3D Design with Blender


Authored by Nick Jainschigg


Course Code: OLART-310

Next Term Starts July 1

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


3D Design with Blender is an introduction to the world of cinematic visual effects through the medium of Blender, an amazingly versatile piece of free and open-source software. The course is designed for the musician who wants to add interesting visual, non-existent elements or environments to self-made videos, the aspiring filmmaker who wants to move away from strict realism and add variety to a production, traditional media artists interested in moving their work into animation or interactivity, or just about anybody who is curious about how a "summer VFX blockbuster" is made.

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3D Design with Blender was written by Nicholas Jainschigg, a professor in the Illustration department at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. His students have gone on to work for ILM, Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Framestore, Pixar, Dreamworks, Blizzard, Id, Turbine, Microsoft Games, Irrational Games, 2K Games, Harmonix, and others.

The course is designed to make the medium of 3D modeling, rendering, and animation understandable and accessible. It is also designed to make you comfortable with compositing—the mixing, adding, subtracting, and shuffling of real and imaginary visual elements—which is at the heart of most visual effects work. Along the way, you will be developing the skills that allow for the successful use of any visual effects software: an eye for color, an understanding of perspective and composition, and dramatic storytelling that allows you to make the unbelievable believable.

While it is true that modern visual effects can put almost anything onto the screen that the mind can conceive, unless you have the budget of James Cameron or J.J. Abrams, you have be a little more crafty. This course will focus on ways to get the most impressive visuals at minimal expense and substituting planning, skill, and creativity for a massive budget.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Construct, texture, and light virtual 3D objects
  • Animate simple object motions, physics-based interactions, and particle-type effects like fire, smoke, and explosions
  • Add virtual objects to your real-world video footage, and place real-world elements into constructed imagery
  • Edit the look and timing of your effects shots to maximize their emotional impact and narrative flow
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Lesson 1: Introduction to Visual Effects and Blender 

  • The History of Visual Effects
  • 3D: General Principles
  • Downloading, Installing, and Setting Up Blender
  • Getting Around 3D
  • Making and Rendering Your First Scenes

Lesson 2: Editing Objects

  • Basic Principle: Datatblocks
  • Introduction to Edit Mode
  • Separating and Joining Objects
  • Object Modifiers
  • Converting to Mesh from Curve

Lesson 3: Texturing, Principles, and Practice

  • How to Visually Break Down Materials
  • Materials, Textures, and How They Get onto Surfaces
  • UV Mapping Basics
  • Textures in More Depth
  • More Complicated Procedural Textures with Nodes
  • Material Nodes

Lesson 4: Further Texturing and Rendering in Cycles

  • Three-Point Lighting Setup
  • Advanced Textures
  • Camera Effects and Properties
  • Cycles Renderer and Its Settings

Lesson 5: Sculpting and Baking Normal Maps

  • Preparation for Sculpting
  • Sculpting Detail
  • Baking
  • Retopologizing
  • Automatic Tessellation and 3D Sketching

Lesson 6: Compositing

  • Breakdown of a Scene
  • Buildup of a Scene
  • Color Correction and Texture Editing
  • Sweetening and VFX

Lesson 7: Basic Animation—Camera and Objects

  • Concepts of Animation
  • Constraints for Automating Animation
  • Animated Textures
  • Output to Video Files

Lesson 8: Camera Mapping and 2.5D

  • Parallax Described and Demonstrated
  • 2.5D Plate Preparation
  • 2.5D When?
  • Web and Interactive—2.5D/3D GIF and VR Imagery

Lesson 9: Tracking and Replacement

  • Tracking and Replacement Principles
  • Tracking—Practical Examples
  • Tracking—Addition and Replacement
  • Use of Green-Screen (Monochromatic Environment Removal)

Lesson 10: Animation of Characters

  • The Armature
  • Bones
  • Poses and Keyframes
  • Tips for Animation

Lesson 11: Particles and Fluids

  • Particle Basics
  • Setting Up Particle Systems
  • Texturing of Particles
  • Particles as Hair

Lesson 12: Video Editing and Addition of Sound

  • Working with Sound/Video Sequence Editor
  • Compositor
  • Sound Effects
  • Final Output


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Students should have:

  • Familiarity and comfort with basic computer skills and file formats
  • Familiarity with a 2D graphics program such as Photoshop (any version) or GIMP, Painter, or equivalent

No art experience is required, but an openness and willingness to experiment with artistic ideas and processes will make your work much stronger. While this course is primarily intended to provide technical information and inspiration, every assignment will include an artistic component, whether color judgment, composition, timing, or other aspect of 3D and animation. 

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • Blender 2.66 or higher 
  • 2D editing software such as Photoshop or GIMP
  • Audio-editing software such as Audacity (PC) or GarageBand (Mac)
  • Optional: a GIF authoring tool for the creation of aniGIFs and stereoscopic Web images

Hardware Requirements

  • Video camera, digital camera, or phone capable of recording video at 720p resolution or better (preferable)

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection



Author & Instructor

Nick Jainschigg was born in New York City and grew up near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. The two influences of art and natural science have been with him ever since. After graduating with a BFA in illustration, he pursued a career in science fiction and fantasy illustration, producing hundreds of covers and interiors for most of the major (and many minor) publishers. He discovered the computer as a means of expression in the late 90s and hasn't had a decent night's sleep since. Currently, he is a professor in the Illustration department of the Rhode Island School of Design and continues to work on animations, interactive illustration, and painting in oils.

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His work has been featured in or written about in publications from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Ballantine Books, PBS Interactive, The New York Times, Wizards of the Coast, Tor Books, Scholastic Inc., MacMillan Publishing, Domino Magazine, Paramount, and Viacom. His digital paleontological reconstructions have been featured on the Discovery Channel and at the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Maastricht Natural History Museum, and the University of California Museum of Paleontology. Read Less


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.