Blender is a free and open-source 3d modeling program available from the Blender Foundation, and as an amateur 3d modeler myself I can attest that the software is as fun as it is powerful. In this tutorial, I will introduce you to the fundamentals of this application through the creation of Mr. Stickman. Don't let his name fool you; over time he will morph into an impressive version of himself in future guides as we delve ever deeper into Blender's capabilities. For now we will settle for his basic mesh construction.
Are you up for the challenge?
When Blender is first loaded, you will be presented with a default layout that has three primary components:
Mind you, this is just a general overview; all you really need to know is that the bulk of your work will consist of a couple of keyboard commands and some customization on your part. Although we could start out with an alternative shape for our mesh, the standard cube given to you is more than enough for our purposes.
Keep in mind that the three dimensions are depicted as three colored lines in the 3D Viewer, with the "Origin" being the point of their intersection:
1) Green= Y-Axis
2) Red= X-Axis
3) Blue= Z-Axis
Additionally, should you run into any sort of trouble during this how-to, remember the keystroke CTRL+Z; this will undo the last change you made. Repeat this method to undo multiple changes.
Viewing the 3D Scene
Before we begin, let's go over how to move the 3D Viewer. Holding your down your middle mouse wheel will allow you to pan around a point in space while holding SHIFT in addition to your mouse-wheel allows you to pan across a point in space. Too zoom in or out, simply roll the wheel up or down.
Step #1: Setting Up Your Cube
You should already be in what's called "Object Mode", which allows you to select and position different objects in a scene. Since we only have one object to work with, go ahead and Shift+Right-Click on your cube. You should notice its name appear on the bottom-left corner of the 3D Viewer box. If not, press the Tab button and repeat.
After we have the cube selected, we can now go into "Edit Mode" to mold our mesh into shape by pressing the Tab key (this function will undoubtedly be repeated many times in your work, so be patient).You will know you are in Edit Mode from three distinct changes:
1) The Mode Tab on your Modes+Layers bar says "Edit Mode" (pretty obvious huh?)
2) "Mesh Tools" become available in the Editing Panel in your Toolbox, which is depicted as a simple square with four yellow points below the Mode Tab.
3) Your cube's color changes to either light blue with pink vertexes and black edges or bright pink with yellow vertexes and yellow edges complete with directional arrows (the entire mesh is selected in this case)
Note: Your cube should be transparent by default, but if you find through some maneuvering that it is not, click the button labeled "Occlude Background Geometry" to switch it off. This will speed along the modeling process later on.
Step#2: Setting Up Your Viewing Angle
Press #1 on your keypad and take a moment to observe your work area. Notice how your 3D view has changed? You are now observing the cube from what I call the "Front View", which makes the Y-Axis invisible. Thus, you are now working in only 2 dimensions! You will also notice that the 3D grid is still visible at this angle; this will help you measure out the proportions of your mesh. If you're curious, press keypad numbers 3 and 7 to see what you get. After you're done, switch back to #1.
Step#3: Working With Modifiers
Modifiers are special functions that enable unique controls over your mesh and can be found in the Editing Panel. Since Stickman is a symmetrical figure, we will use the Mirror Modifier to duplicate our mesh's development on the X-Axis by adding it into the editing process:
Once this is done, select the entire cube by pressing A, then G to grab it and finally (without pressing anything else!) X. Maneuver the cube to your right a few grid blocks and left-click:
Since the Mirror Modifier is operating on the X-Axis, it will generate a clone of whatever you do on the left side of the Z-Axis. Needless to say, you will be using this feature a lot.
In the previous step, you got a little experience grabbing the cube as a whole. Now we will grab the cube in pieces in order to stretch its dimensions and thus form some legs. To do this, first de-select the entire cube by pressing A again and then pressing B to start squaring off the top face made up of four vertexes. Since the cube is already transparent and in Front View, this should be very easy:
Once you have the top face selected, press G to grab and then Z to restrict the movement to the Z-Axis. Move up until you feel the legs are long enough and left-click:
Step#5 Loop Cutting
As you can see, we need to join the legs at some point to form a groin. We could do this by crudely joining the top-left corners of the cube into the clone, yet there's a better solution: Loop Cutting. This creates a "loop" of vertexes that are between other joined vertexes, which give greater flexibility of the mesh for the next step.
Place your cursor on the cube and press CTRL+R; you will see a vertical or lateral red line appear on the cube depending on how your cursor is positioned on the mesh. In this case, aim for a lateral loop. Left-click, and you will then find the loop appear yellow; this means you can adjust it using your cursor. Left-click again when the loop is about a couple of grid blocks to the top. If you prefer to keep it centered, simply click your mouse-wheel instead:
Step#6: "Do Clipping" And Extruding
After you do your Loop Cut, go over to your Mirror Modifier and enable Do Clipping; this will allow us to join vertexes with the clone on the Z-Axis without phasing through each other.Next, select the top-left face of the cube to begin using one of Blender's most essential tools: Extruding. From here you will press E, select "Region", and move the newly created sides toward the clone until they "clip" together (don't forget to press X to move across the X-Axis!).
Step#7: Building Up Your Stickman
From this point onward, you have enough know-how to finish up your model with relative ease. Here is my result as a reference:
Once Mr. Stickman has been made, save him for later:
That's All (For Now)
If you successfully completed this tutorial, pat yourself on the back; you have just taken a major leap forward in understanding 3D modeling! In the next guide, I will introduce you to Rendering Basics, as well as demonstrate how to texture Mr. Stickman to your heart's content.
In the meantime, I highly encourage you to check out the main Blender Foundation website for more tips and tricks as well as news on upcoming versions. Over time you too will grow more experienced just as I have, and in the process discover new and exciting ways to express yourself.