In our last "Beginning Blender" article, our hat was looking a lot like a sombrero. So here, we start changing that by working with Bezier curves. So here I start adding a few of these curves (and making a few mistakes along the way).
Maybe you want to just make a sombrero for starters because it's a pretty cool hat. For that, you might check out Spinning a Basic Hat.
Prepping the Hat
Okay, it still looks sort of like a sombrero. Let's start fixing that. First, I count the edges that are shaped like the original, sorta-curvy edge I had in the beginning. Awesome; I have nine equally sized segments to work with. So I select each horizontal edge of one of these segments and subdivide that using nineteen cuts. The subdivide option is on the Mesh Tools control menu on the left side of the screen, under the Add menu, and you can adjust the number of cuts under the subdivide options. And yes, there is a way to get a criss-cross subdivide pattern by selecting the faces instead of the edges. To check that out and more about subdividing, I recommend this article, in which I add basic detail to a basic house.
The reason I need nineteen cuts is that I'm going to delete some of these to get started on the curves of my pirate hat. I need it to be as smooth as possible – in fact, I probably could have gone with double that number of cuts if I wanted fine detail. However, for my first hat and the fact that I don't want to get the hat's faces that small right now, that will work fine. So I switch to Face Select mode and start selecting the faces I want to delete (Shift + Right Mouse Button for selecting multiple items).
I don't expect to have a perfect curve when I'm working with triangles and quadrangles (and really, Blender being Blender, I probably won't ever unless I figure out some way to work with an infinite number of points. One of its few shortcomings is that any object you create has to be made up of triangles and quadrangles. But that's true of any 3D software you use.). So, once I've selected the ones I want, I delete them.
Now that I have a big gaping hole in the hat, I go to Object Mode. Now I go to Add ==> Curve and select Bezier for a Bezier curve. Now I can go to Edit Mode to edit the curve I just added. Here's a close-up of the curve.
To alter the orientation and size of the curve, I select both sides of one of the red segments attached to either end and use the Grab tool (G) to move each side. For instance, this is me moving one end along the Y axis:
And here I selected both sides of the curve zoomed out so that I can view the entire hat and move the entire curve along the X axis so that it's not in the center of the hat.
To make the curve more or less, well, curvy, I select one end point of a red segment, use the Grab tool, and select an axis. In the below screenshot, I am curving it along the Y axis – you'll probably notice that it's only curving one side of it.
So I undo that and use Shift + Right Click to also select the same end point on the other red segment. Now if I use the grab tool and stretch both segments along the Y axis, it gives me a Bezier curve that is much more symmetrical.
Now I make sure my curve is somewhere close to the side of the hat I deleted pieces from. So I grab it, move it to just above the segment and drop it where I want it. (I hadn't deleted the segments yet; an earlier error.)
Now what I want to do is add another Bezier curve. It's kind of small, so I start making it a little bigger, and then I curve it. Then, by experimenting a little bit, I discovered that I can select one point on one of the red segments and extend that end the other way to make a kind of wave in the curve. This will be useful for making the hat look more like what I want.
Once I have that curve more or less the way I want it, I select both sides of the curve and then hit SHIFT + D to copy it. This creates a new Bezier curve that is exactly the same as my original.
Now what I want to do is rotate the new one so that it is a mirror image of the original. I could use R for Rotate to try doing it that way, but to get better control, I go to the controls on my Curve Tools menu on the left side of my screen. I select “Rotate”, and then go down to the Rotate menu. I select the option to constrain it to the X axis, and then click on the Angle option and type in “180” to rotate it 180 degrees using strictly the X axis. My curve should now look something like this:
But I don't quite like the way my curves look for my purposes, so I take out part of the “wavy” look. It's time to attach these two curves. So I rotate each to about where I want them to be. In this case, it meant rotating around all three axes. And then I move them to about where they're going to be connected together. This means switching between Right Ortho and Top Ortho views (NUMPAD 3 and NUMPAD 7, respectively) to make sure I'm getting close, and also taking advantage of the change in views to make sure the two curves are aligned pretty close to where I want them to be. Then, I select the red handles at the two ends I want to join and hit F to join them.
Okay, again, that's not quite what I wanted, so I'll have to do some adjusting. Another option I have is simply to get rid of the original curve and directly connect the two new ones (yeah, I'm starting to get impatient and would rather not mess with more curves than I need to).
So now I joined those two segments and now I'm manipulating the connected segment. Now I rotate the handles to manipulate the new segment along the X-axis to get it more aligned with the rest of the combined segments, and then I use the Grab tool to move the segments into the spot where they're going to join the hat now. Then I rotate the whole thing so that it more or less matches the angle of the main slope on the hat. Now I Scale it so that it more or less matches the height of the side's slope.
Turn It Into A Mesh
If you compare the curve to the hat's slope, you might notice that the slope is operating in three dimensions and the curve isn't really set up for its final connection to the hat. A Bezier curve is basically a 2D object and isn't really a mesh. So before I go to the next step, I want to convert it into a mesh so that I can work with it as a 3D object. I go back to Object mode and make sure the curve is selected, and then head down to my 3D Header and select Object ==> Convert To ==> Mesh from Curve/Meta/Surf/Text. Now my curve is a mesh and, when I go back to Edit Mode, I see that my curve has lost its red handles and now has a series of points that I can work with.
Now I start rotating a few points on one end of each side so that it matches the angle of the hat side. Because this throws the points out of alignment with the rest of the curve, I also have to grab them and move them back into place after I get them rotate.
I've made this about as curvy as I like. I think this is pretty well set, so I select all points on the curve-segment and use CTRL + D to make a couple of copies for the other two sides I'm going to dice up for the hat. I'll move my copies over to one side so they don't get in my way before I need them.
Now, Blender may still be seeing the segments that used to be Bezier curves as something separate from your hat. This is useful when you want to work with your Beziers in Edit Mode in the vicinity of your hat without accidentally selecting and changing something on the hat, but not so useful when you want the hat to be in Edit Mode as well. You're going to link them to the hat, so what I did was select everything and hit Join on the Mesh Tools menu.
So now I selected one point on the curve and one on the hat. Now I'm ready to connect them, so I hit F to add a new segment with those two vertices as endpoints. I repeat the process on the other side of the curve to get this:
And then I start filling in faces by selecting 3 or 4 vertices at a time and hitting F. Now I have all the faces for that side filled in, and I see I still have some adjusting for alignment to do. I'll also have to repeat the process for the other two curves I created. So I'll work on that without boring you with the details and, next article, we'll make this mesh look like an actual pirate's hat.
So that's another step in creating our pirate's hat. It's not perfect (yet) but we'll nail it in the next article.