Master Your 3D Workflow: Discover PureRef, the Ultimate Reference Image Organizer for Artists and Designers

Tutorial / 30 March 2023


Hey there, 3D enthusiasts! Today, we're excited to introduce you to an incredibly useful tool in the world of 3D creation: PureRef. If you haven't yet discovered the magic of PureRef, fear not! We'll dive into the ins and outs of this fantastic software, revealing how it can streamline your daily 3D work process.

PureRef is an indispensable, free application designed for organizing, managing, and displaying your reference images within a single, user-friendly workspace. For 3D artists, designers, and illustrators, reference images are key to accurately rendering objects, environments, and characters. However, juggling multiple images can lead to chaos and frustration.

Enter PureRef, the ultimate solution for maintaining an orderly and efficient reference image library. With its intuitive interface and extensive features, PureRef keeps your digital workspace clutter-free, ensuring a seamless workflow. Best of all, PureRef is perfect for everyone, from 3D novices to seasoned pros.

Why Choose PureRef?

a. Advantages of PureRef: Streamlining Your Reference Image Workflow

When it comes to organizing and managing reference images, PureRef stands out among other software options. Its user-friendly interface enables easy image arrangement, resizing, and opacity adjustment with just a few clicks. This streamlined process saves artists and designers time and frustration compared to using traditional image viewers or design programs not specifically tailored for reference management.

b. Key Features and Flexibility: Enhance Your Creativity with PureRef's Powerful Capabilities

PureRef boasts an array of features that make it the go-to choice for reference image organization. Some of its key features include:

  • Infinite canvas for arranging images in any layout
  • Drag-and-drop functionality for effortless image import
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts to accelerate your workflow
  • Compatibility with various image formats, such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, and more
  • The ability to create and save multiple boards for distinct projects
  • Image cropping and rotation tools for precise adjustments
  • Support for high-resolution images without compromising quality
  • Always-on-top mode, keeping reference images visible while working in other applications
  • Cross-platform compatibility, available for Windows, macOS, and Linux

c. A Free and Lightweight Software: The Ideal Solution for Artists and Designers

One of the most appealing aspects of PureRef is that it's entirely free to use. This makes it an accessible tool for artists and designers of all levels, from hobbyists to professionals. Moreover, PureRef is lightweight and doesn't demand high system resources to run smoothly. This ensures that it won't slow down your computer or interfere with other programs, allowing you to maintain an efficient and productive workflow.

How to Begin with PureRef

Embarking on your PureRef journey is quick and straightforward. Follow these simple steps to download and install this reference management software:

  1. Access the official PureRef website: Head to PureRef website in your web browser to reach the official PureRef site.

  2. Obtain the software: Click the "Download" button on the homepage, leading you to the download page. Select the appropriate version for your operating system (Windows, macOS, or Linux). After making your choice, click "Download" again to initiate the process.

  3. Extract files for Windows and Linux users: If using Windows or Linux, extract the downloaded .zip file. Right-click the file and select "Extract All" or employ your preferred extraction software to move the contents to your chosen folder.

  4. Install the software for macOS users: For macOS users, open the downloaded .dmg file and follow on-screen instructions to drag the PureRef application into your Applications folder.

  5. Launch PureRef: Open the extracted folder (Windows and Linux) or Applications folder (macOS) and double-click the PureRef application icon. The program will present a blank canvas where you can begin organizing your reference images.

Having successfully downloaded and installed PureRef, you're now ready to utilize this powerful tool to elevate your creative workflow.

Creating Your First Canvas with PureRef - A Beginner's Guide

Now that you've got PureRef installed, it's time to create your first canvas and discover its potential for organizing your reference images effectively. Follow these easy steps to get started:

  1. Launch PureRef: If you haven't already, open PureRef by double-clicking the application icon. You'll be greeted with a blank canvas, ready for your reference images.

