Learning Blender 3D - basic mouse movements & navigation

Learning Blender making a simple chair

In part one of Learning Blender 3D, the default layout and appearance was discussed. In part two we'll now go on to learn how to navigate around the interface using basic but essential mouse controls and keyboard shortcuts.

As with the previous section of this tutorial series we'll learn about the important controls, both mouse button and keyboard, as and when they are needed; there are far more keyboard shortcuts and controls then is necessary or practical to list at this point so to read up on them click here.

Most activities in the 3DView use a combination of mouse button plus keyboard shortcut (a three button mouse is essential for proper use of Blender); in Blender all three buttons on a mouse and their associated functions; left button +click, right button +click, middle 'button' +click or +scroll - are put to use in one way or another to carry out a given task or function.

It's also important to understand here that when you carry out an action or function inside Blender it relates to being done in one or both of the follow contexts;

1) "screen space" where actions like navigating, moving or positioning the scene are done relative to what you see on screen as you look at your monitor.

2) "object (or 3D) space" where actions like moving objects are relative to that objects position and orientation adhering to Blenders "X", "Y" and "Z" axis coordinate system.

Navigating around the scene as discussed below is relative to "screen space".

Rotating a scene ^

In the 3D View, using Middle Mouse Button +click-hold drag (MMB) will rotate the scene around a centralised point using "screen space" orientation, meaning that relatively speaking, rotation is universal, arbitrary and omni-directional. The MMB can also be used in other views and areas of Blender. For example, in other view types - the 'Timeline', 'IPO Editor', 'UV/Image Editor' and so on - using the MMB will drag the contents of that view left/right and up/down, usually within the context of revealing other parts of an 'editor' not currently visible or to show hidden buttons and menu options. Similarly, MMB can be used in the 'Header' areas to drag the contents left/right, revealing previously hidden menu options.

Before using MMB to rotate the scene in Blender

Before using MMB to rotate the scene in Blender

Rotate 3D View with MMB

Rotate 3D View with "MMB"

Grab/Move (strafe) across a scene ^

Shift +Middle-Mouse-Button click-hold drag (Shift+MMB) will 'grab' the scene and move it left-right or up-down relative to the screen. This type of movement is often referred to as a directional "strafe".

Design note: this is Editor/View dependant and may do nothing.

Blender and using Shift+MMB to grab the view and move it

Blender and using "Shift+MMB" to grab the view and move it

Zoom in/out of the a scene ^

Ctrl +Middle-Mouse-Button click-hold drag (Ctrl+MMB) zooms the view in or out relative to mouse movement. The speed at which zooming occurs is dependant on the speed at which the mouse is moved. Zooming can also be done by scrolling the MMB up/down - note that doing this tends to zoom by 'steps' (the view judders as the zoom happens), where-as using Ctrl+MMB will 'free scroll' (scrolling is smoothing but less controlled).

Design note: that this also zooms the contents of other view types (except for 'Header' areas).

Blender and zooming the 3D scene using Ctrl+MMB

Blender and zooming the 3D scene using "Ctrl+MMB"

Selecting objects and items ^

Selecting objects and items is better explained in the next sections of the tutorial during the process of making a model, this simply ensures that the function is learnt and understood within context. For now however, mention will be made that most selection functions use the "Right Mouse Button" ("RMB"), not the Left, certainly when mesh editing. Selecting multiple items uses a combination of the RMB with "Shift+", "Ctrl+" and/or "Alt+" keys depending on the action required, something we'll now learn more about whilst modeling a simple chair with Blender.

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