Building a Simple Boat

August 2014

It's time to get out your hammers, saws, and tape measures, and start building something.

In this article, by Gordon Fisher, the author of Blender 3D Basics Beginner's Guide Second Edition, you're going to put your knowledge of building objects to practical use, as well as your knowledge of using the 3D View to build a boat. It's a simple but good-looking and water-tight craft that has three seats, as shown in the next screenshot.

You will learn about the following topics:

  • Using box modeling to convert a cube into a boat
  • Employing box modeling's power methods, extrusion, and subdividing edges
  • Joining objects together into a single object
  • Adding materials to an object
  • Using a texture for greater detail

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Turning a cube into a boat with box modeling

You are going to turn the default Blender cube into an attractive boat, similar to the one shown in the following screenshot. First, you should know a little bit about boats. The front is called the bow, and is pronounced the same as bowing to the Queen. The rear is called the stern or the aft. The main body of the boat is the hull, and the top of the hull is the gunwale, pronounced gunnel.

You will be using a technique called box modeling to make the boat. Box modeling is a very standard method of modeling. As you might expect from the name, you start out with a box and sculpt it like a piece of clay to make whatever you want. There are three methods that you will use in most of the instances for box modeling: extrusion, subdividing edges, and moving, or translating vertices, edges, and faces.

Using extrusion, the most powerful tool for box modeling

Extrusion is similar to turning dough into noodles, by pushing them through a die.  Blender pushed out the edge and connected it to the old edge with a face. While extruding a face, the face gets pushed out and gets connected to the old edges by new faces.

Time for action – extruding to make the inside of the hull

The first step here is to create an inside for the hull. You will extrude the face without moving it, and shrink it a bit. This will create the basis for the gunwale:

  1. Create a new file and zoom into the default cube.
  2. Select Wireframe from the Viewport Shading menu on the header.
  3. Press the Tab key to go to Edit Mode.
  4. Choose Face Selection mode from the header. It is the orange parallelogram.
  5. Select the top face with the RMB.
  6. Press the E key to extrude the face, then immediately press Enter.
  7. Move the mouse away from the cube. Press the S key to scale the face with the mouse. While you are scaling it, press Shift + Ctrl, and scale it to 0.9. Watch the scaling readout in the 3D View header.

  8. Press the NumPad 1 key to change to the Front view and press the 5 key on the NumPad to change to the Ortho view. Move the cursor to a place a little above the top of the cube.
  9. Press E, and Blender will create a new face and let you now move it up or down. Move it down. When you are close to the bottom, press the Ctrl + Shift buttons, and move it down until the readout on the 3D View header is 1.9. Click the LMB to release the face. It will look like the following screenshot:

What just happened?

You just created a simple hull for your boat. It's going to look better, but at least you got the thickness of the hull established. Pressing the E key extrudes the face, making a new face and sides that connect the new face with the edges used by the old face. You pressed Enter immediately after the E key the first time, so that the new face wouldn't get moved. Then, you scaled it down a little to establish the thickness of the hull. Next, you extruded the face again. As you watched the readout, did you notice that it said D: -1.900 (1.900) normal? When you extrude a face, Blender is automatically set up to move the face along its normal, so that you can move it in or out, and keep it parallel with the original location.

For your reference, the 4909_05_making the hull1.blend file, which has been included in the download pack, has the first extrusion. The 4909_05_making the hull2.blend file has the extrusion moved down. The 4909_05_making the hull3.blend file has the bottom and sides evened out.

Using normals in 3D modeling

What is a normal? The normal is an unseen ray that is perpendicular to a face. This is illustrated in the following image by the red line:

Blender has many uses for the normal:

  • It lets Blender extrude a face and keep the extruded face in the same orientation as the face it was extruded from
  • This also keeps the sides straight and tells Blender in which direction a face is pointing
  • Blender can also use the normal to calculate how much light a particular face receives from a given lamp, and in which direction lights are pointed

    Modeling tip

    If you create a 3D model and it seems perfect except that there is this unexplained hole where a face should have been, you may have a normal that faces backwards. To help you, Blender can display the normals for you.

Time for action – displaying normals

Displaying the normal does not affect the model, but sometimes it can help you in your modeling to see which way your faces are pointing:

  1. Press Ctrl + MMB and use the mouse to zoom out so that you can see the whole cube.
  2. In the 3D View, press N to get the Properties Panel.
  3. Scroll down in the Properties Panel until you get to the Mesh Display subpanel.
  4. Go down to where it says Normals.
  5. There are two buttons like the edge select and face select buttons in the 3D View header. Click on the button with a cube and an orange rhomboid, as outlined in the next screenshot, the Face Select button, to choose selecting the normals of the faces.
  6. Beside the Face Select button, there is a place where you can adjust the displayed size of the normal, as shown in the following screenshot. The displayed normals are the blue lines. Set Normals Size to 0.8. In the following image, I used the cube as it was just before you made the last extrusion so that it displays the normals a little better.

