Mirror modifier modelling, edge loops, and mesh object editing basics

This article is a continuation of basic modelling preparation and introduction to Blender, if you haven't read it yet, I would recommend to do so, since some of the knowledge from previous might be needed. You can do it here. But of course you don't have to in any means... no pressure, just a friendly proposal...

Make a tea and prepare yourself

Now it's time to start modeling. Our goal is to model a clock to laboratory from the Shirt project. We will learn how to model from front view perspective, using some modifiers to easify the progress and pull the model into the third dimension in the end. It is not difficult and all the steps are explained. I recommend to pay attention to keyboard shortcuts and try to use them wherever possible, since they're indeed essential, especially in Blender. Learning how to use them now will greatly benefit you in later stages.

Let's prepare it and start

First of all, open Blender. You'll see a default cube, you can examine it from various angles by holding you mouse middle button and moving the mouse. After you get bored, right click on it, press delete and ok on the question which appear beneath your cursor. When it goes away, it might be good to play a little bit with a 3D cursor, since it will be your hands from now on. Move him anywhere by left clicking somewhere in the space. When you open an object properties, by pressing N and scroll down to the tab called, obviously, 3D cursor, you can see how the value changes in each of the axis. When you now switch into front view, by pressing numpad 1, and move the cursor anywhere, you can see that X axis is unaffected. That is a demonstration of Blender style of dealing with 3D space. You can only work on two axis at the time, as it has been written in the previous article. Therefore you need a help of 3D cursor to define your intentions with the third one. Let's now move the cursor back to origin. To the centre. You can do it, by rewriting the values in 3D cursor tab to 0, or pressing Shift + C.

Setting up a Reference Image

background image inclusion blender modelling tutorial carnivora publishingNow, if you're not already in it, move into front view (numpad 1) and press numpad 5 to get ortographic perspective. As a proof, gray grid should appear on the background, where we will now put our reference image. If you would like to follow step by step, you can download the same background image here. In object properties tab (activated by N) find the Background Images tab (it should be defaultly the fourth tab under that 3D cursor we used).

Reference Image tab settings

Check the square, expand the tab (triangle on the left) and press Add Image. A new tab will appear, here press Open and select the location of the image. Then you should select, where you would like image to appear. Focus on Axis tab, since we are modelling from front, simply select front from Y axis column. You can tweak the opacity, or size bellow if you would like to, That's purely up to you. So your image should be on the background, and chart should look like the image on the right. Okay? So let's add some matter to model!

Adding an object

In Order to model in Blender, you need to add an object into scene. While having 3D cursor in center, pres Shift+A. A table will appear. Choose Mesh > Plane. While watching from the front, you'll see a line. That's because our plane is facing upwards. We will force it to face towards the front by rotating it by 90° on the X axis. Having plane selected (orange color), press R, to tell Blender, that your intention is to rotate, then (not while holding R), press X, to aim the rotation on X axis only. Then simply type 90 on the numpad to define the amount of degrees you would like Blender to perform. That's it!

In case of having trouble

You might encounter some problem doing it first time, just keep in mind that you are putting command separately, not holding the buttons, when pressing another. In that case this X1 + X2 plus model is used. You should also avoid clicking or pressing other buttons while typing this command. Then, everything should work. There are various modifications of those, but since our interest are different right now, we will look at them some other day. But congratulations, you've placed your first object, Good work! Now let's look at the Edit Mode.

Edit mode, vertices, edges & faces

While having plane selected, press Tab to enter the Edit mode. You're now editing the object, you can see from which parts it is composed and you can modify them here. Basicaly there are 3 types of objects which those Mesh objects are composed from, each composed from others. Here they are:

VerticesSimple points defined by location on X,Y,Z axis. The only paramter we will modify on them is location. Their scale and rotation are not really important for us now.
EdgesTwo vertices can form Edge, it is a line between them. Edges are determined by position/location of those two vertices, however, we can modify it by scaling, rotating and changing location of the Edge itself.
FacesAnd on the top of thy pyramid stands Faces. Those are defined by at least 3 Edges, or 3 Vertices (at least is because of the N-gon technology, implemented lately, which allows you to create a fce from unlimited Vertices, or Edges. While triangles and squares were dominant in CG for a long time)
When in edit mode, press Ctrl + Tab to summon a menu from which you'll select mode of your current desire.

