Category Archives: 3D

My notes on 3D apps I use: ZBrush, Hexagon, DAZ Studio, Poser, Carrara and many others.

How to make wheels turn in Blender 2.8

I’ve recently built a little animation during a live stream, and Rod’s suggestion was to add NASA’s Curiosity Rover into the scene. It’s a freely available blend file, and I thought it was a great idea. It added a lovely character to the otherwise deserted alien landscape, and I quickly animated it into position.

Trouble was, the little guy was essentially an afterthought, and when I was watching the animation back, it became obvious that its wheels needed to be turning as it was driving around. While I was keen to do this, I had no idea what mechanism I should use for such an Endeavor (har har), or what Blender had to offer in this regard.

My first thought was to simply animate the wheels with keyframes, but this would be a lot of work, and if the rover’s speed were to change I’d have to probably animate those wheels again. There being six and all, I discovered a better way to make the wheels turn, using something called a Driver.

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How to replicate an object along another mesh in Blender

A while ago I wrote an article about how to grow grass on a place in Blender 2.79 using the Particle Emitter system. This process has changed since Blender 2.80, and since it was never intuitive to begin with, we’re all a little confused as to how it works in the new version. While I still remember, let me jot down a note for everyone’s benefit.

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How to replace an object with another mesh in Blender

I’ve been wondering if there was a way to replace dummy objects I’ve placed in Blender with other meshes. Say we do a particle simulation, and during rehearsal it’s all about speed – but for the real render, we need higher resolution meshes that might take a while to render in the viewport.

Thankfully it’s super easy to do this in Blender, here’s how. Let’s replace the default cube with Suzanne.

  • select the object you’d like to replace
  • head over to the Object Data Properties (green triangle icon)
  • at the top of the tab, left of the name of your object, click the drop down and choose browse mesh data to be linked

This brings up a list of items in your scene. Pick the one you would like to use as a replacement – and that’s it.

Note that this will only link the geometry and materials, it will not take across any modifiers.

Thanks to Christina for this tip 🙂

Building JAY PLAYS – a Title Sequence Animation in Blender

In this series I’m building an animated title sequence using a set made for DAZ Studio in Blender. This requires lighting and material tweaks, and messing with textures. It’s not a tutorial, just some dude trying his best at Blender (without knowing much about it, but learning a lot in the process).

The end result is an intro for my my game streams, as well as these new seasons of 3D Shenanigans. Once the set is built, I’ll replace a couple of key textures so that the cinema and screen show something different. It’s a lot of work!

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How to orbit around selections in Blender

While I was deep engrossed looking for a feature in the Blender Settings, I found something else I didn’t know about. It’s a way to always orbit around a selected object, rather than do that awkward thing where the viewport just goes off into oblivion when you least expected it.

I frequently use the NUMPAD + . (full stop) trick to focus on the selected object. This zooms in on the object, centres it on the screen, and as a result I can conveniently orbit around it. However, if an object is framed off centre, or even off screen Blender does something else when you move the camera… and I must admit that I’ve not been able to figure out what it is exactly. I probably never will. B

ut that’s OK, because there’s a simple tick box under Edit – Preferences – Interface that’ll make Blender orbit around whatever is selected, no matter where it is in relation to the screen. It’s called Orbit Around Selection.

When enabled, it behaves more like I would intuitively expect. Another Blender Mystery solved, and it makes me appreciate this amazing work of art even more.

How to enable thicker outlines in Blender

With any software demo (or with failing eyesight as we get older), it’s important to have some visual aides so that your audience knows what you’re talking about. I’ve been streaming some Blender sessions recently, and I usually have my excellent little cursor highlighter tool called PointerFocus active. That’s good for viewers to follow the cursor.

By fluke something nice that’s build right into Blender, and that’s the ability to make outlines of selected objects show up a little bolder. They call it Thick Outlines, and this is what it looks like.

I think it looks quite nice, and I’m sure I’ll forget where and how to set that up so I thought I’ll write a note to my future self (and you, dear reader) in the process. We enable this by heading over Edit – Preferences, then under Interface, there’s a drop-down named Line Width. Set it to thick to get this effect.

There are a number of other good options here to that all improve the readability of Blender on your system. Enjoy fiddling!