  2. Import images: There are several methods to add images to your canvas:

    a. Drag-and-drop: The simplest way is to drag-and-drop images from your computer directly onto the canvas.

    b. Use the 'Load Images' function: Right click in the canvas and select 'Load -> Load Images.' Then, navigate to the desired image(s) on your computer and click 'Open' again to import them.

    c. Copy and paste: Copy an image (or its URL) from another application, like a web browser, and paste it directly onto the canvas by pressing 'Ctrl+V' (Windows and Linux) or 'Cmd+V' (macOS).

  3. Arrange images: Click and drag images to position them on your canvas. PureRef's infinite canvas allows you to organize images in any layout you prefer. To resize an image, click and drag its corners. You can also rotate images by selecting them at the corners.

  4. Adjust image opacity: Drag while holding down the left mouse button along with Ctrl+Alt+Shift to increase or decrease opacity

  5. Save your canvas: To save your canvas and its current layout, right click  and select 'Save -> Save As.' Choose a location on your computer and give your canvas a name. This will create a .pur file, which can be opened later to continue working on your project.

With these steps, you'll have successfully created your first canvas in PureRef. As you become more familiar with the software, you'll unlock its full potential and streamline your creative workflow.

Organizing and Manipulating Images in PureRef

Once you've created your first canvas and imported your reference images, it's crucial to learn how to organize and manipulate them effectively. In this section, we'll cover practical tips and tricks to help you optimize your PureRef experience:

  1. Aligning images: Align multiple images by selecting them, right-clicking, and choosing 'Images -> Align.' Align Left, Right, Top, Bottom etc.

  2. Locking canvas: Prevent accidental movement or resizing by locking canvas. Right-click the canvas and activate 'Canvas -> Lock Canvas.' To unlock, right-click again and deactivate 'Canvas -> Lock Canvas' (Shortcut CTRL+R).

  3. Optimizing Your Canvas: PureRef's 'Canvas > Optimize' function enables you to maximize your workspace and improve your overall organization. This feature automatically arranges your reference images, eliminating any empty spaces and ensuring an efficient layout

  4. Display Modes: PureRef offers several display modes to customize your working experience. These modes allow you to control how your reference images are displayed in relation to other applications on your computer such as 'Always Top', 'Always Bottom' etc
  5. Layering images: Arrange images in layers by right-clicking, hovering over 'Layer,' and selecting 'Bring to Front,' 'Send to Back,' 'Bring Forward,' or 'Send Backward.'

  6. Navigating the canvas: Move around your canvas by clicking and dragging with the middle mouse button. Zoom in or out by scrolling the mouse wheel.

  7. Customizing keyboard shortcuts: Streamline common tasks by customizing keyboard shortcuts in PureRef. Right Click and go to 'Settings', select 'Key Bindings' tab and edit shortcuts according to your preferences.

By mastering these techniques, you'll efficiently organize and manipulate your reference images, boosting your creative process and productivity with PureRef.

In Conclusion

PureRef is an indispensable tool for artists, designers, and creatives who rely on reference images in their projects. Its user-friendly interface, multitude of features, and customizable options make it the top choice for organizing and managing reference images efficiently. With its free availability and lightweight design, PureRef is accessible to both professionals and hobbyists.

From downloading and installing the software to creating your first canvas and optimizing your workspace, getting started with PureRef is seamless. The various display modes, such as Always on Top and Transparent, enable you to tailor your experience and enhance your overall productivity.

Incorporating PureRef into your daily workflow can save you time, minimize frustration, and help you maintain a clean and organized workspace. Give it a try and discover how PureRef can elevate your creative process to new heights with this powerful reference image management tool.

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🛢️🛢️🛢️ How to create LODs with Blender and use them with Unity

Tutorial / 17 June 2022

In this article we will see how to create LODs with Blender and use them with Unity. LOD stands for Level Of Detail and is an optimization technique to reduce hardware workload by reducing the number of polygons of the meshes that are distant from the camera.

When an object is far from the camera, details will not be seen, but if LODs are not used, the GPU will still calculate the number of polygons in the distant mesh thus leading to unnecessary workload and impacting the performance of the scene. But thanks to the LODs technique the polygons will be reduced so that optimal performance will be achieved in real-time rendering.

