Did I mention my new book?

Lampstack-SoftcoverOver the last few weeks I’ve written a book. It’s about how to run web applications in the comfort of your own home.

Yesterday it went live on Amazon! I have an author page and everything!

Turns out that writing was the easy part: formatting it so that it looks good on Kindle devices was a bit tougher. It’s a tech book after all, which means there are several screenshots and code snippets which need to be formatted to stand out from the rest of the text.

Before I call myself “best selling author”, let me describe how this book came to be.


Continue reading Did I mention my new book?

How to add textures to a sculpting brush in Blender


Blender allows us to sculpt with textures to add fine detail to each brush stroke. In ZBrush this feature is called sculpting with alphas, but the principle is a little easier to understand in Blender (at least for me). Here’s how to add a texture to a sculpt brush in Blender.  Continue reading How to add textures to a sculpting brush in Blender

How to use the Screw Modifier in Blender


The Screw Modifier in Blender is very straightforward to use – if you know how. I tried to figure it out by myself which proved impossible. I guess unintuitive is the word I’m looking for. Reading the manual gives us an explanation like this:

The profile should be properly aligned to the cardinal direction of the object rather than to the screw axis.

Yes… this means what exactly? Thick people shouldn’t use this tool? Thankfully it’s far simpler than it sounds – let me show you how.  Continue reading How to use the Screw Modifier in Blender

How to use Boolean Operations in Blender


Blender uses a Modifier for boolean operations. Those can be used to cut into an existing object or combine two objects. In this example we’ll cut a hole into our default cube.

Select the object you’d like to cut into, but have another object in your scene. We’ll use a cylinder that’s slightly smaller yet wider than our cube. Position them so that they intersect. Now add a Boolean Modifier using the little wrench icon in the Properties Palette.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 17.58.42

The modifier has several options in the Operation drop down:

  • Difference – cut one object from another
  • Union – combine two objects
  • Intersect – create the part that both objects have in common

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 17.59.13

For our purposes (cutting a cylinder from our cube), choose Difference. Under Object, choose the object you’d like to use for the cutting operation (that’s the cylinder in our example). Hit Apply and Blender will go to work.

Although it looks like nothing has happened, move the two objects apart and see the result.

A word of caution: use boolean operations only if absolutely necessary. Such procedures may alter the geometry of an object in unexpected ways, causing potential havoc with subdivision surface modifiers and smoothing.

How to duplicate an object along a path in Blender

Cube NecklaceHexagon had a nice feature called “copy on support”. With it we could create duplicates of
an object along a path, something that comes in handy when creating a ladder or a necklace. I wondered if Blender too had such a feature, and of course it has – even though it’s perhaps a little bit unintuitive (read: impossible) to figure out. Pretty much like the rest of Blender.

So here’s what we have to do in order to duplicate an object along a path in Blender, where this technique is called DupliFrames. Don’t worry about looking it up in the plethora of menus – it’s not to be found anywhere. Continue reading How to duplicate an object along a path in Blender

How to use Proportional Editing (Soft Selections) in Blender


Proportional Editing is what Blender calls a tool with which you can modify part of your object with an area of influence around your selection. Other apps would call this Soft Selections. The principle is the same: pick a selection, and rather than just move the selection, you have influence over an area of gradual falloff.

In the above GIF I’ve selected a single face in the middle of a grid. Without proportional editing, only the face is moved. With proportional editing, the whole area around it is moved. Let’s take a look at how to use this tool. Continue reading How to use Proportional Editing (Soft Selections) in Blender

Blender Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s a list of shortcuts for use in our Blender adventures. These become second nature very quickly, but when you’ve been away from Blender for a while it’s really easy to forget them all. So while they’re in my mind, here’s what my brain currently knows and likes.

Continue reading Blender Keyboard Shortcuts

How to chamfer edges in Blender


You can chamfer edges in Blender using the Bevel Tool (from the Edge menu). To do this, enter Edit Mode and select one or more edges on your object. Hit CTRL+E to bring up the Edge Menu and select Bevel. Alternatively, hit CTRL+B to enter Bevel mode immediately.

Now move your mouse and the an edge being sliced off. Scroll the mouse wheel to add/remove more segments to the bevel, hence creating our desired chamfer effect. If you don’t have a mouse, you can use the plus and minus keys to add/remove segments to the bevel.

