|Initial release||January 1995|
|Stable release||2.77a (April 6, 2016) [±]|
|Written in||C, C++, and Python|
|Operating system||Windows, OS X, Linux|
|Size||67.2 – 158.6 MB (varies by operating system)|
|Type||3D computer graphics software|
|License||GNU General Public License v2 or later|
Blender is a professional free and open-source 3D computer graphics software product used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications and video games. Blender's features include 3D modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, raster graphics editing, rigging and skinning, fluid and smoke simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, sculpting, animating, match moving, camera tracking, rendering, video editing and compositing. It further features an integrated game engine.
- 1 History
- 2 Features
- 3 Rendering and Ray Tracing
- 4 Physics
- 5 Development
- 6 Support
- 7 Use in the media industry
- 8 Open projects
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The Dutch animation studio Neo Geo developed Blender as an in-house application in January 1995, with the primary author being software developer Ton Roosendaal. The name Blender was inspired by a song by Yello, from the album Baby. When Neo Geo was acquired by another company, Ton Roosendaal and Frank van Beek founded Not a Number Technologies (NaN) in June 1998 to further develop Blender, initially distributing it as shareware until NaN went bankrupt in 2002.
On July 18, 2002, Roosendaal started the "Free Blender" campaign, a crowdfunding precursor. The campaign aimed for open-sourcing Blender for a one-time payment of €100,000 (US$100,670 at the time) collected from the community. On September 7, 2002, it was announced that they had collected enough funds and would release the Blender source code. Today, Blender is free, open-source software that is—apart from the Blender Institute's two full-time and two part-time employees—developed by the community.
The Blender Foundation initially reserved the right to use dual licensing, so that, in addition to GPLv2, Blender would have been available also under the Blender License that did not require disclosing source code but required payments to the Blender Foundation. However, they never exercised this option and suspended it indefinitely in 2005. Blender is solely available under "GNU GPLv2 or any later" and was not updated to the GPLv3, as "no evident benefits" were seen.
The following program developed in each version:
|Version||Release||Notes and key changes|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.03||around 2002||Handbook The official Blender 2.0 guide.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.26||August 20, 2003||First ever free version.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.30||November 22, 2003||New GUI; edits are now revertible.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.32||February 3, 2004||Ray tracing in internal renderer; support for YafaRay.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.34||August 5, 2004||LSCM-UV-Unwrapping, object-particle interaction.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.37||May 31, 2005||Simulation of elastic surfaces; improved subdivision surface.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.40||December 22, 2005||Greatly improved system and character animations (with a non-linear editing tool), and added fluid and hair simulator. New functionality was based on Google Summer of Code 2005.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.41||January 25, 2006||Improvements of the game engine (programmable vertex and pixel shaders, using Blender materials, split-screen mode, improvements to the physics engine), improved UV mapping, recording of the Python scripts for sculpture or sculpture works with the help of grid or mesh (mesh sculpting) and set-chaining models.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.42||July 14, 2006||The film Elephants Dream resulted in high development as a necessity. In particular the Node-System (Material- and Compositor) has been implemented.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.43||February 16, 2007||Sculpt-Modeling as a result of Google Summer of Code 2006|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.46||May 19, 2008||With the production of Big Buck Bunny Blender set to produce grass quickly and efficiently.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.48||October 14, 2008||Due to development of Yo Frankie!, the game engine was improved substantially.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.49||June 13, 2009||First official stable release 2.5. New window and file manager, new interface, new Python API, and new animation system.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.57||April 13, 2011||First official stable release of 2.5er branch: new interface, new window manager and rewritten event — and tool — file processing system, new animation system (each setting can be animated now), and new Python API.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.58||June 22, 2011||New features[clarification needed]|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.58a||July 4, 2011||Some bug fixes, along with small extensions in GUI and Python interface.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.59||August 13, 2011||3D mouse support|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.60||October 19, 2011||Developer branches integrated into main developer branch: among other things, B-mesh, a new rendering/shading system, NURBS, to name a few, directly from Google Summer of Code|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.61||December 14, 2011||Render-Engine Cycles, Motion Tracking, Dynamic Paint, Ocean Simulator|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.62||February 16, 2012||Motion tracking improvement, further expansion of UV tools, cycles render engine, and remesh modifier|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.63||April 27, 2012||Bug fixes, B-mesh project: completely new mesh system with n-corners, plus new tools: dissolve, inset, bridge, vertex slide, vertex connect, and bevel|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.64||October 3, 2012||Green screen keying, node based compositing|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.65||December 10, 2012||Over 200 bug fixes, support for the Open Shading Language, and fire simulation|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.66||February 21, 2013||Rigid body simulation available outside of the game engine, dynamic topology sculpting, hair rendering now supported in cycles|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.67||May 7–30, 2013||Freestyle rendering mode for non-photographic rendering, subsurface scattering support added, the motion tracking solver is made more accurate and faster, and an add-on for 3D printing now comes bundled|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.68||July 18, 2013||Rendering performance is improved for CPUs and GPUs, support for more types of GPUs, and smoke rendering improved to stop blockiness|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.69||October 31, 2013||Motion tracking now supports plane tracking, and hair rendering was improved|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.70||March 19, 2014||Initial support for volume rendering and small improvements to the user interface|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.71||June 26, 2014||Support for baking in cycles and volume rendering branched path tracing now renders faster|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.72||October 4, 2014||Volume rendering for GPUs, more features for sculpting and painting|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.73||January 8, 2015||New fullscreen mode, improved Pie Menus, 3D View can now display the world background.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.74||March 31, 2015||Cycles got several precision, noise, speed, memory improvements, new Pointiness attribute.|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.75a||July 1, 2015||Blender now supports a fully integrated Multi-View and Stereo 3D pipeline, Cycles has much awaited initial support for AMD GPUs, and a new Light Portals feature.|
|Older version, yet still supported: 2.76b||November 3, 2015||Cycles volume density render, Pixar OpenSubdiv mesh subdivision library, node inserting, video editing tools|
|Current stable version: 2.77a||April 6, 2016||Improvements of Cycles, new features for the Grease Pencil, more support for OpenVDB, updated Python library and support for Windows XP removed|
In January–February 2002 it was clear that NaN could not survive and would close the doors in March. Nevertheless, they put out one more release, 2.25. As a sort-of easter egg, a last personal tag, the artists and developers decided to add a 3D model of a chimpanzee head. It was created by Willem-Paul van Overbruggen (SLiD3), who named it Suzanne after the orangutan in the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Suzanne is Blender's alternative to more common test models such as the Utah Teapot and the Stanford Bunny. A low-polygon model with only 500 faces, Suzanne is often used as a quick and easy way to test material, animation, rigs, texture, and lighting setups and is also frequently used in joke images. Suzanne is still included in Blender. The largest Blender contest gives out an award called the Suzanne Award.
