(s) they are assigned to. Inside of Blender, shaders are made/defined using a "node tree," Node trees are made up of many different nodes all connected by "noodles" or "wires".

A simple node tree for a glossy orange material.

A few key concepts to understand are:

Roughness - Defines how blurry/sharp light reacts to an object Metallic - Defines how metallic/reflective an object is. NOTE: Not to be confused with glossiness

A rough metal
A metal with almost no roughness

In the properties panel there is a material tab(icon of a checkered sphere.) This is the menu where materials are typically applied to objects in blender, however Blender4FTC greatly simplifies this, it is still a good skill to learn.

Material section of the properties panel
List of material slots

Each object can have multiple material "slots." Each of these slots hold a material/shader in them. Most of the time an object will only have a single slot with a material in it, but sometimes an object can have multiple slots that are applied to different sections of an object. To change the material in a slot, click on the material slot you want to change, then click on the checkerboard sphere shown in the figure below and search for and click on the material you want to change the slot to

Camera

While you can move freely in the 3d viewport, your renders will be from the point of view of the first "Camera" in the scene. A camera is included in the default blender scene. You can view what the camera sees by clicking View > Viewpoint > Camera in the 3d viewport. Once you are in this Camera View, you can go to the "View" tab in the 3d viewport panel as discussed earlier. Inside of the view tab there should be a check box named "Camera To View." This will lock the camera to your view. While this checkbox is active you can navigate around the viewport and the camera will follow your view, allowing you to customize the position of the camera intuitively.

NOTE: Do not leave "Camera To View" checked after you position your camera, or the camera view will always be locked to your view.