Chapter 1- The Blender Interface

Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
The Blender Screen
Years ago, when I first looked at Blender and read some tutorials I thought that this
looked easy and made sense. After taking the program for a test run, I decided to
forget about it for a while because I couldn’t make anything. The interface is different
than any other programs I’ve experienced before. I thought I’d try again and after a
few weeks however, things began to make sense and I realized the potential of the
program. Even if you're familiar with previous versions of Blender, the new 2.5/2.6
interface is a drastic change! Here’s what you are looking at when you open the
3D Window
3D Cursor
Tool Shelf
You are looking at a scene consisting of a cube, lamp and a camera. The cube is a
basic mesh object to give you something to look at, a lamp to illuminate the scene,
and a camera to show the scene. Older versions of Blender may open with different
scenes, but the idea stays the same. The 3D cursor in the middle of the cube is used to
locate where new items will be placed. It can be moved around on the
screen by clicking the Left Mouse Button (LMB). Along with familiar pull-down
menus like other programs, you have multiple viewports on the screen serving
different purposes. We will talk about these later and how they can be
3D Cursor
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
Blender works with layers much like other programs where objects can be placed in
different layers and displayed as needed. It’s a good idea to get comfortable with
layers because as your scenes get bigger, turning layers on and off help with the speed
of your work and being able to see things better. To change
things between layers, select the object with the Right Mouse
Button (RMB) and type “M” for move. Try it with the cube and
change layers. By the way, if you put it in a layer that’s
turned off, it will disappear. To turn that layer visible, click
(LMB) on that button. To turn on multiple layers, hold down
“Shift” and click on the buttons. Layers containing objects will
display a dot.
RoboDude Asks:
“How do I select multiple objects in Blender?”
Hold down the “Shift” key while using the RM B (Right M ouse Button).
Window Types
Blender has a variety of different window types and every window can be set to any
type. For example, your initial screen has 5 windows (see previous page), the top one
with the tool bars (Information window), the 3D window, and the bottom Timeline
window. On the right, you have the Outliner and Properties
windows. The button to change window types in the upper or
lower left corner of each window. There are a lot of window
types. The ones we are most interested in are:
File Browser- usually comes up automatically as needed
Info- menus, screen, scene and render engine options
User Preferences- can be selected from the “File” menu
Outliner- displays all objects in your scene and settings
Properties- once called the buttons window, where most
settings and scene options occur
Logic Editor- game and real-time animation controls
Node Editor- post-production effects for a scene
Video Sequence Editor- compile final movies with images,
effects and sounds
UV/Image Editor- setting textures for games and movies
Graph Editor- replaces IPO window- displays animation data
Timeline- animation timeline with display and record controls
3D Window- your basic 3D scene window to work in
Ready-Made Screens
Blender has several ready-made screens for you to choose from
that make optimal use of these windows. They can be
accessed from the top pull-down menu area. Besides
“Default”, you can choose depending on what you're doing.
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
The User Preferences Window
The User Preferences Window can be called up by selecting it
in the “File” pull-down menu. This is where you can customize
Blender to react to your particular needs. If you would like
these setting to be in place every time you open Blender, you
can save them by clicking the “Save As Default” button or by
pressing Ctrl “U”.
RoboDude Says:
Be careful to only use this setting at the beginning of a drawing
session and on your own personal machine (not school computers).
If a drawing is open at the time, that drawing will automatically
open every time you use Blender. It will become the default scene
and replace the cube, lamp and camera basic setup!
Blender works well
using the default
settings, but there
are several things
you may want to
change for your
own use to stream
line your work flow
or react better for
your computer. By
looking at the tabs
across the top of
the window, you
can select options
in several areas.
Here are a few you
might want to look
Editing Tab- Instead of new objects aligning to the “World”, you may want to try “View”.
The Global “Undo” steps are defaulted for 32. If this isn't enough, add more.
Input Tab- The “Emulate Number Pad” option is great for laptops without number pads.
Add-Ons Tab- There are some great add-ons included. A good one is “Dynamic Space
Bar Menu”. This will emulate the space bar as in previous Blender versions.
Themes Tab- This is where you can change the appearance of everything!
File Tab- If you save sounds, textures, etc. in specific folders, set the paths to save time.
