With the sudden absence of places to show artwork amid the coronavirus pandemic, many artists are looking at digital platforms for showing work. I have been learning to make a scale model of a gallery space in Blender, a free and open source 3D creation software, and I hope to move into a game engine in the future to make an environment that a viewer can walk through. Until then, I figure it could be helpful to many to share a walk-through of how I'm making my model in Blender.
Right now I'm laying out a duo exhibition with Josie Johnson. Here are some shots of what I've rendered so far:
And this is what the model looks like not rendered:
It's a work in progress!
Read on to see the tutorial.
SETTINGS AND VIEWPORT NAVIGATION
Upon opening Blender, you'll see this screen:
Click somewhere in the gridded area to make the square window disappear. You'll have a cube on your screen, along with a camera and a point light. We'll be using the square later to start making the model.
First, click the Scene button, which is circled below.
When working in Blender, I tend to use keyboard shortcuts rather than the buttons on the screen. I'm sure there are buttons for all of this, but the shortcuts have been easier for me.
These are the controls for navigating the 3D viewport:
Press and hold scroll wheel to rotate
Press and hold Shift + press and hold scroll wheel to pan
Scroll to zoom in/out
Another useful navigation tool is pressing (and not holding) Shift + ~. This lets you navigate the viewport with your WASD keys and mouse. To exit this mode, just left click. This can be especially helpful if the zoom/pan functions get really slow, which happens sometimes.
The numberpad has some useful view shortcuts, too. 5 switches your view between Perspective and Orthographic. Press 7 to get a view from directly above. 1, 3, and 9 let you view your object(s) from the side, front, and back. 2, 4, 6, and 8 let you rotate around the object. I most commonly use 7.
If you do something wrong, Ctrl Z is undo, as usual.
BUILDING THE GALLERY SPACE
Press N while your mouse is in the viewport to open the Transform Menu. This menu will be important in making objects the correct size. Make sure the cube is selected by left clicking on it. If left clicking the cube doesn't work, try holding Alt while left clicking. It should have a yellow highlight around it. In the Transform Menu, change the X dimensions to 21, the Y dimensions to 18, and the Z to 0.1. This is the floor of the larger room in our floor plan.
With your mouse in the viewport, press Shift + A. This opens the Add menu. Scroll over Mesh, and select Cube.
With this cube selected, press G, then press Y. This lets you Grab the cube to move it along the Y axis only. Now type 9, which is half the length of the floor, and hit Enter. The cube is at the edge of the floor now. In the Transform menu, change the cube's X Dimensions to 21, Y to 0.1, and Z to 10. Right now, the wall isn't aligned vertically with the floor, so at the top of the Transform menu change its Z Location to 5, which is half the wall's height.
Now we can press Ctrl C and Ctrl V to copy/paste this wall. The yellow border should turn orange. In the Transform menu, change the Y location to -9. Copy/paste again. Press R, then Z, and type 90. Press Enter. This lets us Rotate the wall by 90° on the Z axis only. Make sure this new wall is selected with a yellow border around it. Change its X location to 10.5 (half the width of the floor), and its Y location to 0. Change its X dimensions to 18. Copy/paste this wall and make its X Location -10.5.
We can use the same methods to make the next room, which is 10' x 10'. Copy/paste and resize the walls and floors. If you hold Ctrl while moving an object with the Grab function (G), it will snap to the grid. Remember to press X or Y after pressing G to snap the object to that axis, so that it stays level on the other two axes.
The X Location of the floor and bordering walls should be -15.5, because the edge of the large room is at -10.5. The center points of the new walls/floors are where the X Location of the objects is at. So, we add half of the width to the location of the edge of the room to get -15.5.
Now that we have the walls and floors, we can add doors and windows. I use the Boolean modifier for this, which lets you use one object to cut a hole in another object.
Press Shift A and add another cube. Make the Z Dimensions 6.67' (80"), and the Y Dimensions 3' (36"). Move it to -10.5 along the X axis, 3.4 on the Z axis, and to -4 on the Y axis. This will cut our door between the two rooms.
Now select the wall that we want to cut through. Click the wrench button in the bottom right section of the screen, then Add Modifier, Boolean. In the Object box, select Cube.009 (you can rename the objects by double clicking the name in the Outliner window in the top right). Make sure Different is selected under Operation, and click Apply.
Use the boolean modifier to make the other door, and add any windows you want, too, by resizing and moving the Cube.009.
We're going to add a ceiling, just because it'll let us light the space later on. Select both of the floor planes, copy and paste them, and make their Z Locations 10. You might have to select them one at a time to change their Z Locations. After that, hide them by clicking the eye button next to the object name in the top right (in the Outliner). The name will be highlighted in orange when the object is selected.
To place paintings in the gallery space, we'll wrap an image around a cube using UV Image Editor.
First of all, you'll have to have a folder full of images of your work, and those images will have to stay in the same place. If they're moved, they won't show up in your blender model anymore. Ideally, you'll have a folder to keep both your .blend file and your image files in, so they're always together and in the same place, with the same title.
Once your image files are all there, we'll rearrange the workspace in blender to suit UV Image Editing. Bring your cursor to the top right corner of the Viewport. When the cursor changes to a white cross, click and drag to the left to add a new window. In the top left of this new window, click the dropdown menu button and select UV Editor. Then move your cursor back into the viewport window, press Z, and select Look Dev. This menu lets you switch between shading views, and Look Dev shows object textures without fully rendering the scene.
With the cursor in the viewport, press Shift + A and add a cube (Mesh > Cube). Change its Y Dimension so that it's thin, like a panel or a canvas, and move it onto the wall somewhere. If you want it 60" above the floor at center, make its Z Location 5.
Change the cube's X and Z dimensions to the dimensions of the painting. Mine is 30" x 30", so its X and Z dimensions are both 2.5'. Now select the lower red circle button on the bottom right window to open the material menu. Select New, and change the Base Color to Image Texture.
Under the Base Color/Image Texture section, click the Open button, and select the image file you want to use. Then, put your mouse in the viewport, and press Tab on your keyboard to switch to Edit Mode. You'll have to rotate and/or scale the box in the UV Image editor to center the image on the object. Press S while your mouse is in the UV Image editor to scale the box, G to move it, and R to rotate it. You can type 90 or -90 to rotate exactly 90 degrees.
Now you can fill the space with cubes sized to match your paintings and put your images on them.
Hopefully this tutorial helps you get a head start building a gallery space in Blender. I would encourage you to play with the camera and lighting, too, and try rendering some images. Let me know if you would be interested in a tutorial on that, as well!
Also, if any part of this post is confusing, please tell me so I can try to clarify!