Blender For Virtual Worlds
Visit Gaia Foundation on Atlantis in the Great Canadian Grid for inworld support information.
Blender’s User Interface
I’ll take you on a quick tour of Blender’s user interface to familiarize you with the layout and show you how to change it to suit your needs at any given point in the creation process.
Blender uses a unique interface that is highly customizable.
In this chapter I’ll introduce you to the way Blender is layed out, how to use the various components to best effect, and how to make it work better for you.
In the next chapter, we’ll go over the tools and get those customized to meet your needs as well.
Soon, you’ll be all set for learning to create content for virtual worlds more effectively in an environment that reduces the overwhelming clutter while giving you the tools you need.
The Info Editor, which you’ll find, by default, along the top of the Blender window, serves as the main menu bar. (More on what Editors are in a bit.)
With it you have the basic commands you find in most main menu bars: Open, Save, Import, Export, Preferences, Quit, Window management, and Help options.
In addition you will find the Screen Selector widget which we’ll talk about more at the end of this chapter.
After that are two more widgets, the Scene Selector and the Render Engine Selector. You won’t need to worry about either of those widgets for our purposes. We’ll be using the default Blender Render engine and we won’t be using scenes.
After those two widgets you’ll see a line of information showing the contents of your 3D Viewport — the main modeling window. You can see how many objects, faces, edges, & vertices are in your 3D Viewport and how many of those are selected.
Some actions will give you an informational message for a few seconds in the Info Editor. Also, if you get an error, a temporary message will appear on the Info Editor bar. Watch for those, in particular, when the expected behavior is not happening.
If the information in the Info Editor extends beyond the boundary of your window width, you can left-click-drag it to the left to make the information visible.
I suppose this might be a good time to mention that you can save your Blender projects as working files. They’ll have the extension .blend.
To save your project, go to the Info Editor (main menu bar) > File and select one of the following options:
Save (or the shortcut keys Control-S) to save the file.
The File Browser will open to allow you to specify a name and location for the file if it’s the first time you’ve saved the current document.
Save as (or Shift-Control-S) to open the File Browser to save the file with a specified name and location.
Save Copy (or Control-Alt-S) to save another copy of the current file with the specified name and location.
In the File Browser you’ll find a Header along the top with widgets to control how you want to view your files (green) and the viewing size (yellow).
Locate files with the Search box (pink).
Below the widgets, you’ll find the area to name and save your file to the location you want (blue). Click the Save Blender File button when done.
If the name you choose happens to be a duplicate name, the naming area background will turn red as a warning (yellow). If you click the Save Blender File button, the file will be named the given name and the original file will be lost.
You’ll find several options for browsing locations in the right side column (red). You can add your own favorite locations by clicking the + on the Add Bookmark bar.
Because your projects will, in most cases, include the working file and backups, your exported creations, and UV textures, it’s a good idea to save your projects to their own folders.
Click the magic folder icon to create a new folder (red).
Blender’s interface is layed out in Frames (green) arranged within a Window (yellow).
Each Frame is a work area inside the main Window that contains an Editor.
Frames give you complete control over your workspace. You can Remove, Add, Resize, & Rearrange Frames as you like.
You can break out of the main Window and use floating Frames.
You can save your favorite Frame Layouts to use again or use a choice of default Frame Layouts provided by Blender for use in achieving specific tasks.
Mouse over a line dividing two Frames (red) to get a double-arrow cursor (blue) then left-mouse-drag the border to resize Frames.
Instead of left-mouse-dragging the double-arrow cursor, right-mouse-click the Frame Border (yellow) to get a Context Menu (red) asking if you want to Split or Join the areas.
Choose Join Area in the Context Menu and mouse over the Frame you want to eliminate until a large gray arrow appears (green).
Left-mouse-click the large gray arrow to finalize your choice.
The unwanted Frame disappears and the Frame adjoining it stretches to fill the area.
|NOTE: Frames cannot be L shaped. The border between them must be the same length to Join them. Sometimes this takes a little strategy to get Frames layed out the way you want them.|
Right-mouse-click the Frame Border (yellow) and choose Split Area in the Context Menu (red).
Mouse over the Frame you want to Split until a line appears (aqua). Move your mouse to the desired location and left-mouse-click to finalize.
A faster, though trickier way to add and delete Frames, is by left-click-dragging a Resize Grip (yellow) in the top right or bottom left corner of any Frame.
Split Area: The direction you drag the Resize Grip determines whether you are making a horizontal or vertical split. Where the mouse button is released sets the location of the new Frame Border.
Join Area: Left-click-drag a Resize Grip into the frame you want to eliminate and, when the large gray arrow appears, release the mouse.
Try practicing this skill right now until you get a feel for how these actions work. Being adept at this skill will give you a lot of speed in completing your projects.
