What is Blender?
Importing a Model With Textures
Hotkey Crash Course
What is Blender?
Blender is an open source 3D graphics software suite that encompasses everything from modeling to procedural texturing and animation.
Most importantly, it’s completely free and you’ll find a wealth of tutorials and sources to get started. Some of the best tutorial series and channels are listed below.
Blender’s interface is complex and tricky – but the software offers a lot of advantages:
- Shortcuts improve your workflow. There are thousands of shortcuts but the most important ones are learned easily and standardised across the software.
- Simulations like cloth and collision simulation make it easy to create realistic clothing and cloth materials.
- Being open source, you’ll find a host of free (and paid) addons that improve your workflow and supercharge Blender’s impressive list of features.
- Updates are released frequently. Every update improves usability, QoL, and adds new features.
If you’re new to the 3D pipeline, the best advice I can give is not to get disheartened. There’s a steep initial learning curve and a lot of concepts to digest – sometimes, the software seems hell-bent on making your life hard. It’s the same no matter what 3D graphics software you’re using. In this chapter I’ve done my best to highlight common headaches and pitfalls so that you can avoid them.
Download Blender and install the software. Once that’s done, head over to Github and pick up Kindrad’s I/O plugin. The plugin works with newer versions of Blender, fixes bugs in LoFi’s original Blender plugin, and adds new QoL features. You’ll find installation instructions for the I/O plugin on the Github page.
You can also pick up Blender from Steam. However, it’s worth downloading directly from Blender’s website because the Steam version auto updates and has a tendency to remove your installed addons and preferences.
Optionally, once you’ve installed the software and I/O plugin, modify your preferences to display some extra information in the status bar.
This will show some important information going forward. Namely, how much memory and VRAM your projects are using, and the tri and poly counts of your scenes.
Verts (“vertices”) are the number of 1-dimensional dots that connect to form the lines and faces that make up a 3D object. Tris are the number of triangles in each – video game engines use tris to represent 3D objects because a triangle is guaranteed to be flat in 3D space and they’re the simplest method of rendering a three-dimensional surface. Your meshes will triangulate when you export them, so you don’t need to worry. In general, you’ll do most of your modeling with quads, (four-sided polygons).
Unless you’re short on RAM, it’s also advisable to increase the number of undo steps. This increases Blender’s (potential) RAM usage but it’ll make your life easier as anything you do – including selecting and de-selecting objects, “counts” as a step and it’s nice to be able to undo a bad decision you made a while back.
Changing Your Startup File
Select Blender’s default cube, camera, and light and hit X and select delete. Then navigate to:
File > Defaults > Save Startup File
This will remove Blender’s pesky default scene for the future.
Here’s a handy tutorial video from Blender Foundation that covers the basic interface layout.
For the purposes of Kenshi, the most important tabs you’ll need are the layout, modeling, and UV editing tabs, as well as the sculpting tab if you’d like to sculpt high poly models before retopologising them and the animation tab if you’re creating new animations.
- Layout is a multipurpose tab that works well for most situations.
- Modeling removes the lower panel, giving you more space to look at your scene.
- Scultpting removes the lower panel and overlays to allow you to focus on the shape of a sculpt.
- UV editing splits your interface, allowing you to see a UV map on the left.
- Animation splits your interface, showing you your scene without overlays. It’s handy to view an animation in context while you’re working on it.
The image above shows what’s most important in your scene.
The toolbar on the left changes contextually based on the mode you’re in. Selection mode and transform tools are available in both Object and Edit mode. Other tools are contextual, like various sculpting techniques, extruding faces, and so on. We’ll cover those later on.
Your transform type is how you’re manipulating objects, faces, vertices, and so on. What does it transform (i.e. “move”) in relation to? Is it in relation to its global position (“Global”), your camera (“View”), or something else?
Pivot point is… the same, but different. A pivot point is a specific point in relation to which a given object moves. Usually, you’ll leave it on median point, though in some cases you’ll need to change it. For instance, you might need to use Individual origins if you’re scaling multiple parts of a mesh but want to scale each individually, like this:
Next is the Snapping tool. You’ll want it to align things with other things – faces, vertices, lines, and groups of them can be snapped to other faces, vertices, and lines.
Hotkey: Shift + TAB
The proportional editing tool lets you edit elements around your selection with a falloff. Proportional editing can be very useful when you’re making minor edits and “dragging” parts of a mesh around to fit. It’s handy for fixing minor clipping issues.
Display mode allows you to change between the wireframe, solid, material preview, and rendered modes. Next to it you’ll find an arrow with a dropdown menu containing some useful tools.
Let’s look at snapping, proportional editing, and display modes real quick. Note the “random” colour setting at the end, which colourises separate objects randomly. This is handy when you have many objects in a scene as it helps you to tell them apart.
