Part 1: Initial Thoughts on Blender

In this guide, we show you how to create something rather simple using the free and open source software Blender. In this specific part, we just discuss Blender generally.

3D art is certainly one cool field. It’s actually quite amazing what 3D art can do. It can make video games come to life, amaze you with video and animation, and even teach people about complex subjects.

The first question is, what software should I use? Obviously, there are a whole lot of different pieces of software out there that people use. Whether it is Poser, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, Blender, or a whole list of other pieces of software out there, each solution will have their supporters, pros, and cons. The thing to keep in mind is that each solution is a tool. So, when some people ask, “which is the best software to use?”, there is going to be a a bunch of different answers depending on who you ask.

In my opinion, asking which piece of software is best is a terrible question to ask. This is because there are so many very viable options out there. With almost any field that involves mature software solutions, the thing to keep in mind is that the software is just a tool. That software can make certain things easier or offer better user control. At the end of the day, it is up to you, as a user, to make that software sing. The better question to ask is, “which software is right for me?” That is a question that, unfortunately, you have to answer on your own. Look at what each package has to offer and see which one is right for you.

Blender

As you can tell by the title, this tutorial will be discussing the software Blender. Blender is a free and open source 3D software solution. Anyone can download it for free and try it themselves. While not everyone may be a fan of the software, it is certainly the easiest and accessible pieces of software one can use.

Is Blender Hard to Learn?

While the price is right for a lot of people out there, there are certainly detractors of the software. One of the biggest complaints that some have is that it is really hard to learn.

The thing about blender is that it has a lot of features – and I do mean a LOT. So, opening Blender for the first time can be very overwhelming to new users at first. The thing is, once you start knowing some of the core basic features, Blender gradually becomes easy to use. Sure, you may not know absolutely every feature in the package, but you can certainly use it for whatever you want to use it for.

An analogy I like to use is a Swiss Army Knife. Just visualize unfolding every tool in that thing. You got your knife, corkscrew, can opener, and probably close to half a dozen tools. If you unfold all of them out, that Swiss Army Knife to someone who doesn’t use them very often will look a jumbled mess of tools. Where do I even begin to figure out this thing anyway?

The trick is to fold everything back in and focus on one tool. I want to just learn about the knife in this. It cuts. I can cut cheese with this. I can open plastic packages with it. Hey, I can even cut through the tape of a card board box and open it up. Once you know a fair bit about this knife, you can fold it back in and start learning about the next tool of your choosing. Learning Blender is much like figuring out the Swiss Army Knife. You can see a number of layers within it. The more tools you open up, the more layers you see. It’s ideal when you start learning to just focus on a small part or two at a time. Then, you can build on this knowledge by incorporating another layer and another and another.

Eventually, the software actually makes a lot of sense. You’ll gradually see less of a jumbled mess of features that make no sense and more a workflow that works for you. Even better, because there are so many different features, there is ample opportunity to keep learning the software.

So, to answer the question, “is Blender hard to learn?” it depends entirely on how you learn it. If you are going to learn every feature overnight, yes, it’s pretty much impossible. If you are going to use a solid guide and spend a month learning it small piece by small piece, it is actually very possible to learn it.

Where Should I Start?

The next part of our learning exercise is what should you do first? When I learned Blender, I just downloaded the software package, installed it, took a deep breath, and opened it up. What I think other people should do first is ask themselves, “What am I going to use Blender for?” That question will dictate where you are going to take your learning process next.

Let’s say your answer is, “I want to create really cool models”. Great, then you can focus all of your attention on modelling, texturing, and dive deeper and deeper into creating those really cool models. At the end of it, you could find yourself creating a really cool looking car, space craft, or even just modelling medieval weaponry. The choice really is up to you.

However, if your answer is, “I want to create a really cool video game”, then you are going to go down a very different path. The way you model will be different because video game models are very different then just plain modelling. For example, if you are animating, you’ll be shooting for faces with 4 vertices. If you are modelling for a video game, those faces will ideally have 3. Additionally, you’ll be thinking more along the line of scripting, coding, physics, and other things animators may not have to worry about as much.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I will be showing you how to create simple animated clips for a “top 3” clip for YouTube. People love making those video’s, so wouldn’t it be cool if our numbers are shiny and animated in 3D? That’s what this tutorial is going to be about. Of course, if you get to the end of it and think that you want to take your adventure in a different direction, that’s OK too. You can find that some of what you learn here to be transferable to a bunch of other ways you can use the software. That is the great effect you’ll have is that you’ll pick up on basic stuff quickly as you research other tutorials after. In fact, it actually makes learning from other tutorials even easier because, sooner or later, they’ll hit on basic functions you now know.

So, if you are ready to give this a shot, click on the next part of the tutorial and let’s begin!

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