The versatile open source 3D editor Blender was often criticized for its relatively impervious user interface and workflow. After years of 3ds Max I decided to enter the world of Blender not long after version 2.5 was released, which featured a major UI overhaul.
Personally, I got used to Blender's 2.5 - 2.7 UI relatively easily. After some initial hurdles I rapidly discovered how logical and consistent Blender's workflow is. A key element in learning to work with Blender is getting to know its keyboard shortcuts. Once you know the important shortcuts, you'll be on your way to becoming a Blender ninja.
Blender 2.8 changes
After much anticipation for Blender 2.8 and supporting its development by buying the cute Blender rocket USB stick, I finally decided to take the plunge and installed an advanced alpha version of Blender 2.8 around mid-November 2018. Having read at the Blender developers blog that a first beta version is imminent, I couldn't wait anymore.
I soon discovered that more has changed in Blender 2.8 than I had expected. A range of keyboard shortcuts has been changed or removed, a lot of familiar functions have been moved around to new tabs and sections, and a number of new features have been added, resulting in some radical workflow changes.
I understand that the goal was to make Blender more accessible to new users, but the radical UI and keyboard shortcut revisions can prove to be a hurdle for seasoned Blender users.
Below is a list of tips and observations from my first Blender 2.8 explorations. Please note that this is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of changes, and please also note that I'm still using an alpha version. Although the first beta version is imminent at the time I write this, a number of things might still be changed.
General / User Interface
- In the Blender Preferences, Auto Perspective is now checked by default in the Interface section. Uncheck it if you're used to consistently working in orthographic view.
- The Tool panel at the left side has been minimalized to a column of tool buttons. Personally I don't make use of those buttons, as I prefer working with keyboard shortcuts, but it undoubtedly makes Blender more accessible to new users. Some of the elements that used to be in the Tool panel can now be found in the Properties panel ('N' key), which features its own tabs now. For example, if you're a user of the LoopTools and/or 3D Print Toolbox add-ons, those can now be found in Properties panel tabs. LoopTools can also be found in the Context Menu.
- The display options that could be found in the old Properties panel have been moved to two new drop-down panels at the top left of the viewport: Overlays and Shading. These panels also offer some new display options.
- At the top of the UI you can find a row of tabs offering workspaces for different activities, such as sculpting and animation. These are comparable to Blender's old UI layout drop-down menu, but the new workspaces offer some more flexibility.
- There's a new info bar at the bottom of the Blender interface, while the drop-down menus have been moved from the bottom of the panels to the top side.
- Left mouse-button selection is better supported in Blender 2.8. For example, left mouse-button click and drag now creates a rectangular selection marquee for easy multi-selections.
- The 3D cursor now offers a true 3D 'Geometry' mode, that can be activated from the Orientation drop-down menu at the top left of the UI, when the 3D cursor mode in the Tool bar is activated. Using the 3D cursor Geometry mode, you can align the cursor to a face and use that as a custom orientation by switching to 'Cursor' in the Transform Orientations drop-down menu or by pressing the comma key (",").
- The Properties panel at the right side of the default UI has been split into more sections, with a vertical tab layout. Browse the sections to find out where all properties have been placed. For example, Color Management has been moved to the Render properties, while the Dimensions and Output sections have been moved to a separate Output tab.
- Background reference images have been replaced by a new kind of Empty object: the Image Empty. An Image Empty can be added to the scene, or you can simply drag and drop images into the 3D viewport.
- Layers have been turned into Collections. Essentially, Collections are folders inside the Outliner. You can still use the M key to move objects to Collections, and switch between Collections using the number keys. Collections are further controlled in the Outliner.
- Next to the familiar Wireframe, Solid and Rendered viewport display modes there's a new mode called LookDev. This is useful for quickly checking your shaders before setting up actual scene lighting for a rendered view. The LookDev mode makes use of Blender's brand new realtime renderer called Eevee.
- The Eevee renderer replaces the old 'Blender Render', also known as the 'Blender Internal' renderer, which was previously used for non-photorealistic rendering.
