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Old 08-19-2012, 11:37 AM   #1 (permalink)
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First steps to using Blender.

I'm an almost total (just a few days) noob at Blender. When I first looked at it I knew what I thought should be involved in 3D modelling, but the Blender interface didn't make it immediately obvious how it was done.

The idea of this thread is to explain how to do the stuff that's obviously necessary to do to make 3D models, but which isn't immediately obvious how to do in Blender, for the benefit of impatient people like me…
  • Right-click to select, Shift+right-click for multiple selections. The "A" key selects all or nothing.
  • "Tab" to switch between object and edit modes. You need edit mode to manipulate the components of an object.
  • At the bottom of the edit view window are three adjacent buttons, highlighting either a vertex, an edge or a face: use these to chose which type of component you want to select with a right-click.
  • Having chosen the type of component and selected one or more of these, drag the red, green and blue arrows to reposition it, or right-click and drag the white circle. Left-click again to "set" the change you made or right-click to cancel it. (Ctrl+Z, undo, does what you'd expect it to do.)
  • Having chosen the type of component and selected one or more of these, type "G" (grab/translate), "R" (rotate), "S" (scale) or "E" (extrude) your selection: right-click and drag.
  • Hit "Delete" or "X" and then chose what part(s) you want to delete from your selection.
  • At the top right of the main window is an arrow "+" thingy. Click this to open the equivalent of a "properties" box [or type N]. The transform tab lets you control precisely the location – and other stuff – abuot your selection.
Also...
  • Drag with the middle mouse button (mouse-wheel click, often these days) to orbit your view around. Shift+middle drag to pan. Keypad keys 7, 1 and 3 for top, front and side views. Keypad 8, 4, 6 and 2 to orbit in steps.
Now that you've realised that Blender is weird and user-unfriendly, but actually capable of everything you need to emulate prim-building in SL – and way more – go and watch the Blender Basics tutorials 2, "Interface and Navigation" and 3, "Modelling" at Blender Cookies and the Machinimatrix Coffee Cup tutorials I, "Base Elements" and II, "The Model".

P.S. Download Blender here; see the tutorial about how to do that here (if you need to).

The rest of this thread is intended for clever tricks, commonplace techniques and especially for dumb questions (a catagory at which I hope to excel).

ETA: While watching the tutorials have Blender open. Pause the video, switch windows, and actually do whatever is shown, whenever something new comes up. You learn a lot more by doing than just by watching.

Last edited by KT Kingsley; 08-19-2012 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Corrections
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Old 08-19-2012, 11:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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no need to right-click anything after G R S or E, just hit the hotkey, move mouse then left-click to finish.

Also, rather than left-click and drag the arrows, GX, GY or GZ to grab and move along the global X Y or Z axes - GXX, GYY, GZZ for the local axes, GshiftX, GshiftY, GshiftZ to move keeping that axis unchanged. This works for rotations scaling and extrusions too. Otherwise your movement, rotation, scaling or extrusion is in the plane of your view, wherever that happens to be.

I find that useful because I typically have the arrows set to be on the normals not on the global axes.

Other useful stuff..

Left-click anywhere to reposition the 3d cursor in the plane of your view. Next to the buttons that set the arrow orientation and type is a drop-down that lets you set the center of transformations - the default is "common center of all selected elements". It can be useful particularly for rotations to switch that to "3d cursor" and put the 3d cursor where you want the center of rotation to be.

Precise movements: hit the hotkey(s) for movement rotation or whatever along or around your axes of choice, type a number, hit enter.
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Old 08-19-2012, 12:16 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Cool! Thanks for the clarifications and simplifications there.

3D cursor: another tab for that in that "properties" thingy (what's the proper Blender name for that panel?). So far I've found that's useful for locating where new objects are to be added (read "new prims are rezzed") and for setting the origin of the object you're working on to use for measurements when trying to locate components precisely.

And speaking of locating components precisely (and in the context of building for SL), on that panel on the far right (again, its proper name escapes me), in the icon bar thing, and immediately to the right of the camera icon, is an icon that that provides a list of tabs, half-way down which is "Units". Metric rules!
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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First thing I do on a new install of Blender:


File>User Preferences>
Interface:
zoom to mouse, rotate around selection, auto perspective

Editing:
Release Confirms, lower or raise undo (depending on which system I'm on)

Input:
Continuous grab, select with left
Now open 3D View>Object Mode<(De)Select All
Now copy: object.select_all
Scroll down and and hit Add New, open drop down arrow and paste object.select_all into where it says none. Left click where it says A twice (which then will say Left). Change Press (drop down) to Click and change Toggle to Deselect. Now you can left click with mouse to select and then left click with mouse in empty space to deselect. Do this for Mesh as well but use mesh.select_all instead.


Don't forget that spacebar is a find tool. If you remember that you want to loop cut and slide but don't remember the shortcut, type loop after hitting spacebar and it will show you possible commands.

