ArtDigital Art

Learning Blender

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Labyrinthine UI

Over the years, I’ve attempted to sit down and learn Blender on several occasions. (The open-source 3D modeling app, not the kitchen appliance. I already know how to use one of those.)

The problem I kept running into is that, when you first open the app, it looks like this:

Control panel of the engines of the Clémenceau aircraft carrier
Photo courtesy and authorisation of – via Wikipedia

OK, it just feels like that. It actually looks like this:

Blender initial screen

…which, frankly, isn’t much better.

This spring, I had a few days off and a bit of spare time, so I went looking for a beginner’s tutorial. I found this one.

It’s an extremely good tutorial. They go through the basics of what parts of Blender you need and, more importantly, what parts you can (initially) ignore. I took copious notes on hotkeys, techniques, shortcuts, etc.

It took me two days to get through the series of videos but, by the end of it, I was able to make this:

doughnut and coffee, created in Blender

It turns out that Blender Guru’s video series is considered a rite of passage for learning Blender. The internet is filled with images of coffee and doughnuts created by graduates of the tutorial.

screencap of Google image search for "blender coffee cup"

A couple days after making the coffee and doughnut, I got as far as this:

I’m not sure what happened near the end of that animation. I think I ran out of “space”.

Once I got the basics down, I found it a lot easier to navigate the maze of menus, buttons and keystrokes. I’ve started creating cover images for Story Time, for example.

A wooden box and wand

Like I said, though, the initial learning curve was a real pain. If you’re interested in doing some 3D modeling, and Blender in particular, Blender Guru’s tutorial is a great way to get you past that first stumbling block.

Just follow the step-by-step instructions, and you too can make a vaguely realistic image of a coffee cup and doughnut. Imagine the possibilities…

Steve DeGroof

Steve is an expat Canadian who now lives in North Carolina. He has worked, at one time or other, as: a TV repairman, a security guard at a children's hospital, and a janitor in a strip club. His current day job is as a computer programmer for a bank, which doesn't involve nearly as much being electrocuted and cleaning up vomit. He has a patent for a "Folding Stereoscopic Computer Display", which sounds a lot more impressive than it really is. He has created various "artworks", including: a baby woolly mammoth with a jetpack (which doesn't actually fly), a Giger counter (not a typo), a clockwork orange (a bowler-hat-wearing, wind-up piece of fruit that plays "Singing in the Rain"), a clock in the shape of Rick Astley that chimes "Never Gonna Give You Up" on the hour (for which he is sincerely sorry). His first book, "Dandelion Seeds", was written largely by accident (it's... complicated).

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