Creating things in 3D is becoming more and more popular, and there's a lot of software out there that will assist us in creating video games, VR, and items made with 3D printing. Whether you're making a film and are looking for ways to improve your visual effects, you want the characters in the game you're developing to be as well-rounded (literally) as they can be, or you want to craft a 3D figure to add to your collection, you'll need certain tools to be able to make those things happen. This is where Blender comes in. Blender is a completely open-source, 3D creation software that contains tools that will help many different types of users master the art of integrating 3D elements into whatever they're looking to make, in part or entirely. Modeling, rendering, motion-tracking, game creation, and video editing - Blender has it all and more.
A 3D tool suite streamlined for individual and small company use
Setting up Blender is super simple.
On the website, you'll see all the amazing things you can do with the software like creating feature films and video games, and all of the features that it comes with. Choose what platform you'll be running the program on and start the installation. For us, installation speeds were really fast; the whole process only took about three minutes for 84MB. Once it's done, the program opens and you can begin creating immediately.
If you're a beginner to Blender, at this point you might feel a little overwhelmed. The software contains a massive amount of features and even if you're only using it to 3D print something, you most likely won't touch half of the functions available. Unless you've got a background in 3D modeling, animation, and other related areas and you've have previous experience with tools to create, it's a bit confusing. Never fear, Blender gives you plenty of options for help. There's an entire page dedicated to tutorials separated into sections. Under 'Getting Started', you'll see everything that you need to learn the basics of how to navigate around the interface, and videos about creating game assets. In the 'Modeling' section, you can learn how to make a human head, in 'Lighting', you'll go in depth on textures and styles, and the list goes on.
Your other option for learning about what you can do with Blender is the Blender Network. On the Blender Network, you have the opportunity to connect with people all over the world who have experience using Blender for their individual projects. Sort by continent, the type of training you'd like (one on one or a classroom learning type format), and the type of work that you'll be doing, and a list of people that can help you will pop up. You'll see photos of themselves and their work, a biography, and links to their portfolios and social media where you can contact them to start training.
The first thing you'll want to do when you start creating is adjusting the settings to your liking. By clicking on the user preferences tab, a window will pop up where you can edit how things appear on the interface like scaling the display, and enabling certain functions in view manipulation. Other things you can do here are managing your add-ons and themes, and viewing basic system information.
From here, depending on what you'd like to use Blender for, there are more functions than you'll ever need. The main features that you can utilize with Blender are simulation, video effects and scripting, modeling, animation, and rendering. If you're willing to put in the time to learn your way around the interface, it's able to be full customized, allowing every type of user to create hundreds of projects for years to come.
Where can you use this program?
You can download Blender for a number of different operating systems including Windows (64 and 32bit), Mac (64 bit), Linux (64 and 32 bit) and you can also download the software on Steam.
Is there a better alternative?
Blender has a lot of good functions, but there are a lot of software packages that help with 3D creating and each of them has their pros and cons. Depending on what you’re looking to make, Blender could be your go-to, or you can explore some other options like another one of our favorites, Inkscape. Right off the bat, a major advantage to Inkscape is that it is cross-platform. If you're creating 3D aspects for a video game, this will save you a ton of time and prevent you from having to make changes to your project in order to use it on different platforms. Inkscape, like Blender, is also free and open-source. This software, on the other hand, is a bit more user-friendly than Blender, requiring less previous knowledge from the beginning. If you're a sucker for aesthetics, we prefer the appearance of Inkscape's interface as well.
There's no doubt that Blender has a lot of features for a wide variety of projects. This software is difficult to use, but once you get the hang of it, there are no limits to the projects that you can create. This is made even better by the fact that it's free.
Should you download it?
Here's the truth - learning how to use Blender is hard. Like, really hard. It's got a pretty steep learning curve so we don't recommend this software for beginners unless you've got a bit of time on your hands to go through the tutorials and possibly reach out to others in the Blender Network that can help you in a more casual setting. If you're well versed in 3D printing, modeling, and the other areas in which you can create with this software, we couldn't recommend it more. As long as you're able to find your way around the program, you can do just as many things as you can with paid software like Maya, and the results could look even better. You'll just be putting a little more effort into learning how to use it before you actually can produce the results.