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Book Review: Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook by Colin Litster

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Blender has been getting great attention for quite sometime now. As more and more features are added into this wonderful 3D program, 3D designers are really noticing Blender’s features.

One of Blender’s most notable features would be how it handles materials and textures. It’s for sure not modo 501, but it can do some pretty amazing things.

Packt Publishing’s recent book,  Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook,  covers all kinds of ways on how to create lifelike Blender objects with such a good deal of reality to them.

How about we go ahead and dive straight into this review!

I’ve started using Blender nearly a year ago. When I started using it, I was a little bit skeptical at first at how complicated it looked. As I got more and more into 3D art recently, I’ve started to get the hang of Blender. I’m far from an expert on 3D design, but I’m not completely new to the 3D design world either. I’ve used tools like AutoCAD, Solidworks, and even Pro Engineer for my 3D work. I’m a huge AutoCAD fan, but after seeing what Blender can do with all of its materials and textures, I’m starting to really have a large interest in Blender.

Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook is more than anything a tutorial/reference book. The same chapter structure runs throughout the book, and I can see a 3D designer buying Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook for something to have next to them when needed.

Colin Litster really did an incredible job on outlining this book. I really have to give him a hand for that. Let’s see what he wrote about:

  • Creating natural materials like limestone, quartz, and sea rocks
  • Creating man-made materials like slate roofs, metals, copper with oxidation weathering
  • Animated materials like a barber pole, TV screen, burning sheet of paper
  • A chapter on how to manage Blender materials (I personally found this to be very useful)
  • Creating difficult man-made materials like rust on iron, reflective surfaces, polished metals, simulating dirt and grime
  • UV mapping and sub surface scattering (this was a very interesting chapter! A must-read for all 3D artists)
  • Painting and modifying image textures
  • Special effects like smoke, flamess, looping fire and smoke sequences, and adding complete FX
  • And more.

Throughout a good portion of the book, you’re just following steps while he guides you through eighty realistic Blender objects.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook. There are so many activities (now it’s starting to sound like school) to complete in the book that you’ll be entertained for a while. Because I’m personally not all to great at 3D modeling, having all of the models provided for me was really nice to see.

After I downloaded the files associated with Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook, I started diving into them and following along with the book. Colin gives us the final product and the files he started from; this makes it really easy to see all of the settings he applied.

The variety is one other thing that I really enjoyed about this book. You go from creating all types of rocks to metals, barber poles, burning flames, UV mapping (you gotta see that — it’s awesome), and even making animations with complete FX. Colin didn’t need to cover half of the stuff he did, but having over eighty great examples in just this fairly tiny 312 page books is unbelievable.

I’ve warned you before, but because Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook is more of a tutorial book — hence the term “cookbook” in the title — it is a tad bit on the boring side if you only read it and don’t follow along. The files you’re supposed to download make following along with the book much more enjoyable. I started reading Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook without them at first, and about halfway through the first chapter, I was very bored because of all of the directions.

So if there’s one thing I can recommend is if you decide to pick up Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook, make sure you follow along and play around with the materials and textures. Maybe after learning how to make a UV map of someone else’s face, do it to your own face! Have some fun with it. This book wasn’t written for a basic read; it was written to follow along and learn something!

Overall, I really enjoyed Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook after spending some time with all of the provided files. I have to say this right now; I’ve learned a lot. I’m not too experienced in Blender and by following along and reading everything Colin has written made me one hundred times more knowledgable about textures than I was before.

Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook doesn’t cover too much of “why” you’re doing what you do. The level of this book is geared towards the ones who are experienced Blender 3D artists. If the author made it so that the newbies can read it easily and understand why they’re doing what they do, I would have enjoyed Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook much more. I’ve used Google for the things I did not understand and that helped quite a bit. If he would have thrown in one extra sentence in every step of why you’re doing what’s listed, I think this would have been a much better of a read.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it — trust me, I really did, I’m saying that when I read the description on Packt’s website, they mentioned that Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook was indeed for beginners. As I found it very easy to follow along, I wasn’t all too certain on why I was doing that all of the time.

Overall, Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook is a wonderful book on creating real-life textures. I would by far recommend this book to anyone, but remember, if you’re a bit new with Blender, be aware that you might need to Google a few things to understand what you’re doing.

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About Taylor Jasko