1. Preparing the ground

Open Blender or start a new scene (Ctrl + N to get rid of any older scene while in Object Mode). You should get the default Cube of any new Blender scene. With the Cube being selected, enter Edit Mode (or use Tab key) and make sure all vertices are selected (cycle A key if needed). In the Mesh Tools, use the Subdivide button in the Add section (or alternatively use the W key Specials menu and select Subdivide) in order to subdivide the Cube once.

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For more convenient selections during the next steps, activate the Face select mode and the Limit selection to visible buttons in the header of the 3D view.

2. Adding a few materials to play with

The next steps will occur in the Material menu. Currently the Cube has the standard default grey Material. The first step would be to change the name into something more significant for you, for example Red_mat. In the Diffuse panel, click on the grey color band to summon the color picker, and choose a red color. Please note that the name of the material also changed accordingly in the list of material slots.

On the right of the list of slots, you will find plus and minus buttons; they are used to add new slots (automatically filled with the current material) or to delete the selected slot. In our case, we will click on the plus button two times. Red_mat now appears three times in the list of material slots, but also notice a new small button showing next to the material's name field: it indicates the number of instances for this material: 3 in this tutorial.

Of course, there is little to no interest in having three identical instances of the same material. And if we try to change one, the three will change accordingly because they are clones of each other. Of course, there's a trick to change each of them individually: you have to turn the extra clones into copies instead.

Select the second slot, and now click on the button with the number of instances on it. The name becomes Red_mat.001 and the material is now an independant copy from the original Red_mat. Change its name to Green_mat, for example, and in the Diffuse panel, use the color picker to turn it into green. Now select the third slot, also an instance of the original Red_mat material. But now, the small button indicates there are only two instances left. Press it again, and change the name into Blue_mat. Obviously, in the Diffuse panel, change it to a blue color.

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3. Assigning the materials to various parts of the mesh

Normally, all the faces of your Cube are from the original red color from Red_mat. Still in Edit mode and in Face select mode, pick up a few faces here and there over the subdivided Cube. Then select Green_mat in the list of material slots, and press the Assign button: the selected faces turn green.

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You can now select other faces, pick a new material in the list of material slots, assign the material in the slot to these faces, and so on. This could be done endlessly. Of course.

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While in Edit Mode, you can pick a material in the list of slots and use the two other buttons:

  • Select: will automatically add to the current selection all the faces to which the picked material has been assigned
  • Deselect: will automatically remove from the current selection all the faces to which the picked material has been assigned

One side usage, for very complex models, is to make use of the material indices in order to conveniently build pre-selections of groups of vertices.

4. Conclusion

When you are finished, leave the Edit Mode (or use the Tab key) and make sure you are in the Solid Viewport Shading in order to enjoy your work in the 3D view, or try a render of your cube.

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Article written on December the 21st, 2004.
Updated on November the 11th, 2008 for Blender 2.48a. Comments re-initialized
Updated on June the 8th, 2010 for Blender 2.50 alpha 2.