Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

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by Michelangelo Manrique | March 2011 | Open Source Web Graphics & Video

Blender is an open source software for artists that also covers education, research and development, universities, and more.

To create models in Blender, you must deal with the 3D View Editor area working and its editing operators. Blender has powerful editing operators, but in this article by Michelangelo Manrique, the author will cover in detail those that help you in the very first moment, making a fast review of the others though. The use of very high-level complex editing operators will be a learning that you will discover once you try and practice modeling with exercises.

 

Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook

Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook

Over 80 great recipes to create life-like Blender objects

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Blender, see here.)

For editing task, 3D View has some features to help you in your work. These commands are easily executable from the Object/Mesh operators panel (T Key with mouse cursor over 3D View Editor). Here you have some different options depending if you are in Object Mode or Edit Mode.

You can work according to different Modes in Blender (Object Mode, Edit Mode, Sculpt Mode, Pose Mode, etc) and accordingly you will be able to deal with different properties and operators. For modeling, you will use Edit Mode and Object Mode. (See illustration 1)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 1: The Mode Menu
Changing Mode in Blender modifies your workflow and offers you different options/properties according to the chosen mode.

Differences between Object and Edit Mode

To understand the differences between Object and Edit Mode easily, I'll make a comparison. In Blender, an Object is the physical representation of anything, and Mesh is the material that it is made up of. If you have got a plasticine puppet over the table, and if you see it, move it, and bring it to trash, then your puppet is in Object Mode. If you want to modify it by stretching its legs, adding more plasticine or something similar, then you need to manipulate it. This action is done over the Mesh in Edit Mode in Blender. It is important that you get this idea to understand at every moment the Mode you are working on.

Then, you are in 3D View Editor and Object Mode (by default). If you got the default user scene with a cube, just select the cube (selected by default) with RMB (Right Mouse Button) and delete it with X Key.

The purpose of this article is not to create the whole model, but to introduce to you the operators used for creating it. I will begin by telling you how to start a single model.

Practical Exercise:

Go to the Top view in 3D View Editor by pressing 7 Key in the Numpad. Take care you are not in the Persp view. You could check in the top left corner of the editor. If you are in the “Top Persp” then press 5 Key in the Numpad to go to “Top Ortho”. If you were there from the start, just avoid this step.

We'll add our first plane to the scene. This plane will become our main character at the end. To add this plane just press Shift+A or click on the Add Plane| in the top menu in the Info Editor. (See illustration 2 and 3)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 2: Add Menu. Floating
The Add Object Menu is accessible within 3D View Editor at any moment by pressing Shift+A, resulting in a floating menu.

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 3: Add Menu
The Add Object Menu is also accessible from the Add option within the Info Editor (at the top by default).

Once we select Plane from that menu, we have a plane in our scene, 3D View Editor and Top View. This plane is currently in Object Mode. You can check this in the Mode Menu we have seen before. Now go to Right View by pressing 3 Key in the Numpad, then press R Key to rotate the plane and enter -90. Press Enter after that. Then go to the Front View by pressing 1 Key in the Numpad.

We are now going to apply some very interesting Modifiers to the plane to help us in the modeling stage. We have our first plane in vertical position in Front View and in Object Mode. Press Tab Key to enter the Edit Mode and W Key to Subdivide the plane. A floating menu appears after pressing W Key. This is the Specials Menu with very interesting options there. At the moment Subdivide is the one we are interested in. (See illustration 4)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 4: Specials Menu
Specials Menu helps you in the Editing stage with interesting operators like Subdivide, Merge, Remove Doubles, etc. We will use some of these operators in future steps, so keep an eye on this panel.

Well, back to the model. We have our plane in 3D View Editor, Edit Mode and Subdivide was recently applied. Notice that you will have a plane subdivided into four little planes by default. The amount of subdivision can be modified in the Subdivide panel below Mesh operators (If collapsed, T Key with mouse cursor over 3D View Editor) as we have seen previously. You now have a Subdivide Number of Cuts. To keep the target, we will go with the default one. So then we have a plane subdivided in little ones (four). By default all vertices are selected, to deselect all vertices, press A Key. Now our plane has no vertex selected.

Next step is to set up a Mirror Modifier to help us model just the left mid (right mid for us because we are looking at our model in Front View). With all vertices deselected, press B Key to activate Border Select and make a square selecting left side of the plane with LMB (Left Mouse Button). (See illustration 5)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 5: Border Select
To select or deselect vertex, edges or faces in Edit Mode you could use Border Select (B Key) or Circle Select (C Key). First you need to make a square to select. Second is a circle that can be selected by clicking and dragging like in painting editors. Diameter of Circle Select could be adjusted with MMB (Middle Mouse Button).

With left side of the plane selected, press X Key to delete those vertices. The Delete Menu will then offer to you different options to delete, in our case just vertex option. We now have only the right side of the panel, to which we will apply the Mirror Modifier. For that we must know at this point where to find them. To manage different operators or actions in our objects or meshes, we have the Buttons that will open the right Property Editor, according to our needs. (See illustration 6)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 6: Buttons Selector
Buttons open the right Property Editor.

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(For more resources on Blender, see here.)