- The Principled BSDF shader is now the default shader. Another thing I've been hoping for. Most of the shaders are compatible with both Eevee and Cycles, which is also very convenient.
- There's a new option called Quick Favorites, allowing you to create custom pop-up menus with all kinds of Blender functions. Right-click on a function for an 'Add To Quick Favorites' option, and press the Q key to evoke the menu. The Quick Favorites are mode-sensitive, so you can create different sets for Object Mode, Edit Mode and so on. Quick Favorites are saved along with Blender's Preferences. At the time I write this you can't reorder the Quick Favorites yet though, but that will undoubtedly follow.
- Pressing A is still Select All, but to deselect everything you need to double-press A or press Alt + A.
- Pressing the spacebar now pops up a floating menu version of the Tool bar. If you want to search for a function, press the F3 key, or Command + F in Blender macOS.
- Control + Space maximizes a view. This used to be Shift + Space.
- If you're used to pressing Control + 1, 2 or 3 to quickly add a Subdivision Surface modifier to your 3D model, this doesn't work in Edit Mode anymore, only in Object Mode.
- The function keys have been radically reassigned. F1 doesn't open a file anymore, and F2 is not 'Save as...' anymore. In stead, use Control / Command + O and Control / Command + Shift + S.
- Because of the function key reassignments you can't quickly switch between editor types using keyboard shortcuts anymore. No more Shift + F3 for the Node Editor, Shift + F5 for the 3D Viewport, or Shift + F10 for the UV / Image Editor, unless you change the default keyboard shortcuts.
- The 'W' key used to be reserved for the Context Menu, but this is now a click-menu (right-click menu if you've got left-click select activated).
- Shift + Control + Alt + C doesn't pop up the Set Origin menu anymore. You can find this in the Context Menu.
- In Edit Mode, Shift + Control + Alt + M doesn't activate Select Non-Manifold anymore. You can find it in the Select menu ➔ Select All by Trait submenu.
- In Edit Mode, you can now easily switch between vertex, edge and face mode by simply pressing 1, 2 or 3. I think this is very convenient.
- In Edit Mode, Shift + N now recalculates selected normals. This used to be Control + N.
- At the moment I write this, the old 'Local' mode to isolate a selection (numeric keypad's slash key) isn't present in Blender 2.8. I don't know if this is temporary or not, but for the time being you can use Shift + H to hide all unselected items, and unhide them by pressing Alt + H.
- Sculpt Mode keyboard shortcuts that involved number keys have been changed. Now you have to press Space, followed by a number key. I find this cumbersome, and hope this will be changed, because I prefer not to deviate from default keyboard shortcuts.
- A number of keyboard shortcuts that were previously used for toggling modes have been replaced by pie menus. It takes some time getting used to, but if you press and hold the key, quickly move your pointer in the direction of a pie menu item and then release the key again, it works quite fast. Below are some examples:
- The Z key previously toggled between solid view and wireframe view. Now you can choose between all viewport rendering options in a pie menu when pressing Z.
- Control + Tab offered different functions depending on the active mode. Now Control + Tab consistently summons a pie menu for changing modes, like Object Mode, Edit Mode, Sculpt Mode, etcetera. Only pressing Tab still toggles between Object Mode and Edit Mode though.
- The comma key (",") now pops up a Transform Orientation pie menu.
- The period key (".") now pops up a Pivot Point pie menu.
- The Accent Grave key ("`") pops up a pie menu for viewport views (Front, Back, Top, etcetera). I find this easier than repeatedly reaching for the numeric keypad keys, and it's also convenient for keyboards without a numeric keypad, such as notebook keyboards.
This sums up my observations after a few days of exploring Blender 2.8. There are of course much more changes than this list covers. For more information I recommend thoroughly reading the Blender 2.8 Release Notes and the changed shortcut keys in Blender 2.8.
Any corrections and/or additions to this list are welcome, thanks in advance. You can leave a comment on this blog post at Artstation.
— Metin Seven, metinseven.nl