Moving around, while staying in front view

Until now, flying around in spaces was only good, but when about to make a simple plane model, we need to stick with one plane view, in this case front view. Although still be able to move left-right-top-bottom and zoom in-out. When in front view hold Shift + Middle -Mouse Button (& move the mouse) to move around in plane. For zoom press Ctrl + Middle Mouse Button (& move the mouse). You can also achieve zoom alternatively by scrolling the MouseWheel. Scrolling also have alternate movements. Press Shift + Scroll Mouse Wheel to achieve horizontal view movement. And Ctrl + Scroll Mouse Wheel to achieve a vertical movement. However, you'll probably not use those last two that much.

Grab & Mirror modifier

Mirror modifier is one of the most useful tools to enhance and speed up your modeling. I was trying to explain it somehow, but it's so understandable, it doesn't really need an explanation. It simply creates mirror image of your model on various axis, so when your model is axial symmetric, you don't need to bother with drawing the very same thing on the other side. You'll just draw half or quarter. To apply a modifier, we need to leave Edit Mode and move into Object Mode. Simply by pressing Tab, or manualy by selecting the Object Mode from 3D window menu, on the bar beneath the 3D window itself. Now let's move to the Object Modifiers > Add Modifier > Mirror. modifiers menu

Mirror modifier settings

Once you click it, the modifier properties will appear on tha pannel. Order of the modifiers in this pannel is not random, their position defines a strict hierarchical order in which they are processed. Before we will have a look at the modifier properties tab, we can look on the work which already been done by default settings. Let's move a plane, by pressing G for grab and Left Mouse Button, to put it down / apply the position. As you can see, nothing happened. That is, because while in Object Mode, we are moving the whole object and mirroring happens on the axis system which origin is defined by object origin. That orange point. Therefore we need to switch to Edit Mode again Tab. Then move a plane anywhere and notice the mirror effect.

Mirror modelling

While in edit mode, having mesh selected (orange), press Z to switch between Wireframe & Solid view in order to see the background reference image. Then grab the mesh plane G and move it to one of that decorative nuts. Since we need it smaller, rescale it by pressing
S (& move the mouse) so it does fit the reference. But you see that wee need more vertices to form the shape. So simply pres W and select Subdivide from the menu. And subdivide once again. Don't panic, if the mirror image doesn't fit the model on the opposite axis. It's just a reference. Now we wil delete a vertice in the middle and start to form the shape of the nut. While relocating grabbed vertices, hold Ctrl, to move in accordance to grid. It will help to keep positioning more precise. While having the shape set, select everything by pressing A (also used for deselect, so you might have to press i twice if you've got something selected when pressing for the first time) and subdivide again. Now delete unnecesary vertices in order to form the curves. Multiple selection works simply by holding Shift + Left Mouse Button. And reform the shape again. Now it's time to deal with those dots. Switch to Face mode by pressing Ctrl Tab and select all the faces around the dots. Then W and Subdivide again. Select only faces in the middle and delete them. Pay attention to select Faces from the delete menu. Otherwise, you'll get rid of much more than just selection. That's enough for now, let's mirror it on the Y axis also, so we will have four nuts, same as the reference image.

Mirroring along X & Y axis

Tick the Y axis in the mirror modifier tab (first column from the left). Another ghost mesh appeared, now select everything by A and G to relocate the selection. You'll notice, that you're unable to put the nuts into position. So let's cheat a little bit. Move the selection to the corner of the image, switch to Object Mode and rotate the whole object by 45° by pressing R and then 45 on the numpad. You might need to rescale it it a little bit (S). Almost good, but it looks we need to rotate the nut itself. Back to Edit Mode, R (-)45 on the numpad. Again rescale, reposition, rerotate if necessary and don't get frustrated when all of them doesn't fit the reference. Last thing before we leave it for a while is naming. In properties tab (N) find the Item tab and rename object from the Plane to... something. But not for example kfggnn33225. Choose a name which really describes the object, otherwise you'll get lost in later phases. So something like Lab_clock_nut might be good.

modeling a nut step by step

Ring bellow the nuts

Well, let's now focus on the ring bellow the nuts. In order to learn something new, we will use a different technique, without Mirror Modifier, and learn how to use an Edge Loops. We will model it as a separate object, name it however you want, but name it. It will be a circle extruded outside and subdivided by Edge loops. After that we will delete unnecesary faces. So, With 3D cursor in the center, press Shift + A to add a new object, this time Circle, Mesh > Circle. Having done that, look at the Object tools tab (on the left, summoned by T), here, under the Add Circle tab you'll see a Vertices slider, where the defaul value is 32. This is number of vertices from which the Circle is composed from. More vertices means smoother edge, and other way around. For our goal 32 is ideal, but it's good to know that anyway. Circle is again facing upwards, so make it face the front and scale according the referrence ring inner edge (closer ti the actual clock mechanism). Having done that, switch to Edit Mode and Vertices. Now we will extrude the circle from inner edge to the outhe one. Press E (extrude) and then S (scale). Drag until you reach the outer edge of the ring.

