In this tutorial I will try to teach you how you can make a simple yet fairly good looking Christmas tree ball in Blender. I won't explain any super advanced functions but yet some things that are good to know. I've chosen to split it up in three parts, the modelling, the render setup and the materi-als. If you choose to follow the tutorial through, your final result will hopefully look somewhat like the pic-ture now left of the text.
Otherwise, you can skip to the part you want to learn more about. I've tried to write the tutorial on a very basic level so that even beginners can follow it through, though the last two parts might be a bit difficult.

First up: The Modelling

Begin with deleting the default cube and instead add a UV Sphere (Add>> Mesh >> UVsphere). Set both therings and rows to the default 32 and clik OK. After adding the Sphere press “S”. While you are in this "scale-mode" you can either drag with the mouse until you've got the size you want or you can write in your own number to set the exact number of times you want the object scaled.
For this press 2 and then Enter. Next look from the front-view (numpad 1) and enter edit-mode (tab) for the Sphere. Use the box select tool (B), select the top three rings with it.

3D WORKSHOP: Christmas Ball-1.jpg

Then press “G” to move them all, alos press “Z” to only move them on the z-axis and pull them up about 0.07 units (you can type this in as well).
Press “A” to deselect all vértices and now select only the top two rings.
These are to be moved along the z-axis ca 0.2 units and then scaled with “S” a factor of ca 1.4 units.

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With the same vértices selected press “E -> region” to extrude the selection, right clik or press“esc” to get out of the “drag-mode” and instead scale it down about 0.8.
Extrude again and drag the extrusion down a bit. All that's left now for the main ball is to make it smooth. To do this, exit edit-mode (tab), then go tothe editing panel (F9) and with the Sphere selected look for the “Modifiers” tab, press Add Modifier and
select Subsurf. Then in the “Link and Materials” tab press the Set Smooth button.

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With the base done we're going to need a thing called a “String holder” in good English. Make sure that the cur-sor is still in the middle of the Sphere, else select it and press “Shift” + “S” and select the “Cursor -> Selection” option. Then add a Add -> Mesh -> Circle, set the number of vértices to 16 and change the radius to 0.33.
This sets the start size of the Circle to that value, which means that we actually could have set the radius for the main Sphere to 2 instead of scaling it after creating it.
Anyhow, move the Circle up 2.46 units along the z-axis, go into edit-mode, extrude the whole Circle down about -0.35 along the z-axis and scale the extruded vértices up about a factor of 1.3. Deselect all vértices and select only the top ring, extrude this up 0.05 and scale it down to 0.8 its size, then extrude up 0.05 again and scale down to 0.35 and finally extrude this up 0.05 yet again.
Next, deselect all vértices and instead select every other vertex at the bottom ring and drag these up about 0.2 units and then scale these down to about 0.9 and it should look about as in the picture.

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Let's set this piece smooth shall we? Exit edit-mode and go to the editing panel again and press Set Smooth.
Now you should probably see some weird blak lines on the model, this is caused by the fact that Blender doesn't know which way is the outside of the model and you will most likely bump into this problem a lot more if you haven't already. To fix this simply go bak into edit-mode, press “A” until all vértices are selected and press “Ctrl” + “N” and select “Recalculate Normals Outside”. Now we're going to give the String Holder some volume. To do this, select all vértices and press “E -> Region”, right-clik or press “esc” and then press “Alt” + “S” to shrink it inwards and write in a value of 0.01.
Extrude and shrink again two times with the val-ues of 0.04 and 0.01.
Then do the same thing as with the Sphere and add a subsurf modifier and then set it smooth. Though this time we want a more smooth surface than the default so we increase the “levels” and “render levels” to 3 and you'll see that we get a nice and smooth surface.
It's good to know that there's a shortcut for the subsurf-modifier, if you press “Ctrl” + “any given number from 1-4” you will add a subsurf-modifier to the se-lected object with the given number's resolution.

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Now for the string! You could make it of a Circle or tube that you extrude but that wouldn't look very smooth and alos would take a lot of time.
Instead we can use the fantastic Curves in Blender that's much more easy to handle and gives a far more good looking result. Firstly, place the cursor a little above the Sphere, add a Add -> Curve -> Bezier Curve then replace the cursor a little to the side and add a Add -> Curve -> Bezier Circle.

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Select the Curve and go to the editing panel (F9), in the Curve and Surface tab make sure the “3D” button is pressed, this makes it able to model the Curve in 3D else it will only move in a 2D space, then in the text space after “BevOb” type in the name of the Bezier Circle, default “CurveCircle”, this will as you see make the Curve into a tube. The thickness of the tube is linked to the size of the Circle, so scale the Circle down to about 0.02 or whatever thickness you want for your string and then press “M” which brings up a panel of 20 buttons, press 2 and then Enter. This puts the Circle on the second layer which you can get to if you simply press 2, get bak by pressing 1 again.