  7. Press the MMB, use the mouse to rotate your view of the cube, and look at the normals.
  8. Click on the Face Select button in the Mesh Display subpanel again to turn off the normals display.

What just happened?

To see the normals, you opened up the Properties Panel and instructed Blender to display them. They are displayed as little blue lines, and you can create them in whatever size that works best for you. Normals, themselves, have no length, just a direction. So, changing this setting does not affect the model. It's there for your use when you need to analyze the problems with the appearance of your model. Once you saw them, you turned them off.

For your reference, the 4909_05_displaying normals.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the cube with the first extrusion, and the normal display turned on.

Planning what you are going to make

It always helps to have an idea in mind of what you want to build. You don't have to get out caliper micrometers and measure every last little detail of something you want to model, but you should at least have some pictures as reference, or an idea of the actual dimensions of the object that you are trying to model. There are many ways to get these dimensions, and we are going to use several of these as we build our boats.

Choosing which units to model in

I went on the Internet and found the dimensions of a small jon boat for fishing. You are not going to copy it exactly, but knowing what size it should be will make the proportions that you choose more convincing. As it happened, it was an American boat, and the size was given in feet and inches.

Blender supports three kinds of units for measuring distance: Blender units, Metric units, and Imperial units. Blender units are not tied to any specific measurement in the real world as Metric and Imperial units are. To change the units of measurement, go to the Properties window, to the right of the 3D View window, as shown in the following image, and choose the Scene button. It shows a light, a sphere, and a cylinder. In the following image, it's highlighted in blue. In the second subpanel, the Units subpanel lets you select which units you prefer. However, rather than choosing between Metric or Imperial, I decided to leave the default settings as they were.

As the measurements that I found were Imperial measurements, I decided to interpret the Imperial measurements as Blender measurements, equating 1 foot to 1 Blender unit, and each inch as 0.083 Blender units. If I have an Imperial measurement that is expressed in inches, I just divide it by 12 to get the correct number in Blender units.

The boat I found on the Internet is 9 feet and 10 inches long, 56 inches wide at the top, 44 inches wide at the bottom, and 18 inches high. I converted them to decimal Blender units or 9.830 long, 4.666 wide at the top, 3.666 wide at the bottom, and 1.500 high.

Time for action – making reference objects

One of the simplest ways to see what size your boat should be is to have boxes of the proper size to use as guides. So now, you will make some of these boxes:

  1. In the 3D View window, press the Tab key to get into Object Mode. Press A to deselect the boat.
  2. Press the NumPad 3 key to get the side view. Make sure you are in Ortho view. Press the 5 key on the NumPad if needed.
  3. Press Shift + A and choose Mesh and then Cube from the menu. You will use this as a reference block for the size of the boat.
  4. In the 3D View window Properties Panel, in the Transform subpanel, at the top, click on the Dimensions button, and change the dimensions for the reference block to 4.666 in the X direction, 9.83 in the Y direction, and 1.5 in the Z direction. You can use the Tab key to go from X to Y to Z, and press Enter when you are done.
  5. Move the mouse over the 3D View window, and press Shift + D to duplicate the block. Then press Enter.
  6. Press the NumPad 1 key to get the front view.
  7. Press G and then Z to move this block down, so its top is in the lower half of the first one.
  8. Press S, then X, then the number 0.79, and then Enter. This will scale it to 79 percent along the X axis. Look at the readout. It will show you what is happening. This will represent the width of the boat at the bottom of the hull.
  9. Press the MMB and rotate the view to see what it looks like.

What just happened?

To make accurate models, it helps to have references. For this boat that you are building, you don't need to copy another boat exactly, and the basic dimensions are enough. You got out of Edit Mode, and deselected the boat so that you could work on something else, without affecting the boat. Then, you made a cube, and scaled it to the dimensions of the boat, at the top of the hull, to use as a reference block. You then copied the reference block, and scaled the copy down in X for the width of the boat at the bottom of the hull as shown in the following image:

Reference objects, like reference blocks and reference spheres, are handy tools. They are easy to make and have a lot of uses. For your reference, the 4909_05_making reference objects.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the cube and the two reference blocks.

