Yeah, I totally understand that. You might find the upcoming 2.8 easier, though. Not only does it have tabs for the different preset interfaces rather than a pulldown menu, those tabs include a sculpting and a texture painting tab. Also, I think they're finally changing to a right click select default, though I'm not sure. If you meant in general rather than specifically, take a look at the Blender 2.8 videos and see if it seems any easier. If you meant 3D painting specifically, getting set up definitely has its idiosyncrasies. At least in 2.79- you need to:
- Set the renderer to Cycles. You can do this in Blender Internal, but that workflow is more arcane and I don't know it as well.
- Open a UV/Image Editor window, and create new images for each map you want to paint. It's probably easier to just start with a single diffuse/color/albedo map per material zone before you get into other stuff, but you should know you can work with the specular, bump, etc. if and when you want. Keep in mind that you can make the background transparent if you want. Before you do anything, save the image to your hard drive.
- Give your object shaders for each of its zones. You probably just need a Principled node stuck into a "root" node's surface input. Set the color of the Principled node to the images you just made and switch to "textured" or "material" view. NOTE: If you made your images have a black background, even if it's transparent, you're going to be painting on black, which will be hard to see.
- Open the tool palette if it's not already (T). Order the items in the Tools tab so the useful ones are on top, if they're not already. I personally find this order most helpful:
Everything else I just ignore.
- Texture Mask
- Curve (this sets your brush falloff)
- For texture/projection painting, this is where it gets unnecessarily tricky. You need a property window open. Select texture (the checkerboard), then pull down the top menu to Brush - Texture. Click New, name your texture something useful (like, say, "bodyFront") and then open the file to associate with your "texture."
- In the tool palette, under Texture, set the mode to "Stencil."
- Make sure your brush color, strength, size, and pressure sensitivity are where you want it. If you have more than one image associated with your material, go to the "slots" tab and make sure that the image(s) you want to paint on are selected. And make sure your item is in the correct "view" for what you want to paint. For, say, a rock, that's not a big deal, but for a person, you probably want to make sure you're in orthogonal front view if you're using a frontal photo.
- At least look at your Options in the tool palette to get a feel for how it will treat cavities and the normal angle at which it will stop painting on polys (my default is 80)
- Paint away. See the manual for how to move, rotate, and scale your "stencil."
It's a somewhat similar process to use alphas (PS style brushes), except
- In step 5, in the Properties > Texture window, you need to choose Brush Mask, set the image color space to "non-color" or "linear" if you can (it will read the color space from PS files), and set Image Mapping to "Clip".
- In step 6, in the Tool palette, under Texture Mask set the mode to "View Plane". You may also want to add random rotation to your Texture Mask settings.
- In step 7, you really want to make sure your Stroke settings are the way you want them. Default is basically a plain round brush with 5% spacing and no jitter. Since we've made a PS style brush, if the alpha is, say, lots of dots, the brush will now give you something like strands of hair or fur because of the low spacing. If you want discrete elements, you'll have to space out the brush.
To be clear, you can use a stencil and a mask (alpha) at once.
Just to note a few of the benefits of painting in Blender:
- You can turn on and off symmetry on X, Y, and Z. Symmetrical painting can really make things like brows or body hair easier. It's easy to add asymmetry once you have a nice symmetrical base.
- You can use dynamic topology or multires to sculpt in details into a high res version, then bake out a normal, displacement, or bump map. See tutorials on this, because baking and working with different resolutions have specific workflows.
- With shortcut keys, you can resize your brush and see how it resizes on your screen.
- You can see an overlay of your stencil
- There are various ways to hide polygons while painting or sculpting, but they can be tricky. They don't always work with other modifiers or states. You have to kind of play around and pay attention to "Hide and mask disabled" warnings.
- There's tons of tutorials out there, many of them in video form, about painting textures in Blender.
The biggest benefit is the same one of all Blender features. If you have an idea for improvement, you can ask the development team or the community about it. Right now they're taking a ton of feedback each day. The more focused, specific, and constructive your idea, the more likely someone is to pay attention to it. Also, the Blender community is paying close attention to the gaming industry standard tools of Zbrush and Substance Painter.
- Your brush and it's textures stay the same size when you zoom. In sculpting, there's a way to say you'd like your brush to remain proportional, but you can't do this in texture paint (yet). So you need to either stay at the same zoom level (OK for bits, but obviously no go for a whole project), or scale your brush and/or textures to maintain consistency. This made me get real good with the rotation keys (8,6, 2, and 4 on the num pad).
- Textures are items that have source properties that can be set. If you want multiple textures in your pull-down menus, you have to explicitly make new textures before selecting a new image file.
- There is no default erase brush (though there should be). I think the defaults are Draw, Clone, Smear, Soften, Fill, and Mask. I found it helpful to add Erase, TexDraw, DrawSmooth, and FineLines brushes. They're all variations on Draw, where Erase sets the Brush > Blend to Erase Alpha, TexDraw is for projection painting and has a texture, DrawSmooth never has a mask or texture, and FineLines is just small with very little spacing and a touch of jitter.
- Your mesh resolution affects the resolution you can paint at. If you find that your fine brushes aren't looking smooth (for instance, your brush is spacing in ways it shouldn't), add a subdiv modifier and up the resolution a level or two
- Try to keep your normal angle low enough that you're not creating stretched textures. Also, it's _really_ easy to accidentally paint on bits you don't mean to. As far as I can tell, this is just the trick of learning to paint in 3d.
- You might want to up your number of undos in your settings.
- Once you start working with multiple textures per material, make sure you're in the right texture.
- Save your textures as you go! Unless you pack your images into the file, saving the blend file will _not_ automatically overwrite your image files. If you're like me, this will often be a boon.
3D painting has been a part of Blender since I started using it in 2.4x days. There's tons of tutorials on YouTube covering all kinds of aspects of it. Some of them use a method that involves multiple UV maps. That isn't at all necessary.
I haven't used it yet, but I recently bought BPainter
so I could easily work in layers.
My long term goal is to be as good at painting skin detail as this guy