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3D Printing | Blender – Navigation & UI

The following information provides information and instruction for the Blender 3D modeling software.

What is Blender?

Blender is a 3D modeling software that both casual and professional users can take advantage of to make 3D models for 3D printing, game development, special effects, and much more. Blender is free to use and was released as an open-source program by the Blender Foundation. Because of it’s power, wealth of features, and nonexistent price, Blender remains as one of the most recommended programs in the community.

Button Acronyms
  • LMB – Left Mouse Button
  • RMB – Right Mouse Button
  • MMB – Middle Mouse Button (Click the Scroll Wheel)
  • CTRL – Control
  • N# – Numpad Number (ex. N7 is the 7 on the number pad)

These Guides have been written with a full keyboard with the number pad and a mouse. Blender does support a touchpad and number pad emulation, however those are not included in this guide.

This guide was written for Blender 3.0.0. However, future versions should be compatible, so try to not panic if your UI doesn’t look exactly like ours.

Introduction

There’s a lot of information buried in these guides. Don’t feel like you need to read and fully comprehend this entire guide to continue with your Blender learning. It’s advised to read through Basic Navigation. After that, you can reference this guide when you feel like you need to.

Basic Navigation

For new users, moving around in three dimensional space on a two dimensional monitor can be quite a challenge. Feel free to spend some time getting use to basic navigation and becoming familiar with how to manipulate the Viewport.

Rotate

You can press and hold the MMB to Rotate the Viewport

Panning

You can press and hold Shift then MMB to Pan the Viewport

Zoom

Zoom in and out by using the Scroll Wheel on your mouse.

Numpad Controls

Blender has a few preset views so you can look at your scene from straight on from one of the axis.

Here’s a list of each view and their associated button:
N3 – Front View
N1 – Side View
N7 – Top View

Some other buttons on the numpad include:
N4 – Nudge Camera Left
N6 – Nudge Camera Right
N8 – Nudge Camera Up
N2 – Nudge Camera Down
N5 – Switch between Perspective/Orthographic Views
N9 – Rotate View 180°

Success! At this point you should be familiar with manipulating the Viewport.

User Interface

Viewport

The Viewport is going to be where you spend most of your time. It’s how you see what you’re working on. However, it’s important to note that the viewport isn’t the camera. Your camera is what you’ll see when you render your project, and cameras act as unique objects inside Blender.

Selecting Objects

Selecting Single Objects

You can simply press LMB on the desired selection.

Selecting Multiple Objects

To select multiple objects, you can either hold SHIFT and press LMB on whichever objects you want to select.

Alternatively, you can click and hold LMB to box select multiple objects

Notice that one object is a brighter ORANGE.

This indicates the primary selection. If you attempt to select an object that’s already selected but isn’t your primary selection, it will instead become your primary selection. To unselect it, just select is once it’s become your primary selection.

The primary selection is an important concept to understand. It will come up again in a variety of situations in the future.

Selecting/Deselecting All Objects

You can also quickly use hotkeys to:
Select All : Press A
Deselect All : Double Click A

Make sure you’re pressing A quickly or else you’ll just select all twice!

From here on out, you’ll notice that a lot of hotkeys and buttons remain consistent throughout the different levels inside Blender.

Object Outliner

The Object Outliner is where you can find all the different objects in your Scene.

LMB can be used to select a single object.
CTRL + LMB can be used to select multiple objects.

You can also Double Click LMB to Rename Objects.

Alternatively, to select multiple objects you can:
Press LMB + Drag to box select
Select a single object, then SHIFT + LMB to select all objects between your two clicks

Collections

Collections act as folders of your Scene. By creating collections you can group your objects together to make managing large scenes easier.

Creating Collections

There are a few different ways to create and move objects into collections.

Press RMB in an empty spot on the outliner, and you can select New Collection or Press N to create a collection.

From there, you can Double Click LMB to rename your collection.

Careful! Make sure you’re clicking on empty space or else you’ll see a different menu,

Moving Objects to Collections

To move select objects, you can Press LMB and drag them into the new collection.

Alternatively, with objects selected, you can Press M for Move. A menu will appear that will allow you to select the Collection to move it to, or you can create a new one.

Deleting Collections

You can Press RMB to bring up a context menu for the Collection. From there, you can Press “Delete” to delete the collection.

Alternatively, you can select the Collection and Press X.

Note that Deleting the Collection does not Delete what’s inside the Collection.
To do this, select “Delete Hierarchy“, or Click RMB then Press H for Hierarchy,

If you’re astute, you might have noticed that Objects have the same Arrow symbol that Collections have. That’s because Objects themselves are a special type of collection. They contain mesh data, material data, bone data, and more. However, you probably aren’t going to have to worry about that for a while.

Properties

Visibility

The Eyeball and Camera icons are used to change object visibility, either in the Viewport or the Rendered Camera view.

Press LMB on the Eye to Disable Seeing Objects in the Viewport.
Pressing LMB on the Camera will disable seeing the object in Rendered view.

