How Blender works, and what it can be used for? This is something that people who don't know 3d software will often ask.
Blender can be used for different purposes, from 3d modeling to the creation of animated films, and it has a growing popularity, having dozens of tutorials available to learn how to use this powerful software.
Getting so many updates over time, which is great, also raises little peculiarities when reading step-by-step tutorials. If you use a modern Blender version, which you should, most of the time, try to search for guides using Blender 2.8 or later.
Blender 2.8 introduced changes on certain shortcuts and operations, this can be confusing when looking at an old tutorial, but you get used to it after some time!
Modeling in Blender
Blender is a powerful modeling tool, it has an easy-going edit mode, and also allows you to sculpt meshes, having different primitives that can be used to speed up the modeling process when appropriate.
Blender is free, but that doesn't mean that what you can achieve modeling with Blender is limited. Beautiful creations can be done with the software, and the knowledge on the topic is greatly expanded by so many Blender learning resources available.
And if you don't know about the primitives mentioned, take a look at the following video:
YanSculpts is using the curves primitive in a clever way to create customizable hair in Blender, the software has room for creativity when it comes to modeling approaches. If you wanted a less stylized style you could use Blender's particle system or any other way you prefer!
Sculpting is often a completely separate topic from modeling, it can be confusing to know why when you're new to Blender, but it is because modeling using the Edit Mode is completely different than using the Sculpt Mode.
Sculpting in 3d is a different workflow than moving vertices around and subdividing, and Blender greatly supports that!
When choosing sculpting, you often will have to use tools to simplify the topology of your mesh, and "clean" it by reducing the number of vertices, when modeling, the vertices will be at their exact place, as you put them there.
Modifiers, as the name suggests, modify your object in some way.
A modifier could for example:
- Increase your mesh resolution
- Decrease your mesh resolution
- Hide a part of your mesh
- Mirror an axis, for example, mirroring the half of the body of a character, so you only have to model one half
- Add thickness to a mesh
And so on! Blender has an extensive list of useful modifiers that can speed up your workflow.
The above video uses modifiers to create a stair! Why you would model the entire stair?
Blender and simulation
Blender has a decent simulation for several of your needs, it can handle smoke and fire, fluids, hair, cloth, rigid bodies, and particles.
In a few words, simulations can help speed up the "modeling" of behaviors that follow some certain pattern.
For example, if you modeled a human character, and you want a quick way to add clothes to this character without having to deal with modeling it frame by frame. You can use cloth simulation to run the animation of your character wearing the specified clothes.
Of course, that being an example that can help you to understand what I am talking about!
You could also have fluids for example, how are you going to model water falling from a bottle? Doesn't it sound unbelievable difficult?
The simulations help you to achieve expected results for certain behaviors.
Blender and animation
Okay, so this Blender thing can model, simulate, what else could it do? Movies can be created using Blender!
I will tell you that there is room for discussion here, hopefully, more productions will be done using Blender, although Blender can be used for animated movies, the industry sadly uses other software.
Next Gen, for example, is a beautiful animated movie made using Blender, and there are more!
Everyone gains when more people start using Blender, it means more investment into it, a very accessible software gains more power!
Nonetheless, if you aren't part of the big film industry, do not worry, Blender is very powerful for you as well, as mentioned before, it has tons of learning resources and it can achieve almost anything!
Blender and rendering
To handle animations, you have to... render.
If you play or played games before, you may notice that the graphics improve as the years advance, and you may already know that one of the factors that contribute to that, is that the hardware of computers and consoles also advance.
Why the hardware limits the graphics quality of a game?
We almost always "simulate" graphics, the light bouncing through objects and objects a limited amount of time to achieve good visual quality.
There is a lot more than that, and I am not a specialist!
But what I am saying is: a game has a limited amount of time to render a scene, so its simulations are limited.
To be able to run in 60 FPS, a game has to do everything in equal or under 16.66 milliseconds! Not only the rendering but everything that also uses the CPU.
But when rendering in Blender... we can render as long as we want!
So although we technically are rendering when modeling in Blender or posing objects around, the real render is when we want to spend as much time as possible to reach a good quality result. That is why we have to render.
Blender has two render engines you can pick: Cycles and Eevee.
Eevee, the cheater
Eevee is a real-time renderer, which means that it can render in real-time, instantly.
"But you just said we can render for long times for better results"
Eevee will attempt to give you a better result, but with the main difference on how it works.
Eevee tries to give you the best result, at the lowest time possible, no matter how.
Cycles, the good boy
Cycles can achieve the best results you can ask for, but that comes with a price: time.
Cycles don't try to "cheat" a lot, it attempts to simulate things on how they are, the light bouncing here and there, calculate this, calculate that.
While Eevee is concerned on give you a good result, Cycles wants to give you the real result.
What is better, Cycles or Eevee?
I would say that they are different tools for different jobs.
Sometimes you will want to use Cycles, and sometimes it is not a need for your project, or you simply don't want to wait its long renders, so you go for Eevee.
The thing is, we have both.
The bottom line
There is much much more to Blender than this basic overview.
The goal of this article is to simply talk about some of Blender's features, as software with many different uses, confusion can be created when you hear about it on the internet, without knowing much about it.
Let me know if you have any feedback on the article, or if something is wrong or could be worded better!