I made this years ago and am just now sharing it. Sorry for the wait you never knew you were waiting for.

There’s two different ways to do isometric projection when using a computer screen:

True, exactly like isometric grid paper and the angles are 30° from horizontal as shown on the Wiki

Super easy to do in blender, just use the provided angles.

which gives you this:

…and digital, which for the benefit of smooth lines and consistent video game sprites uses a slightly off angle.

Habbo Hotel:

When zoomed in we see a pattern with lines using two pixels over and one pixel row up. You can do the trig yourself, but this is not perfectly 30°. It is, however, much easier to make by hand (as old games often were) and easier to calculate grid position (and thus, the imaginary 3D space the sprites occupy in “depth”).

A bit harder to do in Blender. I wish I could say I slaved over a hot calculator and furious pumped through calculations but honestly? I just played until it worked.

Some things to note:

Orthographic camera. As opposed to a perspective camera, orthographic means all of your lines are parallel. Since our isometric grid is an orthographic grid, we’ll be needing this. It’s in the camera settings of Blender.

Now, since we want that fixed viewpoint angle, we can’t rotate the camera or move it to look at things. We can, however, use the Shift X and Y to look around our scene and scale to zoom in and out. The physical camera should never change once we’ve set it’s proper location.

Setting up the 3D space. We’ll need two things, one or both you probably already have: a camera and a cube (or empty).

The cube can sit at 0,0,0 (X,Y,Z) and the camera should be moved to (pressing N and inputting the numbers at the top right) 12.05713, -12.05713, 9.84465 (X,Y,Z). Go ahead and lock those numbers if you’d like, to avoid accidentally moving something in the future. Now, the important part. Add a Track To constraint to the camera and target the cube. Play with those axis until it’s back to right side up (for me, -Z and world up is Y).

Pressing 0 on the numpad to see the camera’s view, you should be seeing your cube in isometric. F12 to render. Good? Good. If you want that old school Habbo / Roller Coaster Tycoon look, turn off AA in the render panel and make your resolution 640 x 480. You should notice your render is following that 2×1 line pattern we described above.

Of course, this works just as well with an empty, if you don’t want to see the cube in the render (for building scenes around it, etc.)

Fun fact, this is how to make a geometrically perfect Acrylo logo: Make cube. Join all four top verts into central point, making a pyramid. Move point up two units, so whole thing is four tall and the base 2×2. Smile and clap in delight.

If the instructions aren’t working out for you, or you’re a lazy bum you can download the .blend file here

Enjoy!

### Normal Mapping in Blender Cycles

It’s probably old hat to a lot of you out there, but I just discovered this and there wasn’t any high ranking Google help directly pointing to it, so:

Which takes normal maps (the rainbow coloured kind) and turns them into something useful in Blender’s Cycles renderer.

Neat.

In case that ultra difficult node setup is getting you down, here’s the .blend file to play with. You’ll have to link up your own normal texture(s) and my “UV map” is literally just the default U press. Whatever. I just found this in Google images quickly, but you likely have your own.

### Merry Minimalist: Coffee

I’ve been receiving lots of love for the first one, which is always cool to see. Here’s another! It seems the ratio of hardcore minimalists (without the text) to the wimps (that’s me!) is overwhelmingly on the text side, so this is released in just one style.

### Blender Tutorial: Super Basic UI

You open Blender for the first time. You panic; there’s buttons everywhere. You close it again: “I’ll figure it out some other day.”

Today is that some other day.

Okay. First things first: Blender is of the mentality that everything should adapt to how you want it. You can edit, move and change basically everything you see to your liking. You’ll notice that mine, below, is slightly different from the factory default.

You’ll also notice that I’ve outlined some buttons in the corners of some boxes. Two things: you can have as many boxes as you’d like and each one has that button in the corner which denotes what that box does. You can click and drag the boundaries of the boxes with the line that separates them (when you hover over the line your cursor should change to the double edged arrows). You can split and join them by right clicking when you’re in that hovering arrow area and selecting the appropriate option.

