Beginner’s Guide to 3D Character Creation Using Blender

Blender is a popular 3D computer graphics software that is used by both amateurs and professionals. It’s a feature-rich, free open-source programme with a plethora of applications (e.g. 3D modeling, animation, VFX, among others). Although it is only one of many applications, the number of 3D modelling tools available alone makes it one of Blender’s best features.

Blender 3D modelling can be intimidating for beginners. However, with a little guidance, you can learn it quickly. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to create a 3D character design in Blender 3.0 from 2D references to a usable model, including texture painting, rigging, posing, and rendering. But first, let’s go over Blender’s user interface (UI) and the most useful 3D modelling tools and character modelling operations.


People who are new to Blender may be intimidated by the sheer number of tools and operations available. Learning the Blender 3.0 user interface will make creating your character less intimidating. The splash screen appears when you launch Blender. There are several options available under the featured artwork.

Blender’s application templates are available as options under “New File.” A Blender application template is a custom configuration that best fits a workflow for one or more of its applications. Because each template can be customised, selecting the correct one from the splash screen isn’t necessary.

Having said that, the “General” configuration is the best choice for this tutorial because it is appropriate for all of the applications we’ll be looking at. If you click anywhere other than the options presented on the splash screen, the “General” configuration will be used by default.

#1 Layout Workspace

The tabs visible in the workspaces section of the Topbar differ significantly between application templates (shaded light grey in the image above). Workspaces are window UI layouts for the various Blender applications. The Layout workspace is displayed in the General configuration, and this is where we’ll be doing our 3D modelling. It’s a general-purpose workspace with four editors:

  • 3D Viewport : The area shaded yellow in the image above is where 3D cartoon character modelling takes place. The scene is also visible in a real-time render preview here.
  • Outliner : The image above, shaded green, depicts all of the objects in our scene. In this editor, you can change the settings to control what you see as well as how everything in the scene is organised. We’ll go over that in more detail later.
  • Properties : In the image above, the shaded dark grey area is where we can see and edit a variety of properties related to the active object, the world, or the scene.
  • Timeline : The keyframes of your scene’s animation are shown in red in the image above. You can navigate the Timeline to see how the animation will unfold.

Each editor has different regions. Many of them, for example, have distinct headers that appear in the 3D Viewport just below the Topbar. We’ll go over the regions associated with the 3D viewport in greater detail later.

#2 Other Workspaces

Workspaces are useful for creating an intuitive workflow based on the task at hand. Although we’ll be doing most of our 3D modelling, rigging, and posing in the Layout workspace, we’ll also be working in the following workspaces:

  • 2D Full Canvas : If reference images do not already exist, we will create them here.
  • Texture Paint : This is where we will add colour to our character.

#3 3D Viewport Editor

3D cartoon character modelling

Every workspace with a 3D Viewport editor has the same regions, but the contents of the regions vary depending on the type of object selected and the mode you’re in (more on this later). Knowing these areas is critical when working with objects in Blender, especially if you are unfamiliar with the keyboard shortcuts. Let’s take a quick look at four important 3D viewport regions:

  • Header : The image above, shaded green, contains menus and common tools.
  • Toolbar : The image above, shaded dark grey, contains buttons for various tools. To make it visible, press the ‘T’ key.
  • Sidebar : Panels related to the manipulation and transformation of an object, settings of an active tool, properties of the 3D Viewport, and any additional settings for Blender operations or add-ons are shaded purple in the image above. To make it visible, press the ‘N’ key.
  • Footer : In the image above, the light grey shading indicates hints about what actions are available based on what key you press or what you do with your mouse.

