Part 7: Adding Text and Decorating a Scene

In this seventh part of our Blender guide, we discuss how you can add text to a scene and even throw in some decoration while we are at it.

In the previous part of our guide, we discussed how to use multiple views, create a lighting system, add a material, and even how to use a small amount of the node editor. By this point in time, we are developing a good solid understanding of the basics of Blender. While we could continue adding on more and more interesting tips and tricks, we’ve decided to move on to doing something we promised way back in the beginning: create an animation you can use to make YouTube top three videos.

Adding 3D Text

The first step is probably the most obvious: placing the text on the scene. There are three ways you can do this and the answer is not necessarily so clear cut.

The first and unlikely way you can do this is to go through the trouble of just sculpting and modelling the text yourself. If you are very experienced in this, you might be able to pull off some pretty cool and unique results. 90% of the time, however, you’re not going to be building your text from the ground up, though as this is likely the most tricky and time consuming method.

The second method is to take some reference material and trace the letters yourself with your models. There are actually pros and cons to this. A con is that this might still be rather time consuming. A pro is that you have full control over your models and can construct them how you see fit. You don’t have to rely on actual fonts necessarily, so the number of options you have is actually much greater. If you are going to be doing something fancy like customizing the text afterwards by adjusting the models itself, then I would recommend going this rout even though it might be time consuming initially.

The third method is very easy, takes far less time, and is recommended if you want to do something quick and dirty. You can actually type out your text with a text mesh and you can even import different fonts as you see fit. There is a big caveat to this: little control over your models. If you type out your characters and switch to edit view, you’ll see Blender actually generates models with a tonne of faces and vertices that doesn’t necessarily seem, well, necessary. If you go to edit them, you’ll find that things like smooth shading and loop cuts are impractical in the end. It’s not as though you don’t have options using this method, but your options are a bit more limited here.

In this part of our guide, we are going to show you the quick and dirty method because people new to Blender will likely benefit from this and can develop more sophisticated skills later on to accomplish the second method.

So, first, we are going to open up a new Blender project:

Next, we are going to delete our cube with “X”. Then, we are going to add our text (Shift + A):

This will place some text onto our scene:

Now, let’s “r”otate this on the X axis by 90 degrees:

From there, let’s tab into our edit mode. When we do that, we’ll be able to use our keyboard to edit the actual text:

Now, we are going to go into our right hand side panel and click on the “data” button (looks like the letter “F”):

Modifying the Text

After we have got our text standing up right, we’re going to want to start modifying the text. If you aren’t happy with the font chosen, you can open up a different font through the open button I’ve highlighted in the screenshot. Otherwise, our first order of business is to make the number bigger. To do that, we need to adjust the “size” (also highlighted in the screenshot below):

When we are happy with our size, the next order of business is to make our number three dimensional. Right now, it is perfectly flat. To make our number thicker, we need to extrude it. Luckily, there is an easy way of accomplishing this. In our right hand panel, there is also an extrude slider:

Just click and drag on that slider until you get the desired thickness you want in your text. Of course, you’re going to quickly notice that we are back to an old familiar problem. The font has a perfect 90 degree angle on the edges. Again, not something you see in real life, so why would you see it in a 3D scene? This can be quickly fixed by adjusting our bevel:

Use the depth and resolution until you get the desired effect. Depth simply changes how much of a bevel you are giving your font. Meanwhile, resolution adds a rounded detailing to your font. How much resolution you add can depend on how big you’ve made your font.

Adding Extra Details

So, our font is looking pretty good, but the problem is, it’s just randomly floating in space. That’s not really going to look all that great, so how do we fix that? All I have to do is add some plane meshes.

In this case, you can see I’ve added two plane meshes. One really large one behind my number and a smaller one in front of it. The background will be something where I can add pretty much anything I want. I can add in a simple colour, a picture, or any host of textures. This will be visible to the camera, so I don’t want any edges showing up in my render after. That’s why the background is so big.

The second plane is going to be behind the camera. The reason for this plane is that my text is going to be nice and shiny. Of course, it’s really hard to show off that shine without something to reflect off of it. So, I’ve added the texture to reflect some random colours off of it. This plane can be a picture, tiles, any other random texture. A single colour might work, but it won’t be as effective.

