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Tools We Use: Blender

Tools we use: Blender

A 3D model being designed in Blender

Creating a 3D model in Blender

At KTI, we have software projects small and large that require different kinds of tools. Our gamification training simulators, for instance, are built in Unity but when it comes to creating the 3D models that populate those scenes, we rely on a couple of programs. One of those is Blender.

Free is the nicest price

The fact that Blender is free to use sets it apart from the pack. Naturally, the Blender Foundation accepts donations and by becoming a member you can help fund further development and bug fixes. That said, it’s unexpected to find something free in a market dominated by big businesses like Adobe, who sell thousand-dollar software subscription packages. In the web services and software business, a lot of overhead is eaten up on software subscriptions and licenses. Kearns Technology Inc.’s own manager of creative, Troy Woods decision to use Blender “was mostly money at the beginning, [but] I’m glad i took this route.”

And when you get past the price, it’s also just a well designed and supported application. According to Woods, he’s tried other 3D modeling applications but sticks with Blender because he works quickly in its environment. “It’s mostly just the ease of use, and speed I can model in it compared to other options,” he said.

Getting the most out of Blender

Blender is also backed by a thriving and enthusiastic community of amateur and professional artists alike. Woods says that Blender has “[an] open source, supportive community and plethora of resources available to it that the commercial solutions are lacking.”

For instance, artists gather to share news, add-ons and tips and enter modeling contests at BlenderNation. The Blender subreddit, Blender Discord and blenderartists.org are all extremely active communities. And over at Blend Swap!, creators freely share their models under creative commons licenses.

For training, the Blender Foundation is a good place to start, CG Cookie has some awesome lessons for beginners and the aptly named Blender Guru is well known as a source for top notch tutorials.

An open source mindset

Another distinguishing feature of Blender is the fact that it’s an open source program. That’s the underlying reason for its free pricing structure. Being open “source” means it’s free to change and there is no commercial license if you want to sell the work you create with it.

According to a 2018 interview with Blender creator Ton Roosendaal, “making blender open was totally the best thing I could ever do.” He credits open source as the driving force behind “a whole interesting community dynamic.”

The source code for Blender is open, which means it’s available to download and augment. So, for instance, if you hate the UI or find it unintuitive, you can change it or even design your own! This is absolutely not the norm for a professional app used in both game development and artistic endeavours.

According to Blender.org;

  • You are free to use Blender, for any purpose
  • You are free to distribute Blender
  • You can study how Blender works and change it
  • You can distribute changed versions of Blender

To learn more about open source click here and you can use these links to learn more about the Blender Foundation’s open source mission and their GNU GPL licencing.

Top Beginner Tips

If you’re new to Blender there’s a few things to keep in mind as you familiarize yourself:

  • Experiment
    • As with all professional applications, learning is usually best done by doing
    • Pick a goal or just start playing with menus and sliders; you might be surprised what you learn
  • Engage with the community
    • Visit forums, watch tutorial videos and ask questions
    • This may seem obvious but it’s a fast track to learning and picking up best practices
  • Enter a contest
    • You may not win, but contest parameters are a great way to frame a goal if you don’t have an obvious starting point or project
    • Contests are also a great way to track your progress if you make a habit of entering even one a month

Bottom Line

KTI uses Blender for all the reasons listed above and because it integrates well with our texturing app of choice, Substance Designer and our game engine, Unity. This makes it an easy choice when it comes to modeling 3D game objects.

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