To use UE 5.1, you need to set up your account with Epic Games and download Unreal Engine 5.1 or later version. You can download and use Unreal Engine free. Go to Epic Games/Unreal Engine for details and download links.
The download will take a long time even with a fast Internet connection, so be prepared to spend some time waiting for UE 5.1.
You can also download earlier versions if you want them. We won’t get into why you might want earlier UE versions in this tutorial, but there are some good reasons to have at UE 4.27 and UE 5.0 installed on your computer.
UE 5.1 has a very steep learning curve, particularly when you first get into it. However, the initial “cliff” in that learning curve is a little easier to climb if you have someone to guide you. I had a few tutorials pulled from the web, but it still took time to figure out what I needed to do just to get started creating something in UE 5.1.
Within a few days of playing with Unreal Engine, you should be capable of creating a relatively simple still image or brief animation. The image on the title page was created within a few days of me figuring out how to actually begin using the software. I hope this tutorial takes that learning curve from a few days to a few hours as you being to explore UE 5.1.
The models used in the title page image and this video are available free (as of December, 2022) from Kitbash3D and Unreal Engine Megascans library of assets. You can use these as you experiment or find thousands of other free assets to get you started.
Launch Unreal Engine 5.0/5.1
- Start the Epic Games Launcher. A screen similar to this should open.
- Click on Library in the menu at the top of the screen.
A screen with Engine Versions, My Projects, and Vault should appear.
- Engine Versions – What you see may differ, depending on which version(s) of Unreal Engine you have installed.
- My Projects – This area will be blank until you create your first project. Tiles for projects you’ve created will appear here.
- Vault – This area will show tiles for assets that you’ve acquired from the Epic Games Marketplace. The Marketplace has a wide variety of assets (models, textures, sample games, etc.) that you can get free. You can also purchase assets from the Marketplace.
- If you have not created any projects, click on the Launch button for the Engine Version you want to use.
- The start-up screen for your project should appear. It will look something like this.
It can take a few minutes for Unreal Engine to start. Be patient.
Create a New Project
This tutorial focuses on using Unreal Engine for creating still and animated visual material for storytelling. If you are looked for a tutorial on creating games, this tutorial does not get into that.
Once UE 5.1 has loaded all the pieces it needs, it should open to a screen that looks like this. This is where you begin creating your project.
- Click on Film/Video & Live Events
- Click on Blank
- Check Raytracing on the right side of the screen
- Select the location on your computer you want to save your project.
- Make sure you have plenty of disk space (at least 1 or 2 gigabytes, and preferably much more), as project files can be very big.
- Give your project a name. No spaces are allowed for file names, so use dashes or underscores if you don’t want to jam words together.
- Click on Create
- Your project start-up screen should appear. Again, it could take some time to set up our project, so be patient.
Once the Unreal Editor has loaded all of its components, a blank workspace should appear. It should look like this.
The Unreal Engine screen can be overwhelming at first glace (and probably the second, third, and subsequent glances). In this tutorial, we will keep things very, very basic and not worry about all the amazing parts that Unreal Engine has.
Add Content to Scene
At the bottom of the screen, the Content Browser should be open. The Content Browser will have a number of folders, within which are a variety of assets than can be dragged into the workspace. Let’s say we want to build a simple building.
- Double click to open the Architecture folder. The contents of the folder will appear in the Content Browser.
- Click and drag the Floor_400x400 component into the workspace.
- The component you dragged into the workspace may look like this. Notice the blue, green, and red arrows on one corner of the floor component. The component can be positioned by dragging it in place using those arrows.
- Drag the Pillar_50x500 component from the Content Browser into the workspace and place it in one corner of the floor component.
- You can add more pillars to your building by either dragging another one from the Content Browser or by holding the ALT key, clicking on one of the arrows, and dragging in the direction of that arrow.
- Other components can be dragged into the workspace to build a variety of basic objects.
- Material textures can be added to the objects you’ve created. For example, let’s make the pillars look like they are built with bricks.
- Double click on Materials in the Content Browser to open that folder.
- Drag the M_Brick_Clay_New texture you want onto the pillars. Then drag another texture onto the floor.
- If you want to change the texture applied to an object, simply drag another one onto that object.