[WML-Source: UsingBlender.wml][TOC][Part00]

[chapter]Using Blender

For beginners the Blender user interface can be a little confusing as it is different to other 3D software packages. But persevere! After familiarizing yourself with the basic principles behind the user interface, you'll start to realize just how fast you can work in your scenes and models. Blender is optimized the day-to-day work of an animation studio, where every minute costs money.

[section]The interface

Figure 1: The first start  [images/FirstStart.tga]

The installation of Blender is simple, just unpack and put it in a directory of your chosing. Installation is described in detail in the section "Installation".
After starting Blender you get a screen like shown in figure 1. The big Window is a 3DWindow where your scene and objects are displayed and manipulated.

The smaller window, located below the 3DWindow, is the ButtonsWindow where you can edit the various settings of selected objects, and the scene.


Each window has a Header. Here you can control aspects of the window that contains this header. The Headers are described in detail in the reference section of this manual. Here I will only explain the basic funtions that will allow us to get started on the first tutorial.

[subsection]The Mouse

Blender is designed to be used with two hands: one hand using the keyboard, the other hand the mouse. This prompts me to mention here the 'Golden Rule of Blender':
Keep one hand on your keyboard and one hand on your mouse!
The mouse is particularly important because by using it you can control more than one axis at the same time. As far as possible, in every section and window of Blender, the mouse has the same functionality.

[point]Left Mouse Button (LMB )

With the left mouse button you can activate buttons and set the 3D-Cursor. Often 'click and drag the left button' is used to change values in sliders.

[point]Middle Mouse Button (MMB )

On systems with only two mouse buttons, you can substitute the middle mouse button with the ALT key and the left mouse button
The middle mouse button is used predominantly to navigate in the windows. In the 3DWindow it rotates the view. Together with SHIFT it drags the view, and with CTRL it zooms. While manipulating an object, the middle mouse is also used to constrain a movement to a single axis.

[point]Right Mouse Button (RMB )

The right mouse button selects or activates objects for further manipulation. Objects change color when they are selected. Holding SHIFT while selecting with the right mouse button adds the clicked object to the selection. The last selected object is the active object that is used for the next action. If you SHIFT-RMB an already selected object, it gets the active object. One more click and you can deselect it.

[subsection]ToolBox and menus


In the header of the InfoWindow, normally located on the top of the screen, you will find a menu. It offers you standard operations like File Operations and Changing of Views.


The SPACE -key brings up the Toolbox, a large pop-up menu offers you the most commonly used operations in Blender. The "FILE" entry allows you also to action file operations. Behind every command you will find the associated hotkey.
Use the toolbox to learn the hotkeys in Blender!
The most common file operations in Blender are the loading and saving of scenes. The quickest way to action these common functions is via the hotkeys. F1 offers you a FileWindow to load a scene, F2 a FileWindow to save a scene.

To save a rendered picture, use the F3 -key.


By the same token, however you initiate a file operation, you will always get its appropriate FileWindow.


The main part of a FileWindow is the listing of directories and files. Filetypes known by Blender are allocated a yellow square. A click with the LMB selects a file and puts the name into the filename-input. A RETURN will then load the file. A LMB -click on a directory enters it. A shortcut to load files is the MMB , which quickly loads the file. You can also enter the path and filename by hand in the two inputs at the top of the FileWindow.

With the RMB , you can select more than one. The the selected files are highlighted blue.
The PAD+ and PAD- keys increase and decrease the last number in a filename. This is handy for saving versions while you work.
The button labeled with a "P" at the upper left corner of the FileWindow puts you one directory up in your path. The MenuButton below it offers you the last directories you have visited, as well as your drives in Windows. The button labeled "A/Z" uses an alphabetical sorting, the clock button sorts by filedate, and the next button by the file size. Right of these Buttons there is a piece of text that shows what kind of operation the FileWindow will do, e.g. "LOAD FILE". The next button selects between long (size, permissions, date) and short filenames. The little ghost hides all files beginning with a dot. After that button, you have information about the free space remains on the disk, and how many megabytes big the selected files are.


