How to Make Voxel Art in Blender - Tutorial

In this beginner Blender tutorial you will learn how to set up Blender to make voxel art models for your projects and games. 

Over the years Blender has become an incredibly popular choice with 3D artists around the world. Its free and contains hundreds of features for creating amazing 3D models. Whether you are an experienced 3D modeler in Blender or just getting started, this Blender tutorial will teach you everything you need to know to start making voxel art inside of Blender quickly. 
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Why learn Voxel Art?

Voxel art has become an extremely popular form of art style in recent years. It has been used for many things including some of the great images you see on Mega Voxels to hit games like Crossy Road and Rodeo Stampede. Of course why do so many people love making voxel art? Because its fast and easy. It is literally like building with blocks!

Today there are a variety of software choices for creating voxel art, but in this tutorial we will be using Blender. Blender is the most widely used 3D modeling software on the planet. Because of its Open-Source nature, new features are constantly being added and best of all its free for personal and commercial use!

If you need help installing Blender, view our previous tutorial How to Install Blender. There you can find a step by step tutorial on getting Blender running on your computer.

What is a voxel in Blender?

When you hear the word voxel, think cube. Voxel art is the art of making things with cubes. Now when you work with traditional voxel editors like MagicaVoxel, they only support making your models with voxels, which are 3D cubes. However when you work with a 3D modeling software like Blender, you have access to many different shapes including Spheres and Planes. This is important to know because you don’t have to learn a million commands to make voxel art in Blender. You only really need to learn how to work with cubes. So when we create our models in blender we will only be using the Cube mesh.

Create a New File in Blender

Once you install Blender you will first need to create a new file to store your voxel models inside of. Like almost every voxel editor, Blender uses scenes. A single scene can contain multiple models. Blender then saves this file as a .blend file. 

So once you open Blender go ahead and double click the General option under New File on the start screen. 

Create a New file on the Blender Start Screen

Creating your first voxel in Blender

Once you create a new file, Blender will automatically add a cube to the center of the scene. If you don’t see a cube, you can create one very easily. Simply make sure Object Mode is selected on the top left of the window. To the right of that click on the menu item titled Add. To create a cube click Add > Mesh > Cube

How to Create a Cube in Blender
  
Ok, we almost have our first voxel, but there is one more thing to do. A voxel must have a dimension of 1 unit on all 3 axis. In pixel art, a pixel is the smallest element in an image. Likewise a voxel is the smallest element in a voxel model. Therefore the dimensions of the cube has to be 1x1x1. To see the dimensions of the cube, click on the cube and then press the N key. 

Blender Transform Menu

If you notice, under the Dimensions section, the dimensions are set to 2x2x2. Go ahead and type in 1 for the X, Y, and Z. 

Blender Dimensions Property

Congratulations! You just created your first voxel. Now lets set up some snapping to so that are voxel cube aligns itself to the grid.
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Setting Up Snapping

An important aspect of voxel art is that everything perfectly aligns to the grid. So let's set that up now.

To turn on snapping simply click the magnet icon at the top of the viewport.

Blender Snap Option

Now that you have snapping on the grid enabled, test it out by pressing the G key and clicking to move the model around. The only thing you’ll probably notice is as you drag it around it isn’t snapping perfectly to the grid. In order to snap it perfectly to the grid we must first change the Origin of the object. By default the origin of a cube is placed in the center of the cube. That is why the cube appears to go half ways on the grid.

Blender Cube Origin is in the Center

So to fix that we will move the object origin to the corner of the cube. Press the Tab key to go into Edit Mode. When in edit mode click one of the vertices on the corner. 

Choose a vertex to align the origin to

After you have the vertex selected, go to menu on the top left and click Mesh > Snap > Cursor to Selected. 

Align the 3D cursor to the selected vertex

This positions the 3D cursor at the same position of the vertex we selected earlier. Now press tab again to go back into Object Mode. Again at the top left go to Object > Set Origin > Origin to 3D Cursor

Set the Origin to the position of the 3D cursor

What this command is doing is setting origin of our cube, which was originally in the center, to the position of the vertex we selected earlier.

Origin is now set to position of the cursor

Now if you try moving your cube again you’ll notice that the cube is still not snapping perfectly to the grid. This is because snapping works by snapping objects in Grid increments, not necessarily to the grid lines. The good news is that its very easy to modify. To fix that we need to go to the snapping popover at the top of the viewport. Click on the checkbox that says Absolute Grid Snap.

Turn on Absolute Grid Snap

Now instead of moving objects by meter it will move the object to the closest meter matching the grid inside of blender just like you see in other popular voxel editors.

Absolute Grid Snapping Enabled
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Turn on the Orthographic Camera View

One last touch that is missing is the Orthographic camera view. It's a well known fact that voxel art looks its best when using an orthographic camera view. Its also a lot easier to work with. When you first create a new file in blender though, the camera is set to a Perspective camera view.

Perspective Camera View

What we want is actually what is called an Orthographic camera view. This makes all edges perfectly parallel to each other. The image below is an example of this.

Orthographic Camera View

To Change this go into your camera view by clicking View > Perspective/Orthographic.

Orthographic and Perspective Camera Views

Where to go from here

You have now set up your Blender environment for creating voxel art. For more in depth tutorials on how to create voxel art inside of Blender check out our Blender Tutorials.

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