Learn To Use Blender - Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of this tutorial series teaching you how to use blender. I highly recommend that you read through the entirety of the tutorial from start to finish so that you can pick up details that appear in every section.
Last time we installed blender, learned the numerous view controls, how to save a blender file and navigate the file browser, and then finally how to import a .dnm or .srf file into blender.
You can check out Part 1 here.
Selecting the Right Airplane to Start
When first starting to learn how to use blender, we are going to begin with painting an aircraft. Ideally we would start with a blank version of the aircraft if one exists, but many times there are paint schemes cut into the model. Our first challenge will be to remove this paint scheme so we can paint our aircraft. This is going to require us to learn some fairly advanced techniques, but with practice this will become easier very quickly.
When first starting we want something low detail so we don't get boggled down in all the specific details that come with higher quality models. I highly recommend that you use something from OWL's airliner pack, which can be downloaded here.
These aircraft are not the lowest detail out there, but offer a good starting point to build your skills.
Importing an Airplane
To begin, we must delete everything from the startup screen. I typically press "a" to select everything.To delete an object, press "x". This pops up a menu. If we do nothing and move our mouse away from the menu, or press escape, then nothing will happen. To complete the delete action, we must click on "Erase Selected Object(s)".
Now that you have a blank blender file, we can begin! Import the airplane you chose from OWL's pack. I chose the Airbus A345. It is large enough to give us some wiggle room with certain features.
If you have imported your aircraft and it did not look like the image above, you are probably not in the right view mode. The view modes can be controlled by the drop down menu next to the "Object Mode" drop-down menu, or by a series of keyboard shortcuts. However first we must know what view modes (a.k.a. draw types) we need to use for YSFlight. Principally we will be using the following three for 99.9% of all our work: To enter into the view modes, you can use the dropdown menu, however for a faster workflow you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:
Understanding YSFlight Models
Before we begin working on the model, we need to understand how the models work. Other flight simulators have Skins that wrap around a coarse model, but YSF is different. Here, the model we use is what we see in game. Therefore we have to actually alter the mesh to create different areas of color. Now YSFlight uses polygonal models. This is just a fancy name for models that use shapes for the side, rather than complex formulas. This means that we are actually going to be messing with the physical model, not a skin to go over it, when we modify models for YSFlight. This requires us to work a little harder, but in the long run we have more flexibility with the models.
While in blender, it is important to understand how things relate back to YSFlight so we don't confuse the export scripts and therefore find the final model looking different in YS Flight. As we come to certain things that are important for this knowledge of the model, we will discuss it.
Working With A Mesh - The Different Modes
Since the final model we see in YS Flight is what we are actually manipulating in blender, we need to be careful and understand how to interact with the model as to best achieve our goals. When we wish to select individual aspects of a model component, we have to be in Edit Mode. This allows us to directly manipulate a particular mesh (a component of the overall model, such as a fuselage or pair of wings). By default, we are in Object Mode. In this mode, we can manipulate the location, orientation, and scale of what blender calls objects, or individual components of a model (a.k.a. a mesh). Now, these two modes only affect the physical shape of a mesh. To edit the color, we have to paint the model in Vertex Paint Mode. In this mode we can select certain portions of the mesh and apply a color to it. This is then translated to what we see in YS Flight.
Edit Mode Selection Options
While you are in Edit Mode (And ONLY when in Edit Mode), you have four options for selecting parts of the mesh. This is because of the physical nature of the meshes in blender. We have vertices, edges, and faces.
A Vertex is a single point that exists in 3 dimensions.
An Edge is made of two vertices at each end, and is a straight line.
A Face is made of 3 or 4 (Triangle & Quad) vertices. This also means that a face can be made from 3 or 4 edges.
Depending on what you wish to edit on the mesh, you will select one of the options shown in the image below.
As you can see there are four buttons we can press:
Select vertices only (Vertex Selection Mode)
Select edges only (Edge Selection Mode)
Select faces only (Face Selection Mode)
Hide background geometry
Option number 4 controls how we see things on the far side of the model. Image you are looking at a ceramic coffee cup. You can only see what is facing you. On the other hand, if the coffee cup is glass, you can see through the model. The two images below demonstrate the effect of this option.
