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3D Computer Graphics Basics

Updated on October 23, 2012

The Very Basics of 3D Computer Graphics

A 3D mesh is comprised of three major components: The vertices, the edges, and the polygons. A vertex is a point in 3D space. Two vertices connect to create an edge. Three vertices and their edges connect from three different places in space and create a triangle, and two triangles come together to make a single quad based polygon. This is the basic building block for all 3D computer graphics.

Vertices and Edges coming together to form a Polygon

Here we see 4 vertices resulting in 5 edges, making up 2 triangles, that form 1 quad.
Here we see 4 vertices resulting in 5 edges, making up 2 triangles, that form 1 quad. | Source

3D Computer Graphics - Advanced Basics (Meshes)

Now that you understand the fundamental building blocks of a 3D mesh include vertices, edges, and polygons, the next thing to know is that these basic building blocks can be used to create any and all 3D geometry you can find in video games, movies, logos, and anything else that requires the look and feel of 3D.

3D computer graphics software allows us, the artists, to make any arbitrary shapes we can think of using our imagination, using reference, or using our memory of a given object or shape from the real world or fictional worlds.

Below you see an example of many vertices, making up many edges, and forming many triangles, resulting in more complicated shapes that can be easily discerned for what they are: A sphere, a cube, and a monkey head.

Here we see a sphere, a cube, and a monkey head.
Here we see a sphere, a cube, and a monkey head. | Source

How we Achieve Shapes in 3D Computer Graphics

To achieve the example shapes above, you need only to manipulate the vertices in 3D space, moving them about using various transform (move), scale (changing size), and rotation (spinning) tools found in most, if not all, modern 3D computer graphics software packages. These 3D computer graphics software packages range from the very high end (thousands of dollars) to free of charge. I have taken the previous images from the free modeling package named Blender.

Blender is free, but not bad at all. While I have learned and have used quite a few different expensive applications in my own work flow, I do not need those programs, and Blender can do most (if not all) of the most common tasks a 3D computer graphics artist could need or want to use in completing their art pieces. Just because Blender is free does not mean it is not good. It is used in many production houses, and is production ready for many uses in the 3D graphics industry.

Below is a screenshot of the Blender interface. It is a blend of the "normal" interfaces found in almost every package, with a set of twists of their own that makes it my personal favorite. Blender's keyboard+mouse layout make it by-and-far the most powerful, fastest solution for modeling meshes, and since it is open source, Blender improves daily, with frequent releases to the website, and the ability to pick up experimental and nightly builds made by the community.

The Blender Interface is unique, but very well suited to the needs of 3D computer graphics.
The Blender Interface is unique, but very well suited to the needs of 3D computer graphics. | Source

Where to go from here:

You have learned that vertices come together to form edges, and those in turn form polygons. Now it is time to begin learning the tools and how they work. This Hub would be enormous if I were to share even the very basics of using Blender itself here in text form, and videos are far more suited for the learning of Blender (or any 3D computer graphics package for that matter).

Below are links to the very best places to learn Blender. It will take a few hours and a little bit of effort, but if you work through the first link and get to the end (won't take very long), you will be on your way to making 3D computer graphics in no time at all.


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      Adriana 3 years ago

      Everyone in Room 6 loves maths!! Who can help me as I have a question. What is the dieferfnce between a 2D shape and a 3 D shape? What mathematical terminoliogy would you use to describe this to me? Mr Larsen


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