Importing a Vanilla Model With Textures
Let’s get used to the interface by importing something to look at. To import a file, we’ll need to first identify it in FCS. I’m going to use the Assassin’s Rags as a reference file.
We’ll set up the textures in a moment. First, let’s get the mesh inside Blender. It’s comprised of the mesh object and a skeleton. The skeleton is how the mesh knows to deform. By changing the skeleton properties and applying the skeleton modifier, I can then edit the mesh with its new deforms.
To set up the textures, I’m first going to ditch the alpha channel of the texture itself. The alpha channel contains gloss information (inverted roughness) which we’ll learn about later. For now, all I want is the base colour and normal map. Once that’s done I can set up the texture with Blender’s Shader editor.
There we go. Some armour with materials. Try importing a vanilla Kenshi mesh and its textures and messing around with the shortcuts listed below. If you’re feeling totally lost, check out the further reading section at the end of this introduction.
The Blender Shortcut Crash Course
There are loads of shortcuts to remember in Blender – but these are some of the most important to master. Try them out and get a feel for them and you’ll have them committed to memory in no time.
The most important two shortcuts are Q and F3. Q allows you to access your quick favourites – commands you can save by right-clicking on any other command. F3 brings up a quick search tab for pesky hidden functions you might need.
Middle Mouse – Pan Camera
Shift + Middle Mouse – Move Camera
Mouse Wheel – Zoom
Shift + A – Add Object
Num , – Centre Camera On Current Object
Num 1 – Front View
Num 3 – Side View
Num 7 – Top View
Num 9 – Flip View 180°
X – Delete
G – Grab
R – Rotate
E – Extrude
S – Scale
I – Inset
Ctrl + B – Bevel
G/R/S/… + X/Y/Z – Lock Command To X/Y/Z Axis
G/R/S/… + Shift + X/Y/Z – Lock Command To Inverse Of Selected Axis
Alt + J – Untriangulate
Ctrl + R – Make Edge Loop
Ctrl + J – Join Objects
Ctrl + P – Parent Object
M – Merge Vertices (Edit Mode)
M – Add Object To Collection (Object Mode)
P – Separate To New Object
TAB – Switch Edit/Object Mode
A – Select All
L – Select Linked
Ctrl + I – Invert Selection
H – Hide Selected
Alt + H – Unhide Selected
Alt + N – Face Normals Menu
Recommended Blender Addons
Free* Blender Addons
Edge Flow – Better Edge Loops
Holt Tools – Helpful Little Toolbar For Common Functions
KitOps2 – Kitbashing Addon Kit
Machin3tools – Variety of Tools and Pie Menus
ND – Non-Destructive Modeling Toolkit
UV Packer – Optimised Automatic UV Packing
*Free or almost free, i.e. nominal $1-$2 fee.
Paid Blender Addons
Adjust Vertex Weights ($7) – Adjust Individual Vertex Weights By Hand
Box Cutter ($20) – Great at Cutting Holes and Shapes Out of Objects
Conform Object ($10) – Easily Projects Objects Onto Other Surfaces
Fluent ($29) – Great & Easy Hardsurface Toolset
Mesh Machine ($40) – General Optimal Workflow Toolkit & Great For Hardsurface Modeling
Below are video tutorials and sites that make for great learning resources. You’ll find more recommended resources on each page depending on relevance. Remember to check out each video’s channel as well – the content creators know what they’re doing and their materials are succinct and easy to follow.
YT Channel: Blender
An introductory course around all the Blender basics, by Blender. Can’t go wrong with it.
Blender Studio Tutorials
A great set of tutorials made by the Blender stuio team. Some are free, other courses (including assets) can be accessed for a monthly fee if you feel they’re worth your money. These courses are easy to grasp but have great depth from industry professionals.
6 Principles of 3D Modeling
YT Channel: CG Cookie
Bitesize and abstract, this is a quick video that’s handy to return to when you need a refresher on the philosophy of 3D.
Model Anything in 3D
YT Channel: FlippedNormals
Shows some of the fundamentals of working with simple shapes. Start small.
Make a Donut
YT Chanell: Blender Guru
There’s some obligatory joke somewhere in 3D that everybody should make a donut first. Sounds stupid – and this course will eat up a few hours – but this takes you through the whole 3D rendering pipeline and covers a lot of ground. The creator takes it slow and explains concepts in terms that are easy to understand while allowing you room to breathe. Give this course a shot if you have a weekend free and you’ll be up to speed in no time.
Pro tip: When you’re working through tutorial courses (if you have the time), try “speed running” through the course a second time once you’re done – but without the course materials. You’ll help solidify what you’ve learned, make mistakes, find your knowledge gaps, and know where to find the steps you’ve forgotten along the way.