If you select “join” you’ll be given an arrow pointing towards one or the other of the boxes on either side of the crease you selected (note, you can’t join one of those three right boxes into the bigger one left box, it must be a crease where there’s only two sides. For example: joining on of those three boxes vertically into another = good) and if you move your mouse into either of the boxes that’s the one that will “fill” with the other, joining into one big box.

If you want to split, it’ll allow you to place the new crease. Obviously, you can always move it after it’s placed.

That was a mouthful. Basically, if you right click a crease and want to join things, it’ll give you the option of which kind of box you want to keep. Remember those little buttons in the first photo? Let’s go there next:

Those are the kind of box it is. The large one on the left is a 3D view box, showing you the 3D view. So is the middle one in that group of three; it’s a 3D view that I keep set to my camera’s view (we’ll get there later). There’s also a timeline in the middle bottom and a node box in the middle top – two more things we’ll cover much later – and on the far right the “properties” menu, which is to say the main panel of doing things. In the factory default there’ll also be a box above this menu that is a tree of all the objects in your scene; I’ve found this mostly useless. Preferences vary, obviously, but if you’re low on screen real estate that’d be on my list of things to not need. Right click on the crease, join upwards (so the arrow is into the outliner box) and click to confirm.

Cool.

So, when you’ve played around and set things up how you like them you can save them so that every time you open Blender (and every time you click “new”) it’ll go back to that state. Your UI will be saved with each file, so if you have an animation and a bunch of animation boxes, it’ll load exactly like that next time. If you don’t need them and have gotten rid of them, it’ll save and load exactly how you leave it. To save the UI you’ve made as that startup default, it’s in the top menu like so:

And there’s the factory default setting just below that if you screw it up and want to reset.

Protip: in the load menu, there’s a toggle on the left for “load UI” which is what it sounds like: you can choose to load the file’s UI as it was or load the file with the UI you currently have.

### Gallery WIP

It’s a rainy saturday morning so I made this and decorated a cake I made yesterday.

Things to do:

• Populate the shelves with neat things.
• Render with more samples
• Fix the bump map on that wooden box

But, it’s a start.

### Ideas in different mediums

Cutting down speed paints to being properly speedy seems to be the way to go – used as they should be, not finished works but concept generation and quick ideation.

The 3D model version took about as long as it would have to flesh out the paintings to a respectable level (with my current skills).

Every villain’s lair needs to have an unassuming topside front to conceal the sprawling underground complexes. Mine, of course, happens to be the innocent Snapstag Cider Flyers Brewery, complete with plywood cows that would pop up and play a pre-recorded “Mooo!” any time an investigator ventured too close.

### Works In Progress

Some things that I’ve been playing around with. May or may not ever finish them, but the ideas are there and people keep telling me to share the intermediate things.

I feel like the loft is off to a good start, but that back wall needs some love. Not sure yet. The external scene is, well, I’m terrible at them. I mean, that’s the point of practice, but still. I started a speed paint of almost that exact idea but realized half way through that doing the shading for each of those chimney stones is an ugly process.

The MK2 Stealth Chairs are the design we were originally going to make after we did the cardboard versions, but we got distracted and it never fully materialized. Someday, perhaps.

Funnily enough, not counting the render times themselves, making these takes about the same amount of time as my “speed” painting does. I’m both a pretty fast modeler and a pretty slow drawer, it seems. It is getting faster though. I was painting this morning and went to take a break only to realize it wasn’t as late as I thought it should have been. So that’s good. Improvement!

### Blender Ocean Sim

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my own work. Too long.

