Although Ctrl+left-clicking for quick extrusion (as described in Chapter 4 of Blender For Dummies, 3rd edition) is convenient for creating rough models to start with, extruding by pressing E certainly has workflow benefits. The biggest benefit is the quick access to your other transform tools. Combined with Blender’s Inset operator (I), there’s some really powerful modeling that you can do. To illustrate the benefits of these tools, use the following steps to model a skyscraper from a single plane:
Open Blender and Tab into Edit mode on the default cube.
Change to right-side view.
You can do so by pressing Numpad 3 or going to View→Right from the 3D View’s header. If you have the Pie Menus add-on enabled, you can also show the view pie by pressing Q.
Translate everything by 1 unit in the positive Z direction (G→Z→1→Enter).
Orbit (middle-click+drag) the 3D View so that you can get a good view of the top face of the cube.
Switch to Face Select mode (Ctrl+Tab→Faces).
Select (right-click) the topmost face of the cube and delete it (X→Vertices).
You should be left with a single four-sided polygon, as shown.
- Select all (A) and perform a multi-subdivide with two cuts.
Use W→Subdivide, Mesh Tools→Add→Subdivide from the Tools tab of the Tool Shelf, or Mesh→Edges→Subdivide from the 3D View’s menu. This step creates a single subdivision cut. Increase the number of subdivisions by going to the Last Operator panel at the bottom of the Tool Shelf or pressing F6 and increasing the Number of Cuts value to 2.
Switch to Edge Select mode (Ctrl+Tab→Edges).
Select the edges that form the corners of the plane.
Using regular right-clicking, Circle Select (C), or Lasso Select (Ctrl+left-click+drag) works best for this step.
- Extrude these edges and scale them by 1.1 in the XY-plane (E→S→Shift+Z→1.1→Enter).
This is the foundation for your skyscraper, but the next steps go smoother if you change this shape into an ngon.
Select all (A→A).
Convert your faces to a single ngon dissolving interior vertices.
Press X→Limited Dissolve. You should have something that looks like what’s shown in the following figure.
- Extrude the region along the global Z-axis (E).
Your extrusion is constrained along the direction of the region’s normal. Fortunately, because of the way you’re working, that normal coincides with the global Z-axis. The height of this level can be whatever you like. I extruded mine by 3 units.
With the region still selected, do an inset operation with a value of 0.1 (I→0.1→Enter).
Translate this new region along the Z-axis by 0.1 units (G→Z→0.1→Enter).
Perform Steps 13 through 15 as many times as you’d like to get the skyscraper to your desired height.
I gave mine three layers. The next figure shows what your skyscraper may look like at this point.
On your last extruded region, scale the selection in the XY-plane to a generally pyramid-shaped peak (S→Shift+Z).
Tab back into Object mode and behold the awesome beauty of your skyscraper!
The next figures shows the final look of what your finished skyscraper could look like.
Like I said in the title of this tutorial, this is a very simple model to get you started, but once you’re done with it, you should have a pretty clear understanding of how to use extruding and inseting while in Edit mode.
Like this tutorial? It pairs really nicely with my book, Blender For Dummies, 3rd edition. It’s available anywhere books are sold. Thanks!