Numpad . to zoom on selection. This can be helpful when you can't quite zoom in close enough for small detail work.
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Oh! and N for properties panel.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Something you should always do before uploading mesh or baking textures is check that your normals are correct. Normals indicate what direction a particular face is facing - a single plane or face is not double-sided by default, so it has an invisible side and a visible side. Any weird errors or transparencies in your mesh are often caused by normal errors.

Easy to check: you need to enable the display of face normals in the properties panel. In edit mode, press n to open it, and scroll down to "Mesh Display". Clicking the little box - highlighted in the image below - shows all your normals in bright blue. (You can change the length of the line for clarity by changing the size, next to the button.)

Easy to fix: Make sure everything is selected by pressing a - or you can choose to just select the face(s) with the problem. In edit mode in the Transform menu (press t) scroll down to "Normals" and press "Recalculate". Usually this will fix the error; sometimes you may also need to press "Flip direction" to ensure that the normals are pointing outwards.

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Old 08-19-2012, 05:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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A couple more essential basics…

Multiple selections… B (for box) and C (for circle). In edit mode type B and drag to select things inside the box, or C and mouse-wheel zoom and left-click to select things inside the circle. Immediately to the right of the vertex/edge/face mode buttons is the select visible button; when it's on you can select things hidden from view.

Joining things together… In object mode select the objects to combine into a single mesh and type Ctrl+J, or click Join (under Object in the toolbar on the left). In edit mode select the components to combine and type Alt+M, or click Merge (under Remove in the toolbar). Also, position the vertices to be joined close together, select both and then click Remove Doubles on the toolbar. You can specify just how close the verticies must be in the tool properties panel at the bottom left of the window.

And a word of warning: Save User Settings from the File menu (Ctrl+U) saves the entire state of play as the startup default. So don't do this unless the scene content, view, etc. are what you want to see every time you start Blender. You can delete the custom startup file (if you're using Windows 7) from C:\Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\2.63\config\startup.blend to revert to the default.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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As well as what Laverne says above, I found the Textured Solid checkbox in the Display tab on the properties panel. When checked only the "front" of a face is drawn, so if there's a problem with your normals it'll show up as blank in the main window.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Putting this thread in my Favorites. Thank you.
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Old 08-20-2012, 08:59 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Some of my most embarrassing beginner mistakes and amateur workarounds (maybe an expert can tell me what I did wrong so I won't need the workarounds anymore!). I don't know if these are typical Plurabelle-issues, but maybe someone else is as clumsy as I am and finds these hints helpful

If you can't find out why the heck there are suddenly single vertices out of line or where those weird distortions in your mesh come from - make sure that you didn't hide part of your vertices (press alt-H to show all). Happened to me a lot in the beginning - I selected one or more vertices, and instead of pressing G for Grab I accidentally hit H for Hide.

If you are desperately trying to use proportional editing but it seems not to work - maybe the selection circle is just too big or too small to be seen on your screen. check it's size and scroll up or down.

If you use 'mirror', for example to make a second shoe or earring - you have to apply scale (shift-a - scale) first before you try to export your object to sl. I have a lot of left shoes in my inventory because I didn't see the difference in the small upload-preview.

Sometimes there is a bug (? - or is it a user-mistake? probably the latter...) when you are trying to bake textures or ambient occlusion. You get the error message "no objects or images found to bake to" (or similar). The solutions I googled didn't fix it for me (make sure you ve loaded a new image, bake AO first before render baking etc.) So I added a new object, a simple cube, unwrapped it and sized the UV down so it wouldn't get in the way. Then I joined my object and the cube - and could bake without problems. Just don't forget to delete the cube before you export your object (of course I forgot it. just like I once imported some legs from the avatar mesh together with my shoes).

The same trick fixed for me some upload issues I had with tiny complex objects (jewelry). SL didn't want to upload them, no idea why. I just figured it was because they were tiny, maybe it was something completely different. Anyway, my workaround fixed it: I added one bigger cube and suddenly the upload worked; I placed the cube somewhere inside the avatar and gave it a transparent texture inworld (I had to do this repeatedly, I am not sure if I -had- to join object and cube or if it also worked when I selected them as two separate objects so that I could delete the cube inworld).

Last but not least - sometimes my (rather old) computer and blender don't cooperate - and blender starts to crash every few minutes. Ironically it seems to be the auto save function that causes these crashes (user preferences - system - auto save). Turning it off fixed it - of course that means that I have to save the file manually -all- -the- -time-.
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Old 11-24-2012, 02:58 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Although there's no SL-specific content, the Noob to Pro wikibook is helpful because it literally starts from the most basic concepts and conventions. Even experienced users might find it useful when trying to catch up on the changes to hotkeys from older versions to whichever version is most current/least buggy. I had missed some of the basics while slogging through the Machinimatrix videos, and the Blendercookie ones, too. Find it here: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Noob_to_Pro
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