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What To Learn First When Learning Blender
Blender can be used to do so many things. It can be used to create animations, video games, visual effects, and designs for 3D printing. And most of these begin with a 3D model. One can also create 2D animations with Blender’s Grease Pencil tools, but we will set that aside for now.
So we will begin with the creation of a 3D model. And to do that, there are a few fundamental concepts and tools we should discuss. These are:
Once you have mastered these five topics, you will be able to create a 3D model of about 80% of the objects in the UNIVERSE! Skeptical? Let’s check it out.
When you first open Blender you’re presented with quite a few menus and buttons and panels. But the biggest part of the interface is the 3D View. Here is where you will do most of your work. The most important button for moving around in this view is the Middle Mouse Button (MMB). Hold the MMB down and move the mouse to tumble around in the 3D View. To Pan or Slide in the 3D View, press Shift and the MMB. And to Zoom you can hold down the Ctrl key and the MMB. You can also scroll the mouse wheel to zoom in and out as well.
Moving within the 3D View
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Blender for me is a hobby, an artistic tool, a means of self expression, and an ever-growing source of learning. It has become a source of income and a playground for fun and experimentation. Not everyone will find such a rich abundance of tools and toys within Blender, and that is just fine. It is not meant to be all things to all people. But if you have a vision, an idea, a place you would like to go creatively, Blender can help you in that journey. It has given me so much, and I would like to give back, however small, and help someone else bring Blender into their life. I’d like to help you find your path, your way, the Blender Way.
Blender is such a deep software program. It can do so much that at first glance it can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be so. There are small tools and processes in Blender that can help you enter the vastness of Blender without feeling overwhelmed and confused. This blog will not be a comprehensive encyclopedia of every tool in Blender. But I hope to cut a path through the thickets of menus and buttons and windows so that you can begin creating and in doing so, begin to understand the unique and efficient logic of Blender’s design. Its design has happened over decades through an organic feedback loop between developers and artists that is rarely equalled in other programs. And because of this, I truly believe that once an artist is shown a path through the initial thickets, they can find their way to artistic freedom much easier than they might have thought.
My personal Blender journey began in 2006 when I first downloaded version 2.4. I remember toying around with it, not really understanding how to use it and getting a little frustrated. And then the Blender Open Movie Elephants Dream was released. It was then that I realized this program could do a whole lot more than I had imagined. I had gone to film school in the 1990s, and had moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry, so figuring out how to make a movie inexpensively had often been on my mind. But now here was an example of an animated film that had been produced entirely with free software. It was a revelation. I had to learn more.
I began getting up at 4am every morning to learn about and practice using Blender before I went to work each day. And as I watched Youtube videos and read books I began posting my own videos documenting the things I was learning. Those early videos were very low energy, since it was nearly impossible for me to project any kind of energy that early in the morning. But I learned a lot about Blender and also learned about what kind of information helped other people learn Blender as well.
I did this for almost ten years before I got an opportunity to teach an Introduction to 3D Modeling course in the evening at a local art college. Then I began teaching two classes a week, and then three. And pretty soon I was offered a full time position teaching in the 3D Animation and Game Design programs. It was during this time that I began creating Blender courses for a learning platform that was at the time called Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). For five years I learned an incredible amount from the students in my classes and from the producers at Lynda.com about how to best present the material that I was teaching.
It was in January of 2016 that I took the terrifying step to go out on my own and try to earn a living by creating online Blender courses. The first year was very stressful. I wasn't sure that I could make it work. I had nightmares about my kids going hungry and about losing our house. But luckily it was never anywhere near that dire. My wife’s job helped keep us out of the red for two years until I began earning a living wage again with my Blender courses. And with each new course I publish we become more and more convinced that this was the right decision.
The point of this little trip down memory lane is to emphasize that I’ve been researching, creating courses, and teaching Blender for quite some time. And in doing so I’ve stumbled upon a few concepts and techniques that can help someone learning Blender start creating quickly and efficiently. I won’t be going through every menu item in every window and panel. I won’t be providing an encyclopedia of Blender terms and shortcuts. My goal is to provide you with a foundation that you can build upon, to help you understand the basic logic of Blender’s workflows and tools, so that you can grow as a Blender artist much quicker than you thought possible.
That’s a pretty tall order, I know. But give me a chance and you just may be surprised how much you can do in a short amount of time. Stay tuned. :)