Let’s leave the terrain as it is right now and make sure it is in layer one (just to keep things more organized). Then let’s select the camera and move it to layer five by pressing M then clicking the fifth layer or by pressing 5 on your keyboard. Activate layer two by pressing 2 on your numeric keys (not the Numpad). We will use this as our layer for our first group of seaweeds.
Go to front view, add a new Bezier Curve, proceed to Edit Mode and follow the initial settings I have on the Editing Panel.
Moving the Camera to Layer Five
Adding a Bezier Curve and its Settings
Let’s leave the curve settings for now and we’ll get back to them when necessary. What we have to do now is to rotate the curve such that we see the thicker part of the face in front view and the start point of the curve on the bottom portion. There are two easy ways to do this; either we rotate the curve on view at a time or we can type in values in the transform window, you can settle for either of the two. To make things quicker, I opt for the latter. With the curve currently active/selected, proceed to Object Mode (Tab), then bring up the Transform Window if it is not yet on your screen by pressing the N key while having your mouse pointer on the 3D Window.
Afterwhich, using the Transform Window, let’s change the default name of the bezier curve from “Curve” to “Curve.Weed”, then change the rotation values for RotX and RotY accordingly, as seen in the following screenshot.
Renaming and Rotating the Curve
Next comes the fun part: editing the curves and giving them the wavy forms they deserve. With the curve selected, go to Edit Mode (Tab), then for convenience purposes, we are going to disable the drawing of the curve handles. We do this by going to the Editing (F9) panel and under the Curve Tools1 tab, disable the Draw Handles button. Now if we select all the points in the curve, the handles that are usually there and are sometimes in the way are now hidden, and if you wanted to have more control over your curves, you can always turn them back on by simply enabling the same button we disabled awhile back. Right now though, we only have two points to work on our curve which is a bit limited. But don’t fret, because Blender’s curve tools are of its greatest assets and they won’t let us have it unless it’s good to use. With that said, we can solve the problem by selecting all curve points (pressing A twice), then press W to bring up the Specials Menu and choose Subdivide. You can also access the same function by going to the Editing (F9) panel and click the Subdivide button. You can repeat the same process to achieve more subdivisions on your curve, but I highly suggest you keep it as simple as you could, and only add points when needed. Another way you can add points to your curve is to select existing points then pressing the E key (as in extrude) which will automatically put you in grab mode and confirm location with your left mouse button. You can also select a point from the curve then press CTRL left mouse button which will add a new curve point to where your mouse pointer is.
Subdividing the Curve
Now that you already have enough subdivisions to work on, you can manipulate the individual points the way you want to as shown in the screenshot below. Another cool thing with manipulating curves is the ability to tilt curve points along their own axes with ease. You can tilt points by selecting one or many points then pressing T or accessing it through the menu via Curve > Transform > Tilt.
Tilting Curve Points
After creating the shape of our sea weed, it’s time we convert it to a polygon for us to further edit and finalize the shape. Select the Curve in Object Mode, then press Alt C then choose Mesh (which should be the only option available from the pop-up menu). What this does is it converts our existing curve into a polygon mesh with editable points (similar to what the mesh primitives have). This way we can add more details to the weed. But first, we mush fix first one problem that our weed mesh has: a hole at the top. You can choose not to address this issue, but in order to avoid getting back and fixing some stuff later on, it’s better to do it now. When we rotate our view such that we see the top part of our weed, we can clearly see a cut through the mesh, let’s fix this by going to Edit Mode, selecting four neighboring vertices and create a face by pressing F or going to the menu then choosing Mesh > Faces > Make Edge/Face. While in edit mode, you can also occlude background vertices by clicking the button with the cube icon on your menu 3D Viewport menu. This might also be a good time to rename our object from Curve.Weed to Weed.
Let’s exit Edit Mode and get back to Object Mode (Tab) and just give our weed a basic subsurface smoothing. With the object selected, you can press Ctrl 1 to add level 1 Subsurf to the weed or your can go to the Editing (F9) panel, and go to the Modifiers tab, click Add Modifier and choose Subsurf, then change the default Render Levels from 2 to 1 since we don’t need the extra count since they hardly differ in this case like ours.