How to enable the 3D Manipulator Gizmo in Blender

The other day I’ve been happily using the 3D Manipulator Gizmo in Blender and the world was at peace. The next day, I guess a new version must have come along or some other bit in the matrix was dropped, causing my Blender scene to no longer show that manipulator. Where had it gone? Was I imagining things again?

A quick internet search suggested to enable this option at the top of the screen. However mine was already enabled, and my gizmo buddy still wasn’t showing up. What was going on?

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How to use an external image editor with Blender

I was trying to (badly) edit an image texture in a scene I had open in Blender. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to have an option to click on that texture in Blender, then launch the image editor of my choice for a quick edit? I had no idea where to find this, so after some research I found out – and here’s how it works:

Head over to Edit – Preferences.

Under File Paths, there’s an option to select any application to be your go-to image editor. I’m using Photoshop, but any application will work.

So far so good. Now we’ll need to navigate to the image we’d like to edit. That’s a big issue right there, because it’s not as simple as it sounds in Blender (at least for me it isn’t).

I’ll use the UV Editing workspace as an example, in which I spend about 15 minutes trying to find the texture I’d like to edit. When it finally shows up in the large image editor on the left, we can call up the external editor with Image – Edit Externally. Look at the second row from the top to find the Image option.

The slightly convoluted menu structure at the top makes sense only to Blender users of course. It’s also a subtle hint as to why Blender is perhaps not the industry standard it could be. Menus like that scare people off, even though Blender does not intend to scare you. It just… exposes a lot of options.

Depending on how your image is stored (externally or as part of the .blend file), you may get a message along the lines of “image is packed”. If that happens, you need to choose Unpack, then try again.

Reloading Images in Blender

Once your masterful edit is complete, it’s time to save any changes you’ve made. Without saving in your image editor, changes won’t appear in Blender. So hit save, and return back to Blender.

Sometimes your updates appear immediately, other times nothing seems to happen. I haven’t worked out what triggers auto updates and what prevents them. In any case, we can manually trigger an image reload by choosing Image – Reload. Alternatively, hover over the image and press ALT + R.

And there we have it! That’s how we can edit texture files in an external editor from Blender. Don’t be discouraged by the menus!

How to scale image textures in Blender

When I import regular OBJ files into Blender, they come in with a basic diffuse shader applied, with the texture file in the right place. Sadly, that texture is often scaled incorrectly. While it is possible to edit the UVs to make it all look handsome, there is an easier way for us to scale textures, namely by adding a Mapping Node into the shader. Here’s how it worked for me.

In the Node Editor, add a Mapping Node (SHIFT+A, then find it under Vector). Leave it on the Point Tab and connect its output to the Vector Input of the Image Texture (the purple one).

Notice that the effect is probably not what you’re looking for. You’ll also need to add a Texture Coordinate Node in front of that, connecting the UV output to the Vector Input of the Mapping Node. I guess otherwise, the Mapping Node doesn’t know what to scale – which makes sense. Once connected, you should see no difference – but no texture weirdness either (other than the wrong scale).

To make a texture smaller, increase all the Scale Values in the Mapping Node. To decrease the texture size, increase the Scale Values on the Mapping Node.

If this inverse law of doing things is freaking you out, switch the Mapping Node over from Point to Texture. Doing so will allow you to decrease the scale values and see a decrease in texture size (and vice versa), but you’ll be dealing with decimal point values. Whatever works for you.

That’s how to do it! Works great in Blender 2.8 and above. Happy fiddling!

How to render a movie file as texture in Blender

I’ve been playing with a new title sequence for shiny new gaming channel, and I thought it would be fun to have a movie file playing on a plane object that’s seen as a screen in a cinema. I knew this was possible in Blender, but I didn’t quite know how to achieve it. After some tinkering I found out. Let me share my findings with you.

It’s very simple actually: setup a material, including a Texture Node, but instead of an image file, we pick a movie file (or image sequence). That’s really all there’s to it. The difficult part is understanding the settings in the Texture File though.

In the fourth drop-down, Movie was selected automatically when I added my movie file. This can be changed to Image or Image Sequence though, just in case yours is not set correctly. For the record, I’m using an MP4 file with H264 encoding, at 60 frames per second. The three following options are interesting (and important).

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