Hello everyone!

In this tutorial we will see an overview of the tools that allow us to navigate in the Blender 3D scene, to change the point of view within the virtual universe. Apart from a couple of exceptions, in this tutorial we will NOT see how to select, move and transform objects in the 3D scene: we will deal with them in another tutorial.

This is a basic tutorial, made with version 2.8 of the program, aimed at absolute Blender beginners or those who, like myself, come from previous versions, which presented a very different interface.

 Well, given these premises, let's start!


Voice: ITA - Subs: ENG

YouTube embedded subs CCIn the video embedded below there are (my) Italian voice and English subs; be sure to turn on the CC and set the subs (font, opacity, etc.) as you like.

When starting a new Blender 3D 2.8 project, with the factory interface (or "layout"), we find a great "3D Viewport" editor at the center of the scene and, inside it, three objects, listed in the editor Outliner top right: a virtual camera, a light source and a cube, which we will use in this tutorial as a reference to change the point of view and navigate in 3D space.

The 3D Viewport is therefore our window on the 3D virtual universe, our observation point within the scene.

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THE GRID AND THE REFERENCE SYSTEM

Before moving into 3D space, we need to understand what is "above", what is "below", what is "right", and so on. The center of the virtual universe is called "Origin" and from there three axes start: a 3D extension of what, in the two dimensions, is the Cartesian XY plane. In Blender, in particular, we have that the horizontal plane is given by the X and Y axes, while the vertical axis (perpendicular to the XY plane) is the Z axis.

The grid we see framed at the start of Blender identifies the XY plane.

The X axis is the horizontal one, so it will allow us to identify "right" ("Right") and "left" ("Left"), understood therefore with respect to the Origin, the center of the virtual universe; in the same way, the Y axis will allow us to identify a "forward" ("Front") and a "back" ("back"), while the vertical axis, the Z, will allow us to identify an "above" ( "Top") and a "below" ("Bottom").

At the top right of the 3D Viewport we find a large icon that shows just the axes of the reference system and that we will learn to use during this tutorial.


FREE MOVEMENTS

So let's see how to move the observation point within the 3D scene, starting with free movements.

With the new version 2.8, Blender gives us - at the bottom of the main program window - some suggestions for the mouse buttons to use, depending on where the cursor is; for example, moving the mouse on a Properties editor, with the left button we will obviously have the selection, with the central button we will have the Panning, that is the translation of the window, while with the right button of the mouse we will open the menu related to that Context, if such a menu is available for the area where the click is made.

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By moving the mouse cursor over the 3D Viewport, the suggestions change; in particular, we have:

  • with the left button, the selection of an object;
  • with the left button and drag, the definition of a rectangular selection area ("Box Select");
  • with the middle mouse button, the rotation of the view: in practice, a movement made by keeping the center of the 3D Viewport (in which we have the cube, in this case) at the center of the frame;
  • with the right mouse button, the opening of the contextual menu: very soon we will see what it means.

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The mouse allows us, therefore, to rotate the view, with the central key (which, by the way, we will soon see how to emulate, if we did not have a mouse with three keys); to fix the point of view in the scene, however, two tools are missing: the zoom and the panning (that is: the translation of the view).

To zoom in the 3D view you can use the mouse wheel, if present, or use the combination CTRL and middle mouse button or, again, click on the magnifying glass icon at the top right of the 3D Viewport and drag the mouse towards up or down, while holding down the left mouse button, to zoom in or out.

Finally, to pan the view, you can use the SHIFT and middle mouse button combination, or click on the hand icon at the top right of the 3D Viewport (next to the magnifying glass) and move the mouse while holding the left button on the icon.


THE CONTEXT(UAL) MENU (RIGHT KEY)

I will now make a couple of selections of the objects of the scene to show you a practical example of using the contextual menu.

With the click of the left mouse button I am selecting the cube in the center of the scene; now, pressing the right mouse button will open a menu in which we will find some functions specific to the type of object selected: for example, for the cube, we have "Shade Smooth" and "Shade Flat", above, which refer to two Shading mode of 3D objects.

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With a click of the left button (on the icon of the object in the 3D Viewport or on its name in the Outliner, it does the same) I am now selecting the "Light" light source, then I open the related contextual menu with the right button: this time, at the top of the menu that appears, we will find tools typical of light sources, such as "Energy" or "Radius". In general, therefore, you can retrieve the proper tools of an element by selecting it and pressing the right mouse button.

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HOW TO EMULATE THE THREE BUTTONS MOUSE AND THE NUMERIC KEYPAD

I've already talked a couple of times about the middle mouse button: in fact, to work in Blender 3D the ideal would be to have a three-button mouse (or a mouse with a clickable wheel, which will be the central button) ; however, as mentioned in the Blender 2.8 interface elements tutorial, it is possible to emulate the presence of the central mouse button in this way:

  1. from the Edit menu, click on Preferences;
  2. in the new window that will appear on the screen, open the Input tab;
  3. here, click on "Emulate 3 Button Mouse" to activate the emulation; leaving the mouse cursor on the box label, a tooltip will appear which will inform us about the emulation mode: the central button will be implemented when we press the ALT key and the left mouse button.

