Introduction to Blender

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Welcome to the notes for a 3-hour workshop introducing the basics of Blender, as written by Debbie Ding. Drop me an email: 04.48am at

This course was designed to answer all those questions that I wish someone could have told me at the very beginning when I started learning to use Blender.

By the end of this introductory workshop, we will have covered the basics of: The Blender Interface, Shortcuts, Selecting Objects, Transforming Objects, Moving Objects, Adding and Removing Objects, Adding Modifiers, Creating Diffuse/Specular materials with nodes, Lighting, Camera Positioning, and how to render with Cycles (Blender's ray-trace based production render engine). Finally, we will export the image and make it into a 3d pano for google cardboard.

Other topics for a more advanced course would include: particles, hair, rigging, more advanced materials, animation, lighting, python scripting, etc. I also took UV unwrapping out as it will take more time to explain. If we have time I will come back and cover that.

These notes will cover the basic set up.

Blender Interfacing: Set up your devices

  • Does your Keyboard have a numpad?: Ideally, you should have a laptop with a dedicated numpad, but if you don't we can emulate it.
  • DO YOU HAVE A MOUSE?: It is highly advisable that you have a three-mouse button with a scroll wheel, but of course we can also emulate it if necessary. But not having an appropriate mouse with sufficient buttons will be an act of unnecessary self-torture. You can use Blender without a Mouse, but its very very tedious. Please get a mouse.


  • If you have a laptop without dedicated numpad, you can emulate the numpad by going to Blender User Preferences > Input.
  • Blender User Preferences SHORTCUT is ⌘ Cmd+,



  • If you don't have a 3 button mouse, you can emulate the three-button mouse by going to Blender User Preferences > Input.
  • Blender User Preferences SHORTCUT is ⌘ Cmd+,


  • Selecting 'emulate mouse' will mean that you can simulate the middle mouse button if you press the Alt key while using the left mouse button.

Open Blender - It always begins with a box

  • Whenever you open Blender, it always starts with a box. And it will probably look like this...

Blender new.png

Editor Type: Controlling the Interface

  • Let's start by figuring out what we're looking at here.
  • When you open Blender, you might see quite a number of different panels - there are actually 5 on this screen.
  • The biggest panel on your screen is the 3D view (outlined below in orange), which has a small icon on the bottom left corner, looking like a grey cube.

Blender editortypeview.png

Blender editor handle.png

Open up Blender and try resizing the different Editor Type panels by dragging the small handles at the top right and bottom left corner. If you click and drag the small handles inbetween two windows without letting go, you'll see a large arrow showing you how the windows can be collapsed. And if you've messed up the view and and really want to go back to the Default view, you could create a New File ⌘ Cmd+N, or Load Factory Settings.
  • If you click on the icon on the bottom, you can see all the available Editor Types.

Blender editortype.png

Editor Type: Navigating and moving objects with the mouse

  • Left-mouse button: If you randomly clicked elsewhere with your left mouse button, your screen might look like this:

Blender cursor.png

  • The cursor defines where new objects will be placed in the scene. As you can see, your cube has an origin point. If you were to Create a new Cube now, the cube would appear with its origin at the cursor.
  • Middle-mouse button: If you click on your middle mouse button and drag around, this is what rotates your view around.
  • Right-mouse button: If you click on your right mouse button and drag around, your object moves around, but at this point maybe you don't necessarily want that, so let go and just press Esc to return your cube to its original position.

Blender axis.png

  • Let's take a closer look at how things are positioned in 3D space. Everything is actually placed on 3 axes - X, Y, and Z.
  • For easy remembering, RGB is mapped to XYZ, so when you see a red arrow, you know it means to move on the X axis, and so on so forth.
  • Refer to the axis diagram on the bottom left corner as well.
Blender arrow use.png

Practice moving the default cube around the scene by dragging it around using the X, Y, Z arrows (highlighted here in yellow).

