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Sunday May 22nd, 2022

Useful Blender Setups

Whether starting out with a fresh install of Blender, or simply looking to get more out the currently installed version, these series of articles below explains some of the Blender setups I use (from both a general user as well as from a python scripting perspective!) Everything from Add-ons to workflows, this section has you covered!

When it comes to navigating around Blender's 3d viewport (orbiting, panning or zooming), these functionalities easily becomes one of the most important as you will be doing these constantly! What many may not know is that there is different navigation setups, and the wrong setup will make using Blender a chore! Below are two navigation methods, detailing their pros and cons.

Method 1: Default Navigation

Using the default navigation requires no changes in preferences. Here are some basic navigation and selection shortcuts:

3D Viewport Navigation

Loop / Ring Selections

  • Orbit: MMB
  • Pan: Shift + MMB
  • Zoom: Crtl + MMB
  • Zoom Region: Shift + B then LMB draw rectangle region
  • Roll: Shift + Numpad 4 or Shift + Numpad 6
  • Edge Loop Select: Alt + LMB on an edge
  • Edge Ring Select: Ctrl + Alt + LMBon an edge
  • Face Loop / Ring Select: In face mode, Alt + LMB select an edge (or near it) will determine if it's a loop or ring selection!

Method 2: Emulate Three Button Mouse

This is my personal preferred method (as I don't like pressing the middle mouse button for constantly orbiting, panning, zooming, etc..). Instead, Alt takes its place. But as a result, this will change the way the Alt key modifier normally works! Go into Edit > Preferences and within the Input panel, enable the option for Emulate 3 Button Mouse within the Mouse section.

3D Viewport Navigation

Loop / Ring Selections

  • Orbit: LMB and drag while pressing Alt
  • Pan: Shift + Alt + LMB
  • Zoom: Crtl + Alt + LMB
  • Zoom Region: Shift + B then LMB draw rectangle region
  • Roll: Shift + Numpad 4 or Shift + Numpad 6
  • Edge Loop Select: Double LMB on an edge
  • Edge Ring Select: Ctrldouble LMB on an edge
  • Face Loop / Ring Select: In face mode, double LMB select an edge (or near it) will determine if it's a loop or ring selection!


While the Alt key behaviour is changed, Blender has our backs by creating alternative ways of edge loop and ring selections! It is worth noting that on the Mac, there is the possibility to change from the Alt key to the OS Key (Command Key - thus preserving the Alt key functionality!)

Overall, the main point here is to illustrate that there is more than just the default navigation / selection configuration! Blender might be that much more enjoyable to use for those who prefer not to keep using the middle mouse button as an integral part of this heavily used setup! You can read up on the official Blender documents for navigation and selections for more in-depth info! ∎

Luckily, when installing a newer version of Blender, a new folder is created and installed there, unlike other software out there that simply overwrites itself, likely breaking backwards compatibility! This is extremely advantageous for us as we can have multiple previous versions to fall back on in the event the latest version breaks things like add-ons for instance! It's a good idea to transfer all your Blender settings (keymaps, add-ons, etc...) when migrating to a newer version of Blender to avoid re-installing and re-mapping everything (which would be a complete nightmare!)

There are basically two methods of transferring those settings. One is quite easy, and the other is not quite as easy, but still easy enough. Both sections below will go into details about each one. This will save you time and frustrations in the future!

Method 1: Copy Via Splash Screen

Perhaps the easiest method is to do it via the splash screen of the newly installed version. If you have an older version also installed, pay close attention to the links listed on the new splash screen! One link should be titled something like load < insert version number here > Settings, or Copy Previous Settings (something along those lines). This is what you need to click on!

Depending on the version, the initial first time launched splash screen will have a link to copy or load previous settings!

Method 2: Copy Via Copying Folders

The less easy (but still not difficult) method is to go into where Blender is stored and copy folders from the previous version into the newer version (in the event you didn't copy settings via the splash screen).

Windows 10+

  • Navigate to: C:/Users/_your_user_name_/AppData/Roaming/Blender Foundation/Blender
  • Here you will see a list of all versioned Blender folders! These folders usually consists two sub folders (config: where startups and user preferences are stored, and scripts: where addons and presets are stored). Copy and past into the current location the root folder version you are interested in and rename it to the newest version you installed!
  • Once the newest installed version of Blender is relaunched, it will make use of the matching version folder you just renamed! Pretty simple really!

Mac OSX

  • Navigate to: Users/_your_user_name_/Library/Application Support/Blender/ (if the Library folder isn't visible, hold Alt) and from the very top screen Finder menu, choose Library from there).
  • As with the PC platform, here you will see a list of all versioned Blender folders! Copy and past into the current location the root folder version you are interested in and rename it to the newest version you installed!


