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June 28, 2012

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Quick Introduction to Modeling in Blender

by noise

Here we are, for a second part of the Blender’s quick introduction. Today we’ll
throw an eye on how to create objects and modify them.

Ok, so, as you can see, when you open Blender you’ll see a cube. This is an editable
object that we can shape it to take whatever form we like. But, this is not the only
primitive/object we can build on it. If we press SHIFT+A, then choose Mesh, we can
choose from a list different kind of base primitives.

Before we continue, I will explain what is about the 3D cursor that I’m sure you’ve
seen it and wonder what is its purpose. I you left click anywhere in the viewport you’ll
observe that a cursor is placed. This have many uses, one for example is when you create
a new primitive object, it will be placed where this 3D cursor is. If you chaotically
placed this cursor, you can reset its position to 0,0,0 (x,y,z) by pressing SHIFT+S and
choose Cursor to Center from the little menu.

Now, select the existing cube and press DELETE to delete it. Create another base object,
for example a Cylinder. Please note that, down in the Tools panel (the T key), after you
create an object, you can change its settings (its dimensions, depth, segments, etc.).

Before we jump into editing it, we will talk about the previewing modes for such kind of
objects. In the viewport’s bar, there is this button which opens a rollout. By default is
the Solid mode, which will show you the objects from the current viewport without any textures.
There is also Textured mode, to see the objects with the applied textures, a Wireframe mode
(also the shortcut key is Z), and Bounding Box mode (all objects are showed like a wireframed
box).

Solid View


Textured View


Wireframe View


Bounding Box View

Edit Mode

There are three selection modes to help you editing your object. You can access them by
entering in the edit mode (TAB key – observe that a wireframe+solid preview is on), then
press CTRL + TAB.


Vertex selection mode – select and manipulate the vertices that form the object


Edge selection mode – select and manipulate the edges that form the object


Face selection mode – select and manipulate the faces that form the object

Alternatively, you can change these modes from these buttons, in the viewport’s buttons
bar.

For any selection mode you have a series of actions, for example extrude (the E hotkey).
This is mostly used with the faces and edges. Simply select the edge(s)/face(s) you want
to extrude then press the E key. Drag the mouse until you have the desired extrusion depth,
then right click to accept the changes. If you want to cancel the extrusion, during the
mouse drag press right click and then CTRL + Z (undo). The undo step is necessary because
once pressed the E key, the extrusion exists but with a 0(zero) depth, having double
vertices that overlaps and will result in a possible rendering error and high poly count.

Extruding a face (i)


Extruding a face (ii)


Extruding an edge

TIP: If you press ALT + Right Click (select), you will select all the vertices/edges/faces
that form a loop.

TIP: If you press CTRL + ALT + Right Click (select) on an edge, you will select all the
parallel edges around the selected edge (ring effect) -see the below image.

Example: Build a Rocket in Blender

Now, for a warm-up, we’ll use what we’ve learned, to make a very simple and fast 3D object,
a cartoonish rocket. Choose from the file menu File > New, to make a fresh start. Select and
Delete the default cube (Right Mouse click then press the Delete key), and create a cylinder
by pressing SHIFT + A > Mesh > Cylinder (don’t forget to reset the 3D cursor with SHIFT +
S > Cursor to Center command).

Great, now you have the base of our rocket. Enter in the Edit Mode (TAB key), then in the Face
select mode (CTRL+TAB > Face), select all the top cylinder’s faces. Press A if all the faces are
selected.

TIP: a useful tool for this is the Circle Select Tool, which can be activated by pressing the
C key. Scroll wheel will resize the selection circle, Left Mouse Button adds to selection, Middle
Mouse Button will deselect. Right Mouse Button will exit this mode.

Notice the grayish circle with a dotted contour from the center. That is the Circle Select Tool,
which I resized it with the scroll mouse wheel to cover only a portion from the each all top faces.
With only one click I’ve been able to select them.

Having the top faces selected, we’ll begin extruding and scaling until we make a roundish shape
that will form the rocket’s nose.

TIP: for more precise extruding, you can add values after you press the E key. They will appear
while you typing, in the bottom left corner of the current viewport. After you enter a value, press
ENTER or the Left Mouse Button. I’ve used values like 0.4, then 0.3, 0.2.