By name convention you assign LOD0 to the original mesh and then increase the number by reducing the geometry.

Let’s create LODs with Blender!

We can create LODs by reducing the geometry manually or through the use of a modifier, in this case Blender’s Decimate modifier. It’s useful to reduce geometry manually when we need to maintain a clean topology, such as for characters, organic shapes or anything that needs to be deformed or animated. Instead, for static objects, like game props, we can make use of decimation modifiers. 

✔️ To create LOD1 we make a copy of LOD0 with Shift+D

✔️ We add the Decimate modifier and set the ratio value to 0.6

✔️ We add the Weighted Normal modifier if shading artifacts occur 

Then we repeat the same process for LOD2 and LOD3. We duplicate LOD0 and create LOD2 by add the decimate modifier with ratio 0.4 and LOD3 with the decimate modifier and ratio 0.15

How to use LODs with Unity               

At this point you can export to FBX format our LODs and use them with Unity.               

We organize the Unity project with all the necessary folders. In particular, the Textures, Meshes (containing the imported LODs in fbx format), Materials folder and Prefabs folder were created. 

The textures folder contains the textures with the 4K, 2K, 1k and 512 dimensions that will be used with the LODs. The LOD0 will have the material with 4K textures loaded, the LOD1 at 2K and so on. 

✔️ We move LOD0, LOD1, LOD2 and LOD3 to the hierarchy panel of Unity.

✔️ Then we select LOD0 from the hierarchy and add a LOD Group component from the Inspector panel.

✔️ Now we have to select the respective slots named LOD0, LOD1 etc. (to add a new slot right-click on them and Insert Before) click on the add button and add the corresponding LODs present in the hierarchy we created with Blender.

We can then drag our lod0 into the prefabs folder to create a prefab that we can easily reuse in the scene with the loaded LOD Group. 

In this article we looked at How to create LODs with Blender and use them with Unity

So that’s it as far as creating LODs with Blender is concerned. Stay tuned for new posts!

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🖱️ Blender Selection Tools - Tutorial for Beginners

Tutorial / 13 June 2022

Blender Selection Tools

In this article we will look at Blender Selection Tools and learn how to select and deselect objects in the 3D viewport

In the left toolbar (keypad N) you can select the Select and Activate Items button. If we hold down this button it will be possible to choose different modes of selecting objects, including Select Box, Select Circle, Select Lasso. To select objects in Blender’s 3D Viewport we will just left-click on them. 

Selection of all 3D objects 

Pressing Shift+Left mouse button will allow multiple selection of objects. We can select all the objects in the scene at once by pressing the A key, and with the Alt+A key it will be possible to deselect them. We can also press A twice fast enough to deselect. 

It’s possible to select some 3D objects in the viewport and then reverse the selection with Ctrl+i.

Box, Circle and Lasso Select

By activating box selection, you will be able to create a selection box by dragging the left mouse button, and everything inside that box will be selected. We can create a multiple selection with the selection box by holding down the Shift key. Instead, it’s possible to deselect by pressing Ctrl.

It’s possible to call up the select box more quickly with the shortcut b. When we use shortcut b for the selection box it will be possible to deselect 3d objects by holding down the middle mouse button. 

Then we have the circle selection mode, which can be invoked with the shortcut c. We can enlarge the radius of the circle by simply scrolling with the mouse wheel. It will be possible to deselect by holding down the middle mouse button. 

And finally we have the select lasso. This will create a select lasso by holding down the left mouse button and dragging. With the select lasso we can create multiple selections of 3D objects by pressing Shift and deselect by pressing Ctrl. 

Blender selection tools – Some tips for selection in edit mode

The selection methods we have seen so far in object mode also apply to in edit mode to select vertices, edges, and faces. 

And here are some suggestions for selection in edit mode. You can select an entire loop by pressing Alt+Left mouse button.

If we need to select a contiguous area, instead of selecting individual faces with Shift, we can select them in one go. By selecting the first face and then the last one while holding Ctrl

To select faces alternately more quickly, we can select the first face then the second and then press Ctrl+Shift+ the + key on the numpad.

