16 July 2013

Enrico Valenza - Blender 2.6 Cycles Materials And Textures Cookbook - Ebook Review

I was recently contacted by Packt Publishing to review one of  their newer Blender Cookbook series of books.  Those with good memories will remember they have previously done other Blender Cookbook texts.

This time around it covers the Blender 2.6x series and specifically covers Blender Cycles Materials and Texture Node Creation.  The overall aim of the book is to present various Blender Cycles Node setups to produce a large collection of different material and texture setups that can be applied to various different objects in Blender.

The author of this book is Enrico Valenza and very talented Blender user and illustrator.  You can see his Blender Network profile page (http://www.blendernetwork.org/enrico-valenza) and his personal website (http://www.enricovalenza.com).

Enrico has been involved with various Blender Foundation Open Movie Projects.  Given all of this the expectations were very high for the quality of content in his new book.

Product Specifications:

I downloaded the Ebook PDF version of this book.  The picture quality was generally good (some pictures were a little small) and in color.  Also available on the Packt website are all the resource Blend files needed to carry out the projects described in this book.

The book starts by describing what Blender Cycles is and what it's strengths are.  It then quickly moves on to setting up the Blender Cycles Interface layout for best workflow for creating Cycles based materials and textures.  The very basics of how to activate and use Cycles are gone over.  So if you have never used Cycles you should be able to follow along without any problems.

If you have never used Blender before you will be able to use this book as every step is describe in clear and methodical detail, at least as far as using Cycles is concerned.

The approach taken to explain how to create the Cycles materials and textures is that of a series of recipes.  These recipes range from simple and small and progress to larger more complex sets of instructions.  You can either follow the instructions in the book and create the recipes from the ground up or you can use the provided recipes Blend files.

The recipes are split up into groups which achieve specific types of visual effect.

On the whole the organization of the recipes are good and if you do want to carryout the instructions for each recipe you will be able to as the instructions are clear and well written, with plenty of pictures to make things even easier.

The book splits the descriptions of each recipe in to 3 general parts.

First it describes what sort of material or texture you are going to create. 

Second it describes exactly how to do that. 

Third it describes why the particular recipe works.  This third part is to my mind the most valuable.  Just follwing a series of step by step instructions will get you a good end result but little understanding of why something works.

In general the description of why the recipes work are good.  There are however a few recipes that would have benefited from a better description of exactly why they work;  As an example one of the recipes was a description of how to make water foam on an ocean material, and although the recipe worked it was hard to figure out why it worked.

The book describes how to create a fairly large range of different materials and textures (combined together they are called Shaders), from water, ice, snow, rock, metals, sand and various other things.  The chances are there will be something in this book that will interest you.

One thing that is worth pointing out is that I went through the recipes in this book to check that they actually still work for newer versions of Blender.  As far as I can tell they do, there are slight interface differences but they are so small that I don't think they will cause any problems when following the recipes.  A recipe book that has recipes that are wrong is no good at all, but thankfully in this case the recipes all seems to be accurate and work.

Currently there are very few Blender Cycles books that go into great depth on using Blender Cycles Nodes.  This is reason enough to get this book as it's descriptions of what each node type can do is useful.  Once you take into account the way the book also combines these nodes to show how they can make some really impressive materials, I think this book is well work getting for anyone interested in Blender Cycles.

Review Score 80%