Blender 3D: Noob to Pro/Unit 1: Knowing Before Making

Blender is a powerful and complex 3D modeling and rendering package. Before you can use it effectively to make things, you need to know a few things about how it works:

  • the process of 3D modeling and rendering (what Blender does)
  • some rudiments of 3D analytic geometry (axis and coordinates)
  • orthographic and perspective views of a 3D object
  • local coordinate systems and child objects
  • the fundamentals of Blender's user interface (hotkeys, windows, and menus)
  • how to view a 3D scene from different vantage points (in Blender)

This unit is devoted entirely to this sort of background knowledge. You won't create your first Blender model until the next unit.

Knowing this, you might be tempted to skip ahead. Depending on your background, that may or may not work. For instance, if you've used other 3D graphics packages, you might be able to skim (or skip) ahead as far as the user interface tutorial. But if there's any doubt, please proceed through the tutorials in sequence.

Blender is not the kind of software you can launch into and grope about until you find your way. It's not like exploring an unfamiliar city. It's more like flying a spaceship. If you hop into the pilot's seat without knowing the fundamentals, you'll be lucky to ever get off the ground, and it'd take a miracle for you to reach your destination safely.

A Word about JargonEdit

Like any subject, 3D modeling has its own jargon: terminology specific to the subject and ordinary words that have special meanings in the context of computer graphics.

In this book, important new words are highlighted on first appearance and defined soon after. If you suspect you've missed (or forgotten) the meaning of a word, try looking it up in the Glossary.

Things You'll NeedEdit

In order to work through the tutorials, you'll need access to a computer that has Blender installed (download the latest stable release).

Depending on what is installed on your system, you may also need the appropriate Python installation. Each version of Blender works with only one specific version of Python, which is generally included in the download.

Blender version Python version
2.49 2.6
2.5x 3.2
2.6 3.3
2.76 3.4
2.77 3.5
2.78 3.5
2.79 3.5
2.80 3.7
2.81 3.7
2.82 3.7
2.90 3.7
2.93 3.9
3.0 3.9
3.1 3.10

You can check Python version on Scripting workspace using:

import sys
Installation instructions

Since Blender is open-source software, you can download the source code and build it yourself, but it's easier to download a pre-built install package. Install packages are provided for each supported operating system:

  • Microsoft Windows (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Linux (32-bit and 64-bit x86)
  • Apple Mac OS X (PowerPC and Intel)
  • FreeBSD (32-bit and 64 bit)
  • Solaris
  • Irix

Many Linux distributions have Blender available in their package repositories, though it may be a slightly older version. You can use your system's package manager to download and install the package.

Windows users get to choose between an executable installer ("setup wizard") and a ZIP archive.

After the installation process is finished, Blender should appear in the Graphics section of your desktop environment application menu.

You may also want to download a 2D image editor, such as GIMP ([1]), Paint.NET ([2]), or Photoshop. For viewing video files, you may want to install VLC ([3]) media player.

It's a good idea to have pencil and paper handy for sketching and taking notes. There's a lot to absorb. Taking notes as you go will pay dividends later.

Where to Go for HelpEdit

If you get stuck, you can ask for help from other Blender users in the appendices.

Additional ResourcesEdit

Many modules have a section like this at the bottom, listing websites with information on the topics covered in the module.