So, I decided to go ahead and break one of the fundamental rules of self publishing. I just finished the cover for Artificial Intelligence for Humans, Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms. I think there is a rule about not doing your own cover. And probably for good reason. I am not a graphic artist, I do not play one on TV. But I do know my way around Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. Can’t do Illustrator to save my life.
But this post is not about how to make a book cover. This post is about Blender. Blender is a a 3D ray tracing program. People (not me) can make some totally amazing stuff with blender! I’ve been meaning to learn blender for some time. While I don’t see my self creating photo-realistic renderings of cars, buildings, trains, etc anytime soon, I do have a need for 3D visualization.
I am good with 3D. I created some content in Second Life. I understand the basics of vertices, normal’s, edges, triangles and ngons. There are times that I need to produce a simple diagram in 3D for a book. I really needed a 3D modeler, so I just decided to sit down and learn one. I thought too, if I can create an interesting looking abstract rendering, it might make for a good cover as well.
You can see my cover here. I am happy with the results.
You can probably guess what part I used blender for. My basic idea was to create a blueish hexagon lattice in a diamond shape, slowly going upwards, like stairs. And just for the heck of it, to add a splash of color, make two of the hexagons different colors.
What does this have to do with the Fundamental Algorithms I am writing about? Not much. Okay, perhaps it is a staircase leading you up from the fundamentals. Perhaps it is red, green and blue, which are the fundamental colors of computer graphics. Perhaps, because it is entirely mathematical and takes zero creativity on my part? Perhaps, because it looks cool!
Now I am going to get to the meat of this post. I want to post a few links and explain some of the walls that I beat my head against in the process of getting to current “subnovice” level of blender expertise. I do plan to keep learning. My next book is going to be on nature inspired algorithms. I am totally visualizing a DNA double helix looking thing. Again, something that is all mathematical and requires minimal true artistic ability on my side.
There are tons of tutorials out there on blender. Some out out of date. Blender just went through a major upgrade. Blender now uses the Cycles rendering engine. The older Blender Render engine is described by many different tutorials. Don’t do Blender Render! It seems to be mostly on its way out. I tried both. I the lighting to be much easier in cycles.
Lighting was the one area where I did have to have some limited artistic ability. First of all, do not use the lamps, sun, and other basic lighting features. These are hold overs from the days of Blender Render. If you are using Cycles, then you should use light emitting objects. They are the same objects that you build your scenes from. They just use an “emitter shader”, under the materials. I like to use large planes that emit enough light to light the scene.
This image shows you my book cover “behind the scenes”. You can see my lighting “rigs”. Just big planes that emit white light. This setup seemed to work pretty good. You can get a whole lot more creative with lights than I did. You can use different colored lights too.
Now let me conclude this post by sharing some tutorials that really helped me.
The CG cookie tutorials were great. I recommend them highly.
Except for their shading and lighting tutorial. I was really getting frustrated with shading and lighting until I realized that you should really be using light emitting objects with the Cycles engine.
Also learned from this one.