Modeling in Blender for budding 3D Artists

Modeling in Blender for budding 3D Artists

Are you a newcomer to 3d modeling and not sure where to begin? 

Fret no more!

This blog post will provide an overview of Blender Modeling to help 3D rendering enthusiasts find their bearings. But before jumping into that, let’s briefly discuss the growing significance of Blender in today’s contemporary world. 

Blender is a popular choice amongst budding 3D artists

Several 3d enthusiasts widely use Blender for animation purposes. The software is lauded for its accessible format, intuitive set of tools for texturing and lighting, access to reliable blender render farms, and it’s an easy-to-access community that helps new users to get to know Blender and have a good command over its features and functions. Blender is also a preferred choice amongst architecture and design students to create anything from interior visualizations to game assets because of the speed and specificity of it’s modelling tools and operators. 

Blender is a unique 3d software that allows users to embed 2D objects onto 3D environments and scenes. Its powerful tools make it easy to carry out animation experiments with maximum convenience and flexibility. The “freestyle” feature, for instance, allows the users to make 3D objects appear 2D. 

At the time of this writing, Blender is at version 2.93, with the next pivotal release geared to arrive before we know it! 

One significant feature added in the recent version is geometry nodes, which allow for parametric modelling and animation similar to what one might find in Houdini.

A 3D scene usually comprises three key components; Models, Materials, and Lights

Throughout the article, we will be discussing modeling only. 

In simplest terms, 3D modeling is defined as the mathematical representation of any surface of an object in three dimensions via specialized software. Several different modes help in the creation of a 3D asset. The two primary modes used to create 3D models are Edit and Sculpt Modes.

Don’t get baffled by the infinite number of modes in the Blender tutorials. Each mode in the software serves a specific purpose that eventually helps in creating interesting 3D assets.

While Blender encompasses several modes that serve other purposes, the ‘edit mode’ mainly serves the purpose of modeling.

Edit mode is used to build models out of various objects available in Blender, including Meshes, Curves, Surfaces, Metaballs, and Text objects.

Let’s discuss each of them briefly!

CG Cookie
Mesh modeling by CG Cookie 

Mesh Modeling in Blender 

Mesh Modeling is the most common form of modelling, and deals with, you guessed it - meshes. Using starting primitives and editing their form is what is commonly known as “Box” Modelling (a reference to the default cube on a fresh Blender scene). Box modelling is a more intuitive approach to building simple and stylized objects and characters and is a rewarding way to learn Blender’s various editing tools.

Poly Modelling is a more advanced workflow that involves creating objects one polygon (or face) at a time. It’s less about shaping a starting primitive and more about tracing over a reference in 3-dimensional space. In place of reference images, artists employ this workflow when creating an optimized version of a 3d sculpt. Poly modeling allows for more direct control of a model’s topology (how polygons are arranged across a mesh to make it deform and hold its shape in the best possible way).

Every mesh in Blender, or any 3D DCC for that matter, comprises 3 types of components. Vertices, edges and faces. 2 vertices at different locations in 3D space are joined by an edge, and 3 or more edges positioned in an axis form a face. Faces are also called polys and are the building blocks for just about any 3d model.

Mesh Primitives
Mesh primitives Blender Manual 

Mesh modelling is the most versatile and the first to be practiced out of all the types of modeling.

Curve Modeling in Blender 

Curves are used to create rounded objects and shapes. Unlike linear interpolations between a sequence of points, curves are created using mathematical functions. 

What gives curves an edge over polygonal meshes is the fact that it requires less data and, therefore, generates results taking up less memory and storage space at modeling time. However, this procedural approach does amplify demands at render time.

Curve modeling is used for specific modeling techniques. For instance, if you want to extrude a profile along a path, curve modeling is the most-suited way to do it. However, the one thing that makes curve modeling complex is the vertex-level control. If vertex-level control isn’t necessary, it's recommended to do modeling using mesh editing.

Bézier curves are usually used to craft interesting letters and logo designs. Bezier curves are also popularly used in animation to move along the objects. They are sometimes used as F-Curves to change the objects’ properties as a function of time.  

Bezier Curve
Bezier curve Blender Manual

Surface Modeling in Blender 

Surfaces are basically the extended versions of curves. Unlike other animation software, Blender doesn’t support Bezier or Polygonal surfaces. In fact, blenders only have NURBS surfaces. There is a very fine line between curves and surfaces. Having curves and surfaces in the same object is practically impossible. 

Since surfaces are 2D, it comprises two interpolation axes, U and V. With Blender, users get the authority to control the interpolation rules (knot, order, resolution) independently for both U and V dimensions.

“The surface only looks 3D, but in reality, it's 2D. Why is that?”

While working with surface modeling in Blender, this question may pop up at the back of your mind.

Don’t get confused. The answer to this question is simple.

All 3D objects have volume. A surface, even when it is locked, doesn’t have any volume. It is extremely thin. If the volume is added to the surface, it will no longer be a surface. Hence, surfaces are 2D objects with only two interpolation axes, coordination, or dimensions.

NURBS surface primitives Blender Manual

Still didn’t understand how the surfaces can’t be 3D?

Take any A4-Size paper, roll it to create a cylinder. The rolled paper may look like a cylinder with volume, but in reality, the sheet is flat – just like a 2D object. When you extrude a curve, you are basically manipulating a 2D object into a 3D object.

The Future of Blender 

With its intuitive set of features and upgraded versions after every few months, Blender has great potential and scope in the 3d industry. The software is now much more accessible than before, and learning it from scratch is doable – even for total beginners. Once you get a good command of the software, you can experiment with your creative skills better. 

3D modeling is the foundation of designing your own objects, characters and environments, and, therefore, an essential part of the 3d industry as a whole. We recommend you watch tutorial videos on YouTube - particularly the ones posted by BlenderGuru – to get better at 3D modeling.

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