Notice how in the image on the right, we can see through the cube, but in the image on the right we cannot. If you look down at the tool bar, you will notice that the fourth button is dark in the image on the right. This indicate that the background geometry has been hidden. Also note that the vertex selection mode is activated in both images. By program default, one of the selection modes must be selected while in edit mode, or else blender would not know how to deal with you clicking in the 3D window. You can only have one selection mode active at a time, and any one of the selection modes can be active with or without the background geometry hidden.
Blanking A Model
Like I mentioned earlier, a blank model, is a model that is typically white, but with details like landing gear, wings, and other parts, and painted colors that will not change between different paint schemes. The process of making a blank can be complicated, but with the A345 OWL model, it is simple enough that the complexity is significantly reduced.
I want to start your experience with blender with blanking so that when you actually get to painting the aircraft you will have two distinct advantages:
You will have familiarity with working with the mesh.
You will have some experience with painting, even if it is to paint the aircraft white.
The process of blanking a model can be thought of as reversing the paint job the original modeler made. In effect we are trying to get the model to look like it had never been touched. To do this, we have to know how the paint jobs were originally applied.
Because we have to actually edit the mesh of the aircraft we are modeling, boundaries between colors have to be cut into the model to create different faces that can be painted. In order to reverse this, we have to strategically merge components together.
Identifying Places to Replace The Mesh
One of the two hardest things to do when blanking a model is to identify which faces need to/ can be merged. You want to look for a few criteria:
There is a border between colors in the immediate area.
The mesh could have originally been flat (see pictures)
In the Solid view mode, there may be weird shading issues in the area being examined.
When you identify areas like this, you will want to be in Edit Mode, and also in Edge Selection Mode. Select the edge running from the bottom left to top right corners and then delete it by pressing "x" and pressing Return to accept the delete command.
Now we have to replace the two triangular faces with a new face. Notice that the two triangular faces can be replaced by a face with the red shape, which is a Quadrilateral. If it were more than four sides, we would not be able to replace any face.
To insert a face we have several options. First we could select all four vertices or all four edges that will define the new face. That will get really repetitive over time, but we can simplify it be selecting two edges. These two edges should be on opposite sides of the face as to contain all four vertices needed for the face. Essentially the face will stretch from one edge to the other.
Once you have the two edges selected, press "F" to insert a new face.
Identifying Places to Merge The Mesh
There are many places where it may be easier or needed to merge vertices together in order to prepare the mesh for the method above. The following images highlight how you can do this.
Here we see where the yellow paint borders the white paint in the aircraft. In order to create the boundary in the first place, the mesh was cut (We will discuss how to do this later). What we need to do in order to blank the model is 'reverse' the cut. First let us identify what we need to correct by selecting it.
In this image we see that we want to select vertices in the order indicated. This face needs to be removed before we can continue. We can do this by merging vertices together. When we do so, the order we select the vertices in is VERY important.
Press the "w" key to open the Specials menu and select "Merge". This will open up the next menu.
As you can see here, the order you selected the vertices is important. Typically I like to select where I want the vertices to merge into last, so I can simply select "At Last" and be done.
An alert will show you how many vertices you are removing. In this case we are removing the first two vertices selected and merging them into the last vertex.
Now we have several faces that exist where the yellow and white boundary exists on a flat plane. After verification that this is actually a flat plane and not slightly bent around the border, we can perform the blanking operation discussed in the previous section.
What I did
Now that you know how to reverse the mesh cuts, I would like to show you what I did for the rest of the model.
First I worked on a few of the nose faces, however there is not much I could do here as there were many faces that needed the triangles in order to match the contours. Notice how when you replace a face, it comes in as white.
In the aft section of the aircraft where the yellow band stops, I merged the four vertices shown into the bottom right vertex. This allowed me to eliminate part of the band. Then I took the vertex on the far left of the image and merged it into the bottom center vertex. This made it so I did not create another quad filled with triangles and thus require more work.
This last image shows the final result of my edits to the back of the aircraft. Do not be concerned about the uneven colors. The important part of this step in making a blank is to be careful with the mesh of the aircraft. In part 3 we will cover how to paint the aircraft.