Review: The Essential Blender Author: firewire
Written: October 27th 2007, 8:11 pm PST
The Essential Blender


Roland Hess
No Starch Press

4 / 5
Over the past few years 3D animation and graphic design tools have become more powerful and readily available to both artist and hobbyists. Due to this, today, there are a large number 3D modeling applications, each with their pros and cons. Most of these applications are still too expensive for the average individual user and require extensive training. There is one exception; Blender. Blender was designed by 3D artists for ease of use (for professionals) and is licensed freely as an open source application. I have done 3D modeling on and off as a hobby and recently picked up a copy of The Essential Blender: Guide to 3D Creation with the Open Source Suite Blender; written as a collaboration, edited by Roland Hess, and published by No Starch Press. This book just hit the market in September.

The Essential Blender is a 371 page informational how to, rather than a complete composition of tutorials on how to create 3D models and animations. The book comes with an informational disk that includes tutorials and Blender installation files. The book also does not focus specifically on step by step examples of how to create, skin, and animate specific models; instead the authors describe how to use the tools and functions built into Blender. They include a few tutorials throughout the text to help aid in the learning process. This allows the collaberative authors to be more personable. They add comments and tips about methods that most users prefer and provides tutorials to allow readers to find what works best for them. This unbiased teaching in the way to create models shows that they have tailored this book to give artist the tools to be creative in their design.

The structure of the book was meant to be read by both amateurs and professionals, but I caution amateurs that this book gets complex very quickly and may not be best suited for those just starting to open their eyes to the 3D design world.

The writing style makes for an easy and exciting read, itís almost as if a friend is helping you through a school project. I even laughed at a few of the comments. The authors keep the technical detail down to a minimum and focuses on teaching readers how to use the tools and what they are used for.

The book allows modeling and design veterans to flip through to the information they are looking for rather than reading the book cover to cover, but can also be read in order for those who are just learning to use blender or are just getting into 3D design and modeling. Chapters are separated by topics of focus such as installation, interface, materials and textures, and mesh modeling. For those who really know there stuff, the chapters on particles and animation are amazing. These two chapters were beyond my expertise but I found them very fascinating and informational.

The process of animating a 3D character or object is described very thoroughly. The authors go over basics first describing animation through a change in position over time using poses. Then the animation gets more complex, by attaching the mesh to a structure. The structure can then be animated and the mesh moves along with the movements of the structure that was created. The authors use a character and create a skeletal structure that will be used to animate it. I found the animation chapters to be very informational and well thought out. The authors outline the step by step process of creating animations of various complexity and points out potential errors that users may come across in their designs.

Another chapter tailored to the skilled 3D designer is the chapter on particles. Blenderís particle system is more powerful than I could fathom. The system actually calculates the movement of particles by taking in parameters from the user and can even incorporate physical barriers and environmental forces. This is the system that you would use to create a spray of water, or the movement of hairs. Blender does all of the calculations for you and the uses for this system are nearly endless. The authors do a great job covering all of the basics for the particle system so that users may take what they have given them and build off of that knowledge. The collaberation uses a tutorial that helps users determine the gravitational effects that can be placed on the particles in a model. The tutorial is very easy and does not take much time to complete. It is a great example of how to use the particle system and the power that the Blender application has.

I found a great quote in this book that is very true to the world of 3D animation and design and even art in general.

"Donít expect Blender, or any other 3D application for that matter, to substitute for a lack of artistic knowledge and skill. 3D applications are tools, and nothing more. In the hands of a skilled artist, they can produce moving pieces of art. In the hands of a hack, they will produce junk. "

An artist is determined by their creativity and design and should not be limited by the tools in which they use to create their work. Blender will not hold any artist back. With Blender the options are endless. The authors help give the users the knowledge of the tools they need to create their masterpieces. Whether the user is a hobbyist or a professional The Essential Blender provides the information needed and in a way easily understandable to both the technical and non technical readers to create anything that can be imagined.

No Starch Overview:
Blender Website:

*Firewire is a founder of
* does not have any affiliation with No Starch Press or the Blender foundation]
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