Sizing the boat to the reference blocks

Now that the reference blocks have been made, you can use them to guide you when making the boat.

Time for action – making the boat the proper length

Now that you've made the reference blocks the right size, it's time to make the boat the same dimensions as the blocks:

  1. Change to the side view by pressing the NumPad 3 key. Press Ctrl + MMB and the mouse to zoom in, until the reference blocks fill almost all of the 3D View. Press Shift + MMB and the mouse to re-center the reference blocks.
  2. Select the boat with the RMB. Press the Tab key to go into Edit Mode, and then choose the Vertex Select mode button from the 3D View header.
  3. Press A to deselect all vertices. Then, select the boat's vertices on the right-hand side of the 3D View. Press B to use the border select, or press C to use the circle select mode, or press Ctrl + LMB for the lasso select.
  4. When the vertices are selected, press G and then Y, and move the vertices to the right with the mouse until they are lined up with the right-hand side of the reference blocks. Press the LMB to drop the vertices in place.
  5. Press A to deselect all the vertices, select the boat's vertices on the left-hand side of the 3D View, and move them to the left until they are lined up with the left-hand side of the reference blocks, as shown in the following image:

What just happened?

You made sure that the screen was properly set up for working by getting into the side view in the Ortho mode. Next, you selected the boat, got into Edit Mode, and got ready to move the vertices. Then, you made the boat the proper length, by moving the vertices so that they lined up with the reference blocks.

For your reference, the 4909_05_proper length.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the bow and stern properly sized.

Time for action – making the boat the proper width and height

Making the boat the right length was pretty easy. Setting the width and height requires a few more steps, but the method is very similar:

  1. Press the NumPad 1 key to change to the front view. Use Ctrl + MMB to zoom into the reference blocks. Use Shift + MMB to re-center the boat so that you can see all of it.
  2. Press A to deselect all the vertices, and using any method select all of the vertices on the left of the 3D View.
  3. Press G and then X to move the left-side vertices in X, until they line up with the wider reference block, as shown in the following image. Press the LMB to release the vertices.

  4. Press A to deselect all the vertices. Select only the right-hand vertices with a method different from the one you used to select the left-hand vertices. Then, press G and then X to move them in X, until they line up with the right side of the wider reference block. Press the LMB when they are in place.
  5. Deselect all the vertices. Select only the top vertices, and press G and then Z to move them in the Z direction, until they line up with the top of the wider reference block.
  6. Deselect all the vertices. Now, select only the bottom vertices, and press G and then Z to move them in the Z direction, until they line up with the bottom of the wider reference block, as shown in the following image:

  7. Deselect all the vertices. Next, select only the bottom vertices on the left. Press G and then X to move them in X, until they line up with the narrower reference block. Then, press the LMB.
  8. Finally, deselect all the vertices, and select only the bottom vertices on the right. Press G and then X to move them in the X axis, until they line up with the narrower reference block, as shown in the following image. Press the LMB to release them:

  9. Press the NumPad 3 key to switch to the Side view again. Use Ctrl + MMB to zoom out if you need to. Press A to deselect all the vertices. Select only the bottom vertices on the right, as in the following illustration. You are going to make this the stern end of the boat. Press G and then Y to move them left in the Y axis just a little bit, so that the stern is not completely straight up and down. Press the LMB to release them.
  10. Now, select only the bottom vertices on the left, as highlighted in the following illustration. Make this the bow end of the boat. Move them right in the Y axis just a little bit. Go a bit further than the stern, so that the angle is similar to the right side, as shown here, maybe about 1.3 or 1.4. It's your call.

What just happened?

You used the reference blocks to guide yourself in moving the vertices into the shape of a boat. You adjusted the width and the height, and angled the hull. Finally, you angled the stern and the bow. It floats, but it's still a bit boxy.

For your reference, the 4909_05_proper width and height1.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has both sides aligned with the wider reference block. The 4909_05_proper width and height2.blend file has the bottom vertices aligned to the narrower reference block. The 4909_05_proper width and height3.blend file has the bow and stern finished.

Time for action – adding curves to the boat's lines by subdividing

You've discovered two of box-modeling's most powerful methods: extrusion and moving vertices. Now, it's time to discover the third one: subdividing. Now, the hull will begin to look like a boat after you perform the following steps:

  1. Press A to deselect all vertices.
  2. Select Edge Select mode on the 3D View header.
  3. Press B to do a Border select to select the edges of the sides of the boat, but not the bow or the stern, as shown in the following image:

  4. Press W to get the Specials menu. Select Subdivide with the LMB.
  5. On the left, in the Tool Shelf, a subpanel is labeled Subdivide. Make sure that the arrow next to the word Subdivide is pointing down. Change Number of Cuts to 3. Blender will cut each of the edges into three as shown in the following image. Press A to deselect the edges. Now, you can see the new edges better.