In this article we took a look at the Blender Selection Tools

So that’s it as far as Blender Selection Tools are concerned. In future articles we will look at some advanced selection techniques, so stay tuned!

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🍷 How to Create a Realistic Wine Glass with Blender for Beginners.

Tutorial / 02 May 2022

🍷 Create a Realistic Wine Glass with Blender!

Hi ArtStation dudes! I'm Francesco Saviano from 3D Skill Up. Today we're going to see how to create a realistic wine glass with Blender.

Almost everything around us in real life can be traced back to simpler, more primitive shapes like cubes, cylinders, spheres, etc. With this principle in mind we can begin to model starting from simple shapes and then arrive at increasingly complex and detailed forms. This phase is known as blockout.

🖼️Let's start with a reference

Although in this case a glass is a very simple shape, it is always a good idea to start modeling with a reference image in the background or in front of us. In this way we won't have problems with proportions and our 3d models will be more realistic.

In Blender we insert an image in the background adding it from the menu add -> image -> reference (shift+a shortcut)

Let's start modeling the wine glass!

Once we have inserted the image in the background we can start modeling the wine glass. We start with a cylinder, enter edit mode (tab key to switch from edit mode to object mode) scale on z, place it at the base and then extrude and scale following the profile of the glass in the image. We then remove the top face.

Let's add modifiers!

At this point we can add the modifiers:
✔️Subdivision Surface

Solidify will give thickness to the wine glass while subdivision surface will give it a better shape by subdividing the mesh..
Remember to apply the shade smooth in object mode by clicking with the right mouse button -> shade smooth.

We then place some edge loops (ctrl+r) to give the appropriate shape to the glass.

Then let's create the liquid part for the wine.

We must apply the Solidify modifier, in the modifiers stack select it and use the shortcut Ctrl+a to apply it

To create the liquid part that will represent our wine, we select in edit mode the inside of the glass up to a certain height, duplicate the selection and separate it creating a new piece.

In Edit Mode, once selected the faces we are interested in, we duplicate them with Shift+D and then separate them pressing p->Separate Selection

Now let's recalculate the liquid normals. Just select the whole piece in edit mode by pressing the a key (select all). Then press alt+n to open the Normals menu and recalculate the normals.

🔥 It's time to create your glass and wine materials!

Glass Material

To create the glass we will use the PBR Principled BSDF shader of Blender, in this way we will have a physically correct material. Let's move to the Shading workspace, select the glass in Object Mode and create a new material. I called it mat_glass.

In the Principled BSDF Node we set:

✔️ Transmission to 1

✔️  Roughness to 0 

✔️ Base Color to pure white.

In Blender Properties, in the World Properties tab, load an HDRi by selecting in Color->Environment Texture. Also remember to change the rendering engine from Eevee to Cycles if it is not already set.

Wine Material

In the same way we create the wine material. Select the mesh in object mode and assign a new material mat_wine. As for glass we set transmission value to 1 and roughness to 0. For this liquid we will additionally use the:

✔️ Principled Volume node

necessary because otherwise the liquid would look too clear and clean. Instead it needs some consistency, some depth. 

Then we insert the Principled Volume node from the Shader Editor pressing Shift+A then Shader->Principled Volume. We increase the density and change the color absorption. In this way we will absorb part of the light as it passes through the volume, creating a more "dense" liquid. And that's what we were looking for!

💡 Let's set the lighting and launch the rendering!

We insert a floor and a camera and use the three-point lighting type. We add a key light shifted to the left about 45° from the camera. We add a fill light to the right at 45° from the camera, and a back light behind the object. The light intensity should be set like this 100% key light, 50% fill light and 20% back light.

We use a warm color for the key light and a cool color for the fill light so that we have a nice warm-cold transition.

🔥 Then in the Render Properties tab set the samples to 150 plus denoise and start rendering!

🍷 And here's how to create a realistic wine glass with Blender! 

▶️ If you want you can follow the whole process on YouTube (🇮🇹 Italian audio with 🇬🇧 English subtitles)

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