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The modelling of the string is a bit tricky but with some tweaquíng it will hopefully look good for you in the end. Go into edit-mode for the Curve and select one of the 3-point lines by right-clicking on the middle point, with this you can grab and change the Curve, press “G” to move it and press “R” to rotate it until it sticks right up from the hole of the String holder. Then look from top-view (numpad 7) and in the editing panel go to the “Curve Tools 1” tab and select “Retopo”. Re-topo makes it so that whenever you move something from a view Blender will automatically drop the moved vértices down to the surface of the nearest object that's directly under the vértices based on the view.
Hard to explain but you'll see how it works soon. Select the other end of the Curve and from top-view place it as in the picture and alos rotate it so it's looking the right way. From here you can hold “Ctrl” down and left-clik wherever you want the next
section of the string to be.

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Do this and add seg-ments appróximately at the places shown in the picture and now it's very important to deselect the “Retopo” button or else modelling will turn out very hard. The string will now look kind of weird but at least the segments nicely follow the surface of the Sphere. What you have to do now is to move the points at the end of each 3-point line until each segment is aimed the right way and no part of the string is below the surface of the Sphere. After you've got a nice string, select the segment created last and extrude this with “E” and tweaque it until it's facing down into the hole the same way as the first segment.

3D WORKSHOP: Christmas Ball-10.jpg

If you've followed the steps correctly and figured the difficult parts out your completed model should look some what like this.

Secondly: The Render setup

In this part I'll show how to set up a scene for the render to make it look good. I will talque about lighting, Appróximate Ambient Occlusion and alos a little positioning of the Camera.
Ok, to create a plane precisely at the bottom of the Christmas tree ball you can select the Sphere and go into ed-it-mode, select the ver-tex at the bottom and press “Shift” + “S” -> “Cursor -> Selection”. Go out of edit-mode and add a Add -> Mesh
-> Plane and scale it up about 40.0 or even more. Next select the camera and go into Cameraview (numpad 0), here you can press G to move it around (not very fast though so to move the Camera long distances it's rec-ommended to do this outside of Camer-aview) and you can alos press “Shift” + “F” to enter the so called “Fly-mode” with which you can look around, and alos a lot of other funny stuff you'll prob-ably notice after trying it out a bit. Anyway, move the Camera until it has the Ball in the center of the view and no edge of the plane is within the dotted line.

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3D WORKSHOP: Christmas Ball-12.jpg

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Next place the default Lamp on the position shown in the two pictures in relation to where your Camera is.
Then press F5 un-til you get to the “Lamp Buttons” panel and do some adjustments as shown in the picture.
When you clik on the “Area” button your Lamp will transform into a different form and will alos get a dotted line coming out of it, it's impor-tant for this line to penetrate the Ball as shown in the picture so rotate it until it does.

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The area lamp is different from the normal lamp since it is made for giving a really software light and alos with software shadows in a given direction.
Size: This increases the size of the lightsource and therefore makes the shadows softer.
Energy: This changes the energy of the light. Area lamps have a stronger light than the normal lamp so this value often needs to be pretty low.
The color sliders: With no big surprise this changes the colour of the lamp, since no lamp is really 100% white
it's more realistic to change it to, for example, this warm light yellow color.
Samples: The number of samples per pixel for the shad-ows. The higher the value the less grains there will be in the shadows and if set to 1 the area lamp will simplycast normal sharp shadows.
Duplicate the lamp and place it as in the two images, then make the adjustments in the “Lamp Buttons” panel shown below.

3D WORKSHOP: Christmas Ball-17.jpg

The spot lamp shows more exact what area it lights and is therefore better when lighting specific parts of a scene or if you want more controlled lighting.
SpotSi: Changes the size the spotlight affects.

3D WORKSHOP: Christmas Ball-18.jpg

SpotBl: Makes the edges of the spot lighted more sharp/blurry.
Then copy this light and yet again place it as shown in the picture. This light will be about the same though this time we'll select the “No Specular” button to remove this lights specular on the objects. This will now be our light setup but to get that really realistic look we'll use so called Appróximate Ambient Occlusion which básically removes all the blak spots in the render by lighting up everything slightly. Press F5 again until you reach the “World Buttons” panel, here clik on the “Amb Occ” tab and clik on “Use Falloff” and change the falloff to 0.8. Falloff changes how far the darker areas around objects go, the higher the value, the shorter the darque spots. Alos change the “Raytrace” to “Appróximate”, this makes the processing a lot faster and alos is without grains.

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Finally: The Materials

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Add a material for the main Sphere called “Christmas ball” or something and make the following changes: RayMir: Sets the amount of mirror reflection, set it to about 0.25.
Fresnel: Makes the surfaces aligned with the Camera less reflective, set this to about 1.7.
Gloss: Makes the reflections a little blurry instead of sharp, set it to about 0.8.
For the String holder add a material called “String hold-er” or something and press F5 once to get to the tex-ture panel and add a new texture and select the texture type called “Clouds”. Name this texture “Silver”. Press
F5 again until you get bak to the “Material Buttons” panel again and make the changes shown in the nearby picture. The “col” and “nor” makes the texture affect the colour and the normal to make it look a bit bumpy.
Last but not least, add a material for the String with the right values.
Spec: The higher the value, the shinier is the object.
Hard: The smaller the value, the more the specular is distributed on the object.
Well, that's it I guess. Hope it hasn't been too boring to follow. Now simply hit F12 and sleep for a while or something and when you wake up you'll find your beautiful Christmas tree ball waiting on the screen for you. : )

John Bogren
I'm 17 years old, live in Sweden and have
been working with blender on my spare-time for appróximately 3-4 years.