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How-to: Working with Blender

3D artist Loulou João explains key elements of the Blender tools she uses

 

In this short animation, a three-sec­ond loop, the character Jennie is riding a bike in a natural environment full of various plants. It would be too elaborate to show the complete creation process, so 3D artist Loulou João shares some key elements of the Blender tools she uses. This will give you an idea of how she works.

Vertex Groups

Objects in Blender have a mesh. On these meshes you can select single points, called “vertices”. You can select a bunch of these vertices, create a vertex group and assign different properties to it. I used vertex groups on my object, a planet, to tell the software on which vertices it has to put which plants. I’m working with the circular shape of a planet here so that the animation runs smoothly in a loop – round and round.

Modifiers

Modifiers are very important when using Blender. For this animation I used the modifier “Displace” on the planet. It produces a structure on the planet’s surface that makes it look hilly and rough. You can also choose a texture: here I created one and called it “Floor”. Use the slider to play with the strength of the effect – for example, to make the hills spikier.

Particle Systems

Particle systems are used to simulate large amounts of small moving objects, creating phenomena like fire, dust or clouds, as well as fur, grass et cetera. Here you see the particle system I applied for the plant I called “Salad”. Within the particle system, you can use different settings – for example, to make the objects smaller or bigger. It is also possible to apply a randomizer to the scale of the objects to create variety. I created a different particle system for each plant in this animation.

Here you can see how I applied a vertex group within the particle system. The vertex group for the “Salad” plant contains 85 vertices, so I used the same number in the “Emission” tab, meaning 85 particles will be applied. Under the “Vertex Groups” tab, you can see that for “Density” I applied the “Plant_Salad” vertex group, which tells the particle system which specific vertices need a particle.

 

Baked Hair Dynamics

Animated particles in Blender need to be baked. This is what it is called when you tell the program to calculate the physical movement – for example, what happens to an object like these strings on the bike handles when they twirl in the wind. For this animation, I chose a simple “Hair Dynamics” and then applied a “Force Field”.

Physics – Force Field

A force field creates a physics type variable to the world. Here I have chosen the type “Wind”: so everything within the range of the force field will look as if it is blowing in the wind – for example, the strings on the bike. In the settings you can also fine-tune how strong a force field will be and how it will affect the objects.

Shrink-wrapped Empty

An “empty” is a single coordinate point that can be used as a handle for different purposes. In this animation I want the bike to ride on the bumps of the planet. Therefore, I parent the bike on an empty and add constraints to it. In this case I use the constraint “Shrinkwrap”. This makes sure that the bike sticks to the planet and moves according to its hilly surface.

3D art: »My Job does feel like play most of the time!«

Having studied traditional illustration, Loulou João turned into a full-fledged 3D artist by teaching herself Blender and creating her very own alternative universe. Here, Loulou tells us about how she got into the software, what you can do with it, and what it’s like to sell a very personal aesthetic to commercial clients.

This article was published in PAGE 05.2021, which you can download here fully.

PDF-Download: PAGE 05.2021

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