  6. Change to the Vertex Select mode in the 3D View header.
  7. Select the vertices of the bow on the left.
  8. Press the NumPad 7 key to change to the Top view. Press the Ctrl + MMB, Shift + MMB, and the mouse to zoom and pan, so that you can see the whole boat.
  9. Scale the vertices in the X direction, so that the outside of the front of the hull is about as wide as the narrow reference block, as shown in the next illustration.
  10. Deselect all the vertices. Now, select the next set of vertices as shown in the following image. Scale them in X to give the boat a bit of a curve.

  11. Deselect all the vertices. Select the vertices on the stern, and scale them a little in X to add a bit of curve to the stern.
  12. Press the NumPad 1 key to get the front view. Press the Tab key to get into Object Mode. Press A to deselect the boat. Select the two reference blocks with the RMB for the first one, and then press Shift + RMB for the second.
  13. Press M to bring up the Move to Layer menu, as shown in the following image. There are twenty small buttons in groups of five. The upper left square is dark. Click the LMB on the square just to the right of the dark square. This will move the reference cubes to layer two, out of view.
  14. Save the file and give it a unique name.

What just happened?

Now, you have put a little art into your modeling. There were no hard measurements to set the width of the boat to, so you just had to use your artistic flair. You subdivided the sides of the hull by 3, and scaled the vertices to give the boat a little curve. You finished off with a discovery about Blender's layers. The Blender layers let you control the visibility of objects.

For your reference, the 4909_05_adding curve1.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the sides subdivided. The 4909_05_adding curve2.blend file has the sides curved as seen from the top. The 4909_05_adding curve3.blend file is the completed hull.

Have a go hero – adding curves to the hull

It's the smaller details that often make the difference. Can you use what you know to add some curve to the profile of the boat and point the bow?

As you can see in the next image, the boat has a little curve in its hull on the bottom and a very subtle one on the top. Try doing that for your boat.

Move the vertices to give it some nice lines, similar to the ones in the following image. When you are happy with them, be sure to rotate the view, and check the boat from all sides to make sure she looks good from all angles.

The finished boat should look something similar to the following image. Well done!

Next, use the subdivide command to point to the bow. The boat will move through the water a little faster if you subdivide the hull end-to-end and add a bit of a V shape to the bottom of the hull, and a point to the bow. The next image will give you a hint.

Get the front view, and set the Mesh Select mode to Edge Select. Select only the edges that run across the center of the boat. Subdivide them and then move the vertices. Save the file when you are happy with the boat.

Using clean building methods

The way you built this model was very solid. Some of the salient features of the boat are as follows:

  • Since the hull is a single piece, there are no holes in it. This is known as water tight, which is good for a boat.
  • Since it has no holes, you can use it with the water functions of the physics engine, so the boat will float or it can be filled with water.
  • Objects for 3D printers must be water tight like this.
  • It also makes it nice and clean for use in the game engine.
  • The number of faces was kept to a minimum, so the rendering time will be short.

Choosing between quadrilaterals and triangles

In Modeling with Vertices, Edges, and Faces, we briefly discussed that a face usually has three or four edges. Because of the way you created it, this boat is made entirely of quadrilaterals or four-edged faces. Quadrilateral faces are preferred because they subdivide nicely, as you saw when making the sides of the boat. If you are making a model that is controlled by an armature, such as a model of a person or an animal, they deform better.

There is one problem with quadrilateral faces though. You have to ensure that the quadrilateral face is flat. We talked about normals earlier, and how a normal is a line perpendicular to the face. If you are not careful with a quadrilateral face, it may not be flat. Then Blender won't be able to figure out what the normal for the face is, and won't know how to render it properly.

Imagine a flat floor, and you are trying to sit on a four-legged chair that has one leg that is a bit too short. You will always be rocking a bit. Quadrilaterals that are not flat, or non-planar as they are called, are similarly irritating. That's where triangular faces are easier as the normal is a line that is perpendicular to the face. If you are not careful with a quadrilateral face, it may not be flat. Then, Blender won't be able to figure out what the normal for the face is, and won't know how to render it properly. When Blender gets a quadrilateral face that is non-planar, it divides the face into two triangles, and calculates the normal for each triangle, sometimes with poor results. Now, it's time to check this out.

