In our game Caribbean Treasure Hunt ships are the most important and complex assets. They are created within Blender, an open source 3D animation software. During the creation of our first ship I stumbled upon some very useful features, I used regularly. In this article, I present them as 10 Blender tips, you hopefully find useful.
Blender Tips 01: Blender on Steam
This one is a not a real Blender feature, but Blender is available on Steam. You find it in the Steam shop for free. Benefits of using Steam are automatic updates and less effort from your side to install a new version.
Blender Tips 02: Make links
Our ships gain their look by using simple structures and forms combined to a complex theme. To avoid too many draw calls in Unreal Engine 4, different smaller objects share the same textures and materials and are merged to one static mesh during import. To assign a specific material to many objects start with a multi selection of them, by using your preferred Blender selection tool.
Then apply the material to the active object, which is the last one you have selected (brighter, yellowish outline). After that press Ctrl + L on your keyboard and select materials.
Following the same way, you can also share modifiers and UV sets between objects, which I did regularly. A nice time saver!
Blender Tips 03: Select N-Gons
3D Models in game development must follow a lot of rules concerning their polygons. When importing your objects in other 3D applications like ZBrush they need accurate polygons too. Mistakes happen from time to time and in case you created a polygon with more than 4 sides Blender won’t let you down finding the issue.
In Edit-Mode just click “Select” in the 3D View screen and from there click “Select All by Trait” and then “Select Faces by side”. Now you can tell Blender exactly how many sides a face should have to be selected. With this method, you find those parts immediately.
Blender Tips 04 & 05: Join & separate meshes
Not a very special, but often used feature. When building up complex scenes you often come to a point where you want to join or separate different objects. This is easy done by pressing Ctrl + J for joining and P for separating objects. You can separate objects by your selection, by material or by loose parts. I mostly used ‘Loose parts separation’, because our planks use the same material. Separating them by selection would have cost me hours, with this method it was a task of seconds.
Blender Tips 06: Arrange UV’s
Creating UV’s inside Blender can be hard and the results are not very satisfying. So normally I create UV’s outside of Blender using other tools, like ZBrush. But sometimes you just want to arrange UV’s of several objects, which can be done in Blender. In standard mode Blender just shows you the UV’s of the last selected object. Selecting several objects doesn’t allow you to manipulate them at the same time, which would be a nice feature for the future. (At this point you could join the objects and separate them after you have arranged the UV’S) But there is one thing you can do, to see the UV’s of other objects, while manipulating the active one. (The last selected object is the active one, indicated by a brighter outline)
In the UV/Image-Editor click “View” and activate the checkbox saying “Draw Other Objects”. Now you will see the UV’s of every other selected object.
Blender Tips 07: Random Transformation
We tried to give our ships a used and unique look. Every plank on deck of our ship is a unique object. We used the “Random Transformation” tool to randomize their appearance. To use this feature just hit space and type in “Randomize Transform”. Now you can choose between Transform, Rotation and Scale to be applied to your selected objects.
I used this feature on every deck, on every plank, here you can see the result:
Blender Tips 08: Apply modifiers
If you use a lot of modifiers and want to apply them to your meshes, it can be a time consumer to do it manually for every object.
There is a simple way to do it for every object, one can easily miss. Select every object you want your modifiers applied to and click on “Apply All”. This also works with a single object, which has several active modifiers.
Blender Tips 09: Loop Selection
Loop Selection is a common feature which exists in every 3D software. And of course, Blender is no exception. So, if you are new to Blender you might have wondered how this useful feature works.
In Edit mode simply hold “Alt” and click on an edge, vertex or face to get a ring or loop selection. Add multiple selections by holding the shift key too.
Blender Tips 10: Remove Doubles
When combining objects, using the knife tool or any other modelling tool it can happen from time to time that you create two vertices where you only need one of them. In that case you want to combine them without much effort.
You can hit space and type in “Remove Doubles”. This will merge vertices near to each other. You can define the range between merged vertices by adjusting the “Merge Distance” in the tool bar.
This was an extract of tools I used regularly during my work on the ships of Caribbean Treasure Hunt. I hope you liked these Blender tips and find them useful. I’d like to hear about your favorite tools in blender, so do not hesitate to share them in the comments.
With best regards,