Gone are the days when the Blender 3D software interface was difficult to navigate and comprehend. The Blender 3D team has obviously been working hard on making their product usable to the masses. From version 2.80, the Blender user interface was massively improved upon. New aspiring 3D artists can now easily find their way around the intuitive interface, and experienced 3D artists can speed up their workflow.
The Blender interface is where you can access the world of computer graphics using Blender. When you enter Blender, there is a screen displaying several windows with controls for operating Blender. You can either use a keyboard or mouse to access these controls. Becoming familiar with the Blender interface is the first step towards understanding how this powerful 3D program operates.
Blender has several windows, each of which contains tools for creating awesome visual displays and effects. Before we delve into these windows and their controls, you must first know how to start Blender.
The method of starting Blender depends on your Operating System and how you installed the program. Typically, after installing the program using the installer downloaded from the official Blender website, a shortcut icon will be placed on your desktop or program list. Double-click on the icon to launch Blender.
On the average computer, it literally takes seconds for Blender to launch. This is much faster than other 3D programs like Cinema3d and Maya.
Once you launch Blender, you will be presented with the Graphical User Interface (GUI), as shown in the image below. The program pops up a Splash Screen panel at the center of the screen, where you can select a new Blender file or open recent files. At the top right of the splash screen, you can see what version of Blender you are using. The following screenshot shows Blender 2.83.
To remove the Splash Screen panel, click away from the panel.
The Blender user interface (Blender 2.8x)
Blender’s user interface is non-overlapping. As such, you can view and access its tools and options without having to push or drag editors around. Because the interface is non-blocking, tools and options do not block any other parts of the program’s interface. Blender’s tools are non-modal, allowing you to efficiently access the tools.
Upon removing the splash screen, the default startup screen shows the Layout workspace. It displays five different windows opened. The 3D editor is the main window at the center of the screen, showing a three-dimensional space with three objects: a cube, a light, and a camera. The Timeline window is in the bottom left. The Outliner window is in the top right. The Properties window is in the bottom right. Finally, the Info window is at the very top of the screen.
In Blender, an editor is a region where you view and modify different aspects of data. An editor has regions, which can have panels and tabs. In the 3D editor, you can also find the Tool Panel. In the header, you can add an object by selecting Add ➤ Mesh ➤ the object you want to add. Alternatively, you may use the shortcut Shift + A to add a mesh into the 3D viewport. Upon adding an object, the Operator Panel pops up, letting you specify some features of the object you are adding.
The 3d Editor’s Tool Panel has basic functions for measuring, scaling, moving, and rotating an object. Upon hitting the N key on your keyboard, you will open up the Sidebar which shows some exact measurements relating to the object, such as its location, scale size, dimensions, and rotation value.
On the header of any editor, you will find the Editor Type selector that lets you switch between editors.
Customizing the Blender user interface
Blender gives you the freedom to customize almost everything. You can change the shortcut keys and themes to fit your personal taste. To customize themes or shortcut keys, go to Edit ➤ Preferences. This will open up the Blender Preferences window.
In the Interface menu of the Preferences window, you make everything to be larger using the Resolution Scale option.
In the Themes menu, you can change the color of every workspace.
The Blender Add-ons menu allows you to include helpful plugins. Some add-ons come pre-installed in Blender and only need to be enabled by clicking on the checkbox. Other add-ons need to be downloaded.
You can speed up your workflow through the shortcuts provided by Blender. If you are not satisfied with Blender’s default shortcuts, you can change shortcuts in the Keymap menu.
If you are using Blender on a laptop or PC that has a two-button mouse, navigate to the Input menu and check the Emulate Numpad option under the Keyboard panel. This enables the shortcut keys to involve the Numpad keys. To enable the shortcut that substitutes your mouse key, navigate to the Mouse panel and check the Emulate 3 Button Mouse option. When the Emulate 3 Button Mouse option is checked, you can use Alt+Left mouse button plus drag to rotate the view. You can also use the Shift+Alt+Left mouse button plus drag to pan the view.
If you prefer to use the right mouse button instead of the left mouse button, navigate to the Keymap menu, then Preferences ➤ Select with mouse button.
In Blender, workspaces are just predefined window layouts. Blender comes with ten handy workspaces for your project development. The Layout workspace is selected by default. Each workspace is different and caters to a specific part of the CG development process. If you wish, you may also create your own workspaces by pressing the plus icon near the Scripting tab.
The ten predefined workspaces in Blender are:
- Layout workspace: For previewing and working on your project.
- Modeling workspace: For modifying geometry with modeling tools.
- Sculpting workspace: For modifying geometry with sculpting tools.
- UV Editing workspace: For mapping image textures to 3D objects.
- Texture Painting workspace: For coloring image textures in 3D.
- Shading workspace: For applying color or nodes and shades in 3D.
- Animation workspace: For creating and applying animation effects to objects.
- Rendering workspace: For rendering the final image or video of your project.
- Compositing workspace: For post-processing in 3D.
- Scripting workspace: For editing and adding Python code.