Maximize any frame by hovering the mouse cursor in the frame and pressing the shortcut keys control-up arrow.
This is a great way to declutter fast and give yourself more space for your work flow.
Control-down arrow returns to the original frame layout.
Along the top or bottom of each Frame, you will find the Editor’s Header (green). The Headers contain Menus, Widgets, and Selectors for tools relevant to each Editor’s function.
The Info editor, is a Header as well (yellow). There’s actually more to this editor that you can’t see by default but I’ll leave that until a time when we need to use the other functions of the Info editor.
You can move any Header from the top of a Frame to the bottom or vice versa by hovering your mouse cursor over the Header and pressing F5.
You can also hide the Headers for more workspace by dragging the border between the Header and the Editor’s work area to the Frame border.
It can be opened again with the +Grip that will appear at the far right of the border where the header is hidden.
Good to know in the case you ever accidentally close a header….
Each Frame contains a work component, called an Editor.
Blender’s default layout consists of 5 frames containing these Editors:
- Info editor (pink): Blender’s main menu bar
- 3D View (red): The window to view and manipulate objects
- Timeline (green): For use with animations
- Outliner (yellow): Object organizer
- Properties (blue): A box full of powerful tools that you will come to love and adore
Each Editor has it’s own set of Menus, Widgets, and other tools specific to the tasks that each is specialized for.
|NOTE: When working in any particular Editor it is important that you hover your mouse cursor in that Editor’s Frame when using shortcut key commands.
Some Shortcut Keys are only appropriate for use in particular Editors so will only work in those Editors.
The editor in any frame can be changed depending on what tasks you want to perform.
The first item in every header is an Editor Selector widget (yellow).
Left-mouse-click the widget to get a the menu and select the Editor you want to use.
There are many editors to choose from and each is used to perform a particular set of tasks.
You won’t need most of these editors so don’t let it overwhelm you.
We’ll focus on only the Info editor, 3D View editor, Outliner, and Properties editor for modeling and the UV/Image Editor for working with textures.
To open a Frame as a separate Window go to the Header in that frame and in the View menu select Duplicate Area Into New Window.
|NOTE: Not all editors have the View menu.|
Or, easier, shift-left-click-drag a corner Resize Grip to get a copy of the Frame in a new separate window.
To open a second window layed out exactly like the original window, go to your Info editor (main menu bar) and in the Window menu select Duplicate Window or use the shortcut keys control-alt-w.
To toggle full screen view go to the Info Editor (main menu bar) and in the Window menu select Toggle Fullscreen or press alt-F11.
Project: Save a Custom Layout
For this project you’ll create a custom layout for modeling and save it so you can use it anytime.
The tasks you’ll need for basic modeling will involve using:
The Info editor (main menu bar) for basic commands
The 3D View editor for the actual modeling
The Outliner to name and keep track of your objects
The Properties editor to work with materials, textures, & special modifiers
The UV/Image Editor for unwrapping (telling Blender how you want textures to apply to your objects).
All of these except for the UV/Image Editor are in the default layout.
You don’t need the Timeline editor which the default layout does have.
The quick and easy solution is to replace the Timeline editor along the bottom of your default window with the UV/Image Editor.
Locate the Editor Selection widget in the header of the Timeline editor (bottom left frame in the default layout) and select the UV/Image Editor.
Arrange the frame sizes to something you think works well. Try for something similar to the above image.
Open the shelves in the 3D Viewport with the toggle shortcut keys N and T. Remember to make sure your cursor is hovering over the 3D Viewport when you do this.
Because you’ve been playing around in the window, make sure your 3D Viewport cursor is still in the center of the grid with Shift-S > Cursor to Center. More about that in the 3D View chapter.
Save your layout with the Screen Selector widget in the Info Editor so you can choose it anytime you need it (red). It’s the first widget just after the Help menu.
You’ll see that you are in the “Default” screen layout. To add your own custom layout, click the + near the end of the widget. By the way, the X deletes the selected screen layout so don’t click that.
Once you click the +, you’ll see that the selected screen is changed to “Default.001“. Click in the box where the name is and type a new name for your layout.
“My Modeling Layout” or something that makes sense to you is fine. Press Enter.
Anytime you want to use your new custom layout, you can change it with the Screen Selector widget.
Next we’ll save all your changes as the new default startup window so that every time you open a new instance of Blender your preferences and custom layout will be in effect.
Do this by clicking File in the Info editor (main menu bar) and select Save Startup File or press the shortcut keys Control-U.
In the pop-up verify that this is what you want to do by selecting Save Startup File.
That’s it! Close and open Blender to check that all your changes have been saved.
Post your questions in the comment section below & I’ll answer it as soon as possible. Please be specific so I can understand what it is you’re asking.
You can also visit Gaia Foundation on Atlantis in the Great Canadian Grid for inworld support information.