However, you’ll notice that hardly any smoothing took place and it even revealed problems with our mesh. Don’t panic because this would just be an easy fix. Select the Weed Object and proceed to edit mode, select all vertices, then press W to access the Specials Menu and choose Remove Doubles.
Removing Mesh Doubles
Next, after successfully applying subsurf to our weed object, we know scale down the top-most part to further make it more convincing and natural. While still in Edit Mode, select the top-most vertices then use the Proportional Editing tool with a Smooth Falloff and perform a scale (S) operation while controlling the radius of influence with your middle mouse wheel.
Using the Proportional Editing Tool for Scaling
After performing the proportional scaling, it should look something like this
Next, we add in just an initial material to distinguish it from other objects we’ll create later on.
Weed Initial Material Settings
Hardly do we see weeds by their own, as singular leaves with no nearby leaves, unless it’s artificially setup. To add more weeds as group, we simply duplicate the weed we have now and edit the duplicates accordingly.
Group of Weeds
Next up, we “group” the weeds using Blender’s grouping function. We do this by first selecting the objects we want to be included in the group, in this case, the weeds. After we’ve selected the weeds, let’s split our 3D view and make our left view an Outliner (by clicking the lower left-most icon of the screen), then change the drop-down menu entry from “All Scenes” to “Groups”. Let’s move our mouse pointer over to our 3D View and press CTRL G then click Add to New Group or via the Menu, Object > Group > Add to New Group.
Preparing the Weeds for Grouping
Grouping the Weeds
Right after you perform the grouping function, you’ll notice your object outline change from the default white to green which indicates that it belongs to a group. Additionally, we also see a new entry at the Outliner Window labeled “Group”.
The outliner is a very powerful aspect of Blender in a way that you can keep your assets, shots, groups, etc. as organized as you want them to. Think of it as your file manager inside of Blender, aside from the fact of course that Blender has its own dedicated file manager too.
To rename the group we just created (for easier searching later on), move your mouse pointer over to the group name, then press CTRL left mouse button and the name will change into an input area where you can type the name you want to, in our case we will name it “Weed.Group”. It took me a long time before to figure out how to rename items in the Outliner, I checked every possible menu entry showing some rename-this-group function but unluckily I didn’t find any, not until I accidentally pressed this shortcut (after being so frustrated and bugged). Sometimes, accidents just bring out great surprises we never thought be useful. But of course, I could have settled into asking or searching the Blender forums for the solution, but the stubborn user that I am, I still decided to solve it on my own until I lose my mind, and I did after all (without losing my mind though).
Weeds as Group
Renaming the Group
Now here’s one fun part of creating groups for our objects: using them as particle instances. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.
Let’s get back to our terrain layer by pressing 1 on your keyboard or by clicking the first layer button on our layer lineup. Select the terrain object and go to Object (F7) panel then to the Particle buttons sub-panel. Here you’ll see one tab labeled “Particle System”, pretty puny and out-of-place you might say? Just look after we’ve created some system to play around with and you’ll notice just how powerful the particle system of Blender is (far beyond what this article can stress). Click the Add New button to add a new and fresh particle system.
Adding a Particle System to the Terrain Object
Rename the particle system from the default “PSys” to something more meaningful like “Weed”. Next, change the Particle Type from Emitter to Hair. Under the Particle System tab, click Random button and beside it select Faces from the dropdown menu, next click Even button and beside it select Random from the dropdown menu. What we just did is to tell the particle system to emit particles in a random order, in an evenly distributed manner on a per-face basis.
Still on the Particle System tab, change the amount to 50 and the Segments to 2. We won’t need much for this system, just an adequate amount since we don’t want our system to slow down due to the calculation that Blender does when visualizing particle instances. Right now we don’t see yet what’s actually happening and it’s more like a guessing game at this stage but you’ll see shortly how all this comes together.