Substance Painter_2016-03-27_08-05-49

Setting Up Blender For Success

When it comes to using Blender I feel that the user experience presented is as important as the tools when it comes to working in 3d for extended periods of time. I always talk about what I call setting yourself up for success, or starting Blender in a way that doesn’t hurt the eyes.

While I personally try to keep Blender as vanilla as possible I felt it would be good to make a post discussing my default scene and workflow.

When it comes to storing your default scene. Its as simple as ctrl + U in the 3d View. You will get a box confirming the save which will ensure the next time you open Blender it will be exactly like that. This is important since you don’t want to have to deal with mapping every time.

Ctrl + U – saves user pref

Ctrl + Alt + U – open user preferences

The first SFQ to take care of is my theme. I don’t download themes from other places because then I’d have to link them but the defaults that come with Blender suffice. I am also using the one from Steam so your themes may differ. Just go in user preferences and change it. Its refreshing to change it from time to time to something that matches your mood or project. It helps me get into the zone.

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While you’re in preferences I also enable the plugins I need and set up Cycles to use my GPU under cycles but thats beyond the scope of this post. However I do want to point out some useful things that might be worth pointing out.

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In the 3d view of user prefs there is an area where you can adjust the size of vertices and outlines. In certain cases where the geo isn’t very dense I like the larger verts. Just something worth checking out sometime if you haven’t.

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Enabling region overlap allows the T and N panels to be transparent. This is also handy for being able to close and open the panels without interrupting view-port renders plus it looks futuristic!

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Strangely enough. I also like setting my smooth view up high like 800 so the transitions from the numpad keys are gradual. Also the numpad period focus (.) is also more graceful. These things are cosmetic but it makes Blender feel more tactile to use.

Now at this point I also want to discuss quick prefs. This is an add on that you can get here.

https://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Extensions:2.6/Py/Scripts/3D_interaction/QuickPrefs

Once installed and enabled you can use this to change the default viewport shading. Personally I find this to be one of the most essential cosmetic changes I do to Blender.

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Between the default and the Dark Grey the way the forms are being presented are much different. As strange as it sounds, I feel this improved the quality of my modelling immensely just due to the fact the initial presentation of default shaded meshes might not be the most efficient for someone like me.

If your thought is, “Why not matcaps?” Well. Do that. But I prefer the feeling of the Dark Grey. So this is turned on by default and set as my default scene so now we are almost set.

The next changes are strictly for those who model with this sort of workflow and may not be efficient or handy for everyone.

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Select boundary loop is remapped to shift + ` in edit mode. This allows me to make quick selections and then get the border only. Its very quick for panel related things.

The other is mapping the mark sharp and clear sharp to alt + and shift + alt +.

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This is more of a preference however I find it useful in some situations not as many now that Hard Ops exists.

I try not to stray from the defaults too bad in case I have to use another PC or my settings are lost. So theres also pie menus you can enable to make life easier but so much additional workflow changes at once can make Blender feel alien.

Another thing is on layer 0 of my default scene is a material sphere.

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It contains materials for the blocking in phases of modelling you often see in my videos. When it comes to texturing I lean more towards PBR in my current work however having some basic materials can make quick modelling session alot easier. I gathered my materials from various sites like Blendswap and the B-wide Node collection.

http://www.blendswap.com/blends/search?keywords=materials&is_fan_art=1&blend_license=&render_engine=&sort=downloads&direction=desc

https://bwide.wordpress.com/node-groups/bwide-nodepack-for-blender/

I must also stress that having too much clutter in your default scene will make life harder so don’t go bananas gathering materials and building the hugest set of unusable materials on earth. Find those that work for you. Fine tune them tweak them and make them work for you. Alot of the materials I have I customize a small amount but collecting them is part of the fun. I’m sure everyone has better solutions for this as well however on my end speed is the game so I try to keep  it all flowing.

For PBR folks.

https://matthieubarbie.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/pbr_shader-1-75-for-blender-2-73-documentation/

http://www.quixel.se/content/blender/QuixelShader.zip

 

I hope this clears up some things about my default scene and helps you to use Blender more efficiently to your needs.

If you need more help with fundamentals or getting started, I did a free course! Blending away the pain!

https://gumroad.com/l/blendingawaythepain#

In that I go over everything I can from basic modelling / rigging to compositing. It’s just a fun trip around the program!

Also the beloved. Blender Basics Recap!

In my personal work I am moving into mocap with the Kinnect One and Pro Body 2!

Pro Body 2 – Download Trial / Buy

If you try it get the Xbox One Kinnect and an adapter not the one for Windows!

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Blender/3d: Custom Normals

In this blog post I wanted to go over custom normals for hard surface creation. I plan on keeping it short but still I find this essential nonetheless. Custom normals exist in most applications and is essential. Maya users are familiar with the process of hardening edges and softening them in addition to locking them down. For this quick post I wanted to discuss ways in Blender to get smooth shading without all the fuss of horrible looking edges or exact tweaking.

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The first image above shows the mesh on flat shading without any smoothing. While it looks moderately acceptable, for the baking it will show unwanted faceting and make the normal/height show stair stepping that would be undesirable for the final result. When I click set smooth all my problems come to light and show the roughness of my workflow of booling insane amounts of shapes into a planar form.

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Funny enough. Before custom normals were added I used to fight with this so much and would use the split edges modifier to make life easier. This also increased the vert count substantially and made the mesh denser than the process of making it which was also a bad thing.

In the object tab there is a normals tab where you can check auto smooth and set an angle as well as turn on double sided (which isn’t needed). The default angle is 180 which isn’t going to show any difference however once you lower it down to either 30 or 60 the normals begin to look much better.

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The final mesh is now ready to be exported / baked or whatever I plan to. To set manual edges you can press ctrl + e >> mark sharp. This will sharpen the edge similar to how Maya has Normals >> harden edge. I use that as well for shapes I boolean into other shapes and the amazing part is the sharp edges translate well into the subsequent object along with vertex paint, materials and even UVs.

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But that is all for this tutorial on custom normals. I hope this helps you in your hard surface endeavors. Also be sure to check out my latest tutorial about modelling sci-fi floor pieces using the mesh subtraction kit.

I’ll leave you with one more image showing the process on a basic cylinder to help drive the point home.

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For being cool enough to read my blog I would like to also throw in a free floor! You can check it out and see the custom normal smoothing in action! Thanks again!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/rslorvtw9xnl1am/FreebieFloor.blend?dl=0

Also… the default cube of the future.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/3032558

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