All Blender screens consist of Windows. The Windows represent data, contain buttons, or request information from the user. You can arrange the Windows in Blender in many ways to customize your working environment.


Every Window has a Header containing Buttons specific for that window or presenting information to the user. As an example, the header of the 3DWindow is shown here.


The left-most Button shows the type of the Window, clicking it pops up a menu to change the Window type.

The next button switches between a full screen and a tiled screen window. The Button featuring a house graphic fills the window to the maximum extent with the information it is displaying.


A RMB -click on the Header pops up a menu asking you to place the Header at the "Top", the "Bottom", or to have "No Header" for that Window.

Click and hold with the MMB on the header, and then drag the mouse to scroll the header in case it doesn´t fit the width of the window.


Every time you place the mouse cursor over the edge of a Blender window, the mouse cursor changes shape. When this happens, the following mouse keys are activated:


Drag the window edge horizontally or vertically while holding down the LMB . The window edge always moves in increments of 4 pixels, making it relatively easy to move two window edges so that they are precisely adjacent to each other, thus joining them is easy.

[point]MMB or RMB

Clicking an edge with MMB or RMB pops up a menu prompting you to "Split Area" or "Join Areas".

"Split Area" lets you choose the exact position for the border. Split always works on the window from which you entered the edge. You can cancel the operation with ESC .

"Join Areas" joins Windows with a shared edge, if possible, which means that joining works only if you don't have to close more than one Window for joining.

[point]The Buttons

Buttons offer the quickest access to DataBlocks. In fact, the buttons visualize a single DataBlock and are grouped as such. Always use a LeftMouse click to call up Buttons. The Buttons are described below:



[point] DataSelect, SHIFT-F4

For browsing the data structure of the scene, and selecting objects from it.

[point] 3DWindow, SHIFT-F5

Main window while working in the 3D-space. Visualizes the scene from orthogonal, perspective, and camera views.

[point] IpoWindow, SHIFT-F6

Creating and manipulating of so called IpoCurves, the animation curve system of Blender.

[point] ButtonWindow, SHIFT-F7

The ButtonWindow contains all the Buttons needed to manipulate every aspect of Blender. A brief overview follows after this section; for a more detailed explanation see the reference section of this manual.

[point] SequenceEditor, SHIFT-F8

Post-processing and combining animations and scenes.

[point] OopsWindow, SHIFT-F9

The OopsWindow (Object Oriented Programming System) gives a schematic overview of the current scene structure.

[point] ImageWindow, SHIFT-F10

With the ImageWindow you can show and assign images to objects. Especially important with UV-texturing.

[point] InfoWindow

The header of the InfoWindow shows useful information, it contains the menus and the scene and screen MenuButtons. The InfoWindow itself contains the options by which you can set your personal preferences.

[point] TextWindow, SHIFT-F11

A simple texteditor, mostly used for writing Python-scripts, but also a useful means by which you can insert comments about your scenes.

[point] ImageSelectWindow

Lets you browse and select images on your disk. Includes thumbnails for preview.

[point] SoundWindow, SHIFT-F12

For the visualization and loading of sounds.



The ButtonsWindow contains the Buttons needed for manipulating objects and changing general aspects of the scene.

The ButtonsHeader contains the icons to switch between the different types of ButtonsWindows.

[point] ViewButtons

The 3DWindow settings for a Window. It only features buttons if selected from a 3DWindow.

[point] LampButtons, F4

The LampButtons will only display when a lamp is selected. Here you can change all of the parameters of a lamp, like its color, energy, type (i.e. Lamp, Spot, Sun, Hemi), the quality of shadows, etc.

[point] MaterialButtons, F5

The MaterialButtons appears when you select an object with a material assigned. With these clutch of Buttons you can control every aspect of the look of the surface.

[point] TextureButtons, F6

These Buttons let you assign Textures to Materials. These Textures include mathematically generated Textures, as well as the more commonly used Image textures.

[point] AnimationButtons, F7

The AnimationButtons are used to control various animation parameters. The right section of the Buttons are used for assigning special animation effects to objects, e.g. particle systems, and wave effects.