Time for action – making a non-planar polygon

Take a moment to check out what I just said and make a non-planar polygon by following these steps:

  1. Create a new file. Get into Edit mode.
  2. Select the upper vertex of the cube nearest to you, move the vertex about half-way down the cube, and a little to the right, then render it.
  3. You haven't added any faces to the cube, but what do you notice about the top face and the right side?

What just happened?

When you moved the vertex, some of the faces became non-planar. When you rendered it, you could see how Blender then divided the non-planar face into two triangular faces.

Time for action – adding a seat to the boat

Congratulations! You made a boat out of quadrilaterals. Let's continue modeling with quadrilaterals. The next step is to add seats to the boat. You'll see that you can have an object where not all the parts are connected:

  1. Open the jon boat file. I'm using the flat bow version, but you can use a flat or pointed bow as you prefer. Press the NumPad 3 key to get the side view. Make sure you are in Ortho view.
  2. Press Shift + S, and select Cursor to Center from the menu.
  3. In the 3D View header, turn off the 3D manipulator display. It has the red, green, and blue axes. Make it light gray.
  4. Move your cursor close to the top of the boat, to the location shown in the following image, and then click the LMB to move the 3D Cursor up:

  5. Make sure that the boat is in Object Mode. Press Tab to change it, if it is not.
  6. Press A to deselect the boat if needed.
  7. Use Shift + A to make a new cube. If the Properties Panel of the 3D View is not already open, press N to open it.
  8. Press the NumPad 7 key to get the Top view.
  9. In the Transform subpanel, look where it says Dimensions. Set the Y dimension to 1. Set the Z dimension to 0.166. Use the Tab key to go between Y and Z.
  10. In the Viewport Shading menu, select Solid.
  11. Press S and then X to scale the cube in X, until it just meets the inner sides of the boat. The seat I made was 4.320 wide in X. Your width may vary.
  12. Press the MMB, and rotate your view around the boat. Check that the seat is not poking out through the boat or floating between the inner sides of the hull, as shown in the next image. If it is, press S and then X, and use the mouse to scale it a little. Press the LMB when done.

  13. Press F12 to render the boat as I did in the following image. The ends of the seat should just touch the inner hull of the boat as shown in this image. Press Esc when you are done looking at the boat.

What just happened?

First, you chose a center point for the seat, by moving the 3D Cursor. Then, you deselected the boat to make a different object. Next, you made a cube and scaled it in the X, Y, and Z directions, so that it became a seat for the boat. Finally, you did a quick sample render to see what you made, as in the previous image.

For your reference, the 4909_05_boat_adding seat.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the first seat completed.

Time for action – making the other seat

The first seat was pretty straightforward. The second seat is in the bow, and to fit it in, the front edge of the seat is a little narrower than the back edge. So, you'll copy the first seat, and modify the copy:

  1. Change to the Top view. Zoom out until you can see the entire boat.
  2. Select the Viewport Shading menu from the 3D View header, and set the shading to Wireframe again.
  3. Change to Edit Mode.
  4. Select all of the vertices.
  5. Press Shift + D to duplicate them. Move the mouse downward, and press the MMB to lock the motion to that direction. Move the new vertices to the front section of the boat.
  6. Look at how much of a gap you see between the ends of the center seat and the hull. You will want to give the new seat about the same gap between the ends of the seat and the hull. Scale the vertices in the X direction so that the rear edge of the front seat is the proper width. For best control, move the mouse to the farthest corner of the 3D View before you start scaling. Press S, then X, and scale the new seat.
  7. Deselect all the vertices.
  8. Now, select only the vertices on the front of the seat.
  9. You want to make the angle of the side of the front seat match the angle of the hull. Press S and then X to scale these in X, so that the sides of the front seat are parallel with the angle of the hull, as shown in the following image:

  10. In the Viewport Shading menu, select Solid. Press the Tab key to exit Edit Mode.
  11. Press the MMB and rotate your view around the boat. Check that the seat is not poking out through the boat or floating between the inner sides of the hull. If it is, press the NumPad 7 key, return to Edit Mode and Wireframe shading, then scale the vertices of the front seat again and repeat the previous step.
  12. Press F12 to render the boat. Press Esc when you have examined the boat.
  13. Save the file with a unique name.

What just happened?

Working in Edit Mode, you duplicated the seat and moved it to the bow. You also learned that you can move in a certain axis, by starting the motion in that direction and then pressing the MMB to restrict the motion to that axis. You scaled the seat in X, and then scaled the front edge of the seat in X. Since you duplicated the vertices to make the new seat in Edit Mode instead of duplicating the seat in Object Mode, both seats are a single object, which will make it easier for you to add textures to it. Well done! You've built a boat similar to the left-side image, and you've simultaneously learned the basics of modeling with Blender.

