getting started

gs_screen01 this is how the blender (2.41) screen looks like if blender gets started the first time with the default settings.

the default screen is divided into 3 windows. the top window is a user preferences window (of this window only the header is visible), the middle window is a 3d view window which currently is set to top view (its header is at its bottom) and the bottom window is a buttons window (its header is at its top).
gs_screen02 the first thing a blender beginner should do is dragging down the user preferences window ([lmb drag] the border between the upper window's header and the 3d view window) and check out which settings are available there.

in the view & controls section i always set middle mouse button to pan view, view rotation to turntable and i turn auto perspective on.
  • the middle mouse button is in use often and i find it much less annoying to accidentally pan a view than accidentally rotating it.
  • navigating a 3d viewport with turntable rotation probably is easier than using trackball rotation for most people. the turntable camera can't be rolled.
  • auto perspective means that the perspective mode will be activated automatically if a 2d orthogonal view gets left by rotating out of it. i don't like 3d orthogonal views.
the settings can be stored with (file -> save default settings). this also saves the current window layout so maybe better drag the user preferences window up again before.
gs_screen03 please note that keyboard hotkeys are dependent on which blender window has focus! a window is focused if the mouse cursor is over it. the keyboard shortcuts mentioned here are for the 3d view.

viewport navigation
  • [mmb drag] pan the view (mmb = middle mouse button)
  • [shift+mmb drag] rotate the view (without the settings done above panning and rotating will be the other way around)
  • [scrollwheel] (or [ctrl+mmb drag]) zoom view in and out
  • [numpad,] or [shift-c] center and zoom view to current selection
  • in the view menu of the window header different kinds of 2d/3d views can be set (also their according keyboard shortcuts are visible there).
selection + cursor
  • [(shift+)rmb click] select object(s)/element(s)
  • [ctrl+lmb drag] lasso selection
  • [a] select or deselect all
  • [lmb click] set position of the 3d cursor (the cursor is the red/white circle/cross. it defines the position of newly created objects, it can get used as the pivot for rotations and for various snapping tasks.)
transforming objects/elements with transform widgets
  • [lmb drag handle] move/rotate/scale constrained along handle
  • [shift+lmb drag handle] move/scale constrained to plane normal to handle
  • [lmb drag white circle] move/rotate constrained to view plane, uniform scale
  • next to the hand icon (toggles widgets on and off) in the window header the move, rotate and scale widget can be enabled (with [shift] more than one at the same time).
translating objects/elements without using transform widgets
  • [rmb drag] start translation of the current selection or the object/element under the mouse cursor
  • movement is constrained to the view plane unless an axis gets selected by dragging with the [mmb], or by pressing [x], [y] or [z].
  • during translation numbers can be entered if exact values are needed ([tab] switches to next coordinate).
  • [lmb click] accept translation / [rmb click] cancel translation
transforming objects/elements with move/rotate/scale mode
(using widgets probably is easier for beginners.)
  • [g] start move/grab mode
  • [r] start rotate mode
  • [s] start scale mode
  • mouse gestures: the modes can also be entered by drawing a mouse gesture with the [lmb]straight line move/grab, c shaped curve rotate, v shaped curve scale
  • move/rotate is constrained to the view plane, scale is uniform unless an axis gets selected by dragging with the [mmb], or by pressing [x], [y] or [z].
  • during transformation numbers can be entered if exact values are needed ([tab] switches to next coordinate).
  • [lmb click] accept transformation / [rmb click] cancel transformation
holding [ctrl] while transforming enables moving in steps. holding [shift] while transforming enables finer movement (this can be combined with [ctrl] to move in finer steps).

[n] opens a transform properties panel where transformation values can be edited.

since the camera, the light and the cube aren't needed for this tutorial i move them to a different layer. select them, press [m] and click on the second layer. they will disappear since on the window header only the first layer is set to be visible.

also check out blender's quick start guide, hotkey map and in general the blender documentation. two other nice resources for tutorials are the blenderartist site and the blenderart magazine.

all of this can take some time and practice until you can work efficiently! don't let yourself get discouraged too early.