There you have it! No need to re-invent the wheel so to speak! Copying preferences saves time and frustrations! ∎

Are you tired of always having to press Tab ⇄ to go into Edit Mode every time you want to modify vertices, edges or faces? If you don't mind altering keys initially bound to hiding some collections, here is a solution that skips that initial tabbing keystroke altogether!

1: Finding the Necessary Keymaps

Go into Edit > Preferences and from within the Keymap panel, locate 3D View > Object Mode > Object Mode (Global) and scroll down until you find the 1, 2, & 3 keymap shortcuts (which by default are set to hiding collections).

2: Change Identifier Texts

Open up each shortcut and change their respective identifier texts from object.hide_collection to object.mode_set_with_submode and hit return! This changes the context for these panel shortcuts to mode selections! Here's an example of shortcut 1:

3: Change 'Mode:' Dropdown Meuns & Set Mode Behaviors

Set each Mode: drop down menu to Edit Mode and for shortcut 1, choose the Vertex button. For shortcut 2, choose the Edge button and finally set the third shortcut to Face!

Be sure to save your preferences! From now on, you won't need to hit Tab each time to access vertex, edge or face sub-selection modes! Just select the mesh and hit whichever sub-selection mode (you'll automatically be put into Edit Mode!) This saves the repetitive step of pressing the Tab key each time! As a bonus, the functionality of Tab hasn't changed. You can still jump between Object and Edit mode without any issues. The only thing we changed here is the shortcuts to hiding collections! ∎

As powerful as Blender is, it's the add-ons that truly extend what Blender can really do, adding a plethora of extra functionality that makes working in Blender that much more enjoyable (and time saving)! Below is a list of add-ons worth checking out!

Add-on

Description

Bool Tool

Select two overlapping meshes in Object Mode and either press Shift + Ctrl + B to bring up popup menu or press N and select Edit in the side panel. The top set of operations are destructive ones while bottom set applies the appropriate boolean modifiers!

Add Curve: Extra Objects

This will increase the library of default curves when Pressing A and going into the curve section! Lots of extra curves that could make life a little easier!

Add Mesh: Extra Objects

This add-on adds a bunch of additional primitives (like rock generator, gears, single point (which is useful for extruding to create stuff like tree trunks/branches, etc...). Do access this, simply go to Edit > Preferences and select Add-ons. From the add-on search field, type extra and enable the Add Mesh: Extra Objects. The next time you press A to bring up the add panel, you'll notice a chock full of new primitives at your disposal!

Modifier Tools

Adds extra buttons on top of modifier stack to make things like quickly applying all stacked modifiers at once a breeze! Go to Edit > Preferences and select Add-ons. In the add-on search text field, type modifier and you should see the add-on Interfaces: Modifier Tools. Enable it. From now on, when adding modifiers to your meshes, you'll notice an extra set of buttons above the modifier list for convenient extra functionality!

Loop Tools

Provides extra functionality like forcing a selection into a circular formation among other things!

Node Wrangler

Boosts shortcut functionality from within Blender's Shader Editor (quick video).

Auto Mirror

This built in add-on enables the user to instantly have a mesh 'instanced' along an axis so that they can just work on one half and see the complete symmetry at all times.

Mesh: F2

Extends the make edge/face functionality.

MACHIN3tools

Pie menus which provide a whole set of new custom tools. They are not just a re-arrangement of native Blender tools. There are dozens of must-have tools involved! Download

Mira Tools

Curve-based tools. Uses splines to control the shape of a mesh independently from its topology. Great tool that makes getting clean shapes easier. Download

TextTools

A must-have add-on for UV editing. Download

Interactive Tools

Collection of modeling functions and general utilities missing in blender. Download

Interface: 3D viewport pie menus

This add-on converts pie menus to be more 'complete', like the Delete menu for example (when pressing X) into a full featured radial pie menu that offers a better visual organization of available buttons!

UV-Packer

A powerful (and free) UV packer that does a great job at packing UV shells in an optimum (much better than Blender's native UV packing capabilities!) Download

There used to be (and there still is) an undo history function. At some point, the Blender developers removed the shortcut to this, but it's possible to bring this back! First start by going to Edit > Preferences, and from the keymap panel, find and open Screen (Global), then scroll all the way to the bottom and click on the + Add New button. This will create a new 'None' shortcut. Open this and within the indentifier text field, simply type ed.undo_history and press enter. This will automatically rename the shortcut from 'None' to 'Undo History'. Finally, set your desired shortcut keys (in this case, Ctrl + Alt + Z was chosen, but feel free to set it to something else!) Finally, save your preferences.

Now, when you use the assigned shortcut, the 'Undo History' popup will appear, allowing you to jump to anywhere in the history list!

If you are going to do some python scripting in Blender, here are some preferences that can be enabled to help you out along the way!