Have a go hero – adding a third seat

Add a third seat in the aft of the boat, as shown in the preceding image on the right.

The steps are about the same as for making the seat in the bow. Change Viewport Shading to Wireframe to make it easier. Then, save the file to a unique name.

For your reference, the 4909_05_boat_making the other seat1.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the second seat. 4909_05_boat_making the other seat2.blend has three seats completed.

Making modeling easier with Blender's layers function

A short while ago, you used the Move to Layer menu to hide the reference blocks so that you could render the boat. Blender's layers are a powerful tool and something that deserves a bit more study. Perhaps you may have used layers in Photoshop or AutoCAD. Blender's layers work differently:

  • In Blender, layers are similar to cubbyholes that you can put objects in, and hide them or show them.
  • Something on the top layer won't necessarily render on top of something on another layer. You cannot link them together, or move a layer as you can in Photoshop.
  • An object may be in more than one layer at a time.
  • An object in a layer that is active can be moved, modified, or rendered. An object in a layer that is not active, may not.
  • Layers cannot be accessed in Edit Mode.

There are 20 layers in Blender. You can use any or all of them. You can select them with the 20 buttons in the 3D View header in Object Mode, as shown in the next image. They are called the Layer Visibility Controls. The button for layer one is on the upper left, the button for layer 10 is on the upper right, the button for layer 11 is on the lower left, and the button for layer 20 is on the lower right. Buttons that are dark indicate the layers that are displayed. Buttons with a dot in the center show layers that contain objects. The yellow dot means that the currently active object is in that layer.

Time for action – introducing layers

It's time for a little introduction to using Blender's layers. Here, you will be learning how to use them with the keyboard.

If you are using the NumPad emulator setting rather than pressing the numbers on your keyboard, use the Layer Visibility Controls as just discussed, and select the layer that corresponds with the keyboard number:

  1. Select the Viewport Shading menu on the 3D View header, and make sure the shading is set to Solid.
  2. Use the MMB to rotate the scene, so you can see the top of the boat. Make sure you are in Object Mode.
  3. Press the 5 key on the number row of your keyboard, not on the NumPad. If you are emulating the NumPad, select layer 5 from the Layer Visibility Controls.
  4. Press the 2 key on your keyboard.
  5. Press the 1 key on your keyboard.
  6. Press the Alt key and the 7 key simultaneously. Note how the dark color on the Layer Visibility Control shifts to layer 17. NumPad emulators select layer 17.
  7. Press Shift + A and choose mesh and then monkey from the pop-up menus.

What just happened?

When you press the number keys on the keyboard, Blender displays the corresponding layer. With key 5, you saw nothing because there was nothing in layer 5. Pressing key 2 showed the reference blocks, which you had moved to layer 2. Pressing key 1 gets you back to layer 1, where you have been working. Keys 1 to 0 display layers 1 to 10. To get layers 11 to 20, press the Alt key and a number key. When you opened layer 17 with the Alt and the 7 key, and made a monkey, a dot appeared in layer 17 to let you know that there was now an object on that layer. The dot is yellow, because the monkey is the active object.

Time for action – using layers for controlling rendering

Layers don't just control what you can see while modeling. They also control what is rendered:

  1. Press the Shift key, and hold it while you press the LMB over the layer 1 box in the Layer Visibility Control.
  2. Press F12 to render the scene. Press Esc when you have seen the rendering.
  3. Press Ctrl + MMB, and zoom back until you can see the lamp. Use the RMB to select the lamp.
  4. Press M to get the Move To Layer menu.
  5. Select Layer 5 on the menu with the LMB. Then, move the mouse away from the menu.
  6. Press F12 to render the scene. Press Esc when you have seen the rendering.
  7. Press the number 5. NumPad emulators select layer 5.
  8. Press M and 1.
  9. Press 1 and Shift + Alt + 7. NumPad emulators choose layer 1. Then, press Shift and choose layer 17.
  10. Press F12 to render the scene. Press Esc when you have seen the rendering.
  11. Use the RMB to select the monkey. Press X to delete it.

What just happened?

Just as the Shift key lets you select multiple objects, using the Shift key when selecting layers lets you select multiple layers to display or render. Pressing the M key brings up the Move To Layer menu. You can choose which layer to move to by picking the layer off the menu or by pressing the number of the layer on the keyboard.

