Building Iron Man out of Lego in Blender Part 4: modeling basics - object editing

Image credit supplied by Paul Hatton

Introduction

Our little retro robot figure of Iron Man is made almost entirely out of a handful of brick types. On the back of the roboto we’re going to jazz things up a little with a propeller that will enable him to fly. Sure, that doesn’t enable Iron Man to fly in the comics or the films but we thought some artistic license would be fun here! It’s not like we’re creating this thing from exact blueprints! This propeller is a bit more bespoke and it will let us explore some of the editing tools that Blender provides. We’ll spend some of our time looking at the object editing tools before creating the propeller support.

Modes

Let’s first take a look at modes. In the bottom left of Blender you’ll see it says ‘Object Mode’. If you click this it'll give you a list of modes. There are three that are explicitly named modes and of those three we'll only cover object and edit modes. Simply select the mode you want to activate it.

selected objects blender 3d model

Each mode is designed to edit an aspect of the selected object.

Modes Continued

Modes can affect many things in Blender including panels and/or which controls are available in some Properties editor tabs. They can also modify menus, told and the behavior of the 3D view.

3d model modes blender

Modes adjust parts of Blender to suit the mode you're in.

Object mode

This mode is perfect if you want to create objects and work on them at a whole object level. With this mode you won’t care about getting into the details of editing vertices, edges and faces. When you enter into this mode you’ll notice that you’re giving access to an ‘Object’ menu. This opens up a whole host of new tools and features including object duplication, mirroring, and transforming.

create object mode 3d shape

Use the object mode to make changes on an object level.

Edit mode

Having created an object the time will probably come when you want to get down to a sub-object level and make changes to things like vertices, edges and faces. You can do this by entering into the Edit mode. If you do so you’ll notice all the menus instantly change; namely you are given access to tools that let you make changes to the selected objects vertices, edges and faces. These tools include connecting and beveling vertices, splitting and dividing edges as well as extruding faces.

edit mode sub-object level editing

Use the Edit mode to get down to a sub-object level of editing.

Vertices, edges and faces

A key part of working in Edit mode is being able to select and manipulate vertices, edges, and faces. You can move between the selection options for these three using the three icons or using 1, 2, or 3 on your keyboard respectively. The selection tools of box, circle and lasso still apply and you can select multiple vertices, edges and faces using the shift key when selecting. Having created a cube you can go into Edit mode and shape the propeller support as per the image.

vertices edges faces 3d planes

Selecting vertices, edges and faces will give you greater control over the editing process.

Snapping

On the menu that contains the vertex, edge and face tools you’ll also see a magnet icon. Selecting this will activate the snapping tools. Snapping enables you to move vertices, edges and faces into exact locations in relation to other parts of the model. Clicking to the right hand side of the magnet will give you the snapping options. You can specify which parts of objects you want snapping turned on for and you can select multiple options by holding down Shift.

snapping vertices edges faces positioning

Use snapping to move your vertices, edges and faces to exact positions.

Extrude faces

With a face selected you can go to the face menu in Edit mode and select ‘Extrude faces’. If you move your cursor in the 3d view you’ll notice that your selected face is now being extruded. You can select multiple faces and extrude them together. If you want to extrude multiple faces each according to their own ‘normal’ then you can do that by selecting the ‘extrude faces along normals’ tool. When extruding you can type in a number and hit return for an exact extrude.

extrude faces 3d modelling

Extrude faces in your model.

Mirror

Back into Object mode a super helpful tool that you’ll regularly use is the ‘Mirror’ tool. It can be accessed through the object menu. Select the propeller support that we have so far and copy it. Either does this using the duplicate tool or simply hit Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Move the duplicated object to the side and use the mirror tool. Select the ‘Mirror’ -> ‘X Local’ option. You can also mirror objects using a modifier but we’ll come to modifiers next time.

mirror modelling effect 3d render

Finishing up the propeller support

With the object now mirrored you’ll want to move it into position so that it sits alongside the first part of it that you’ve created. You can do this using the move and snapping tools that I’ve already showed you how to use. Then why not select both objects and move them into a central position on Iron Man’s back.

propeller support 3d modelling

Use the tools and features you’ve learnt so far to finish up the propeller support.

View clipping

As we’re making a relatively small object you might find that Blender starts culling parts of your model as you zoom in. Blender does this as a way of saving memory but don’t worry you can adjust the point at which it starts this clipping. Simply go to the ‘View’ menu on the right hand side next to the Outliner. Under the ‘View’ rollout simply reduce the number in the ‘Clip Start’ field.

view clip culling 3d model

Adjust the view clip if viewport culling is an issue.

Conclusion

Being able to finely edit the exact parts of your mesh is essential to creating anything that is remotely complicated in Blender. The more control you have and the better you understand the plethora of tools available to you the more accomplished you'll become.

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