How to create Blender 3D models for Augmented Reality apps

How to create Blender 3D models for Augmented Reality apps

Blender is the most popular 3D modeling software as of 2021. According to the official Blender Foundation data, only in 2020 it was downloaded 14 million times from the official website.

Being a high quality free alternative to other popular solutions, it is far more widespread than 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D and Sketchup.

The purpose of this tutorial is to guide you through the process of preparing 3D models properly on Blender, in order to use them inside AR-media Player, the reference Augmented Reality app of the AR-media Studio web application.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Why Blender for Augmented Reality

Any 3D modeling software provides the tools to properly design and export 3D models to be used inside Augmented Reality experiences for mobile applications. Blender is one of them and being a free software makes it a popular option also for creatives that don’t want to invest on more expensive alternatives.

With Blender users can work on their 3D model, be it static or animated, and correctly set all the parameters that make a model suitable for mobiles, that typically include appropriate polygon count, textures optimization and specific file formats.

By following the guidelines in this article you’ll be able to design and export a 3D model that can be used smoothly in an AR app, both for iOS and Android.

Which 3D File Format for Augmented Reality

To start with, the supported 3D assets should comply with the following requirements:

  • File types: FBX, ZIP
  • File size (MB): < 50

You can decide to use a single FBX file or ZIP file containing a the FBX model and a folder with the textures. FBX file format was created by Autodesk and is available, as an export option, in the most popular 3D content creation software like Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya, Maxon Cinema4D, Trimble SketchUp, Blender and more. Using FBX 3D models provides a few advantages since:

  • You can embed the Textures into the geometry and get a single file
  • It supports animations

When exporting your FBX 3D model from Blender make sure to respect the following parameters:

  • Choose the BINARY format
  • Choose to embed the textures into the 3D model
  • Choose to embed animations (in case of animated models)
  • Use the latest version of the FBX exporter among the ones available
  • Verify the up axis option, possible values are typically Y-up or Z-up, if your model looks rotated on its side then try the other option and export again
3D model in Blender exported for Augmented Reality in FBX format

How to manage Polygons in Blender for smooth AR experiences

You should try to keep the 3D model size below 10MB especially when dealing with projects that include more than just a single 3D experience.

When dealing with projects that only have one model inside, the file size can even be larger, but remember that a 3D model file size is directly proportional to the number of vertices and to the number and size of textures of the model itself. 

Talking about the number of vertices, try to keep the complexity low, so that your contents will play smoothly even on mid-range mobile devices.

3D model in Blender with polygon count optimizes for Augmented Reality

Managing Textures, Materials and colors of your 3D

The displays of mobile devices have usually a side of 2000 pixels and the 3D models you are going to visualize will only take a portion of that space, so remember, it is perfectly fine to use textures with the largest side as small as 512 pixels (or even smaller) to still get a very good result in terms of visualization.

Furthermore, when the 3D surfaces are very small we strongly suggest you to use smaller texture size, from 32×32 up to 256×256. For larger surfaces, try no to go over resolutions such as 1024×1024 or 2048×2048.

Finally, regarding textures file formats, it’s better to rely on compressed formats like JPG or PNG.

Applying textures to the 3D model in Blender for Augmented Reality

How to import your 3D model from Blender to AR-media Studio

Once your 3D model has been properly set on Blender, following all the 3D optimization guidelines, you can finally import it into AR-media Studio and upload it in the assets manager area, as a regular 3D model.

You’ll be able to add optional metadata and tags to the 3D model and generate a thumbnail for preview. Moreover, according to how you want the 3D model to look on the app, you can experiment with the visualization modes.

3D model exported from Blender to AR-media Studio Augmented Reality Platform

Create a project and visualize your 3D model into the AR app

The following step is to create an Augmented Reality project with AR-media Studio, using the 3D model you exported from Blender.

Refer to the Documentation in order to learn how to create a simple AR project and how to visualize it on the AR-media app.

3D models exported from Blender to AR-media Studio Augmented Reality Platform
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