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Particles that form into words

This is part one of a tutorial showing how to make a swirling mass of particles form into 3D text.

The steps in this tutorial will explain how to set up a particle system, create tens of thousands of swirling objects and then render the finished animation with Blender’s Cycles rendering engine.

Previous steps, which get you to this point, are covered in Common setup steps

About this tutorial

The gravitationally challenged logo effect was made using Blender 2.73a.


Start Blender

Blender-default-startup-uiThe default scene is shown. You can see the camera, a lamp and a cube. Think of your perspective as that of a bystander in a studio.

Delete the cube from the scene

delete-cubeTo delete the cube, it has to be selected. Objects in Blender can be tricky for beginners to select, because you have to use your right mouse button for selection.

A selected object is outlined in orange. So select the cube, then, press x and then enter to confirm. The cube should disappear.

Ensure your 3D cursor is in the right place

snap-cursor-to-centreWhen you’re adding objects to a 3D scene it’s easy to accidentally left-click on the stage. When you do that, you’re asking Blender to place your 3D cursor somewhere in that space – but you’re only giving Blender two of those dimensions to work with – the positions across and up-down on your computer screen.

When you left-click like this, Blender will do its best to place the cursor under your mouse point but it may not end up where you want it. If you use your middle mouse wheel button to pan around you might see the effect.

To place the cursor in the exact centre of the scene, with certainty, you should press shift-s and then select cursor to center.

The 3D cursor is now dead centre, and this is where you want it to be for the next step.

Add your text to the scene

add-text  To add text to the scene

  1. Press shift-a
  2. Choose Text from the menu

The text should appear, placed exactly on the location where you set up the 3D cursor in the previous step.

Once the text is added, you can edit it by entering Blender’s “Edit Mode”.

add-text-addedBlender has an “Object Mode” for manipulation of objects (for example changing colors and moving them) and an “Edit Mode”, which allows for manipulation of an object’s constituent parts.

In the case of text that simply means “you can edit the text in Edit Mode”!

edit-textPress the Tab key to switch from Object Mode to Edit Mode. Then use your keyboard to edit the text, just as you would in a normal text editor.

But, don’t press Enter to confirm your text changes – that would create a line break. Instead, when you’re finished editing, press the Tab key again to return to Object Mode.

Stand the text up

001-007-tab-object-modeYour text will be lying flat on the “floor” of your scene (not that you have a floor in you scene yet). To help orient your text to your viewing perspective of the scene, you can rotate it.

Blender provides a means to rotate on specific axes and by specific amounts, in degrees. In this case we want to rotate the text 90 degrees on its x-axis.

So with the text selected, press r, then 90, then x, then enter.

001-008-r-90-xThe text should now be rotated so that it’s standing up and you should see something like the image shows here.

Next you will give some depth to the text.

Give the text some 3D goodness

001-010-F-font-propertiesYour text is upright but it’s very thin. In fact it still only has 2 dimensions! So let’s make it deeper and give it some slightly rounded edges.

You’ll need to access the Font Properties area in the panel on the right. Your text needs to be selected (outlined in orange) to do this. You might have to pull the properties panel out a bit to see the F tab (circled). You can pull the panel out by hovering your mouse on the left edge of the panel area, just beside the 3D view. When the mouse pointer turns into a double arrowhead, you can select the panel edge and drag it in or out.


001-011-extrude-0.1Locate the Geometry section of the Font Properties panel and there you’ll see the Extrude field. Enter a value of 0.1 in the field.

Extruding the text will give it depth by adding a third dimension to it.

001-012-depth-0.03Bevel the text

In the same Geometry Panel, under Bevel, set

  • the Depth value to 0.03 and
  • 001-013-resolution-3the Resolution value to 3.

001-014-3d-text-reviewYour text object should look something like the one shown – with an extruded look and nicely smoothed, bevelled edges.

In the next part of this tutorial  you’ll be converting your text into a new type of object – one that looks the same to the eye but is actually made up of faces, edges and vertices.

If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. The tutorial will take you through the steps one at a time.

You’ll get to add a particle system to your object, and play with some physics settings too.

Click the button below to continue to Part 2 – see you there!

About Pete Dakin

Founder and curator of 3D Movie School Club

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