Most 3D artists will tell you that one of the most important forms of preparation that you can do before you start a new project is to gather reference material. For such a visual art form as 3D design, this reference material normally takes the form of images, graphics, photos, etc.
To import a reference image into Blender, open the add menu in the 3D viewport using the hotkey Shift + A. Go to Image > Reference, and the file browser will open as a separate window. Locate and select the image you want to import, and then select the blue open image button to close the file browser and import the reference material into the viewport.
Reference material is vital when designing 3D models based on real-world objects and can also be important when gaining inspiration for more abstract designs. If you know how to set up your reference material correctly, you will likely not have to make so many iterations to the project as you look for the right result.
Why Is Reference Material So Important In 3D Art?
Regardless of if you are a beginner in 3D modeling or someone who has been creating art for years, it is always essential to use reference material for your projects. But why is this the case?
The first thing to note is that our brains can remember essential details very well. These important details, however, are the general shape and appearance of objects.
However, our brains are far less effective at designing from memory when it comes to the exact dimensions of a design. Creating via memory alone is not good enough for 3D art. So instead, we need visual references to our designs to help with all the details.
This is true regardless of if you are looking to create an exact replica of an object in a reference image or are just using the reference material to create your own model.
Even if you use reference material to create something unique, you will likely have a better result than if you choose not to use reference material.
Setting Up The Viewport To Add Images
Before we add our reference material to the 3D viewport, we will need to determine where in the viewport our reference material is going to be placed, and to what angle.
Our images will be added to the viewport as an empty. This means we can select it, grab, rotate, scale it around the scene, and position it accordingly.
Because the empty exists as a 2D object, navigating around 3D space will make it difficult to view as you change the viewport angle.
The reference image should ideally be in a position where you are likely to do most of your modeling, such as a 2D view.
You can rotate the image after it has been imported, but also note that the initial orientation will match the view in the viewport.
How To Add Reference Material To The Viewport?
Adding a reference image into your 3D viewports is as easy as adding any other object type. Open up the add menu by locating it in either the 3D viewports header bar or by using the hotkey Shift + A.
Next, go to where it says image, and you will have at least two options for types of images that you can bring into Blender. Form these options, choose reference, and the file browser will open in another menu.
Locate the image you wish to bring into the 3D viewport as reference material and leave Click to select it. It should be highlighted in blue.
At the bottom of the file browser will be a Big Blue button that should be labeled open image. Left-click on this button, and a file browser will close.
The reference image should now be added to the 3D viewport at the location of the origin of the object. Its orientation will directly face the scene camera, regardless of the angle.
You can make edits to the image itself regarding its aspect ratio, opacity, and the ability to view it in orthographic and perspective views by going to the object data tab. In the properties panel.
Because it is an object in the 3D viewport, it can be grabbed, rotated, and scaled, so those tools are accessible as well for editing the positioning of your reference material.
Adding Reference Material In The Image Editor
In addition to being able to add your reference material to the 3D viewport directly, another method is to use the image editor.
You can open the image editor by changing the editor type of your existing panels, such as the outliner panel.
Alternatively, you can add an additional panel to your current workspace by hovering your mouse over the intersection, left-clicking to bring it up the menu, and selecting either the horizontal or vertical splits to divide a single panel into 2.
Once you have the image editor within your UI, you can then go to the open button in the header menu of the image editor to open up the file browser once again.
Repeat the process we followed when adding an image to the 3D viewport. Locate it, select it, and then open the image to bring it into your image editor.
Thanks For Reading The Article
We appreciate you taking the time to read through the article, and we hope you have found the information you were looking for. If you are interested in learning more about using images as reference material and for other areas of Blender, take a look at some of the articles we have listed below.