System Tab- If you need to make adjustments to sound and memory or game setting,
they can be done here.
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
Open, Saving and Appending Files
Blender utilizes commands similar to other programs
when it comes to saving and opening your work with a
few exceptions. Blender can use the “Open” command
to open Blender (.blend) files and the “Append”
command to bring in elements from other Blender files
into another Blender file. The open command can be
used to import VRML (.wrl) and .DXF files from other
programs. These are generic file interchange extensions
that most programs can work with. Blender also has
extensive Import and Export options in the file menu.
RoboDude Says:
Be careful to save your work often! Unlike most programs,
Blender will not warn you to save your work when exiting the
program- it will just close, losing any work you may not have
The Save Command:
When you first start working with Blender, it seems almost impossible to figure out how to
save your work, even with the improvements in 2.6. The file interface almost resembles
old MS-DOS. Also, every time you save over an existing file, your previous save becomes
a back-up file and is saved with a new extension (.blend1). This always gives you a
back-up if a problem occurs. Here’s what you see when you hit the save command:
Folder Navigation and
Available Drives
and Bookmarks
Path where work
will be saved
View Filters
Sub Folders
and Files
Save Button
Where you name
your file
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
The Append Command:
When you need to insert elements from one Blender (.blend) file into another one, you
need to use the Append command from the file pull-down menu. While in Append, you
need to navigate to the Blender file you wish to insert from, then select what you want
to append into the open file. You can append anything from cameras, lights meshes,
materials, textures, scenes and objects. For most purposes, use the Object option. By
appending objects, any materials, textures and animations that are linked to that
object will automatically come in with it. Left Mouse Button (LMB) clicking on objects will
select\deselect them (hold down “Shift” to select multiple objects). Typing “A” will
select them all. After you select all objects to append, click the “Link/Append from
Library” button in the upper right corner of the screen.
The Link option allows you to link to another Blender file rather than inserting it into the
open file and also found in the File menu. This option allows for changes to the linked file
that will be automatically updated when the other file is opened.
Packing Data
If you plan to open this file on other computers, you will
need to select the “Pack into .blend file” option in the File
menu under “External Data”. Textures and sounds are not
automatically included in your Blender file in order to keep
the file size down. Every time your file opens, it looks for the
textures and sounds and places them into your model. If it
can’t find the files, you won’t have any textures and
sounds. If you pack data, those files are included with
the .blend file so they can be opened anywhere, however,
your file size may explode. When data is packed, a small
package shows up on the top of your screen letting you
know that the file is packed on older versions of Blendernot 2.5 versions. You can also unpack data to bring the file
size back down.
Chapter 1- The Blender Interface
Importing Objects (from other file formats)
One of Blender’s strong points is the program’s ability to accept several generic types
of 3D files from other programs. The most popular used are:
VRML (.wrl) files-
Many programs are able to export their files as VRMLs.
SolidWorks is a good example that we use. These files
import into Blender without any problems in most cases.
.DXF files-
A very popular file format for exporting and sharing.
AutoCAD and SoftPlan architectural software
traditionally exports with .dxf formats. Again, Blender
usually accepts these files flawlessly.
To save a file as one of these types from another program, you will need to find an
export command or a “save as” option. This will vary depending on the program you
are using. Refer to that program’s help files. To import a VRML or DXF file into a Blender
scene, open a new drawing or one you wish to insert the object(s) into. You will simply
need to use the Open command in the File pull-down menu. The program knows that
you are trying to open something other than a .blend file and will insert it into your
current scene. Now you need to find the object(s) you just inserted. Depending on how
that object was drawn, it may need to be re-sized or rotated. If the Open command
doesn't work, then use the Import command.
With every new release of Blender, the
import/export format options list grows. This
makes Blender much more compatible with
a variety of other 3D modeling and
animation software programs. You should
be able to find a format in the list that will
work with your other programs.
When importing Blender files into other
Blender files, remember to use the Append
command instead of import. In the Append
command, select the file, then select what
you would like to bring into the current file.
You will usually want the “Objects” option.
If a file format isn't available, check in the
“Add-Ons” section in the User Preferences
menu. There may be an add-on script
written for your file type, but not turned on.
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