You may have heard through social media platforms, Google, and YouTube references to something called Blender and think, “Why do people keep talking about food processors?” but what they are actually talking about is something that has been taking the technology world by storm in recent years.
Blender 3D is a free, open-source computer graphics program that specializes in creating three-dimensional assets and scenes for video games, animations, and renders. Over time it has expanded its array of tools and is now used for a wide variety of tasks across multiple industries.
Let’s dive into a little bit more detail on what exactly Blender is and what you can do with it as an independent user. Blender is a wonderful program that can do much more than just create 3D models.
What Can You Do With Blender?
The possibilities are endless with 3D software and this is most certainly true with Blender. The computer graphics program uses a panel-based interface to divide up its incredible array of tools into what are known as editor types. These editor types store tools based on a series of connected tasks.
For example, the 3D viewport has all the tools you need to start creating 3D models and scenes, it allows you to view and navigate the three-dimensional space in real-time.
Some editors, like the 3D viewport, for instance, have so many tools that they are often divided up into different modes which ca be accessed using a menu in the top corner of the editor. In the viewport for example there are an array of tools and brushes used for sculpting.
This is the process where we take a low poly base and transform it into a highly detailed mesh using said brushes and tools.
Because Blender has so many of these tools dedicated to sculpting, they have all been stored in the sculpt mode. Tools that allow the user to edit the positioning of an object in 3D space are stored in object mode, while the tools used to edit the shape and form of an object can be found in edit mode.
In some cases, however, a tool may not be where you might expect it. In Blender, a special editor type exists that stores additional tools for various tasks. this editor is known as the properties panel and stores a wider selection of tools from render settings to object modifiers.
On the other hand, you have the compositor, which is a very different looking editor that uses a node-based system to add post-processing effects to rendered images and animations. Each of these editors has its own purpose and appears and behaves very differently from each other as a result.
If you have never seen a node system before, you can think of it as a form of visual scripting. In really simple terms, imagine a box packed with data, and attributes/parameters that you can change in that box, that’s a node. You can connect that node using the available inputs and outputs to other nodes.
The collection and order of nodes feed into an output node which gives you the final result of the visual script.
In Blender, there are several instances where visual scripting is used such as with compositing. It is also used for creating photorealistic materials in the shader editors and provides an alternative workflow to 3D modeling with geometry nodes.
The way that Blender is built allows the user to focus only on the areas of Blender that have the tools needed to complete the task. Tasks that can be completed using Blender can include but are not limited to…
- 3D assets for video games
- 3D Environments
- Printable objects
- 2D animation
- 3D animation
- Object rigging
- Physics simulation
- High detail sculpting
- Architectural visualization
- Python Scripting
- Video editing
- Photo/Image Editing
- Logo Design
- Texture and materials
- Motion capture tracking
As you can see there is a lot that you can do in Blender 3D and these are just the most common tasks for using the software.
Is Blender Used By Professionals Or Hobbyists?
Blender 3D is a hobbyist’s dream as a result of its accessibility and versatility but is also being increasingly used in a number of professions. Most people will hear about Blender from a video games background and will be interested in learning how to create 3D assets for games using the software. However, use you begin to use it there is a lot more to do they just create a simple 3D model.
Blender is already being used by companies in a variety of industries as over 600 companies currently use Blender for professional work, so here for more details. It does not seem to matter if you are someone who is working for an organization or if you simply discovered Blender while scouring the internet in your room one day. Blender is used by people from all walks of life across the world.
As of July 2021, Blender has been downloaded at least 10 million times, although this may actually be a very conservative number. It is difficult to determine how many individuals have downloaded Blender at least once and impossible to track active Blender users due to its position as free software. Check out this article from Blender.org on download trends in 2019.
Why Do So Many People Use Blender 3D?
The number one reason why Blender is as popular as it appears is that the computer graphics program is free to download and is free to use. You can safely download the current version of blender from the official website or a reputable third-party store like steam or Microsoft. No product key, license, or registration of any kind is required to use the software, and an internet connection is only required for the initial download.
It operates under the GNU General Public License. this means that Blender is protected as free software making its source code accessible for use and modification to anyone in the world, provided that the source code is not used in any way for the purpose of financial gain.
You can learn in a bit more detail about the importance of Blenders licensing and usage in the article here.
It runs on most computers although what you are able to achieve with Blender is influenced by the hardware that you possess. General performance in the 3D viewport and render times are affected by how good your computer is, for example, if you have an Nvidia RTX 3080 you will see much faster render times than if you had a GTX 1070.
That said for most tasks any computer or even any laptop will be sufficient to use Blender. It has most of the tools that you could ever need and receives significant updates every three months, meaning it has a lightning-fast development cycle.
Even in the past six months alone (February – July 2021), we have seen the addition of new sculpt tools, the ability to convert 3D objects into grease pencil drawings, a full asset browser to store and access our creations, and even a completely new way to create procedural objects with geometry nodes.
When a product improves as fast as Blender does it attracts a lot of admirers and potential users. The updates are a result of a fantastic relationship between the Blender developers and the global community through social media and the Blender YouTube channel.
Are There Any Drawbacks To Using The Software?
As with any 3D modeling software, the learning curve can be a bit steep as there is a lot that one can learn when using Blender. It also has its own quirks that alternative solutions don’t have, which can actually make it more difficult for existing artists coming from Maya or 3Ds Max.
It is generally advised that new students learn the interface first so that they can be comfortable with how Blender generally works. Then you should look to learn based on the topic you are interested in. If you want to use Blender for creating 3D assets for video games, then you can ignore the video sequence editor and the motion capture tools entirely. Even so, Blender still has a reputation for being difficult for most people to get to grips with as it will be different from anything they have used before.
Another reason why you may not want to learn Blender is that while it is being increasingly used across multiple industries, it is not used by many of the big game and animation companies that you may think to associate it with. Pixar for example will use their own in-house tools, while Bethesda or Bioware will use a solution like Maya.
You can learn a little more about Blenders’ use in the industry here.
How Was Blender Created?
Blender was initially designed as an in-house tool to alleviate workflow issues for a company called NeoGeo Back in 1995. It was developed by Ton Roosendaal, who is in fact the CEO of the Blender foundation today. While initially an in-house tool its early history was a rocky one, to say the least.
In 1998 NeoGeo closed for business as a company and it would seem as if Blender would go with it. However, Roosendaal would create a new company called NaN (Not a Number technologies) with the purpose of developing Blender on what is referred to as a freemium model. The software itself would be free to download but product keys would be required to access some of the more advanced features.
NaN itself would fold in 2002 due to issues with its investors and it seemed once again as if Blender would be permanently discontinued. However this time ton Roosendaal decided that Blender would be better off in hands of the community than in investors. So in May 2002, he founded the Blender foundation, and in July of that same year started a crowdfunding campaign labeled ‘Free Blender’ that raised 110,000 euros to reacquire Blender from NaN investors.
In October 2002, Blender would be re-released under the GNU GPL for the whole world to enjoy, and it hasn’t looked back since.
While it is not considered to be perfect at any one task, Blender 3D is the perfect jack of all trades option for those who are looking to get into computer graphics. The nature of its open source license permits potential users to download Blender 3D with no downside and use the software for a wide variety of tasks from video editing to animation to script editing. If you want to get started learning Blender 3D you can download it from the Blender website here.
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