1: Enable Developer Extras & Python Tooltips

Start by going to Edit > Preferences and from within the Interface side panel, enable both Developer Extras and Python Tooltips. The benefits of Developer Extras includes being able to do searches for Operators (core functionality behind buttons for instance). Python Tooltips displays additional python information when hovering over a button, slider, etc...

2: Development Icon Viewer

Chances are, at some point you'll need to add some icons to either pie menu or panel buttons. By default, the development icon viewer is not enabled. To change this, simply go to Edit > Preferences > and from the Add-on panel, in the search field, type "Development". This will bring up any add-ons that start with this search key word. Simply enable the checkbox for Development: Icon Viewer. Once this is enabled, you'll have access to all the native icons Blender offers in the Scripting tab!

Once enabled, the icon viewer is visible in the header of the  python interactive console  within the  Scripting  tab!

3: Setup Script Reload Shortcut

While you can use Alt + P with the mouse cursor in the scripting window to test run your current script, it's not a practical solution. The best option would be to assign a keyboard shortcut to reload the script instead! Since Blender 2.83, the add-ons reload functionality is no longer included by default. It will be necessary to create a new one from scratch. But don't worry... it's a simply procedure!

  • Start by going to Preferences > Keymap and open the Screen > Screen (Global) section.
  • Click the Add New button at the bottom of the list. From within the operator's indentifier text field, type "script.reload".
  • Within the keyboard field, press F8 (you can choose something entirely different of course) and finally save your preferences if you don't have the auto save enabled.


From now on, when testing a currently loaded script, you can simply press F8 (or whichever you have chosen) to reload the script after making changes and saving it! ∎

Once enabled, the icon viewer is visible in the header of the python interactive console within the Scripting tab!

By default, whenever you save a Blender file, a backup file is created (usually named something like <filename>.Blend1 ) Notice the 1 at the end of the file name? This is basically Blender creating a save of the previous file version, and in my opinion it can be quite useless as this adds save file bloat! Let's examine how to remedy this as well as ensure that auto save feature are set to your liking!

1: Remove Extra Backup Saves and Set Auto Save Timer

Within Edit > Preferences, navigate to the Save & Load panel and set the Save Versions value to 0. From this point on wards, every time you save a file, only the current version is saved! Also by default, the Auto Save Timer (Minutes) value is thankfully enabled and is given a value of 2. This is good in my opinion, but if you prefer more (or less) frequent backups, simply adjust the timer value accordingly!

2: Where to access Auto Saved Files

In the event you find yourself needing to go back to a previously auto-saved file, simply go to File > Recover > Auto Save... From there, you'll see a popup with a list of files generated by the Auto Save feature for you to choose from! ∎

By default, the J key connects two or more vertices by adding new edges between them. This is useful when say manually re-triangulating mesh faces for example. The problem with this default functionality is that it only works when Click / Shift + Left-Clicking vertices, as this functionality is very highly dependant on the order of vertex selections for it to work! Basically, this means that if you try to involve say the Select Box tool (to make rectangular marquee selections), this will work when selecting two vertices only! If three or more are selected and one or more involve the Select Box tool, you will receive an 'Invalid Selection Order' error!

When I manually re-triangulate faces, I prefer to use a combination of using the Select Box tool as well as Shift + Left-Clicking vertices. This is faster and less tedious than having to select each vertex individually.

As a result, the behaviour of the J key needs to be altered. To do this, go to Edit > Preferences and from within the Keymap panel, type Connect in the search text field. A short list of connect related functionalities will be listed. Open the Vertex Connect Path entry. Change the text in the identifier field from mesh.vert_connect_path to simply mesh.vert_connect (you're just removing the _path part, which changes the function from vertex connect path to vertex connect pairs).

This will now enable you to select multiple vertices and connect them via the Select Box tool! Blender doesn't care about the order of vertex selections because of the vertex_connect_pairs function! Save your preferences if you don't have auto save enabled from within preferences and there you have it! ∎

When deleting a mesh in Object Mode by pressing X, you are always greeted with a small confirmation popup verifying if you want to delete it. This can become annoying and cumbersome over time! You have two options to bypass the confirmation process altogether. Either:

  • Press Delete (beneath the insert key) -or-

  • Go into your preferences and from within the keymap panel, search for delete. Scroll down to the Object Mode version which uses the 'X' keyboard shortcut. Open this shortcut panel and notice that by default, the radial button for Confirm is enabled. Simply disable this and save your preferences! From now on, when in Object Mode, there will no longer be a confirmation popup every time you use the X key to delete something! ∎

By default, chances are when you boot up Blender, you are always greeted with this common startup scene (a lone cube, camera and light).


And if this is the case, you'll end up constantly removing these objects to start fresh. But there is a fast way of setting up a default scene without all those objects. Start by removing them and then going to File > Defaults > Save Startup File. From now on, every time you load up Blender, you'll be greeted with a clean scene within no objects in it! ∎