This is how you Hide objects. We’ll revisit hiding objects and unhiding objects in the future.

Object Properties

The Properties window is arguably one of the most important windows in Blender. It’s chock full of tabs that are all very important for different parts of the modeling process. But the amount of tabs can seem quite intimidating. Here you’ll find a breakdown of each tab with a quick rundown of what each tab is fore.

Active Tool and Workspace Setting

The Active Tool and Workspace settings will have some minor settings.

Outside of Sculpting, this tab is rarely used.

Render Settings

This tab hides the settings for the final Render of your project. By default, Blender has 3 Render Engines built in. You can find these under the Render Engine dropdown.

Workbench: This engine is used for fast renders, but it’s not intended to be used for final renders. This render has it’s uses, but you’ll want to stick with the other two for now

Eevee: This engine is intended to be used for Realtime Rendering of PBR (Photo-Based-Realism) scenes. It’s a very fast engine, but it’s not the most realistic.

Cycles: This engine is a powerful engine made for PBR rendering. Cycles is the go-to engine for realism, however it requires a stronger computer and requires longer times to render.

Output Properties

This tab contains some important settings for how your final file will output.

Format: This is where you can change the aspect ratio and resolution of your final render. It’s also where you can adjust the Frame Rate.

Frame Range: If you’re making an animation of a video, this is where you can control the exact start and stop time of your render.

Output: This is where you control the location that your file will be saved to and what format it will be. The default location is in a temporary folder called /tmp\ that will be deleted after you turn off your computer. It’s also important to set your render to a video like an mp4 or a png/jpeg depending on what your goal is.

View Layer Properties

In this menu, you can control what get’s rendered in your final shot. This can be used to render scenes in multiple passes for different effects or for different technical reasons.

This tab rarely gets used.

Scene Properties

This tab can be used to control different parameters in your scene. It can also be used to change the unit of measurement if you plan on modeling things to scale.

Modeling things to scale will save you a lot of headache when trying to add lighting to scenes in the future.

This tab also rarely gets used.

World Properties

The World Settings tab gives you some pretty important settings for both renders and just modeling.

Surface: This is actually lighting for the world.

Volume: This is where you can add volumetric lighting on a world level. This includes things like Fog and Mist. However, it’s not the recommended way to add those effects due to the excessive amount of processing required.

Viewport Display: This is where you can change the color you see as the background in the viewport.

Custom Properties: This allows you to add some world-level variables for a variety of different purposes. This is another rarely used feature.

Surface

To view the preview of your scene, go to your Viewport and Press and Hold Z to open up a radial menu and hover over Rendered and release Z to accept.

We’re using the Cycles render engine for this example.

World Color

From there, you can click the grey box next to Color to bring up a Color Wheel. You can also click LMB and drag it on Strength to make the lighting brighter.

HDRIs

An HDRI is an environment texture. Imagine shining a light on your scene, and the lightbulb has a scene painted on it. It allows you to get some very realistic lighting in your scenes. A lot of HDRIs can be downloaded for free at https://polyhaven.com/hdris.

Click the yellow button that says Color and select Environment Texture from the dropdown. Your scene will turn pink until you load a texture.

From there, select the Open button and select your desired HDRI.

Note: Your chosen Environment will appear in your final render. However you can disable this feature:

In Cycles you can open the tab called Ray Visibility and turn off the checkbox next to Camera.

Eevee has a slightly more involved process.

Navigate back to the Render tab. Under a tab called Film you can find a checkbox called Transparent. Enable it, and the HDRI will vanish.

Note: This is not how you enable transparent textures in Eevee for objects like Glass.

Now you should have a good understanding of the settings you’ll find in the World Properties tab.

You may have also noticed the giant blue button saying Use Nodes. Clicking this button allows you to make a material using Blenders powerful procedural Node system. But the Node system is vast and very powerful so it will be explained in further detail in another guide.

Properties Continued

Collection Properties

This tab has some settings specific to Collections. These are another batch of settings you might never use.

Object Properties

Similar to Collection Properties, the Object Properties tab has a bunch of really useful settings that are very specific in their use case and are rarely used.

Transform Tab

This tab hides some very important information. The first of these is the Location and Rotation values for your object. You can adjust these values to fine tune the location and rotation of your objects.

It also hides the scale values of your object.

If you ever notice some weird things happening to your model, check that the Scale values are all set to 1. This is a common problem that a lot of new users will struggle with.

If these values are so important, then why is the Object Tab considered so unimportant? Well, from the Viewport you can Press N to open up the Properties tab.

The Properties tab gives us access to the most important parts of the Transform tab without constantly needing to switch tabs.

It also contains smaller tabs for other tabs like the Tool tab, and certain Add-Ons might make use of this space.

Modifier Properties

Modifiers are one of the most important concepts in Blender, and they will be explained in further detail in another guide.

While this tab is initially empty, it will quickly fill with different Modifiers attached to the selected object. Modifiers are Non-Destructive changes you can add to your object. Each Modifier does one specific job and learning what each of these Modifiers does will be a large chunk of your education.

