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[Tutorial] Flow 2.7 – Installation & Getting Started

Many people are asking me how to install the latest Flow version. In this short tutorial, I’ll show you that installation and configuration of this addon is not that difficult. I’ll also provide you some tips, that may help you avoiding some rare issues.

1. Downloading files

When you are downloading Flow for the first time, you usually should download TWO files – the one with the plugin and the one with the library. If you purchased one of our asset packs (Interior Essentials or Architecture Elements) you will download Flow installation file and the .zip archive with the assets, with standalone Flow, there always comes the startup library.

2. Installing (or updating) the plugin

When your files are downloaded, there is the time to install the plugin in Blender. It’s pretty simple and looks exactly like installing any other standard plugin. Open Blender, go to Edit -> Preferences, then select the ‘Add-ons’ Tab on the left. Click Install button and when the filebrowser opens, go to the directory where you have downloaded the addon files. Find ‘INSTALL_Flow_vX.XX.zip‘ and select this file (or double-click on it). And that’s it, the addon should be already installed. Now it’s the time to configure it and set up the library path (or paths)

If you are updating the plugin, simply remove the previous version and repeat the above steps with the latest plugin file.

3. Setting the existing library path

Adding the new library paths must be done in the unsaved Blender window, otherwise you will not see the button to add new paths.

To setup the library path, you first need to unpack the library .zip archive. You may do that in any directory you want, it’s just important to have this file unpacked. Our library archives will always be marked with the ‘UNPACK_‘ prefix for the clearance. When the archive is unpacked, go back to Blender and open the addon preferences (Edit -> Preferences -> Add-onns section -> Flow). If this is your first installation of Flow, you’ll first see the large button Install Pillow. This is external python library, that is used for faster images previews. Click it, and when it’s installed, you are ready to set up the library path.

Click the large button Add Library Path to add your very first path. You should see two fields – the one with the library name and empty field with the folder icon on it’s right side. The name can be actually anything – you may name your library in any way you want. This name will be later representing the library path in the addon elements.

To set up the path, click on the folder icon. The file browser should appear. Now go to the directory, where you’ve unpacked your library, OPEN the Flow Library folder, and then click OK. If the path is set correctly, a checkmark will appear on the right side of the library path. The correct library path should look like below:

When your path is ready, click on the Save Changes button below. This is crucial, as otherwise the path may not be saved. You should also click this button when you are adding any other paths, removing them or changing their names.

Now, you may add more library paths to keep your assets organized. If you have Interior Essentials and Architecture Elements, it’s recommended to add them as the separate libraries, then you may create your own library just from the scratch, to store your custom assets, and to learn how to do that, just continue reading.

4. Creating new library from scratch

To create empty Flow library for your own needs, add another library path in the addons preferences, but instead of setting the path to the existing Flow Library folder, go to any directory, where you want to create the new library, then click OK.

Of course, the plugin will notify you, that the path is not correct, because it does not contain the valid Flow Library yet. But you should also see the Create New Library button right under your path. So click on it and the addon will automatically create the Flow Library folder in this directory, with all the required directories in it. They are, naturally, completely empty, so you’ll need to fill them with your own assets. Remember to Save your changes and that’s all!

5. First steps with the addon

When everything is configured and you’ve added any asset library, you may already start adding the assets & materials to the scene. There are several methods to do that, in this article I’ll describe only the most basic ones.

Addon panels

The essential part of the addon is the main Flow N-panel (located in 3d Viewport, Shader Editor and Geometry Nodes Editor), where most of the operations can be found. If you don’t see the panels tabs, click N. You will also get Flow Creator panel, where you can find the operations for the asset creating (including adding assets & materials to the library!) and Asset Painter panel, that is the separated panel for our amazing custom tool for easier asset placing – this one will be surely described in another tutorial. Many basic operations can be also found in Flow Main Menu that is opened with CTRL+SHIFT+X.

Flow N-panel
Flow CTRL+SHIFT+X menu

Placing the assets – the standard method

To add an asset, first you need to set the 3d cursor in the place, where you want your asset to be placed. To place cursor, click SHIFT+RMB over the desired spot. The 3d cursor usually snaps to the first visible face of the object.

Then you need to run ‘Add Asset from Library‘ operator. You can do that from Flow N-Panel, but also from the Blender SHIFT+A menu. Then select the category and / or subcategory. You can also type something in the search input field, this will replace the category selection and will be searching for your asset in the selected library. Remove the input, to go back to the standard category selection.

To select the asset from this directory, click on the large field below the category selection. Select the asset and if you want, you can change the type of the placed assets.

Asset Selection

There are 3 ways to add your assets:

  • Instance – the object will be placed as the collection instance, what means that it will not be directly editable (you can access the collection later with other Flow tools or convert it to the editable objects)
  • Editable – Object(s) will be placed as regular editable objects
  • Shadow – collection with the objects will be added to your .blend file but not placed into your scene. It will be accessible from outliner.

You can also add the asset as the linked collection instance. That means that the objects will not be physically added into your current .blend file, but will always be loaded from the external file with this asset. This may help you reducing the project’s filesize, but the objects will not be editable in any way, unless you make them local.

Adding Materials – the standard method

To add the material to your object, you run the similar operation to add the asset. The only difference is that you must have an editable object active (mesh, curve, text, surface etc.) Run the operator, and again, select category, subcategory and the material. In this case, there are no additional settings. When you click OK, the material will be added and assigned to this object or will replace the one on the current material slot.

Material selection

Other assets management

Flow also manages other type of assets like Image Textures, Node Groups, Geometry Node Groups, HDRi textures, Worlds, Sculpt & Paint Brushes. Of course, you can also easily add your own assets to the library. I will be extending the tutorials list, and you will be able to find them under the Tutorials section on this blog.

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I'm the founder of digital.ARCH and all our products. I work with Blender since about 2008, and this time help me to gather a lot of experience with this software