There is a host of other things I can add to the scene. I could add other models based on what I’ve been able to build earlier. I could also throw in a floor to add a sense of gravity to the scene. There really is a number of different ways I can add to this scene, really. For now, I’m just going for something basic because you can add in extra details if you like.

Next, we are going to add in some textures.

For the text, since it’s “3”, I pasted the bronze hex value into my diffuse (#cd7f32). I then added the gloss and toned done the roughness to give it a nice pretty shine.

Meanwhile, the background is just a simple blue diffuse. Nothing particularly special to it.

What I did do something interesting to is to the plane behind the camera. So, I’ve pulled up my node editor to show you what I’ve done. If you plan on using the node editor a lot, the thing to remember is that when you are plugging different nodes, you need to plug in the same colours. A majority of the time, plugging conflicting colours will result in no texture being applied or an incorrect result. So, green connects with green. Blue connects with blue. Yellow connects with yellow. While there are exceptions, that might be a good rule to follow when you are new to this.

Within the shader submenu when adding a new node, there is a noise texture that you can add. I’ve simply connected that to my diffuse texture. In turn, I connected my diffuse texture to the output node. Values I’m currently using are in the image, but you are certainly free to use your own values (or textures or nodes for that matter!). If I can get something reflecting off of my number, that will put a nice small amount of emphasis on the reflective nature of it.

Adding Lights

So, the next stage is adding in lamps. The first light I added is actually a light not focusing on the subject (the 3). Instead, I’ve created an area lamp and pointed it directly at the texture that will be behind the camera. In the below screen shot, I’ve got that lamp selected to show you what I mean by that:

Now, the cool thing about this is that if I want the reflective texture to show up more, all I have to do is increase the strength of this lamp. If I want it to show up less, I can just decrease the strength of the lamp. In this case, the effect wound up being that it gave my number a slight oily look. The point is to make sure that it’s not just simple lamps reflecting off of the 3, but rather, something nice and complex to give my number a little bit of character. Try experimenting around, you might find some neat things to reflect into the 3 for a different effect!

Also, in the above screen shot, I’ve added a very large area lamp to the left of the 3 and a smaller one to the right. I’ve also got three lamps lighting up the number to make it appear less dark.

Another important point to make is the fact that I deleted the spot lamp as well (which appears in the scene by default when creating a new project file).

After orbiting a little around the 3, I’m happy with how the lights reflect off of the number and how the texture adds a little bit of something extra.

Saving

At this point in time, it is a crucial time to save. What I can do with the file after is change the number to make my “2” and “1” with little effort. All I need to do is just edit the text, then change the numbers diffuse colour to silver or gold, then re-save. If I really need to, I can also adjust the lamps for a particular number if something doesn’t look quite right with my lighting setup. To save, you can either to a CRTL + S for a normal save or a Shift + CRTL + S to save as.

The neat thing about Blender is that not only can you save a file, but save incrementally with ease. If you are worried about making a mistake, you can simply identify the point where you are going to make a critical decision in your project, then save as a different file. The first time you save your project, obviously save in a convenient designated folder you can easily find later. In follow-up save points, you can hit the little “+” button I’ve highlighted in the above screen shot. This will automatically place a number at the end of the file name. If a “1” is already present, it will increase it to “2”. When you are done naming your file and finding a location, click the “Save As Blender File” button to save it. You’ll leave this screen if successful.

So, that is it. We’ve added our text and jazzed it up nicely for the next step.

Keyboard Shortcut Roundup

For those of you who are practising and don’t want to read through paragraphs of content to get to the keyboard shortcuts, here is a list of everything we covered in this part:

  • CTRL + S = Save
  • Shift + CTRL + S = Save As

Below is a list of commands previously covered in other parts of the guide and mentioned in this part:

  • X = Delete
  • Shift + A = Add
  • R = Rotate
  • (while moving, rotating, or scaling) X/Y/Z = Fix movements onto that axis
    • R, then X/Y/Z, then a number = Rotate on the X/Y/Z axis by the typed number

< Multiple Views, Lighting, and Materials | Index | Animating Our Scene With Keyframes >


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