Destructive vs Non-Destructive Modeling:
Destructive Modeling is a permanent change to your model. Think of Destructive Modeling like working with Clay. If you’re working with Clay, and you decide you don’t like something about a model, you have to re-sculpt a large portion of it.
Non-Destructive Modeling:
This type of modeling is closer to working with Legos. While building a Lego set, if you decide you don’t like a very small part of it, it’s very easy to pull the piece you don’t like out without changing the rest of the model.

Example:
If you have an Orange, placing a piece of tape on the Orange would be considered Non-Destructive Modeling, because the tape can, at any time, be removed, moved, or rotated on the Orange. Alternatively, cutting the Orange in half with a Knife would be Destructive Modeling, as it would be extremely difficult to undo that change.

Modifiers are Non-Destructive because they can be changed or removed at any time. Then once they need to, a Modifier is Applied to the model, making the changes permanent and Destructive.

By clicking Add Modifier you can see every Modifier Blender supports. They are broken up into 4 groups.\

Modify: These are Advanced Modifiers that will not be explained in this guide.

Generate: These are some of the most common Modifiers you’ll use. They include modifiers that create or Generate new Geometry.

Deform: These Modifiers are all about changing or Deforming your model.

Physics: As the name implies, these Modifiers are all about adding Physics to your model.

There are a lot of different Modifiers, feel free to play around with them and figure a few of them out. Array and Bevel are pretty easy to comprehend.

Particle Properties

Particle Systems are randomly generated systems in Blender that allow you to add Particle Effects to your scene or model. This includes things like small embers blowing away from a fire, a group of moths hovering around a lamp, swirling light emanating from your character, and even the hair on a character’s head.

Particle Systems are actually a Modifier, however, they’re very complex and needed their own tab for all of the settings.

Particle Systems are pretty complex and we won’t be covering them in-depth in this guide.

However, feel free to play around with the systems to see if you can get an idea of how they work.

Physics Properties

Similar to Particle Systems, the Physics tab contains easy access to all the physics Modifiers. Also similar to Particle Systems, they won’t be covered in this guide.

Object Constraint Properties

Object Constraints allow you to constrain or limit objects in a variety of different ways. In the example image, the cube is constrained to only move in the Z-axis.

Object Data Properties

This is another tab that has a lot of Advanced features that won’t usually be used. However, Auto-Smooth Normals is something that will be used frequently.

To Enable Auto-Smooth Normals, go into the Object Data Properties tab and open the Normals menu. Finally, tick on Auto-Smooth Normals.

Normals are also a very important concept to 3D modeling. While we’ll go into Normals in more detail later, just know what a Normal essential tells your object which way to reflect light.

Material Properties

This tab allows you to give your object different textures. However, despite how useful that sounds, not a lot of time will be spent in this tab. More information on Object Materials and Texturing can be found in another guide.

Texture Properties

The final tab under the Properties window is the Texture Properties. This tab is used for loading in images for Blender. These images can be used for Textures, Brushes, Heat Maps, and many other features.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve made it this far. There’s a lot to know about the Properties window, and having a basic understanding of where different tools can be found will be instrumental for your modeling future.

Timeline

The Timeline resides at the bottom of the Viewport. From here, you can control what Frame of the animation you’re looking at, along with the Start Frame and End Frame of the animation.

You can Press Space to Pause/Play the Animation, along with using SHIFT+Right Arrow or SHIFT+Left Arrow to go to the Start Frame or End Frame respectively.

User Interface Customization

Now that you’ve spent a chunk of time learning where every panel is located, it’s time for the bombshell. Every single window in Blender is fully modular and can be moved or adjusted to any location you want it to be.

Changing Windows

To change any window, find the small Window button, click it, and select the window you would like it to become.

The button will always be located on the Top-Left Corner of the respective Window.

Resizing Windows

Any Window can be resized. Hold your mouse near the edge of the two windows until it it shows a double sided mouse. From there, click and drag the window to the size that you want.

Creating New Windows

To Create a Window, find the rounded corner of another window, and your cursor will turn into a small crosshair. From there, quickly click and drag out your new window.

Collapsing Windows

To Collapse a Window, go to the boundary of the Windows like you were about to resize them, but instead, Right Click and click Join Areas, from there, move the mouse to the Window you’d like to close, and Left Click to confirm.

Workspaces

Blender comes with a lot of useful Preset Layouts or Workspaces for the different Workflows that you might find yourself performing. Each of the Workspace can be found above the Viewport.

Making Your Own Workspace

To Save your Layout, you can click the + at the end of the Workspaces and select Duplicate Current. From there you can double click your Workspace to rename it.

Workspaces made like this are not permanent and will have to be created in new files.

Conclusion

At this point you’ve gotten to the end of this guide. You should hopefully be familiar with the UI of Blender and different ways you can customize it on your own. From here, you can continue on to our next tutorial where you can find our walkthrough on how to model your first 3D object.

Please rate this guide and give us comments for how we can improve it in the future.

Thank You.

Updated on December 1, 2022

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