You rendered the scene with the lamp on an active layer, then moved the lamp to another layer and rendered the scene again. You saw that if the lamps are not on an active layer, then they will not illuminate the scene. You moved the lamp back to layer 1 and then selected layer 1 and layer 17 as active layers. When you did the rendering, you saw both the boat and the monkey because both layers were active. The monkey got deleted later because it is no longer needed.

Coloring the boat to add realism

The proper use of colors makes an object seem more real. It's time to learn a bit more about how to apply color and textures to the model you have made. There are two kinds of decoration you can do: Materials and Textures. Materials assign a color to the faces of an object. They tell Blender how shiny or dull the surface is, how transparent it is, and other qualities. Textures allow you to add a design to the surface, and not just colors and pictures, but patterns of roughness, bumps, and shapes as well. First, you will add a material to the boat, and then you will add a texture to the seats.

Time for action – coloring the hull and the gunwale

Your boat is a pretty simple object. The entire hull can be one color, but it's nice to give the gunwale a different color to accent the top and provide more definition:

  1. Make sure you are working in Layer 1.
  2. If you have the Properties Panel in the 3D View closed, open it with the N key.
  3. Select the camera with the RMB.
  4. Press 0 on the NumPad to change to the Camera view.
  5. Move the camera back by pressing the G key and then tapping the Z key twice. Then, move the mouse so that the camera dollies out along its local Z direction until the whole boat shows up.
  6. Change to the Top view.
  7. Select the lamp with the RMB. In the Properties Panel of the 3D View window, set the lamp's Location so that X is equal to -1.900 and Y is equal to -6.800.
  8. Press Shift + D to copy the lamp. Move it a little with the mouse so that you can see that you are working on the second lamp. Set the location of the second lamp to X= 4.400 and Y= 0.200.
  9. Change to the Right view and zoom into the boat.
  10. Select the boat with the RMB and press Tab to go into Edit Mode.
  11. Choose Wireframe in the Viewport Shading menu on the header, and then choose Face Select Mode on the 3D View header.
  12. Press A once or twice to deselect all faces.
  13. Put the cursor below the boat and to the left. Press B for border select. Select the bottom and the side faces, but not the top ones.

  14. Go to the Properties window on the right, and select the materials button in the header, as shown in the previous image. It has a shiny chrome ball on it. When you do, it will become highlighted in blue, as shown in the previous image. You may need to slide the header to the left with the MMB to see it.
  15. After you have selected the Material button, enlarge the Properties window by dragging the edge to the left, until the button with the text Mat, as shown in the following image, becomes Material. You will need to enter text into this button. If your Material panel is pretty much blank, press the button labeled New.

  16. In the expanded button labeled Material, rename Material to Hull, which is bordered in yellow in the previous image. Click on the word Material, type in Hull, and then press Enter.
  17. In the Diffuse subpanel of the Properties window, click on the white Diffuse Color box, and use the color wheel menu to change the color to a dark green. You can use the mouse and the color wheel, or type in the values below. I used R=0.015, G=0.24, and B=0.054. You can use the Tab key to move between the R, G, and B buttons. Then, move the cursor outside of the color wheel menu to continue after you have chosen the color.

  18. To assign the color to the selected vertices, click on the Assign button. It is located at the top of the Material panel, just above where you entered the word Hull. If you do not see it, make sure that you are in Edit Mode and not Object Mode. The button is not visible in Object Mode.

  19. Render it. The boat is all green. Press Esc to show the 3D View window after viewing.
  20. Choose Select on the 3D View header. Choose Inverse from the pop-up menu.
  21. In the Properties window, add a new material slot by clicking the LMB on the plus sign, across from the word Hull, as shown in the next image.
  22. Click on the button that has a plus sign and the word New on it, as shown in the following image, to create a new material. Name the new material Gunwale.

  23. Press the LMB over the color bar in the Diffuse subpanel. The color wheel will appear as shown in the next image. Make the Gunwale material light green. I used R=0.850, G=1.000, and B=0.500.

  24. Left-click on the Assign button, as shown in the row of three light gray buttons in the illustration before the last, to assign the material to the selected vertices.
  25. Now render it. It should look similar to the following image. Press Esc when you have finished looking at it.

  26. Save the file and give it a unique name.

What just happened?

First, you spent a little time setting up the scene to display the materials well. You moved the camera to where it would see the entire boat, and put modeling lamps on both sides of the boat too, so nothing would be too much in shadow.

