Our current VR development workflow includes Blender for 3D modeling (free) and Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) for making the actual game/application. If you are like how we were a few months ago, this thought probably went through your mind: “I made something in Blender! Now what?…” If you’re new to Blender and/or UE4 and want to know how to get from one to the other fast, we’ve got a list of tips to help you out.
- Set up Blender’s default Startup file with settings for UE4
- Create a UV Map for Materials/Textures
- Export From Blender as FBX
- Import the FBX into UE4
1. Edit the default Startup file settings to conform to UE4’s ways
- Use the Monkey:
- Start with placing the free built-in monkey mesh (Blender affectionately calls it Suzanne) at the origin. This will help with orienting your later meshes so that they face the right way in UE4. Delete the default cube that shows up in the usual default new file.
- Units + Scale:
- UE4’s units are in centimeters (1 UU = 1 cm). We can change Blender’s default unit to match that.
- Head to the Properties panel to the right and find that line of little icons. Click on the icon for “Scene” (has 3 shapes: sphere, cylinder, and star) and underneath the “Units” section choose “Metric.”
- In that same section, type in 0.010 for “Scale.”
- Now hover your mouse somewhere in the middle viewport area and hit CTRL+A. Click on “Scale” to apply your changes.
- If you take a look at the toolbar that shows dimensions and other info like location (hit N to toggle the toolbar) then you’ll notice that Blender gave you some mm, cm, and m to tell you you are now using the metric system.
- The “Forward” direction in Blender is -Y, but the “Forward” direction in UE4 is +X. The same? Nope. But we can help ourselves to remember to keep our meshes rotated the correct way by using the monkey.
- It’s nice to have your meshes (aka models) face the right direction after being imported from Blender into UE4, so we need to change the default rotation of the monkey mesh for your reference.
- Make sure you have the monkey mesh selected.
- Go back to that line of little icons in the Properties panel on the right and click on the one for Object (looks like an orange cube).
- Set the Rotation on the Z-axis for Suzanne to be 90 degrees.
- Hover your mouse in the viewport, hit CTRL+A, and click “Rotation.”
- Download a copy of the default startup file from GitHub here.
2. Create a UV map of your mesh for setting your materials onto in UE4
A UV map is basically a 2D image made from “unwrapping” the skin of your 3D mesh and laying it flat (Check out our post on how to do basic UV mapping here). You can then later paint or apply a texture to your mesh knowing that the right stuff will display on the right place on your mesh. You can even apply multiple materials to one mesh. The “UV” refers to the “XY” axis and is really just a way to differentiate it from the “XYZ” notation for 3D space. The UV map gets tucked into your mesh file so don’t worry about having to export extra files in addition to your mesh. This was a major stumbling point for us when we first started learning 3D modeling because we didn’t even realize we needed something called UV maps until we started seeing funky dark smudges and unexplainable mismatches of texture edges on our meshes in UE4. Take note: Learning to create good UV maps is really important no matter which 3D modeling program you use.
3. Export as FBX
- Go to the “File” menu and look for Autodesk FBX (.fbx) in the “Export” menu.
- In terms of export options, we usually don’t change too much. In the side menu we are most often checking the box for “Selected Objects” when we only want to export certain meshes from our file, and also changing “Smoothing” to “Face.” UE4 will often let you know during import if your mesh doesn’t have smoothing.
4. Import the FBX
- We usually don’t change the default import options.
- Note: If you set materials/textures to your mesh in Blender and want to use those in UE4, make sure the options “Import Textures” and “Import Materials” are checked.
- Take a look at a wooden monkey in UE4.
You’re on your way to bringing more VR awesomeness (or at least 3D awesomeness) into the world.