Edge loops

Now we define the loops according to squares in the ring. Select whe whole circle (2x A) and press Ctrl + R. That will activate Edge Loop mode, hover the mouse over the selected mesh and watch for that purple/blue lines appearing when hovering over edges. That whows you, where the cut will take place. We want to cut the circle around. Before you accept the loop option by left clicking somewhere, move your mose wheel upwards to add the number of cuts. Two will be optimal. Then left click somewhere. Unfortunately those loops now does not fit our reference, so we need to move them into correct position. To Select the outer loop, by holding Alt + Right Mouse Button clicking on some part of the Edge Loop. Then Press Ctrl + E to invoke the Edge Menu and select Edge Slide. Now move the loop into position and do the same with the second loop. Now switch to Face Mode and delete unwanted faces. To easify the work, let's just select two in between of each nut, in order to keep the symmetry.modeling a ring step by step

Inner clock mechanism

Now let's focus on the last part, which is a clock mechanism itself in the center. Still remmember that note about number of vertices for the Circle? Now we gonna need it. Shape of that mechanism consist of hexagonal shape and smooth round circle. Therefore we will add two circles and define number of vertices for each. For hexagonal 8 and for round circle again 32, but this time select Ngon from Fill Type menu in the same tab. This will fill the Circle, and the Hexagon with Ngon, providing one face for numerous vertices, as we mentioned it in a previous article. Now rotate both of them again to face the front and make them match the refrence, using scale, rotation, or changing location, if necessary. Teke care of the decoration using same technique as on the ring (subdivide, or loop and delete unnecessary). Last thing we need to add is that clock hand.

A clock hand, rescaling on object axis

Add a Mesh > Cube into scene, rotate it and scale to fit the width of the hand. To get the same results, you can check if your rotation is about 32° and scale about 1/10 of the original cube. To be completely sure about achieving the same results, if you're not sure what you're about to do, follow those shortcuts. After adding cube, press R then 32 on numpad. And S then .1 on numpad to scale to 1/10. What i wanted to demonstrate is however scaling on object axis, instead of world ones. Before we rescale it, we need to make sure from where to where we want to scale. It is from the center of the clock to the very peak of the clock hand. We will define origin by moving the 3D cursor (Left Mouse Button) to the hand origin (center of the clock). Having done that, we'll tell Blender that we want to scale from there. In 3d window menu select Pivot Point > 3D cursor, as you can see on the picture. Now move the bottom edge of the Cube right into that 3D cursor. Then we can finaly scale. Press S and Z twice, that makes the magic, because second hit will force to transform along the object axis, rather than the world one. Repeat the procedure for the second hand. modeling a clock hand step by step

Extruding to third space

Now we have all the objects we need for the basic shape. Let's leave the fron view perspective and give it a third dimension. First we will extrude all the objects, and then arrange them to their right position. This is very handy shortcut, press Ctrl + Shift + Q. You'll get screen divided into 4 windows, where you can see image from top, side, front and from tha camera view at the same time. You can get back anytyime, by pressing the same. We will focus on the side view, right bottom, under camera view. Select one of the objects, switch to Edit Mode, select everything and press E (& move the mouse) to extrude the shape into 3rd dimension. Once the reference provided us only front view, rest is up to your fantasy and way you understand the image. Extrude all the objects we made. After extruding arrange the objects on thy Y axis, some parts belong to front, some to behind a bit. Use simple G then Y to move only on Y axis. Afterwards you might add some additional loops, extrusions, or reshape anything you find ugly.


Wow! You made it to the end! As you might noticed the ending steps were rather at your hands, therefore our results might differ. If you were able to finish it somehow, you have actually learned more than you think. If you understood those basic steps, you can already do a lot and the most confusing part of Blendering is now behind you. Learning new things on your current knowledge base is now much easier and most importantly, you can somehow handle the space and objects within. Therefore, you are able to start modelling on your own. Of course, there is much to learn, but will be always :). Congratulations, you learned the basics of modelling in Blender!

Brought to you by Tony tony slacik carnivora profile photo Tony Slacik Animation, Special Effects, CG SFX, Properties I have no description! modeling a clock hand step by step

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