How To Make Objects Dissolve In Blender 3D
What you will learn:
In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Blender 3D program to create a dissolve effect. I will walk you through step by step on how to accomplish this. You will have a finished product of a geometric shape that dissolves away at your command.
Before we begin
The things you'll need for this tutorial are:
Blender is all you need for this tutorial, but if you don't have Blender, you can head over to their download page and pick up a copy since it's free. You don't need any experience in Blender to do this tutorial, but if you would like to learn more, check out Blender Cookie. It's a great website to learn about Blender.
Is this your first time working with 3D effects?
Adding the mesh
Creating the object
The first step to this is to create an object to dissolve. Open up Blender and delete the default cube by selecting it and hitting the X key. Then, up top next to where it says File, click Add, Meshes, UV Sphere. This will create a sphere in the middle of the screen.
With your mesh selected, press the tab key to go into edit mode. Once in edit mode, move your mouse over the sphere and hit W, and then Subdivide Smooth from the menu that pops up. Now, before you press any other key or click anything, go down to the menu on the bottom left and set the number of cuts to 4.
Finally, mouse over the sphere and press tab again to exit edit mode.
Setting up the particle system
Now, select your mesh, select the particles tab, and create a new particle system. Name it whatever you want.
Now, look at the toolbar where File, Add, Render, etc are located. Go to the far right of that tab, and you should see some numbers where it tells you how many vertices, faces, and edges your selected model has. Look at the number of faces, and set the number of particles to that number (you can see this in the picture).
Next, look at the values for Start and End for the particle system. These numbers represent on which frames the particles will start appearing and stop appearing respectively. So if i set it to 1 and 120, the particles will start appearing on frame 1 and all of the particles will have appeared by frame 120.
Now, look at the value called Lifetime. This value represents how many frames each particle will live. For this demonstration we'll just set it to 1000.
Next, enable rotation under the Rotation tab and check the box next to Dynamic. This lets each individual face rotate freely. Now, under the Render tab, set the render to None by clicking None. Finally, under the Field Weights tab on the bottom, set Gravity to 0.
Adding the Explode modifier
So now we have a sphere that will emit particles from frames 1 to 120, but nothing really happens yet. What we need to do now, is go to the Modifiers tab, click Add Modifier, and select the Explode modifier. This modifier makes it so that each individual particle will correspond to a face (why we had to set the particle number to the face number, which, by the way, would be a good thing to double check right now) and the sphere will dissolve. So if you click play on the bottom now, you will see your sphere dissolve over 120 frames in an outward manner.
Tip: if you don't like how the sphere dissolves and actually 'explodes' outward, go to the particle tab, and under the Velocity tab set Normal to 0. This will set the starting velocity of the particles to zero.
So this is pretty cool, but it's still just a sphere dissolving. Let's add a texture to make the sphere dissolve from left to right.
To do this, select your sphere, then go to the Textures tab. Under this tab, select the particles so that the texture influences the particle system (the little box with the four yellow stars in it in between the little box with a planet and the little box with a checker board), click the plus to create a new texture, and set the Type to Blend.
Now if you play the animation, you'll see the sphere dissolve from left to right. The reason it does this is because of the texture we just added. If you go back to the texture tab and scroll down to Influence, you'll see the only thing checked is Time. This means this texture only influences the time that things dissolve, with black dissolving first and white dissolving last.
This is pretty cool now, but why don't we add some force fields as well. To do this, make sure you're in object mode, hold Shift and tap S, then click Cursor to Center to move your 3D cursor to the origin. Then, click Add, Force Field, and choose Wind. With the force field selected, tap R to rotate, then tap Y to isolate the Y axis, and then type 90. This will rotate the force field 90 degrees on the y axis so that the wind blows sideways.
With the force field selected, go to the Physics tab and set the force to Strength to 2.5. Now if you click play, you'll see we have some wind. However, this still looks a bit too calculated and precise. To make it look more natural, add in another force field, but this time add in a Turbulence force field. For this force field, set the strength to 3 and the flow to 5 (flow is how much flow the force field has, or basically much it acts/flows like water).
Now when you play the animation, you should get a pretty cool dissolve effect.
As a final touch, select the sphere, go to the Materials tab, create a new material and set the color to whatever you want.
Setting the background
To set the background to white, go to the Scene tab, then check all three check boxes, set them all to white, and turn Environmental Lighting on.
On the top tab where it says Blender Render, select that and click Cycles Render. Now, under the Render tab, set the Resolution to 100% and set the Render Samples to 30 under the Sampling tab.
Finally, click Render to see your final image.
Final tips: Feel free to mess with any of the settings or force fields to see what kind of cool effects you can make. Also, if you decide you don't like how all of the particles are big squares, just subdivide the mesh more. It will take longer to render since there will be more vertices and particles, but you'll get a nicer look. Another cool force field I would recommend trying out is the Vortex force field. It pulls things in (our pushes them out) a spiraling manner, so you can really create some cool effects with it.
If you're feeling really advanced today, you can try adding keyframes to the force fields so the strength of the force field changes over time. To do this, just move to the keyframe you want, change the value of the force field, then put your mouse over that value (don't click) and just tap the i key to set a keyframe there. It's always good to set a keyframe at frame 1 just to make sure it starts at the strength you want.
To learn how to prepare models in Blender for 3D printing, see here.