Using Background Images in Blender

While I was building the iPhone4 model, I began to realize that my proportions were off.  The Home Button seemed out of place. The front camera and speaker were not quite the right shape.  The buttons and breaks in the seems were a bit off from where they needed to be… the list went on and on.

It turns out that blender has a feature for exactly this problem, background images.  This lets you set an image as the background to your modeling space, thus allowing you to match up your mesh boundaries to features of the image!  Obviously, care has to be chosen when choosing these kinds of images, but assuming you can find fairly orthogonal shots of the front, back, left, right, top and bottom, you can model very precisely from actual photographs.

Ok. How can you set background images?  Go to your view menu and click properties. That should pop up a properties pane.  Near the bottom of the properties pane, you’ll see the widget for background images.  Check the check box and click “Add Image”.  Select which view you’d like this image to show up in (front, left, right, back, etc) and expand the “Not Set” arrow. That should give you a little dialog box that’ll give you a file picker.

You can add an image for every orthogonal view, so when you hit a perspective key on the number pad, the appropriate background image is displayed.

After digging around the web for a while, I finally found a set of images that could help me re-tune my iPhone mesh… here’s the mesh with the “front” background image