“Blender Master Class: A Hands-On Guide to Modeling, Sculpting, Materials, and Rendering” by Ben Simmonds; No Starch Press

Blender is a free 3d modelling tool. For a new user, however, the interface is extremely daunting, and  a good guide to get the best out of this powerful tool is essential. Ben’s book provides an in-deth introduction to using Blender using three real-world projects from designing the concepts for the projects, all the way through creating models, sculpting, and rendering. The book also discusses the use of the free-paining tool GIMP for producing textures and background images. The hardcopy of the book comes with a DVD with all the supporting and example files that you need. These are also available for download for the ebook version. The book is well illustrated with many pictures and screenshots to explain the material in discussed in the text.

The first two chapters provide an overview to the two tools used in the book, Blender and GIMP, including an introduction to working with objects in the user interface. The third chapter provides guidance on how to go about getting inspiration and reference material for a project, how to create effective compositions and test them in blender, and using GIMP to create reference sheets so that your reference materials can be incorporated into Blender to help you while you work.

Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the techniques for creating models starting with adding placeholders for the modelling objects and moving on to refining the details by working with topologies, meshes, and modifiers. Various techniques used for each of the different types of objects in scenes are discussed, giving examples of how to create different kinds of effects that you might use in your own projects. Chapters 6 and 7 focus on using the Sculpt mode in Blender to create detailed forms and textures. This includes detailed information on how to configure Blender to make working in this mode more effective and using the Multi-resolution modifier to create a high level of detail, and using retopology as an alternative method to create topologies.

Chapters 8 to 12 provide in-depth guidance on working with materials and textures. This includes the use of particle systems to add and customise fur or hair to models and to create landscape elements such as grass to a scene; UV unwrapping for creating coordinates to enable textures to be added to models; using images as textures; creating textures by hand using techniques in Blender and Gimp;  a detailed overview of material rendering; and creating materials using GIMP.  The final chapters provide details of creating the final rendering of the models including different lighting scenarios and settings, rendering and colour correction, compositing, creating backgrounds,  touching up, and embellishments.

The book is very thorough in terms of its explanations and providing guidance for best practices in creating models and working in Blender. This book does not provide a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create the projects used, but uses them as illustrations for the particular techniques under discussion with instructions for the difficult or most important tasks. For this reason, the book is probably best suited to readers who already have some experience working with 3d tools and who are willing to experiment. The book and the accompanying files provide ample material for learning and  experimentation.

For more information, see the O’Reilly Product page.

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