Blender has different kinds of buttons according to the data that we are manipulating. In the illustration above we have a few buttons but a few others are missing, such as Armature, Bone, etc. In the illustration above we have namely: Render, Scene, World, Object, Object Constraints, Modifiers, Object Data, Material, Texture, Particles and Physics.

We are going to add a Mirror Modifier, so click on the wrench-like icon and Modifiers Property panel will open. In the Modifiers tab, Add modifier drop down menu, select Mirror under Generate label. As you can see now, our plane is again complete – though not really- we got just the right side, but the mirrored one along the X Axis is also active. All changes that we make on the right side -manipulating vertex, edges or faces- will be cloned on the left side. I'll explain the Mirror modifier right now. (See illustration 7)

Mirror Modifier edits the mirrored side of the mesh and according to that we edit in the editable side only. In other words, if we have enabled the X Axis, all that we do on the right side will be cloned in the left of same axis. Here we can play with X, Y and Z Axis depending on the model that is to be edited and its design. The most important option for us now is Clipping under the Options label. By selecting it we avoid overlapping vertex going along the axis. A basic setup for modeling a main character is to have X Axis, Clipping and Vertex Groups enabled.

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

llustration 7: Mirror Modifier
Mirror modifier applies the mirror action to this axis we have selected in the Modifier Template. If Clipping option is enabled, then overlapping the vertex going along the axis is avoidable.

Once we have our plane with the Mirror Modifier, select all vertices with A Key, then deselect the center vertex with Shift + RMB (Right Mouse Button). With this operation we have selected the external edge of the plane, consisting of 5 vertices and 4 selected edges. You can also do it by using Shift + Alt + RMB (Right Mouse Button). Anyway we have selected the external edge, and we are going to extrude the mesh to continue the work in our model. With external edges selected, go to Right View with 3 Key in Numpad. Press E Key to extrude, Y Key to select Axis (not necessary but useful for pro results), and move the mouse to extrude vertex we have had selected previously. Extrude is really the most used operator in the modeling stage. With it you will complete your model by extruding edges, vertex or regions building your model. (See illustration 8)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 8: Modeling Stage After all past actions you should have something similar to a Cube. This will be the nose of our model.

As you can see, you should have something similar to a Cube. There is other ways to do that, but I consider the one we used here to be very instructive for beginners. Well, this kind of empty Cube will be the nose of our character.

Now we will continue extruding the face of our model a little bit more. For that, we will use operators and key shortcuts we already used. With vertex selected as in Illustration 10, extrude a little bit more in the Y Axis. For that, go to Right View with 3 Key in Numpad, ensure you are in Right Ortho and not Right Persp (switch view with 5 Key in Numpad as you already know). Then, extrude selected vertex/edges in the Y Axis by pressing E Key, Y Key and moving mouse extruding the mesh. Now scale selection by pressing S Key and Z Key, after previous one to scale in the Z Axis by moving mouse. Go to Front View with 1 Key in Numpad and scale in the X Axis. To do this just repeat the last group of actions. Press S Key and X Key this time. (See illustration 9)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 9: Modeling Stage
After all past actions you should have something similar to this picture.

We'll repeat the same operation a couple of times. What we are looking for is to accommodate mesh for representing the face of our model. It's interesting if you have some previous knowledge on art drawings in order to work under some referenced idea. So then, repeat latest step to create something similar to illustration 10. (See illustration 10)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 10: Modeling Stage
After all past actions you should have something similar to this picture.

Now, extrude one more time to get it ready for the mouth. For that, extrude in Y Axis by pressing E Key and Y Axis after that and just scale it this time with S Key. We are making the mesh to accommodate the mouth and the jaw. Check you have something similar to the picture below. (See illustration 11)

Introduction to the Editing Operators in Blender

Illustration 11: Modeling Stage
After all past actions you should have something similar to this picture. Remember this picture is using the Right Ortho View (3 Key).

To continue with the mouth is really important. You have to understand past commands and operators. Modeling complex characters is a challenge for any professional modeler, but simpler ones are also interesting. Complex or simple, models require a clear and strong knowledge of the editing operators, keyboard shortcuts and areas/axis manipulation. The paradigm “Use Blender with one hand in the mouse and the other in the keyboard” is true and I should add “also use Blender listening to your favorite music”... this will help you to concentrate on your work.

Summary

In this article, we took a look at the various editing operators used to create a model in Blender.

In the next article, we will continue to learn more about the editing operators that will help us with our model creation.


Further resources on this subject:


Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook Over 80 great recipes to create life-like Blender objects
Published: January 2011
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Michelangelo Manrique has been always interested in Fine Arts. That made him begin his university studies in the History of Art. He has also worked as a painter and art curator. He likes technology and is involved in coding projects and discovering and learning new programming languages every day.

Michelangelo was introduced to Blender in 2004, and the 3D suite caught his attention with its possibilities and workflow. He is currently a member of the bf-docboard-es, helping in the official wiki translation to the Latin-Spanish community. He is also a Blender Foundation Certified Trainer (one of two in Spain). Nowadays, he is working in his own studio (www.platformmichelangelo.com) developing animation productions, software and offering different courses for Blender learning.

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