[point] RealTimeButtons, F8

These Buttons are part of the real time section of Blender. This manual covers only linear animation.

[point] EditButtons, F9

The EditButtons offer all kinds of possibilities for you to manipulate the objects themselves. The Buttons shown in this window depend on the type of object that is selected.

[point] WorldButtons

Set up global world parameters, like the color of the sky and the horizon, mist settings, and ambient light settings.

[point] Face/PaintButtons

These Buttons are used for coloring objects at vertex level, and for setting texture parameters for the UV-Editor.

[point] RadiosityButtons

The radiosity renderer of Blender.

[point] ScriptButtons

Assigning of Python scripts to world, material, and objects.

[point] DisplayButtons, F10

With the DisplayButtons you can control the quality and output-format of rendered pictures and animations.



Screens are the major frame work of Blender. You can have as many Screens as you like, each one with a different arrangement of Windows. That way you can create a special personal workspace for every task you do. The Screen layout is saved with the Scene so that you can have scene-dependant work spaces. An example of this is to have a Screen for 3D work, another for working with Ipos and, a complete file manager to arrange your files and textures.



Scenes are a way to organize your work. Scenes can share objects, but they can, for example, differ from each other in their rendered resolution or their camera view.

Together with the SequenceEditor, you can then compose videos in much the same way as in a TV-production.

While you are adding a new scene, you have these options:

[subsection]Setting up your personal environment

With the possibilities listed above, you can create your own personal environment. To make this environment a default when Blender starts, or you reset Blender with CTRL-X , use CTRL-U to save it to your home directory.

[section]Navigating in 3D

Blender is a 3D program, so we need to be able to navigate in 3D space. This is a problem because our screens are only 2D. The 3DWindows are in fact "windows" to the 3D world created inside Blender.

[subsection]Using the keyboard to change your view

Place your mouse pointer over the big window on the standard Blender screen. This is a 3DWindow used for showing and manipulating your 3D-worlds.
Remember that the window with the mouse pointer located over it (no click needed) is the active window! This means that only this window will respond to your key presses.
Pressing PAD1 gives you a view from the front of the scene. In the default Blender scene, installed when you first start Blender, you will now be looking at the edge of a plane with the camera positioned in front of it. With holding the SHIFT key, you can get the opposite view, which in this case is the view from the back (SHIFT-PAD1 ).

PAD7 returns you to the view from the top. Now use the PAD+ and PAD- to zoom in and out. PAD3 gives you a side view of the scene.

PAD0 switches to a camera-view of the scene. In the standard scene you only see the edge of the plane because it is at the same hight as the camera.

PAD/ only shows selected objects; all other objects are hidden. PAD. zooms to the extent of the selected objects.

Switch with PAD7 back to a top view, or load the standard scene with CTRL-X . Now, press PAD4 four times, and then PAD2 four times. You are now looking from the left above and down onto the scene. The 'cross' of keys PAD8 , PAD6 , PAD2 and PAD4 are used to rotate the actual view. If you use these keys together with SHIFT , you can drag the view. Pressing PAD5 switches between a perspective view and an orthogonal view.
Use CTRL-X followed by RETURN to get a fresh Blender scene. But remember, this action will discard all changes you have made!

You should now try experiementing a little bit with these keys to get a feel for their operation and function. If you get lost, use CTRL-X followed by RETURN to get yourself back to the default scene.

[subsection]Using the mouse to change your view

The main button for navigating with the mouse in the 3DWindow is the middle mouse button (MMB ). Press and hold the MMB in a 3DWindow, and then drag the mouse. The view is rotated with the movement of your mouse. Try using a perspective view (PAD5 ) while experimenting -- it gives a very realistic impression of 3D.

With the SHIFT key, the above procedure translates the view. With CTRL , it zooms the view.


With the left-most icon, you can switch the window to different window types (e.g. 3DWindow, FileWindow, etc.). The next icon in the line toggles between a full screen representation of the window and its default representation. The icon displaying a house on it zooms the window in such a way that all objects become visible.