Then, you selected the faces of the sides and the bottom of the hull. You took the default materials slot, made a material for it, and colored the material green. Finally, you assigned that material to the hull of the boat. Next, you inverted the selection, so you had only the faces on the top of the hull selected. Then, you made a new materials slot, gave it a name, and set its color to light green. You assigned that material to only the faces on the top of the hull.

For your reference, the 4909_05_boat_color the hull.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the materials added to the hull and gunwale.

Time for action – adding a texture to the seats

Now, you've added a material to the boat. Next, you will add a wood texture to the seats and learn a new panel in the Properties window:

  1. Press Tab to go into Object Mode, and select the seats with the RMB.
  2. Add a new material slot as you did when you made the Hull material. Name it Seats.
  3. Go up to the header of the Properties window, and select the Textures button. It has a red and white checkerboard on it, and it is next to the Materials button. It's highlighted in blue, as shown on the top of the next image.
  4. Add a new texture by clicking on the button called New, as shown at the bottom of the following screenshot:

  5. Where the New button was, it now says Texture. Click on the word Texture, and change it to Seat Texture. Press Enter when you are done.
  6. Go to the chapter 5/Images directory of the download pack, and choose 4909_05_37.png. The images may be in with the Blender code. 4909_05_37.png is a wood texture. Copy the file to your Image directory.

  7. In the Properties window, just below where you named the texture, it says Type:. Click on the dark button to the right of Type:. A menu comes up. Select Image or Movie.
  8. A subpanel appears that is labeled Image. At the bottom of the subpanel, it says Open, as shown in the previous image. Select the Open button, and you will get the Blender file browser. Find 4909_05_37.png in your Images directory.
  9. In the Properties window header, select the Materials button.
  10. Press F12 to render the scene. Your boat now has wooden seats. Press the Esc button when you are done admiring your work.

  11. Save the file and give it a unique name.

What just happened?

You added a textured material to the boat seats. First, you created a new material slot and a material to put into it. Then, you opened up the texture panel to add the texture. You chose an Image or Movie texture, and chose a wood-grain texture from the download pack. Since you added the material to the entire object, you did not have to get into Edit Mode to assign the material, and you saved the file just in case something goes wrong with the next step.

For your reference, the 4909_05_boat_add texture to seats.blend file has been included in the download pack. It has the materials added to the hull and gunwale, and the texture added to the seats.

Time for action – naming objects and joining them

Next, you will select the seats, and then add the boat to your selection. Then, you can join the two objects into a single object:

  1. On the header of the Properties window, select the Object button. It has the orange cube. It's highlighted in blue in the following image.
  2. Use the button shown at the bottom of the following graphic, in the Properties window, to change the name to Seats. Type it in and press Enter when you finish.

  3. Select the boat. Change the name to Boat.
  4. Save the Blender file.
  5. Select the seats again with the RMB. Then, press the Shift key when selecting with the RMB to also select the boat.
  6. Press Ctrl + J.
  7. The seats and the boat are now a single object. Now look at what the name is.
  8. Look at the Material panel in the Properties window. Note that the properties of all three materials are listed, since both objects have been joined.
  9. Save the file to a unique name.

What just happened?

You selected the seats and named them. Then, you selected the boat, named it, and saved the file just in case you want to go back and make changes later.

Then, you selected both the seats and the boat and used the command Ctrl + J to join the two objects. The first object selected is joined into the last object selected. Finally, you saved the finished boat to its own file.

The key-function table

This table has some good key functions to help you in your work that we may not have had time to discuss in this article:

Key

Function

Z

Toggles between the Wireframe and Solid mode in Viewport Shading.

Ctrl + Tab

Edit Mode brings up the Mesh Select Mode menu to select vertices, edges, or faces.

Tab

In three part buttons, such as X, Y, and Z locations or R, G, and B colors, it can be used to jump from one button to the next.

Alt + Tab

Jumps from one button to the previous one.

Shift

When using Move to Layer, holding the Shift button when selecting multiple layers allows you to move the selected object to all of the selected layers.

Summary

In this article, you put your knowledge of building objects to a practical use, and built a boat. It was also a good practice in using the controls of the 3D View, keyboard shortcuts, and buttons, including the buttons on the header, in the Tool Shelf, and in the Properties Panel.

You studied box modeling to create the boat from the default cube, and used box modeling's most powerful methods: extrusion, subdividing edges, and moving vertices, to reshape the cube into a hull. You learned about joining objects together, so that the boat and the seats can be used as a single object. You got your first taste of creating a material to make the boat look more realistic, and added a wooden texture to the seats.

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Blender 3D Basics Beginner's Guide Second Edition

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