3D View: Snap Menu

  • Blender has a context-dependent interface, which means that the shortcuts and other features depends on what Editor Type (and Mode) you are in.
  • In practice, this means that it really matters where your mouse is hovering over when you press any shortcuts.
  • Let's try a shortcut for the Snap Menu, which will allow you to do things such as snapping the position of an object to the Blender cursor, or allowing you to reset the cursor back to 0,0,0.
  • Whilst your mouse is over the 3D View panel, press ⇧ Shift+s
Blender snap use.png

Practice moving the Blender Cursor and the object around using this snap menu using the shortcut ⇧ Shift+s

3D View: Essential Shortcuts for viewing

The numbers on the numpad are used to quickly move between views whilst in the 3D view. For the Rotate keys, every time you press it will rotate by 15 degrees.

Key Press Function Type of Function
1 Front View Go to a specific View
Ctrl+1 Back View Go to a specific View
3 Left side View Go to a specific View
Ctrl+3 Right side View Go to a specific View
5 Toggle between Perspective / Orthographic View Go to a specific View
7 Top View Go to a specific View
Ctrl+7 Bottom View Go to a specific View
0 Camera View Go to a specific View
9 Redraw Screen Go to a specific View
2 Rotate view on Y axis (Up) Rotate View
4 Rotate view on Z axis (Left, or in an anticlockwise fashion) Rotate View
6 Rotate view on Z axis (Right, or in a clockwise fashion) Rotate View
8 Rotate view on Y axis (Down) Rotate View

Spend a few minutes getting familiarised with these shortcuts. Also, note that if your mouse is not hovering over the 3D View Editor Type panel, these shortcuts do not work, because Blender is context-dependent, meaning that the available functions change depending on what view or mode is in focus at the moment.

3D View (Object Mode): Add Another Mesh

  • Note that you're in Object Mode in the 3D View
  • Let's quickly add another mesh to this test scene
  • First, make a note of where your Blender cursor is. Place it in the position you want the new mesh to appear at.
  • Shortcut for the Add Menu: Whilst your mouse is over the 3D View panel, press ⇧ Shift+a

Blender addmenu.png

  • Your new object should now be on the scene and it will now be the selected object with a pink outline. If you want to select the original cube (or any specific object), you have to right-mouse-click on it to select it.
Now that you know how to navigate and move things around, add a few different meshes to your scene, and move them so that none of them are overlapping.

3D View (Object Mode): Scale (Resizing)

Scale / Resizing

Whilst selecting an object:

s and move your mouse.

s followed by x, y, z, and adding numbers after will allow more fine grained resizing.

Note that the bottom left hand corner of the 3D view keeps track of an object. Same goes for all the other transformation we'll be doing.


3D View (Object Mode): Rotate


Whilst selecting an object:

r and move your mouse.

r followed by x, y, z, and adding numbers after will allow more fine grained rotating.

3D View (Edit Mode): Selecting

Switch to Edit Mode using the shortcut Tab ↹

Notice how the box changes colour to orange. And you should be toggling between ortho and perspective view at this point using 5

Vertices, Edges, and Faces


Select all

  • Tap a to select all or deselect all.

Block Select

  • b - but make sure you're in the right view to select everything!
  • An example is if you toggle between Wireframe and Solid view by pressing z, you will find that if you selected it whilst in Solid View, you might not get the vertices which are hidden behind! So make sure you're in Wireframe view. Also refer to the top right hand corner if you have an idea of how many vertices/faces you meant to select.


Circle Select

  • c and use middle mouse wheel

At this point you may find it useful to turn on and off the side number panel, because you might want to put in precise values

  • t - Tools panel
  • n - Numbers panel

3D View (Edit Mode): Editing


This is something you'll use a lot.

  • w to show the Specials Menu!

You can subdivide it more by editing the values in the Tools Panel.



This one is silly but its one button press away so Ill mention it. You can use this to turn cubes into tubes or spheres.

  • ⇧ Shiftw, everything is already bent 90 degrees, and you can make it more and more warped in a circular fashion.


Edge Cut

This is one of the things I personally use a lot. But for this, let's go back to a plain cube.

  • Select all first with a
  • Ctrlr and then Mouse Wheel Scroll to divide the edge more. Click to position.


Knife Tool

  • K Knife Tool Menu

Blender Materials

World (Environment): HDR Links


See also