03 June 2012

Jason Van Gumster - Blender For Dummies 2nd Edition - Book Review

Jason Van Gumster recently released a new version of his Blender For Dummies series of books. This time covering the 2.5x series of Blender.

Mr Gumster is a very well known and respected Blender user, he is part of Hand Turkey Studios which uses Blender extensively for its productions and training materials (Hand Turkey Studios) as well as various other open source applications. He goes by the twitter name monsterjavaguns, and frequents www.blenderartists.org. It is safe to say Mr Gumster knows his way around the nooks and crannies of Blender.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Blender For Dummies - 2nd Edition
  • Author: Jason Van Gumster
  • Price: €28.00 (8 June 2011)
  • Type: Reference Book
  • Page Count: 406 (Roughly)
Topics Covered:
     Part I: Wrapping Your Brain Around Blender.
      Chapter 1: Discovering Blender.
      Chapter 2: Understanding How Blender Thinks.
      Chapter 3: Getting Your Hands Dirty Working in Blender.
      Chapter 4: Working in Edit Mode and Object Mode.
     Part II: Creating Detailed 3D Scenes.
      Chapter 5: Creating Anything You Can Imagine with Meshes.
      Chapter 6: Using Blender’s Nonmesh Primitives.
      Chapter 7: Changing That Boring Gray Default Material.
      Chapter 8: Giving Models Texture.
      Chapter 9: Lighting and Environment.
     Part III: Get Animated!
      Chapter 10: Animating Objects.
      Chapter 11: Rigging: The Art of Building an Animatable Puppet.
      Chapter 12: Animating Object Deformations.
      Chapter 13: Letting Blender Do the Work for You.
     Part IV: Sharing Your Work with the World.
      Chapter 14: Exporting and Rendering Scenes.
      Chapter 15: Compositing and Editing.
     Part V: The Part of Tens.
      Chapter 16: Ten Problems for New Users in Blender (And Ways Around Them).
      Chapter 17: Ten Tips for Working More Effectively in Blender.
      Chapter 18: Ten Excellent Community Resources.
     Appendix: About the DVD.
I previously reviewed Mr Gumster's earlier Blender For Dummies book and was very, very impressed with it (Blender For Dummies), for the 2.4x series of Blender it was/still is the gold standard for people wanting a general Blender book that can act as a reference. It covered things other books tended to skip. If you wanted a book that covered all the shortcuts and the stranger, as well as more basic and popular features, it was the book.

So with the release of this 2nd edition of Blender For Dummies for the Blender 2.56 series of Blender, I was interested to see if it was upto the same standard, and unsurprisingly it was. If you found the first book useful you will find this second book very useful, if you are wanting to transition to the Blender 2.56 series of Blender.

As mentioned above this book is a combination of a both a reference book and a quick steps tutorial guide. Each of the different chapters is divided into sections covering the major topics of Blender. The sections tend to be split between being reference sections and then at the end of a section an example is gone over that brings together the previous reference sections.

Overall the separate chapters and sections are well written and very clear. I would normally review the ebook version of a product but as yet it is not available. As a result I had to contend with most of the pictures in the book being in black and white and slightly cloudy. Though thankfully the pictures often do not matter as the text of the book is very clear, so even if the pictures are sometimes a little difficult to decipher, the written text comes to the rescue. There is an inset color pullout contained within the book showing some examples of work created with Blender and that is very impressive. It also comes with a DVD which has all the files from the book on it and various pieces of software that a Blender user would find useful.

All of the major topics that a Blender user of Beginner to Intermediate level would expect to use are covered, at a quick pace, but clearly and in such a way as not to be confusing to newer Blender users. The one exception to this is scripting, no Python and its uses within Blender are covered. The various simulation topics are briefly covered, in enough detail for you to be able to get further information from the Blender community at large.

Another excellent feature of this book is that it makes absolutely certain to explain the terminology used within Blender with regards to its interface. This is the first time I have seen a book with uses the correct terminology for Blender's features. I know this may seem like a small feature, but having proper terminology to refer to parts of the Blender interface is really useful and helps speed up explaining how to use Blender. Also Mr Gumster goes out of his way to properly indicate the various different ways in which features of Blender can be accessed, from the keyboard hotkeys, to the various menu items. I learned a few hotkeys myself.

So this is an excellent book, very clearly written and giving a beginner or intermediate Blender user a good grounding in the features available to them. I really do hope that one day Mr Gumster writes a Blender Bible/Ultimate reference, because if this book is anything to go by, it would be a sure fire winner.

Good book, go buy it!

Review Score 85%