In the last versions of Blender 3D, the particle system received a huge upgrade, making it more complex and powerful than before. This upgrade, however, made it necessary to create more parameters and options in order for the system to acts. What didn’t change was the need for an object that works as emitter of the particles. The shape and look of this object will be directly related to the type of effects we want to create.
Before we discuss the effects that we will be creating, let’s look at how the particles work in Blender. To create any type of particle system, go to the Objects panel and find the Particles button.
This is where we will set up and change our particles for a variety of effects. The first time we open this menu, nothing will be displayed. But, if we select a mesh object and press the Add New button, this object will immediately turn into a new emitter.
When a new emitter is created, we have to choose the type of behavior this emitter has in the particle system. In the top-left part of the menu, we will find a selector that lets us choose the type of interaction of the emitter.
These are the three types of emitters:
- Emitter: This is the standard type, which is a single object that emits particles according to the parameters and rules that we set up in the particles controls.
- Hair: Here, we have a type of particle emitter that creates particles as thin lines for representing hair and fur. Since this is more related to characters, we won’t use this type of emitter in this book.
- Reactor: With this emitter, we can create particle systems that interact with each other. It works by setting up a particle system that interferes with the motion and changes the trajectories of other particles.
In our projects, we will use only the emitter type. However, you can create indirect animations and use particles to interact with each other. For instance, if you want to create a set of asteroids that block the path of our spacecraft, we could create this type of animation easily with a reactor particle system.
How particles work
To create and use a particle system, we will look at the most important features and parameters of each menu and create some pre-systems to use later in this article for the spacecraft. To fully understand how particles work, we have to become familiar with the forces or parameters that control the look and feel of particles. For each of those parameters and forces, we have a corresponding menu in Blender.
Here corresponding parameters that control the particle system:
- Quantity: This is a basic feature of any particle system that allows us to set up how many particles will be in the system.
- Life: As a particle system is based on animation parameters, we have to know from how many frames the particle will be visible in the 3D world.
- Mesh emitting: Our emitters are all meshes, and we have to determine from which part of those 3D objects the particles will be emitted. We have several options to choose from, such as vertices or parts of the objects delimited by vertex groups.
- Motion: If we set up our particle system and don’t give it enough force to make the particles move, nothing will happen to the system. So, even more important than setting up the appearance of the particles is choosing the right forces for the initial velocity of the particles.
- Physics and forces: Along with the forces that we use in the motion option, we will also apply some force fields and deflectors to particles to simulate and change the trajectories of the objects based on physical reactions.
- Visualization: A standard particle system has only small dots as particles, but we can change the way particles look in a variety of ways. To create flares and special effects such as the ones we need, we can use mesh objects that have Halo effects and many more.
- Interaction: At the end of the particle life, we can use several types of actions and behaviors to control the destiny of a particle. Should it spawn a new particle or simply die when it hits a special object?
These are the things we have to consider before we begin setting up the animation.