Blender for the Faint Hearted — 06: Material Basics, Part 2

Blender for the Faint Hearted — 06: Material Basics, Part 2 (SciFi Meshes)

I’ve been working with the open source 3D design tool “Blender.” It’s powerful. Very powerful. It’s got an overwhelming number of buttons, and the existing documentation is incomplete.

I have asked Seton Hill to purchase a handful of copies of a professional 3D design tool, but even the student copies of that cost hundreds of dollars, so I’m not asking my New Media Projects students to shell out that much money.

I’ve just spent hours trying to figure out how to create multiple materials that are attached to a single object. Right now I’m working on a chair, and I want the base to be one color and the cushion to be a different color. Actually, “color” isn’t the right term — I want the base to be hard plastic and the cushions to be shiny leather. This means that, instead of just determining the color, I’m also determining the glossiness of the surface. If I wanted to create transparent or reflective objects, I can do that, too.

By clicking buttons at random, I managed to create several different materials for a project I’ve been working on last week, but at the time I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I couldn’t reproduce what I did when I tried just now.

At any rate, this tutorial expalains what I was trying to do.

I’m a strong supporter of open source software. The Blender Foundation is fully aware that people find its software bewildering and its documentation incomplete. The “Summer of Documentation” is a project designed to tackle that — experienced Blender users are writing tutorials to fill the gaps. I’m looking forward to reading those tutorials as they come out, but unfortunately for me I’ve got the time now, and won’t have much time to learn Blender once the semester starts.

I do plan to contribute to the existing wiki documentation, so that others will benefit from my struggle.

I do wish there were an “easy mode” interface that turned off features that newbies won’t need… and then maybe the documentation could tell you which features to activate as you progress through the tutorials and need access to more powerful features. But it’s also probably fair to say that most users of Blender probably have significant computing experience. They won’t be thinking of writing comprehensive tutorials for non-programmers.

Ah, well. Back to work.

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