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).

Continue reading How to render a movie file as texture in Blender

How to use the Blender Cloud Add-On

I’ve been a member of the Blender Cloud since 2016, and one of the benefits you get is that your local copy of Blender can interact with… well the Blender Cloud. You can access texture files, HDRIs, save your files, upload your renders and work in progress – all without leaving Blender. That’s cool!

What I can never remember though is how to actually start this thing. I thought I’d write it down here, in the hope that I’ll remember to search this site and find this post. Here’s what we do:

Press CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + A

That’s it! Almost. Before doing that, we must save our .blend file, otherwise anything we pull from the cloud cannot be saved inside our file (a .blend file isn’t just a file, it’s a whole folder hierarchy by the way, which is why we don’t need to specify complicated paths again – very clever).

I assume you’ve got the add-on installed too, which goes without saying. The Blender Cloud folks have a video about that though, check it out:

Distributing Props for DAZ Studio

Making props for DAZ Studio can be fun and easy. Typically you’ve modelled something in your favourite 3D app, UV unwrapped it appropriately, then you import the object into DAZ Studio and setup your surface properties. You can save your work as part of the whole scene, or you can save your selected item on its own.

Bringing our prop back into other scenes on your own computer will probably work just fine, but if you intend to share your work with others, things get a little more complicated. Let’s take a look how we can do it in this article.

Continue reading Distributing Props for DAZ Studio

How to reach Black Rock Processing in CONTROL

I’ve been blundering my way through the CONTROL game, until I came up against one of those seemingly impossible to crack puzzles: I need to get to Black Rock Processing in the Maintenance Sector to move the story forward. That’s not an easy feat. I’ll tell you where I got stuck, and how I eventually got it, and how I worked it out.

We start our journey at the Sector Elevator and head down to the Maintenance Sector. From here we move forward into a room with four exits, one of which reads Black Rock Processing, on the left. These were all blocked by The Hiss earlier, but thankfully we rectified this.

A few minor goons are waiting for us, we deal with them and pass through the Security Check gates and on to a heavy looking tripe door mechanism that opens automatically as we approach. We’ve seen a smilier mechanism on our way to the Ashtray Maze, however this time the bridge that should probably get us to the other side is missing. All we see is a gap too wide to cross.

Continue reading How to reach Black Rock Processing in CONTROL

My first 24 Hours with the Unreal Engine

In my quest to take a look behind the scenes of how game engines work, I’ve decided to take a closer look at the Unreal Engine, more specifically UE 4.22.3. I had installed it a few weeks ago but other than launch a template or two, I didn’t do anything else with it. After my recent deep dive into Unity, I thought this would make for a nice comparison writeup.

Here’s how I experienced the first 24 hours with Unreal. I’ve even added a video at the end to show you a level that I’ve built. For this review I’ve been following this tutorial series by Paul Kind. He’s a wonderful teacher!

Continue reading My first 24 Hours with the Unreal Engine

DAZ Studio Render Speeds – The Results are in!

A while ago I’ve asked you all to download a test scene and see how fast it renders. Everyone’s got a different graphics card/RAM/CPU setup, and I was interested to see how DAZ Studio would perform with those varying configurations. After all, most “review” websites only put hardware under scrutiny using video games, and for many of us, that’s just not how we use our systems.

I must admit that I’ve been trying to write out a nice looking and well formatted table many a time, but it just never got done. It had always been my intention to share the results with everyone, so rather than keep you waiting and go through all the graphical pain of making a lovely looking spreadsheet, I’ll just share the raw data with you. I’ll also let you know how I interpret it in simple words, with the intention of finding the most cost effective configuration for working with DAZ Studio. Here it is – the Google Sheet we’ve all been waiting for:

This is a view-only link (I think), and additional submissions will be added from the form on my other article at the bottom.

What does this data mean?

From the looks of it, using DAZ Studio 4.11 in 2019, the fastest render results for the lowest amount of money can be achieved using any variation of the NVIDIA RTX 2080 card.

The only one faster is the RTX 2080 Ti, which aside from more RAM (11GB vs 8GB for the 2080) is also clocked slightly faster, resulting in faster render speeds. However, the price jump is remarkable for the Ti (almost double when compared to the non-Ti version), and in my opinion for DAZ Studio it’s just not worth it.

Continue reading DAZ Studio Render Speeds – The Results are in!

How to update Unreal Engine

Sometimes I can’t work out the simples things. Either I’m too stupid, or something that’s super obvious to developers is not necessarily obvious to the humans using it. One such things is the question, “how do we update the Unreal Engine”. I’ve just found out, and thought I’d share this nugget of information with you.

A few weeks ago, I had installed Unreal Engine 4.22.3 on my system, and it worked flawlessly. This week I got a notification that 4.23 has been released. I thought I’ll take a look, open the EPIC Launcher and hunt for an update option. It wasn’t there. I went to the website, found the download button, followed it, and was told that if I had the EPIC Launcher installed, it could all be done from there. But how? Where’s the upgrade or update button?

Well folks – here’s the thing: you can’t update Unreal Engine. It’s just not done that way.

Instead, you can install other versions in parallel to the existing version you’ve got installed, and remove versions you no longer need. This philosophy is often employed to ensure that current project don’t break when a new version of the engine is released. Very good! I love it! It’s like how Blender lets you install as many versions side by side as you want.

So in order to install the latest version of Unreal Engine next to the current version, all we have to do is click the yellow plus icon next to Engine Versions. This will create an additional slot for the new version, complete with download and launch options.

At the top right corner we can now choose to launch any version we like, as an additional shortcut. Another mystery solved!

My first 24 hours with Unity3D

I’ve heard so much about the Unity Game Engine, I’ve seen what people can build with it. Some of my favourite games use it, and it has long been on my list of things to “check out” if ever I have a few spare hours.

Turns out that time has come this Friday afternoon, and I thought I’d best take some notes on how it all went. In case you’re in the same boat, i.e. a total N00B at Unity, perhaps I can save you some time. I’ve previously installed and very briefly tested the Unreal Engine, and I’m usually good at figuring out how to make something work on a computer, so let’s see how it’s going with Unity.

For posterity, I’m using Unity 2019.2 in September 2019 here.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t smooth. I’m not sure how much time I’d like to invest, no matter how awesome it might be after that long dark tunnel of awkwardness. In the end I did make a small project (linked below) and got the hang of the basics, but getting there wasn’t pleasant. Here’s how it all went for me.

Continue reading My first 24 hours with Unity3D