I wanted to encapsulate this article with the latest version of Blender (being 2.5), I would not do so not until everyone gets comfortable with it and who knows, on one of my proceeding articles, we might delve more into an introduction of the new version. But for now, let’s be courteous enough to use the fully functional 2.49 version of Blender. If you don’t have it right now, I suggest you head over to http://www.blender.org/download/get-blender/ and grab your own copy. And you also might want to have a copy of the latest GIMP from http://www.gimp.org/downloads/.
- Skill level: Intermediate
- Blender 2.49b (stable)
- GIMP 2.6.8
So basically, we’ll use Blender’s modeling tools, material indexes, powerful texture system, basic UV unwrapping, some lighting techniques, and of course the node compositor which is built-in in Blender.
I dedicate this article to my family and the whole Blender community who have been very supportive of me during my past years of struggle and learning. It was just a wish before that someday hopefully I might be able to get the hang of using this application as much as I did with GIMP and finally somehow, it did happen.
Before we even begin doing modeling and firing up Blender itself, let’s get ourselves some decent reference images to base our model. Anything will do; it depends entirely on your tastes and preferences. Doing a quick Google search, here’s some that I found:
After studying carefully the shape and size of our reference soda cans, we can now proceed and start creating our basis shape for the entire process. I think this might be a good time to say this line, “Fire up Blender!”
Depending on your User Defaults and Preferences, your startup screen might look a bit differently than mine and your default object on the scene might be different too. If you have objects other than a cube on your scene, kindly, delete them first since we’re only going to use the cube as our starting point. So if you don’t have one right now, go ahead and add it from the Spacebar > Add > Mesh > Cube menu.
Adding a Cube to the Scene
You might have wondered why a Cube and not a Cylinder. It’s because we don’t want to work on some extra polygons, just a few points will do. And we would be using some of Blender’s Modifiers to add contours and interpolations in between points to achieve smooth curves on the segments. With our cube on the scene now, go ahead and select it (Right Mouse Button [RMB]), then press CTRL+ 2 on your keyboard to add a Subsurf Modifier on the selected object or click the Editing (F9) button and scroll until you see the Modifiers tab then click Add Modifier and finally choose Subsurf. This will add a new modifier on our current stack.
Adding a Subsurf Modifier
After doing this, modify some of the subsurf options accordingly. Go ahead and change the Render Levels value to 3, or if you wish to, you could also change the Levels value to 3 such that what you see in your viewport is what you get on the render, but at the cost of a bit of a slowdown on your viewport (depending on the power your computer has). But still, despite adding a Subdivision Surface/Subsurf modifier on our Cube, why does it look polygonal still? That is because by default, the faces’ interpolation around the neighboring ones is set to Solid, that’s why we see this sharp edged transition in between faces. To make it smoother, just go ahead and click on the Editing(F9) button and scroll until you see the Links and Materials tab then click Set Smooth, or in Edit Mode, press W on your keyboard to bring up the Specials Menu and choose Set Smooth. Voila!
Smoothing out the Geometry
After this step, go to front view by pressing Numpad 1 on your numeric keypad and go to Edit Mode by pressing TAB, or choosing it from the Mode dropdown on the bottom of your 3D view. Select the top-most four vertices and move them 1 Blender Unit up along the Z-axis, do this by holding down the Ctrl key to constrain your movements on increments of 1, then press Z on your keyboard to constrain your movement on the z-axis only and not elsewhere.
Moving the Top-most Vertices along Z
Right now, our cube only looks nothing but an oval. To break up this shape and to make it look more cylindrical, we are going to add Loop Cuts to the mesh. Loop cuts are a very important tool in mesh editing and modeling; they create additional geometry, they enhance topology, etc. In this case, we are going to add loop cuts to create narrower contours on the top and bottom portions of our mesh, such that we create a cylindrical shape but still preserving a small amount of vertices to work on which becomes very handy as we go along.