After each extrusion, scale a bit the selected faces like in the below images (you can also use
values for scale).

We’ll continue with refining the rocket’s body. For this, I will introduce a very handy tool
named Loop Cut. Let’s take for example the rocket’s body. We will add some horizontal divisions
to its segments to add more definition to the mesh (in the next steps). Press SHIFT + R. Notice
the pink line across the body; those will be your extra edges that will divide your mesh. You can
increase the number of this divisions with the mouse scroll. Let’s make 3 of them, then press the
Left Mouse Button to accept the modification.

Select all the bottom faces from the bottom of the rocket’s body, and move them down like in the
image.

Then scale them.

Now, we’ll use our previously made edge loops to make the rocket’s body look more uniform. Enter
in Edge Select mode (CTRL + TAB > Edge) and select the edge loop from the image (holding ALT then
press RMB on one loop’s edge, will select the desired loop).

Move down that edge loop and then scale it (the S key).

Do the same thing for the edge loop above until you have something like this:

Ok, let’s build now the rocket’s wings. To be sure that we’ll building them at equal distances,
press numpad 7 for the Top View, then numpad 5 for the Orthogonal mode. Now select (RMB) the edges
like in the image, while holding the ALT + SHIFT key (ALT will select an edge loop, SHIFT will add
to selection).

Press the numpad 3 key to see the rocket’s body from its side.

Before doing anything, make sure this button is not pressed (in the viewport’s buttons bar).
If this button is active, when you will border select something, it will ignore all the hidden
vertices/edges/faces (those from the back of your point of view).

– this is how it should look like when is OFF, and all the hidden
vertices/edges/faces will be selected with any selection method.

– this looks when is turned ON – all hidden elements will be ignored from
selection

Deselect the upper half of the previously selected edges, with the help of the Border Selection
Tool (the B key – MMB then drag to deselect. RMB to exit this selection mode). Make sure you deselect
these edges from all sides.

Now, we need to convert this selected edges in selected faces, to extrude them. To do that, enter in
the vertex selection mode (CTRL+TAB > Vertex), then in the Face selection mode.

During this convertion is possible to forgot some selected, unwanted faces. In my case, there are some
at the bottom of the body. Just deselect them in the face selection mode with the SHIFT + RMB.

Now, this is a little trick to extrude these faces (which will become our rocket’s wings) along their
normals. Press E but without doing anything, click the RMB. This will create an 0 depth extrusion. Now, by
pressing ALT + S key, and dragging the mouse, you will be able to simultaneously build the wings in the correct
direction.

Refine the wings by making again this operation, but this time, after the extrusion and the scaling,
move the faces down.

While these faces are selected, press again ALT + S to give the wings some thickness variation to the
extremities.

Press the numpad 5 key to enter in the perspective view rotating the scene a bit with the MMB, and take
a look at the rocket’s wings. We can slightly improve them by selecting the upper edges and then move them
up a bit.

Observe that by doing so, we have deformed some faces on the wings’ extremities.

This can be adjusted with an Add-on feature, that is deactivated by default. To activate it, go to
File > User Preferences > Add-Ons > choose Mesh from the left list > check Mesh: LoopTools.

Now, select those faces and then press the W hotkey > LoopTools > Flatten. This will flatten the
deformed faces.

You can admire now the finished rocket, although you can improve it here and there, but I will leave this
to your imagination.

One last thing before I will finish this article. If you observe, the rocket in this stage it looks a bit
chunky, because of the low polygon construction. This can be improved a bit if you select Smooth from the
Tool Shelf Panel from the left of the viewport’s window (the T key to show this Tools panel, if its hidden).

It’s still looks too low definition, so we’ll apply a subdivision modifier to drastically improve the look.
In the right window, select the Modifiers tab, then choose from the list the Subdivision modifier.
Under subdivisions, near View:, choose a value of 2 or 3. This will subdivide the rocket’s mesh and give it
an extra smooth look and high definition. But, be careful that this will consume a lot of memory and could
slow down your computer (or even crash), so use this modifier wisely in large scenes.

Having all these said, I’ll finish this article. Don’t remember to practice by yourselves and ask questions
if you’re tried everything and still you’re stuck; this is the key of a good learning strategy.

This tutorial is a part of a series of tutorials on Blender.

Read more from Blender

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