Learn 3D Graphics

Environment and Particles

Learn the basics of creating an environment and using particles in Blender.
  1. Create a new, separate file for the environment
  2. Name the file with your first name, the initial of your last name, and the name of your environment (ie. JohnS_Beach.blend)
  3. Create a new collection for your environment
    1. In the Outliner, right-click on "Scene Collection"
    2. Double-click on the name of the new collection and give it a new, descriptive name (ie. Beach or House)
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For outdoor environments, the ground plane will usually be the first thing you need to create. If working with an ocean or space environment, your first steps will likely be different.

  1. Delete the default cube
  2. If the pivot point has moved from the center, use "Shift+S → Cursor to World Origin" to place it in the center of the grid
  3. Add a ground plane (Shift+A → Mesh → Plane) and give it a descriptive name (ie. forest ground) This image is missing
  4. Scale the plane to make it larger (S) This image is missing
  5. In "Edit" mode, select the plane (A)
  6. Subdivide (W → Subdivide) to add some detail
  7. In the bottom left subdivision window, increase the number of cuts to 10
  8. Subdivide again if needed This image is missing
  9. Using proportional editing (O), adjust the ground plane to have some dimension (in nature there is always variation in the ground height):
    1. For smooth hills/valleys, set proportional editing to smooth and pull up/down single vertices along the Z axis
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    2. For jagged, more rocky terrain, set proportional editing to random and pull up/down single vertices along the Z axis
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    3. Whatever the type of proportional editing, moving multiple vertices in different areas and with different amounts of proportional editing (vary the size with the scroll wheel) can create a much more natural look This image is missing

When creating the interior of a building - whether it is a single room or multiple, it is often helpful to remove one or 2 of the walls. This can make setting the camera view easier. If you need to be able to see all of the walls, "H" can temporarily hide selected faces while "Alt+H" makes anything hidden visible again.

  1. Move the default cube into the environment collection to use as a room
  2. Rename the cube descriptively This image is missing
  3. Scale up the size of the cube (S)
  4. Optionally, in "Edit" mode, using "Face" select, select either 1 or 2 sides and then delete (X) or hide (H) This image is missing
  5. Use loopcuts to add the detail for doors, windows, and etc. This image is missing
  6. Select strategic faces and extrude to add depth (ie. for door frames, window frames, hallways, alcoves or etc.)
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Hair Particles

Hair particles can be used to add "hair" to a character, grass for the environment, or to duplicate objects across an area - like repeating buildings for a city. Keep in mind that particles are only visible in Object mode.

  1. With the object selected, go to the "Particles" tab of the properties panel This image is missing
  2. Click on the + icon to add a particle system This image is missing
  3. Change the type from "Emitter" to "Hair" This image is missing
  4. Adjust the length and number of the particles as needed
    • Don't forget the particles are only visble in Object mode
    • Add the minimum amount of particles needed to get the desired visible effect - too many particles can cause the file to lag drastically This image is missing
    • Adjust the thickness of the hair particles under "Hair Shape" and "Diameter Root" (the shape is only visible with the Cycles engine in render shading) This image is missing
    • Experiment with the source settings to control how the particles are distributed This image is missing
    • Add a material for the particles:
      1. In the "Materials" tab, add a material to the plane for the ground color
      2. If the grass should be a different color, create a second material for the grass
      3. Double-click on the material names to rename descriptively This image is missing
      4. In the "Particles" tab, under the "Render" subpanel, click in the field next to "Material" to select the correct material (if the object has only 1 material, it will be selected by default) This image is missing

Sometimes you may want to use a particle system, but you want to use your own object or collection of objects. Maybe this is to have custom blades of grass, leaves, or city buildings...

  1. Create an object to use as a particle and name descriptively (ie. Blade of Grass)
  2. Set the object origin to the bottom of the object:
    1. In Object mode, select the object
    2. In the menu go to "Object → Set Origin → Origin to Geometry" This image is missing
    3. In Edit mode move the object so that the orgin is at the base This image is missing
  3. Apply the scale and rotation (Object → Apply → Scale & Rotation) or use CMD+A
  4. Give the object a material
  5. In Object mode, select the object that has a particle system (ie. the ground)
  6. In the "Render" subpanel of the particles panel, change "Render As" to Object This image is missing
  7. Under the "Object" subpanel, select the object
  8. Check "Rotation" and then select the correct orientation for your collection - usually this will be "Object X" This image is missing
  9. Under "Render" deselect "Show emitter"
  10. Adjust number and source settings as needed
  1. Create a collection with objects named descriptively This image is missing
  2. Make sure the origin of each object is at the bottom
  3. Give each object a material
  4. Arrange the objects in the center of the grid
    1. Select the objects in Object mode
    2. Shift+S → "Cursor to World Origin"
    3. Shift+S → "Selection to Cursor"
    4. Adjust the position/rotation of the objects as needed This image is missing
    5. Apply the scale and rotation (Object → Apply → Scale & Rotation) or use CMD+A
  5. Select the object with the particles system (ie. the ground)
  6. In the "Render" subpanel of the particles panel, change "Render As" to Collection This image is missing
  7. Under the "Collection" subpanel, select the collection
  8. Check "Rotation"
  9. Select the correct orientation for your collection - usually this will be "Object X" This image is missing
  10. Choose collection mode:
    • Whole Collection - the entire collection acts as a single particle
    • Pick Random - objects from the collection are randomly placed as individual particles
  11. Under "Render" deselect "Show emitter"
  12. Adjust the particle numbers and source settings as needed

Having too many particles in a scene can really slow down the performance of a file. Apply particles just where they are needed to minimize lagginess (ie. if the camera will be stationary, try just having the particles in the view of the camera, or just up close, instead of covering an entire ground plane).

  1. Add a particle system like above, but wait to change the number/length of particles
  2. In "Edit" mode, create a vertex group where the hair should be located:
    1. Select the necessary faces
      1. Setup and look the camera This image is missing
      2. Select the vertices that should be inside the group This image is missing
      3. or select the inverse and invert the selection
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    2. In the "Object Data" tab of the properties panel, under "Vertex Groups", click on the + icon
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    3. Select "Assign" so that the selected faces become part of the group
    4. Double-click on the group name to rename descriptively This image is missing
  3. In the Particles tab of the properties panel, scroll down towards the bottom and expand the "Vertex Group" subpanel
  4. Next to "Density" click in the empty field and select the vertex group This image is missing
  5. Adjust the particles settings as needed

Particle Edit mode allows the particles to be be customized. Only use particle edit after you are finished with the particle settings. Some settings (ie. length & number) will not be available after using this mode, unless the edits are discarded.

  1. In Object mode, select the object with particles - ie. the ground plane
  2. Change the mode to Particle Edit This image is missing
  3. Use the particle edit tools to customize the particles (each tool has different tool options) This image is missing
    • Comb - allows the particles to be brushed in different directions
    • Smooth - straightens out the particles
    • Add - adds additional particles
    • Length - increases the length of the particles
    • Puff - makes particles more vertical (add) or more horizontal (subtract)
    • Cut - shortens or deletes particles
    • Weight - controls how much the particles move if "Hair Dynamics" are turned on
      • Red (Strength of 1.0)= no movement
      • Blue (Strength of 0.0)= moves freely
  4. Selection Methods:
    • Particles can be selected individually or in groups if the selection mode is changed from "path" (the default) - this allows the tools to be targeted to the selection
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  5. Remove the edit if necessary:
    1. In the particles tab, select "Delete Edit" This image is missing

Sometimes you may want forces like gravity or wind to act upon your particle system.

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