In Blender, reference images can be vital, especially for new artists. Figuring out how to create and manipulate faces can be hard enough, without worrying about the anatomy of the model itself.
Thankfully, Blender has a nifty feature called “Background Images”. By directly importing an image into your workspace, you can easily make it your reference. The image only appears when your view is aligned with the axes and doesn’t appear in your final render.
For example, if you want to make an exact replica of a part to 3D print, you can simply take a picture of it. Using that as your reference, you don’t need to worry about getting exact measurements for each part.
Though a whole new version of Blender is due soon, most still use Blender 2.79 or older. In these versions, the background image tool is in the “Properties” panel (hotkey ‘N’).
If you scroll down, you’ll see a panel called “Background Images”, like in the above picture. Click “Add Image” and then “Open” to select your image. Alternatively, you can drag and drop an image from your files onto the workspace.
A tip for choosing good reference images: Try to find pictures that have little perspective. Images that depict your model straight on are the best, since they’re the most accurate when placed along the axes.
Once you open your image, the panel should look something like the picture above. Let’s walk through the most notable settings:
Can’t see your background image? Make sure you’re in orthographic mode (top left, toggle with numpad 5). Also, check that you’re viewing one of the preset angles (1 for front, 3 for right, and 7 for top). Your image will only show up when your view is snapped to the correct axes.
If you’re using Blender 2.8, the way to add background images has changed a little.
You might have noticed the background images panel is gone. Instead, a background image can be added by adding an “empty” to the scene.
The easiest way to do this is to simply drag and drop your image into the 3D view. It’s best to do this at one of the preset views such as front, right, etc.
You’ll see your image appear in your outliner in the top right and in your view. Use Alt + ‘G’ to snap it to the center.
To view the properties for your image, click on the little image button on the properties editor, right beneath the outliner. Much like before, you can change the transparency (opacity), X and Y offset, and size of your image.
To rotate, simply select your image and press ‘R’ to rotate it like any other object. You can force it to a certain axis by constraining the rotation and then specifying the angle, eg. ‘R’ + ‘X’ + 90 to rotate 90 degrees around the X axis.
As 2.8 is currently still in beta, you might run into some bugs when resizing images. Usually, these are fixed by hitting the refresh button on the image’s properties.
And that’s it! Now you’ll have no problem setting up a background image for your model.
License: The text of "Blender: Background Image – Simply Explained" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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