Originally posted: February 15, 2015

Blender is a 3D content creation suite that I use and learn from on a daily basis. It wasn’t easy. The learning curve, as can be true of any software, was steep. There was confusion and the occasional frustration,but the one thing that overshadowed all that was the sense of accomplishment when the confusion was assured and the frustration was eased. I’d discover a new tool, a solution to a problem, or just stumble upon one of the many cool features in Blender that would keep me engaged and wanting to learn more. My persistence paid off.

A short while ago, I had the pleasure of being asked to serve as a Technical Reviewer for an introductory book for using Blender: Blender 3D Basics Second Edition by Gordon Fisher. It was a good experience and the folks I worked through at Packt Publishing were excellent.

Blender 3D Basics_Book Review

I wanted to share my thoughts of the book for anyone new to Blender and looking for a good place to start. The book takes a project based, step-by-step approach to show how to navigate the basics of Blender and create a sizable scene and animation in the process. The instruction is clear and easy to follow as each chapter builds upon the last. There are some challenging sections that the author handles well while offering encouragement throughout.

SOME OF THE THINGS YOU WILL LEARN

  • Start with a brief introduction to Blender where you install, open and close the software. You will even get to create a quick render of the default cube that is present in the scene upon opening Blender.

The author provides an overview of the history of animation from the early 1920s thru today. It is a good foundation for the instruction that follows through the book as well as enlightening on the subject of animation in general. He also discusses the various ways you can use the skills you will gain by the end of the book and beyond.

  • Learn to manipulate and customize Blender’s flexible interface–its elements and how to make it work for you. You have so much control over the layout and even the colors of all elements, that it is easy to make a mess of the interface.
  • Manipulate objects by learning a simple keyframe animation and using the graph editor to control the animation. The author introduces animation with a simple example, but giving enough guided instruction to cover more advanced controls.

The middle bulk of the book covers the modeling for the project, teaching the various methods and tools you will use to model your scene. You will start these chapters with the basics of 3D modeling: the vertex, edge and face. This is essential and gives you a good basis to begin as you explore all of the basic methods to model in Blender. You will also learn how to animate a portion of your model. It provides a good start to the complexities of animation without feeling overwhelming.

After you have grasped the basics of modeling, you will be introduced to the idea of the necessity of organizing your project as the scene becomes more complex. There’s nothing like working on an ever more complex scene to approach the realization that what you really have is an ever more complex confusing mess. Also gain tips for planning your animation to give you an idea of the direction for your project.

  • Generate a terrain with a few clicks and modify it to your liking using the proportional editing tools. Then create a texture for your landscape with an introduction to texture painting.
  • Learn basic 3-point lighting techniques as well as photographic effects such as depth of field and motion blur.
  • Render your project and put it all together with an introduction to Blender’s video sequence editor.
  • Learn how to create stereographic 3D animations or images.
  • Get an introduction to Cycles render engine materials and rendering.

Blender 3D Basics Second Edition’s project based format does a good job initiating the willing into the world of Blender. Sure there is a learning curve as there is with learning any piece of software, but it is well worth it in the end.

The book’s step-by-step instruction is well supported by accompanying screenshots. The only downside is that the images in the print version of the book are not in color. Color images would be helpful for a new user as they could match what they are shown in the book with what they see on their screen. The e-book version’s images are in color if I am not mistaken.

As deep as the book digs into the basics, it only scratches the surface. There is so much more to Blender. UV unwrapping and texture painting are only touched on briefly in the book. You are able to sculpt a model as you would with clay with Blender’s customizable sculpting tools. There are a number of modifiers for modeling, physics simulation, and a particle system all of which let you create things like hair/fur, fire, smoke, cloth and fluid simulations.

I am in no way faulting the book for not covering everything. That would be silly. The book would end up being more than a foot and a half thick and be too cumbersome to be of any use.

If you are at all interested in 3d modeling and animation, you can’t go wrong. Blender is free, open-source and the community is the best.

For more information about Blender 3D Basics Second Edition, you can check it out in greater detail at Packt Publishing. In the About This Book section, click the Read More tab for a description of the book along with a detailed table of contents.

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