You’ll need to learn how to navigate the 3D Viewport to get your character exactly how you want it. Understanding the 3D Viewport editor is critical to learning how to use Blender effectively. These are the most common ways to navigate your viewport:

  • Orbit (middle mouse button – MMB) : The view is rotated around a point. The active object’s origin is the default point.
  • Pan (“Shift + MMB”) : The view can be moved up, down, left, or right.
  • Zoom In/Out (“Ctrl + MMB or Wheel”) : zooms in/out of the current view

Orthographic views allow you to fine-tune your character’s appearance. Front (‘1’ on the number pad), right (‘3’ on the number pad), and top (‘7’ on the number pad) are the three most common orthographic views.

The Quad View displays a user perspective view alongside the front, right, and top orthographic views, allowing you to precisely edit your character. To activate the Quad View, press “Ctrl + Alt + Q” or perform the following steps:

  • In the header menu, click on “View”.
  • Click on “Area”.
  • Click on “Toggle Quad View”.

While modelling, the user perspective view allows you to look around the viewport. This is useful when you need to edit different parts of your character at an angle. To change the user perspective view, use your left, middle, and right mouse buttons (LMB, MMB, and RMB) in conjunction with a key.

#4 Outliner Editor

Although we briefly discussed the Outliner editor in the workspaces section, it’s critical that we go over it again. In the Outliner, you can choose whether to see or render every object in the Blender scene. On the right side of the search bar, at the top of the editor, there is a “Filter” menu. When you expand this menu, you’ll see a section called “Restriction Toggles.”

You can also limit which objects can be selected by clicking the “Selectable” button (the cursor icon) under Restriction Toggles. This is useful if you know you don’t want to make any changes to an object but still want to see it in the viewport.

Collections are another feature of this editor that allows you to logically organise the components of a scene. By clicking the buttons on the right side of the collection name, you can also toggle the ability to see, render, or select all the objects in a collection.

We recommend that you give your collections and the objects you add descriptive names. To rename an item, simply hover over it in the Outliner, double-click, and type the new name. When you’re finished, press the Enter key.

#5 Areas

Each editor represents a different section of the Blender window. At times, you may find that you require more areas than the four editors on the screen. Having multiple areas comes in handy when you need to see one editor alongside another (e.g. the UV editor and the 3D viewport while working on textures).

In this tutorial, we’ll frequently open the Properties editor as a new area to gain access to various modifiers. The process of splitting the screen is straightforward:

  1. Hover your mouse over the space between the editors. Your cursor should be replaced by a double arrow.
  2. Right-click and select “Vertical Split” or “Horizontal Split,” and you’ll see an indicator indicating the location of the split.
  3. Hover your mouse over the area where you want the split to occur, then either accept or reject the split by left-clicking.

You can also hover over any corner until you see a crosshair replace your cursor. Drag your mouse in the direction you want the split to occur. Hover over the gap between the editors, right-click, and choose “Join Areas.” One area will darken faster than the other. The darker area will vanish. Hover over the area you want to disappear, then left-click to accept or right-click to dismiss it.

Now that you’re more familiar with Blender’s interface, it’s time to learn about the tools and operations we’ll need to create our character. We’ll go over a few fundamental concepts in the following sections.


Now that you’re more familiar with Blender’s interface, it’s time to learn about the tools and operations we’ll need to create our character. We’ll go over a few fundamental concepts in the following sections.

#1 Modes

A mode is “designed to edit an aspect of the selected object,” according to Blender. Look at the second dropdown in the 3D Viewport’s header to see which mode you’re in (outlined in yellow in the screenshot above). In this tutorial, we’ll use five different modes:

  • Object Mode : is where you can move (keyboard ‘G’), rotate (‘R’), or scale (‘S’) your entire object.
  • Edit Mode : is where you can shape your object by using different control points. When you change the shape of an object, you are changing the mesh. The mesh is simply an object’s collection of vertices, lines, and faces. By pressing the Tab key, you can switch between this mode and the others.
  • Particle Edit : is where you can modify the particle system to make the model look exactly how you want it to. The particles can be combed, smoothed, added, lengthened, puffed, or cut. You can also change the weight of the object’s influence on the particles.
  • Texture Paint : This is where you can add colour to your character to make it stand out.
  • Pose Mode : After you’ve rigged your character, you can pose it.

