Creating panels for placing Blender add-ons user interface (UI)

One of the essential conditions of comfortable work is the convenience and speed of accessing add-ons functional. It is not enough to write add-on and register it in Blender API system. Be sure to give the easily call add-on functions ability to user. So, any addon should determine a place to put interface buttons that provide access to its functionality.

All available Blender user interface located on panels. Three panels are the most used: T-bar – opens/hides by pressing the t keyboard button, N-bar – opens/hides by pressing the n button, and the Properties panel – called in the main menu of any window typed it as Properties.

Blender API allows to define users panels to place add-on functional buttons on any of this three main panels.

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Creating Blender add-on

Blender scripting system provides lots of opportunities to simplify and accelerate the workflow, allowing to outsource routine operations to the system and expanding work opportunities through access to the scripting language. However, writing a good script which can be used frequently in various projects, uncomfortable each time to reconnect it to each new project. In addition, this script can be improved with some windows and editable parameters fields. Making complete add-on from the script, you can expand it with additional functionality and connect to the Blender add-ons system.

User-created Blender add-on
User-created Blender add-on

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Installing add-ons to Blender

From a certain time to improve work speed and convenience it is necessary to have some functionality that does not exist in the base Blender. To improve its capabilities Blender community users wrote a lot of extras – add-ons. The required add-ons can be purchased or free downloaded from specialized Internet sites. After receiving the necessary add-on, it needs to make a few steps to install it to the Blender program.

For example, let’s install to the Blender add-on allowing to make wireframe render by pressing a certain key combination.

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Using external IDE PyCharm for writing Blender scripts

Blender has an internal text editor to write scripts on Python language. However, this editor is much inferior to specially designed for writing code IDEs. There is no satisfactory autocomplete, comfortable syntax lighting, possibility to organize projects in Blender internal text editor – all those things that determine the speed and ease of code writing. However, it is not difficult to connect and use an external IDE for writing Blender scripts.

External IDE for scripting in Blender
External IDE for scripting in Blender

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Creating screws

To create screws in Blender the easiest way is to use plugin, like Bolt Factory, which comes in standart complectation. But the plugin features are not always enough, and the result of using Subdivision Surface modifier on the screw created by plugin is not very beautiful. However, it is not difficult to create screw manually.

Screws
Screws

Lets create high poly screw suitable to render in any major plans.

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Filling volume with items

Some times during the modelling process the problem of filling some volume with number of items occurs. For example it may be a jar with coffee grains, sugar bowl with pieces of sugar, bag of jewels, box with screws and nuts, a bowl of candy, and many others.

Jar filled with items
Jar filled with items

All this can be made manually. Creating some copys of items and filling voulume with arranging them in a random order. However this approach much time and efforts to control that the items do not overlap with each other and with the walls of the filled object. To simplify our work we can use the Rigid Body tool – solid-state simulation in Blender.

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Using drivers with nodes

There is one moment in node tree, created to separate the sides of the planet model by “day” and “night” – when the position of light source changes its new coordinates every time needs to re-specify manually in Value nodes. It is very inconvenient while setting the scene. To eliminate this fault Blender “drivers” system can be used.

Using drivers in node system
Using drivers in node system

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Planet sides separation by “day” and “night”

Each planet in “from space” view has two sides: “day” – illuminated by Sun, and the opposite – “night”, with no Sun lighting.

Earth sides separation by "day" and "night"
Earth sides separation by “day” and “night”

While modeling a scene with planet, it is not difficult to achieve this effect by lighting setup. Leave only one lighting source in scene and place it in the right place. However, the result is not so good as real space photographs. To achieve a greater similarity, the proper texture with a darkened face and bright lights – night lights of big cities, mast be mapped to the “night” side of modelling planet.

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Mapping texture to planet

The correct planets texture mapping, creating 3D space scenes, plays a key role. If texture mapping is distored, “rides” or has a clearly visible seams – a beauty image will never succeed. There is a convenient method properly map the texture to the planet surface in Blender.

Correctly mapped planet texture
Correctly mapped planet texture

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Making your own studio HDRI in Blender

After the decision to improve render with HDRI lighting, the question immediately raises – where to get it? We can certainly ask Google-pictures for help, but not all founded images allows their authors for free use. What can we do? The solution is simple – make your own HDRI. Blender has all capabilities for this.

Simple studio HDRI made with Blender
Simple studio HDRI made with Blender

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Baking displace map from geometry

Detailed relief means a lot for high-quality render. You can model a beautiful basketball, cut stylish grooves and set up good material shader, but with no relief this basketball would be similar with real only from high distance. That kind of basketball may be useful for general plans, but any closeup render reveal deficiencies immediately.

Basketball without microrelief (left and center) and with microrelief (right)
Basketball without relief (left and center) and with relief (right)

There are differen ways to apply a relief to the ball. The most reliable – exactly follow the real ball geometry. However, there are from 10 to 35 thousands of small protrusions on the basketball surface, formed its relief. It is possible to model all of that, but the final model gains heavy weigh and needs more system resources while rendering.

Relief imitation with displace and normal maps wold be the best solution. But where to get the required textures? It is possible to model a small fragment of the basketball surface with relief in detail, and then bake it to displace map for the further applying to the whole model.

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Baking displace map from procedural texture

One of the essential components of beautiful render is quality irregularities map. Scratches, damages and abrasions imparts the model a natural look, it does not look like got to the scene straight from the factory.

Surface microrelief can be formed by geometry (“sculpt” or point by point editing), and from maps – static (prepared in a graphical editors) and procedural (created with nodes – texture generators).

Procedural textures usage to create a microrelief with displace method has all the advantages (dimensionless, three-dimensionality, uniqueness and customization) of procedural textures, but also inherits their main disadvantage – reduced render speed because generating textures requires additional computation.

Scraches microrelief formed by displace using a procedural texture generation
Scraches microrelief formed by displace using a procedural texture generation

To increase render speed it is possible to “bake” procedural texture into a static bitmap texture, which is no longer require additional resources during the rendering process. Using this method can benefit from 5 to 30% (depending on the complexity of the generated maps) of rendering speed.

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