So you've already played around with 3D modeling in Blender and you're starting to get the hang of it. Now you want to go farther with setting up your scene and making it look like something you would see in the real world. That means learning more about materials and textures that you can use in Blender.
Creating Your Materials
In this instance, you'll be creating a plank of wood for a basic wood house. What I do is go back to my basic shapes by going up to the header on the top of the screen and selecting Add ==> Mesh ==> Cube if you did what many Blender artists do and automatically deleted the default cube when you opened Blender. Then go to Edit Mode if you aren't there already. Select all the vertices around the top face of your cube, and then use the Grab tool to flatten the cube along the Z-axis. Next, select all the vertices on your flattened cube and use the Scale tool to make it bigger. Once you have it big enough, you might want to flatten it a little bit more depending on how thick you want your plank of wood to be. If you want, you can also make it look more like an actual board by selecting the faces on either end, and then grabbing and extending them along one axis.
Setting Up The Scene
Here, you'll notice that I moved my plank up so that I have it up above my grid, so now I want to also manipulate my light source to eliminate shadows. The reason for this is that I'll be rendering a lot to make sure my materials and textures show up well. So I go to Object Mode and grab the light source to move it up (I can move it along the X, Y and Z axes for better control, like any other object).
What I can also do to eliminate shadows is keep my light source selected and hit SHIFT + D to duplicate, or copy, another light source. Duplicate is very useful for when you don't want to repeatedly create similar objects, but for now, I just move my new light source to a new angle so that my plank of wood stays in consistent lighting across most angles. Here I am moving it along the X-axis so that I can get it at more of a 180-degree angle from the original light source:
I can also add another light source by hitting SHIFT + A to pull up the Add pop-up menu, select Lamp, and select the exact kind of light source I want. For this one, I select Hemi to get a light source that basically shines straight in one direction to create a hemisphere of light. By default, it shines straight “down” along the Z axis, but it can be rotated by hitting R on your keyboard. It will show up exactly where I put my cursor, and then I can Grab it and move it to somewhere in the middle of the wood plank:
You might have noticed that my camera isn't exactly where I want it to be, so I also grab that and move it along the X-axis and then the Y-axis so it can pick up my plank. I hit 0 on the number pad to see what the camera is seeing right now, and then rotate it and dolly up and down so that I'm actually seeing the plank. (More about working with the camera with this Beginning Blender article.) Once I have it more or less where I want it, I deselect the camera and go back to Edit Mode.
For now, leave it as Surface in the options just above the Preview in the Properties menu. For this, you want to work with a flat surface, so select the flat square in the shape options to the right of the Preview.
Now, skip to just under the Preview and you should see the Diffuse coloring option. You can work with the RGB color scheme familiar to anyone who has toyed with HTML code, graphic artists and anyone else who works with color, the HSV color scheme, or use Hexidecimal coloring. Most beginners just start off by pointing and clicking on the color wheel, but you're probably thinking that wood should be brown, right? Well, you can get darker browns by adjusting the grayscale on the vertical bar, but you might want to leave it somewhat lighter so that you can get good contrast when you start in on textures.
But let's zoom in on our wood plank. For the base, I aim for somewhere between yellow and orange to get kind of a tacky sort of tannish-orange. You can get a preview of how this looks in the Preview part of the Properties window, which will change to match any color you select. If you have other objects in your 3D view, you might notice that changing the diffuse coloring affects all your surfaces, which is why I like to work with just a plank or something similar when creating textures. Now that we have our basic material, we can move on to textures.
Now we want our plank of wood to look like it has a grainy sort of texture. Click on the Texture icon along the top of the Properties window. I had to widen the window a little bit to see it; it's right next to the Materials icon.
The first drop-down menu you see when you scan from the top down on the Properties window should be Type. Click on it, and you'll see a list of basic patterns. The Checkerboard icon next to some of them means that this texture is pre-loaded on Blender and renders automatically. The image icon next to options like Image or Movie means that you can manually add it from another file. For now, the obvious texture to select is Wood. However, some Blender artists can make it more realistic-looking with Clouds. When I render it right this second, it looks pretty funky (Magenta!), but there's a method to this.
Now go to the Clouds menu and adjust the Depth to 1 and the Size to 3.35. This doesn't really change a whole lot. However, you can now go to the Mapping options, go to the Size axes and stretch the Y-axis to 10 and the X-axis to 5.
Time to get rid of the Magenta color. Scroll down until you see the Influence options, and you'll see where the odd color is coming from. Select the bar with the Magenta color under the (unselected) RGB to Intensity option. This will give you the color wheel. Here, you can select a darker shade of the tannish-orange color you chose when working with the Materials options. To get a better feel for what's going on and get a better brown, I like to make the grayscale a little darker using the vertical bar that goes from white to black on the color wheel.
Now our rendered board is looking a little more like the real deal but still not like a “real” board yet. So we add another texture. Scroll up on your Properties window until you reach the top. Right under the checkmarked texture called Texture, click on the checkboard where my mouse is in the above screenshot. Select New. Now you select Wood in the Type drop-down menu. In the menu now labeled Wood, there will be three options in a row. Sine is selected by default, and there is also Saw and Tri. Select Tri. In the next option row down, select Ring Noise. In the same area, I bumped the size up to .3 and the Turbulence to 16. Scroll down to Mapping to change the X and Y values in the Size options in this area. I used 10 for both values. Scroll down a little more until you get to Influence and the same pink-color bar that you want to change to dark brown. This produces an effect that, when applied to your render, should make it look more like real wood.
You might have noticed that it looks very smooth for a plank. Wood is rarely that smooth unless the carpenter and/or furniture maker has polished it to death. To make it look more rough, add a third texture setting with the Clouds option and slightly different settings. In the Clouds area, change the Noise option from Soft to Hard. Also take the Size option down to 0.16. Change the Depth to 4 to make the texture harder. If you render it now, it will look a little bit more rough. For one last option, scroll down to Influence, select the Normal option and change its value to 0.05. Another good option, especially for wood, is to add the Warp option and take it up to somewhere between 0.15 and 0.3. This gives you a real wood look.
So, play around with materials, textures and colors until you get a board of wood that looks pretty close to what you imagine a wood plank should look like.
Blender Master Class
So you're ready to get serious about Blender. That goes for me, too. Blender Master Class can help you get the hang of beginning to advanced topics in the Blender world.