#2 Vertices, Edges, & Faces

The vertices, edges, and faces are the control points in Edit Mode that you can manipulate to change the shape of your object, and each has three selection modes that give you different levels of control. The face selection (keyboard ‘3’) is broad, but it allows you to select larger areas at once. When you don’t want a face to be flat, you can use the edge selection (‘2’) command to select the edges. The most control is provided by vertex selection (‘1’), which allows you to move a vertex anywhere.

All can be selected by pressing ‘A,’ and all can be deselected by pressing “Alt + A.” X-ray mode (“Alt + Z”), represented by a square with a solid border in front of a square with a dotted border, allows you to select all vertices rather than just the visible vertices that the selection tool hovers over.


Subdividing your mesh increases its resolution by increasing the vertex count. Because there are more vertices, you can shape edges with fewer sharp angles. More subdivisions improve model quality, but you must be mindful of how many vertices your computer or Blender can handle.To subdivide your mesh, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you’re in Object Mode before selecting an object to shape.
  2. Change to Edit Mode. The vertices are selected if your mesh is orange. If the mesh is not orange, press ‘A’ to select all vertices of the mesh.
  3. Right-click and choose “Subdivide.”

Your mesh should now have more vertices than it did previously.

#3 Modifiers

Modifiers are operators that make it much easier to change the appearance of geometry than manually editing the mesh. They’re non-destructive, which means they don’t alter the base mesh and can be easily removed if they don’t work as expected.

The Modifier Properties tab is indicated by a wrench in the Properties editor, and specific modifiers can be added from the “Add Modifier” dropdown menu. The following are some useful modifiers for character modelling that we’ll be using in this tutorial:

  • Mirror : allows you to edit your mesh, 2D drawing, or armature (bones) symmetrically in any direction The Mirror modifier panel’s “Clipping” checkbox prevents vertices from overlapping.
  • Subdivision Surface : allows you to non-destructively subdivide a mesh, smoothing the shape You can easily change the number of subdivisions displayed in the viewport and how many are actually used in the render.
  • Shrink Wrap : makes one object’s shape follow the shape of another
  • Solidify : adds thickness to the surface of an object

Shade Smooth is another non-destructive technique we’ll employ. It’s not one of the options available on the Modifier Properties tab, but rather from the Edit Mode header. Shade Smooth can be applied to a model by clicking “Face” in the 3D Viewport header and then selecting “Shade Smooth.”

#4 Transformations

Blender’s transformations take place in both Object Mode and Edit Mode. You can move, rotate, or scale entire objects in Object Mode. You can move, rotate, or scale the mesh or parts of the mesh in Edit Mode.

It is important to note that when the mesh is translated, the object origin does not move with it. The object origin is the default reference point when an object is translated (moved), rotated, or scaled. The “location of this point determines where the object is located in 3D space,” according to Blender. The origin of the active object is represented by a yellow dot in the 3D viewport.

To edit even more precisely while in Edit Mode, press ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ or ‘Z’ to transform along those axes. After selecting a direction, you can also press a number to transform by that many units in that direction.

Proportional Editing

Proportional Editing is useful for quickly shaping objects without having to select the surrounding vertices, edges, or faces individually. By pressing ‘O’ while hovering anywhere in the 3D Viewport, you can toggle Proportional Editing. Alternatively, on the header, click the Proportional Editing button (the circle with a dot in the centre).

When using a transformation, Proportional Editing determines which parts of an object (when used in Edit Mode) or objects (when used in Object Mode) are changed (i.e. move, rotate, scale, and so on). A circle appears when you use a transformation. The circle denotes the area that will be affected by the transformation.

You can change the influence by dragging your mouse or pressing the “PgUp” or “PgDn” keys. Then, left-click to apply or right-click to dismiss the change. You can also change the transformation’s shape by selecting the Falloff type from the dropdown next to the Proportional Editing button in the header.

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