3D Rendering Part 2: Shading, Light, and Textures
By Ahmed Khemari
December 24, 2020
Now that you’ve downloaded the software, learned the basics of Blender, and started to use and develop objects, let’s start getting fancy with shading and textures. This allows you to make your newly created objects look more realistic. Before jumping into adding the shading, light, and textures, take some time to plan out where the light source will be, what the right surface texture should be for your object, etc. This will save time as you go along. If you’re just learning as you go through this, have some fun trying out a few different things!
Rendered Shading: This is what provides the best quality output but is very intensive in terms of consuming resources. So, it’s not a good fit for low-end computers.
To enable this, hold down Z on your keyboard and move your mouse cursor over to Rendered. Let go of the key, and the shading should now be in Rendered mode.
An alternative approach is to go to Scene Settings in the Properties window and increase the Viewport Sampling value. The higher the value, the better the quality.
Solid Shading: Although set as the default shading mode in Blender, solid shading does not accurately represent the final output. The rendering quality is relatively minimal, giving you a rough idea of how the final output might turn out to be.
To enable this, hold down Z on your keyboard and move your mouse cursor over to Solid. Let go of the key, and the shading should now be in Solid mode.
It’s mostly suited for low-end computers. A good idea is to switch between Rendered mode and Solid mode frequently so that you can get a better idea of the final output.
Wireframe Shading: This mode actually allows you to look through models and make internal modifications if needed. To enable this, hold down Z on your keyboard and move your mouse cursor over to Wireframe. Let go of the key, and the shading should now be in Wireframe mode.
This light source in Blender radiates light equally in all directions and fades away as it goes distant. To create one, just open the Objects List and select Light. Then select Point, and your new point light source should be there.
As for properties of the point light source, you can modify the parameters to some extent. To do so, just select the point light and move over to the Properties window. Adjust the Power value to control how bright the light will be and set the Radius value to define how far the light will reach.
If you want your light source in Blender to focus on a specific cone-shaped space instead of going out in all directions, you can opt for the Spotlight option. To create one, just open the Objects List and select Light. Then select Spot, and your new spotlight source should be there.
You can also adjust the Power value to control how bright the light will be and set the Radius value to define how far the light will reach. The Blend value controls how hard or soft the lighting looks. You can even set the Size value to the degree of how large you want the cone-shaped space to be.
Blender also has an innovative lighting mode that’s flat and makes all the rays move in a single direction. The Area Light is similar to the Spotlight option but limited in space. To create one, just open the Objects List and select Light. Then select Area and your new area light source should be there
You can modify the parameters by selecting the area light and moving over to the Properties window. Adjust the Power value to control how bright the light will be.
You can even set the shape of the area light as Square, Rectangle, Disk, or Ellipse, depending on the type of area you want to cover. The size value here defines the dimensions of the shape in all four cases. You can adjust the value along both the X-axis and Y-axis.
To provide a natural light source, Blender allows you to choose the Sun Light option. This option emits light in a single direction but from an infinitely distant source. To create one, just open the Objects List and select Light. Then select Sun, and your new sunlight source should be there.
The 3point Lighting feature in Blender is also quite interesting as it allows you to preview 3D models.
Smooth Shading: This option helps make the model look smooth by hiding the sharp edges. To enable it, just select the model and right-click on it. Choose Shade Smooth, and that should do it.
Flat Shading: This is the opposite of smooth shading. The option brings out all the details. To enable it, just select the model and right-click on it. then choose Shade Flat.
The Materials option on Blender defines how an object might appear in the scene.
To add a material, just open the materials settings in the properties window and press the “+” button after selecting the models you wish to modify. Press the “-” button to remove materials.
You can use the Color Wheel feature to assign a specific color to your model. Even after choosing a particular material, you can further adjust the model’s appearance based on the color you desire.
For fine-tuning the color of the model, you can modify the Specular and Metallic values under the Properties menu. The specular value defines how shiny it will look while the Metallic value is to determine how metallic it would appear.
If you select the blend mode as Alpha under the settings section, you can adjust the Alpha value to define how transparent the model would look.
Vertex: Both high poly and low poly models are made up of numerous points called vertices. Each vertex is a point in any 3D model.
Edge: An edge is a line that links two vertex points together.
Face: The confined space enclosed by three or more edges is a face.
You should now have enough to make your objects seem more 3D. Next, we’ll cover some final helpful tools within Blender that will help take your 3D rendering to the next level.