There are several ways to create a loop cut; you can press CTRL+R directly, pressing K then choosing Loop Cut, or you can go to Mesh > Edges > Loop Subdivide. You can use whichever is most comfortable with you. After executing the tool, you’ll notice that as you move your mouse over at parts of your mesh, you see a thick colored line going across the edges. While at it, there are things you can consider doing, you can: simply click and move the edge over, use your mouse wheel or Numpad plus or Numpad minus button to increase/decrease the number of loops accordingly, and/or you can also press S for Smooth while at it to smooth the contours of your loop subdivision/cuts.
Position your loop cuts on the top and bottom parts of the mesh accordingly.
Now you’ll notice our mesh taking shape as it should. Bare in mind though that the closer the loop cuts are with from each other, the sharper the contour will be (as we should see in the following steps later).
Select the top-most vertices and press S to scale. Don’t worry about the odd shape, we’ll fix that later. Do the same thing on the bottom-most vertices.
To fix the odd barrel shape, we’re going to add a few more loop cuts here and there, near the top and bottom verts (as seen in the screenshot below).
Next, move the top-most vertices upwards on the Z-axis (as seen below).
Add additional loops on the top portion of the mesh (again and again and again…) to create an ever sharper transition.
Move down and scale the second from the top row of vertices. Then add another loop cut just below the second row of vertices.
After this, it might already be a good idea to add new sets of loop cuts on our mesh, this time instead of horizontal cuts, we’ll add a variation of vertical loops (on reference towards the front and side views).
Go to top view, add two loop cuts, each intersecting each other (such like a cross).
We added these new sets of cuts for usage later in the cap portion of the soda can. We need to add this now and not later in the process so that it would be easy to be in track of our model as early as possible and not get lost on the way later.
You’ll notice now that we already lost the cylindrical shape of our mesh due to the addition of the cross loop cut but don’t worry because we’ll deal with that shortly.
Deselect all your selections by pressing A on your keyboard twice then select the single middle vertex on the bottom-most part of the mesh (as seen on the screenshot).
We did this in order for our pivot to have a reference later on. Since we are going to derive our pivot point across our cursor, which will be positioned the same way as the current selection. To do this, press SHIFT+ S then choose Cursor -> Selection. Snapping is one of the most important tools in 3D manipulation; it eliminates further tedious editing with just a few clicks and adjustments. It’s really a good habit to get used to this.
Now, let’s deselect the current selection and select the vertices that surround it, remember, only those that are nearest to it, we’ll take care of the others later.
Next step is to arrange the vertices such that they form a circular shape so that we can break the squarish interpolation among the verts. We will do this by using another Mesh Tool called To Sphere. We can access it through the Mesh menu below the 3D Viewport, choose Transform, then To Sphere or simply by pressing the hotkey CTRL+SHIFT+S. Since we wanted it to be the roundest possible, immediately press 1 after executing the tool.
Do the same thing until you reach the top-most row of vertices, one at a time. If there’s no middle vertex to snap the cursor on, you could select the whole set of vertices and do the snapping, it will place the cursor right on the middle of the selection. Pretty nifty tool I guess.
Now we need to create the depression where the hole of the soda can is located. We do this by selecting the top-most row of vertices, then Extrude by pressing E, press ESC to get out of the mode, then while the currently extruded vertices are active, press S to scale them inwards. Do another Extrusion but this time moving it along the z-axis by a small amount to create the definition then create two more extrusions below the current one to finally create the depression that we need. We repeat the same steps to create the inner depression and move the vertices accordingly to create a triangular shape.
Then finally, I added the opener and a few extruded details on the lid which leads us to the screenshot below. The modeling process on the opener is the same as how we did the can itself, beginning from a cube and then doing a couple of extrusions, loop cuts, and vertex moving.
That’s about it! We’re now done with the modeling phase of our cute little tin can. Looking at this, we’re almost done with the whole process, only a few more additions here and there.
Next stop: shading. Let’s get going.
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