Left-click when you’re done.

How to use the View Selected shortcut in Blender on a Mac

On standard Mac keyboards and laptops, some of the handy Blender shortcuts are hard to find. That’s because many of them rely on us having a full-size keyboard or an additional Number Pad. While those aren’t expensive, some of us just don’t want to use another gadget that clutters our desks (be that at home or in our coffee shop).

One of the many useful shortcuts in Blender is View Selected. It frames the selected object(s) and lets us tumble the camera around them. View Selected is accessible from the View menu, and by default it’s mapped to NUMPAD + . (the period key on the number pad). I do this a lot, so I really want this as a usable shortcut on my keyboard. But the default doesn’t work, because I don’t have a  Number Pad.

There is an option under File – User Preferences that lets users like me emulate one, and it works with most keyboard shortcuts – but NOT for the View Selected shortcut. I have no idea why. Fact.

So what can we do, if we don’t want to invest into more hardware? Re-mapping the keyboard shortcut to something usable springs to mind. Thankfully, Blender is endlessly customisable. Let’s see how we can assign our own shortcut to the View Selected option.

Continue reading How to use the View Selected shortcut in Blender on a Mac

How to apply transformations to your non-uniform objects in Blender

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.32.05

In the above screenshot, I’ve taken a cube and added some transformations to it: a bit of scaling, rotation, and I’ve moved its location too. This cube is now said to be non-uniform.  This means that there are values applied to how the object is displayed (on the right hand side, under Transform):

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.30.54

The cube doesn’t mind, and Blender doesn’t mind either, but certain modifiers and other transactions may have a problem with such non-uniform objects. Take the Bevel Modifier for example: it will use the scale values and apply a fixed value to each edge. The result is a different bevel on the top than on the right – probably not what we want.

Ideally we’d reset all those values back at zero if this was my final object, taking into consideration its deformation and transformation at its current condition in 3D space. In essence, leave the object untouched and reset the values.

To do this, head over to Object – Apply and select what you’d like to reset (location, rotation and/or scale). You can also hit CTRL + A to bring this up as a floating menu.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.30.04

Applying the rotation for example will set all the above values to zero while leaving the object in its current rotational state. The same would happen to the scale and location values, turning the mesh back into a uniform object.

Now things like the Bevel Modifier will work with the same amount on each edge, rather than differently depending on how much the object had been scaled.

Thanks to Darrin Lile for this tip!

How to set the origin (pivot point) in Blender

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.55.33

Every 3D object has a point around which it rotates or scales from. It’s usually the point at which the 3D manipulator gizmo shows up. In Blender this point is called the Origin.

In my screenshot, that point is at the top of the selected book. But perhaps I’d like to move it to the bottom so I can position it better. Let’s see how to do this. We’ll use the mysterious 3D Cursor to accomplish this tricky mission.

First, with the object selected, let’s enter Edit Mode. Select the part of the object at which you’d like to place the origin point. I’ll use the bottom face, so that my origin will be at the bottom middle of the book. You can select an edge or vertex as well, whatever is necessary.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.59.43

Once selected, head over to Mesh – Snap – Cursor to Selected, or hit SHIFT + S to bring up the Snap Menu. This will move the 3D cursor to our selection.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 15.00.02

Switch back to Object Mode and see the cursor (red/white circle thing) where your future origin is going to be, as well as the current origin as shown by the gizmo. Now hit CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + C to bring up the origin menu. This menu is also available from the Tools section on the left.

Choose Origin to 3D Cursor and see your gizmo change places.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 15.04.26

Mission accomplished!

Quick Pivoting

If you don’t want to change the origin of your object and rather like to quickly pivot around something else, then you’ll be pleased to hear about the Pivot Menu. This can come in handy when you’re modelling and are concerned with a small part of your object, rather than changing the origin of the whole mesh.

To use this feature, select something (either the whole object, or part of it in Edit Mode), then try and find the following Pivot Menu (to the left of the manipulator selector, at the bottom part of your default layout).

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.21.41

Here you can switch to a different pivot point temporarily. For example, to rotate a polygon around an axis (Active Element) rather than its center (Median Point).