Blender Basics — Plugins & Add-ons


Welcome back! In our first tutorial, we visited the Blender website and downloaded the latest version of Blender. We then installed the software and got a quick feel for varieties in color schemes available to us. Although Blender is a beautiful, highly-polished, powerful software, it simply cannot encompass every facet that an animator, modeler, or creator may want to make. This is where the power of the Blender community comes in. By developing additional software packages we can plug in (hence “plugins”) to the software, Blender gets an enormous capability boost available to the end user.

About plugins

Along with our Blender install, we were given a large number of plugins. To reduce the installation memory requirement, not all plugins are installed with the core Blender software. We can see all the current plugins available to us by opening Blender and clicking Edit –> Preferences. On the left-hand side, click Add-ons. This generates a large list of Add-ons:

The unchecked boxes next to the listed plugins tell us these plugins are not installed. We can easily install a plugin by clicking the checkbox! Since there are so many plugins, Blender also gives us the capability of searching through our options. For instance, let’s use the Search box in the upper right-hand corner to search for “import image”. This brings up one option, a plugin titled “Import-Export: Import Images as Planes”. Now, click the checkbox to install! It’s just that easy.

By the way, clicking the down arrow next to the package reveals additional information about the plugin: the package description, it’s install location, the Python file supporting the package, the author, and the plugin version. We can also check out Documentation, or report a bug! This is a one-stop shop for each plugin.

So what if we search for a package and its not there? Much like video game patches, Blender plugins can also be downloaded and installed. After we install the plugin, it will show up in the Add-on list we just looked at.

Also like video game patches, some patches can be found for free and others — like those on the Blender Marketplace — can come with a price. For our purposes, though, let’s take a look at one of my recent favorite (and free!) plugins, the Facebuilder add-on from Keen Tools. This is add-on gives us a generic human head to work with, and a really easy way to manipulate the mesh to fit the face more to a normal human head.

Installing a plugin

Let’s download the add-on from the previous link by clicking Download in the upper left-hand corner. This takes us to another screen where we simply click the big blue button marked Download FaceBuilder add-on. This quickly downloads the .zip file into our Downloads folder. Believe it or not, we’re almost done!

Now open Blender and click past the splash screen. Now we revisit the Add-on menu in Blender’s Preferences (Edit –> Preferences –> Add-ons). This time, we’ll click on Install..., in the upper right-hand corner of the Blender Preferences window. This opens a dialog box allowing us to search for a ZIP file. Each Blender plugin comes in the form of a ZIP file, which does not need to be unpacked! Blender natively expects this file type for its plugins.

After clicking install, locate the keentools_2022.1.1_facebuilder file in your download directory. Click the ZIP file, and click Install Add-on in the bottom right. This installs our plugin, and jumps us back to the Preferences window! Although now, the Search bar is auto-filled with “KeenTools FaceBuilder”, which locates the installed plugin! This is a really convenient validation for our new plugin installation.

Similar to how we installed the Import Images as Planes plugin, all we need to do is click the checkbox to the left of the FaceBuilder plugin. Once the plugin is checked, we can close the Preferences window. This returns us to the main CAD window and auto-highlights the cube. Go ahead and click Delete to remove our beloved companion cube; this leaves us with a blank CAD screen.

Since we kept the default keymapping in our Blender installation tutorial, we can use our first keymap! Press Shift+A to add a new object. This opens the ADD menu…and wow, is that a lot of options! Go ahead and click on “Mesh”, then scroll down to click “FaceBuilder Head”. Since this is the first time we’re using FaceBuilder, we need to install a little more before we can use the plugin. Click the blue OK button. This opens the Blender Preferences window again, in which we need to read and agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA) before we finish the installation by clicking Install online.

After the installation completes, additional information is provided to us, saying that there is no license available (since we haven’t purchased one), and that we are in a Trial mode. By clicking X in the upper right-hand corner, we’re returned to the main CAD screen. Let’s try adding the FaceBuilder head again (Shift+A –> Mesh –> FaceBuilder Head)

…and there we have it, a human head with very little effort! We can see what it looks like by hitting another hotkey: 0 (the zero key). This keymapping changes between our non-camera view, and the view from our active camera.

Nice! This is a strong first step to doing some seriously awesome face modeling. Since we’ve covered a fair amount so far, we’ll go ahead and end this lesson, picking up where we left off in a subsequent tutorial.

…and there we have it! We’ve successfully installed Blender, chosen a handful of options for our Blender layout, and chosen a color theme! We then learned how to change the color them of our Blender interface.


In this tutorial, we’ve learned about Blender plugins. We saw that although we installed Blender, there are still many more capabilities we can add to enhance our Blender experience, and still others that we can download for free or for a price. Once we have a plugin picked out, we demonstrated how to install plugins both internal to Blender, and others we’ve downloaded from external websites!

Lastly, we got to use our first two (standard) key mappings:

  • Shift+A: Open the “Add” menu
  • 0 (number zero key): Swap between camera view and non-camera view

Where’s this thread going? In the next tutorial, we’ll modify the head model to better fit a realistic human head and in a separate tutorial we’ll also apply hair to our model! It’s exciting to see where this is going — I hope you visit again to keep learning with me! As usual, thank you for dropping by — I appreciate your support! If you’re enjoying the content and would like to see more, please feel free to Like, comment, or subscribe! See you next time!

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(Header image: Scifi background by user6702303)

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