Next in the line, including the icon with the lock on it, are the LayerButtons, which we will cover later.


The next icon switches the modes for the local view, and is the mouse alternative for the PAD/ key. With the following icon you can switch between orthogonal, perspective, and camera views (keys PAD5 and PAD0 ).


The next button along toggles between the top, front, and side views. SHIFT selects the opposite view, just as it does when you use the keypad.


This Button switches between different methods of drawing objects. You can choose from a bounding box, a wireframe, a faced, a gouraud-shaded, and a textured view.


With these icons you can translate and zoom the view with a LMB click on the icon and a drag of the mouse.

This overview should provide you with an idea of how to look around in 3D-scenes.

[subsection]Selecting of Objects

Selecting an object is achieved by clicking the object using the right mouse button (RMB ) This operation also deselects all other objects. To extend the selection to more than one object, hold down SHIFT while clicking. Selected objects will change the color to purple in the wireframe view. The last selected object is colored a lighter purple and it is the active object. Operations that are only useful for one object, or need one object as reference, always work with the active object.

Objects can also selected with a `border'. Press BKEY to action this, and then draw a rectangle around the objects. Drawing the rectangle with the LMB selects objects; drawing with RMB deselects them.

[point]Selecting and activating

Blender makes a distinction between selected and active. A single RMB click is sufficient to select and activate an Object. All other Objects (in the visible layers) are then deselected in order to eliminate the risk of key commands causing unintentional changes to those objects. All of the relevant buttons are also drawn anew. Selections can be extended or shrunk using SHIFT+RMB . The last Object selected (or deselected) then becomes the active Object. Use Border Select (BKEY) to more rapidly select a number of Objects at one time. None of the Objects selected using this option will become active.

[subsection]Manipulating Objects

Most actions in Blender involve moving, rotating, or changing the size of certain items. Blender offers a wide range of options for doing this. See the 3DWindow section for a fully comprehensive list. The options are summarized here.


GKEY , Grab mode. Move the mouse to translate the selected items, then press LMB or ENTER or SPACE to assign the new location. Press ESC to cancel. Translation is always corrected for the view in the 3DWindow.

Use the middle mouse toggle to limit translation to the X, Y or Z axis. Blender determines which axis to use, based on the already initiated movement.

RMB and hold-move. This option allows you to select an Object and immediately start Grab mode.


RKEY , Rotation mode. Move the mouse around the rotation center, then press LMB or ENTER or SPACE to assign the rotation. Press ESC to cancel. Rotation is always perpendicular to the view of the 3DWindow.


The center of rotation is determined by use of these buttons in the 3DWindowheader. The left-most button rotates around the center of the bounding box of all selected objects. The next button uses the median points (shown as yellow/purple dots) of the selected objects to find the rotation center. The button with the 3DCursor depicted on it rotates around the 3DCursor. The last Button rotates around the individual centers of the objects.


SKEY , Scaling mode. Move the mouse from the rotation center outwards, then press LMB or ENTER or SPACE to assign the scaling. Use the MiddleMouse toggle to limit scaling to the X, Y or Z axis. Blender determines the appropriate axis based on the direction of the movement.

The center of scaling is determined by the center buttons in the 3DHeader (see the explanation for the rotation).

While in scaling mode, you can mirror the object by pressing XKEY or YKEY to mirror at the x- or y-axis.



To input exact values, you can call up the NumberMenu with NKEY . SHIFT-LMB -click to change the Buttons to an input field and then enter the number.


When you add a new object with the Toolbox, you are in the so-called EditMode. In EditMode, you can change the shape of an Object (e.g. a Mesh, a Curve, or Text) itself by manipulating the individual points (the vertices) which are forming the object. Selecting works with the RMB and the BorderSelect also works to select vertices.

While entering EditMode, Blender makes a copy of the indicated data. The hotkey UKEY here serves as an undo function (more accurately it restores the copied data).

As a reminder that you are in EditMode, the cursor shape changes to that of a cross.

-cw- Last modified: Fri Nov 3 13:11:54 CET 2000