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In this same window we also find another emulation tool that is particularly useful if you do not have a numeric keypad, as often happens in laptops: "Emulate Numpad". By activating this option, the keys 1 to 0 above the letters in the keyboard will be considered by Blender as keys on the numeric keypad.

The numeric keypad keys are used, in particular, as shortcuts for some predefined views of the 3D Viewport, as we shall see soon.

To find these settings again at the next Blender starts, click on "Save Preferences" at the bottom left if "Auto Save Preferences" is not selected, then close this window.

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PERSP / ORTHO MODE AND BASIC VIEWS

Blender provides some shortcuts to frame the scene from "standard" points of view like above, below, right, left, forward and back; in particular, in the upper right corner of the 3D Viewport we find a large icon with arrows and colored circles, some of which have letters identifying the axes of the scene reference system.

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By clicking on these circles we will be able to change the frame on the fly, setting it in particular in specific points of view, which we will find named in the upper left corner of the 3D Viewport; clicking on the circle with the X (which identifies the right-left axis), for example, we will find ourselves in Right Orthographic, because the circle of X is the "positive" part of the X axis that looks towards the center of the scene ( therefore, precisely, "from the right", "Right").

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Clicking on the blue circle, but without a letter (opposite the circle with the Z), we will instead find ourselves in Bottom Ortographic, because the Z axis, blue, is the vertical one and the blue circle without letter identifies the "negative" part of the axis looking towards the center of the scene (ie "from below", "Bottom", in fact)...

... but that's not all: we note that, by clicking on these tools, the way in which the scene is represented also changes, which becomes "Orthographic", as described in the upper left corner of the 3D Viewport. The Orthographic mode (or "Ortho") lacks the perspective effects of the free view and, in combination with the standard observation points (Top, Bottom, Right, Left, Front, Back) it is very useful for positioning objects accurately in the 3D scene.

To return to a free view, which is called User Perspective, simply click and drag with the middle mouse button anywhere in the scene: free rotation will release you from the current point of view. You can also rotate the view by clicking and dragging in the XYZ selector area, top right in the 3D Viewport.

You can also switch to Orthographic mode in a free view and you can switch to a Perspective view even in one of the standard views: just click on the grid icon, top right in the 3D Viewport.

For all standard points of view and to switch from Ortographic mode to Perspective and vice versa, there are shortcuts of the numeric keypad; personally, I prefer to click on the XYZ tool circles at the top right in the 3D Viewport, when I want to use a "standard" point of view in Ortographic mode; however, there are also menu items, in particular in the View - Viewpoint menu of the 3D Viewport, which also list the shortcuts of the numeric keypad for the various "standard" views.

Practice with the various combinations: change the representation mode between Orthographic and Perspective, click on the standard views, use the numeric keypad keys, and so on; while doing it, take a look at the label at the top left of the 3D Viewport, which will tell you at any time what the current mode is (User Perspective, Right Ortho, etc.); keep an eye on the XYZ selector at the top right, because it will let you know at any time where the above is, where the below is and so on.


HOW TO FRAME THE SELECTED OBJECT

Before closing this introductory tutorial, I show you how to quickly move the observation point so as to put the selected object in the center of the 3D Viewport (very useful operation to rotate the 3D Viewport around the object of interest without problems).

Select the object that interests you with a click of the left mouse button (in the 3D Viewport, on the object icon, or in the Outliner, choosing it from the list) and, while the mouse cursor is in a 3D Viewport , press the "dot" key on the numeric keypad.

The viewpoint will move to the selected object, so you can now easily rotate around the object, to examine it from various angles.


TO RECAP...

To recap: the virtual universe has a center (or "Origin") and uses, as a reference, a horizontal plane (X and Y axes) and a vertical axis (Z).

You can move the observation point of view in the 3D scene using the middle mouse button (or clickable wheel) and its combinations with CTRL and SHIFT, performing three basic operations: rotation, panning and zoom.

The middle mouse button can be emulated via ALT and left button, setting "Emulate 3 Button Mouse" in Preferences.

Blender provides standard views to frame the scene from above, below, right, left, front and back, both in perspective and orthogonal mode; you can switch to these views by clicking on the reference system tool, in the upper right corner of the 3D Viewport, or through some shortcuts on the numeric keypad or, again, with some items in the View - Viewpoint menu of the 3D Viewport.

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With the "." Key on the numeric keypad you can quickly move the view of the 3D Viewport onto the selected object.

If you are starting now to use Blender 3D, do some practice with these tools to move freely around the virtual universe, changing your point of view within the scene.

Well, for this brief introductory tutorial on the main navigation tools in the 3D Viewport of Blender 3D 2.8, that's all!

See you soon!