So, as we know Blender has had an ocean simulator for a little while now and I just got around to playing with it. I don’t really have much use for making oceans, but if I ever write a script for a Perfect Storm sequel, I’m totally set. Mostly, though, my version would just be like swimming pools and things becoming unrealistically angry and tidal wave over the sides onto those people who insist on sitting beside the pool but get all whiny when water touches them. You know the type. Like sunbathers, but sitting on lounge chairs beside indoor pools. Fluorescent tan.

Anyway, I’ve put the atrocious .blend file up for download but seriously, nothing’s even named or the renders made efficient or anything. You’ll have to throw in your own HDRi map for the world node texture there because for legal reasons I can’t redistribute the one I’m using. There’s no water textures or anything, it’s all procedurally generated (both by the ocean sim and by the proc. noise material).

### Happy Pi Day!

I couldn’t decide which style I liked better, so here’s both. I hope you don’t mind. Definitely click for full; 560px thumbnails don’t do justice.

Ah, but yes. It’s March 14th once again. 03/14: Pi Day. A holiday just as arbitrary as any other except you still have to go to work. In consolation, though, you should probably eat a pie. Pie is delicious! Also: wallpapers from your favorite design blog are always a plus, even if you only get to use them for one day.

Enjoy,

### Redesigning the Toaster

I like making toast because for those two or so minutes you’re allowed to just stand there and think about things. Much like showering, it’s these pockets of vacant staring that lead to some of the best ideas. A more mediocre idea occurred: my toaster is rubbish.

It’s been dutifully making my toast for a year and a half now and while it hasn’t failed or jammed or lit anything on fire, the design itself really isn’t much to write home about. It’s a Betty Crocker but I couldn’t find any further information on it. Measuring roughly: 17cm x 23cm x 20cm makes for a pretty hefty countertop footprint and looking at the mechanism I haven’t a clue why the bulbous plastic shell needs to be so obese. I can only assume the original design reason was so it doesn’t get too warm, but if they had done a bit of problem solving that shouldn’t have been a problem.

There’s three buttons and a knob and then the big toaster-down lever part on the corner. The buttons read “Bagel” “Defrost” and “Reheat” – none of which I’ve ever used. I’d be curious to see statistics as to who does. Frankly, I can’t even see what they would effect. Bagel might only use one side of the heating? Defrost / Reheat might go at lower power for longer? I’m not sure. Again; never used them. Why would I be reheating my toast, anyway?

My design removes them altogether. It’s sort of egocentric, I realize, to assume that everyone uses the same functions I do but if I’m redesigning it for myself, I’m allowed to satisfy my only customer the best way possible. Likewise the heat knob is gone. Since we’ve already got this handy linear lever we might as well integrate them: it moves the toast action still, but it’s height will vary the toasting power. There’d be internal ticks to denote power level intervals. Alternatively, and I’m assuming this only works for people who either live alone or with other people who like their toast the same brownness, put the knob somewhere like the back or the bottom and let them set it and forget it. I spent the first week figuring out the optimum toasting number and it’s been left there ever since. Unless you’ve got like, a picky family or something, you really don’t need to have it on the front to be constantly adjusted. Again. Maybe it’s just me,

So that eliminates almost everything. We’re left with one sliding knob. Neat.

I’ve also rearranged the bread. Instead of having two x two grills (two toast with two cradles) I’ve made the cradles wider to accommodate two slices side by side. Having no science to back this up on I’m not sure how heating is affected this way (especially when having only one slice in) but it makes the form factor much thinner and longer, which means it can sit up against the wall better and allow more space on the counter for, say, breadboards and butter and things. For my cramped kitchen this would provide much needed space and allow the appliance to be pushed back out of the way better when not in use.

Aesthetically minimal, of course. Matte black and brushed grey for me, but it would work well with anything, really. We could go the Kitchenaid route and offer more colours than the paint store swatch board but as I’ve mentioned before, visually loud things demand attention and do you really want the attention in the room to be your toaster? Exactly. Matte black it is.

And that’s pretty much it. A basic, easy, intuitive toaster redesign that saves space and makes you a cooler person, just by owning it.