Due to Blender's open source nature, other programs have tried to take advantage of its success by repackaging and selling cosmetically-modified versions of it. Examples include IllusionMage, 3DMofun and Fluid Designer, the latter recognized as Blender-based.
Official releases of Blender for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, as well as a port for FreeBSD, are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Though it is often distributed without extensive example scenes found in some other programs, the software contains features that are characteristic of high-end 3D software. Among its capabilities are:
- Support for a variety of geometric primitives, including polygon meshes, fast subdivision surface modeling, Bezier curves, NURBS surfaces, metaballs, icospheres, multi-res digital sculpting (including dynamic topology, maps baking, remeshing, resymetrize, decimation), outline font, and a new n-gon modeling system called B-mesh.
- Internal render engine with scanline rendering, indirect lighting, and ambient occlusion that can export in a wide variety of formats.
- A pathtracer render engine called Cycles, which can take advantage of the GPU for rendering. Cycles supports the Open Shading Language since Blender 2.65.
- Integration with a number of external render engines through plugins.
- Keyframed animation tools including inverse kinematics, armature (skeletal), hook, curve and lattice-based deformations, shape animations, non-linear animation, constraints, and vertex weighting.
- Simulation tools for Soft body dynamics including mesh collision detection, LBM fluid dynamics, smoke simulation, Bullet rigid body dynamics, ocean generator with waves.
- A particle system that includes support for particle-based hair.
- Modifiers to apply non-destructive effects.
- Python scripting for tool creation and prototyping, game logic, importing and/or exporting from other formats, task automation and custom tools.
- Basic non-linear video/audio editing.
- The Blender Game Engine, a sub-project, offers interactivity features such as collision detection, dynamics engine, and programmable logic. It also allows the creation of stand-alone, real-time applications ranging from architectural visualization to video game construction.
- A fully integrated node-based compositor within the rendering pipeline accelerated with OpenCL.
- Procedural and node-based textures, as well as texture painting, projective painting, vertex painting, weight painting and dynamic painting.
- Real-time control during physics simulation and rendering.
- Camera and object tracking.
The main character from the Blender Sintel open film
A simple fluid simulation done with Blender
Blender's user interface incorporates the following concepts:
- Editing modes
- The two primary modes of work are Object Mode and Edit Mode, which are toggled with the Tab key. Object mode is used to manipulate individual objects as a unit, while Edit mode is used to manipulate the actual object data. For example, Object Mode can be used to move, scale, and rotate entire polygon meshes, and Edit Mode can be used to manipulate the individual vertices of a single mesh. There are also several other modes, such as Vertex Paint, Weight Paint, and Sculpt Mode.
- Hotkey usage
- Most of the commands are accessible via hotkeys. There are also comprehensive GUI menus.
- Numeric input
- Numeric buttons can be "dragged" to change their value directly without the need to aim at a particular widget, as well as being set using the keyboard. Both sliders and number buttons can be constrained to various step sizes with modifiers like the Ctrl and Shift keys. Python expressions can also be typed directly into number entry fields, allowing mathematical expressions to specify values.
- Workspace management
- The Blender GUI builds its own tiled windowing system on top of one or multiple windows provided by the underlying platform. One platform window (often sized to fill the screen) is divided into sections and subsections that can be of any type of Blender's views or window-types. The user can define multiple layouts of such Blender windows, called screens, and switch quickly between them by selecting from a menu or with keyboard shortcuts. Each window-type's own GUI elements can be controlled with the same tools that manipulate 3D view. For example, one can zoom in and out of GUI-buttons using similar controls one zooms in and out in the 3D viewport. The GUI viewport and screen layout is fully user-customizable. It is possible to set up the interface for specific tasks such as video editing or UV mapping or texturing by hiding features not used for the task.
|Processor||32-bit dual core 2 GHz CPU with SSE2 support||64-bit quad core CPU||64-bit eight core CPU|
|Memory||2 GB RAM||8 GB RAM||16 GB RAM|
|Graphics card||OpenGL 2.1 compatible card with 512 MB video RAM||OpenGL 3.2 compatible card with 2 GB video RAM (CUDA or OpenCL for GPU rendering)||Dual OpenGL 3.2 compatible cards with 4 GB video RAM, (i.e. Nvidia Quadro or FirePro 3D)|
|Display||1280×768 pixels, 24-bit color||1920×1080 pixels, 24-bit color||Dual 1920×1080 pixels, 24-bit color|
|Input||Mouse or trackpad||Three-button mouse||Three-button mouse and graphics tablet|
Blender is available for Windows Vista and above, Mac OSX 10.6 and above, and Linux. Blender 2.76b is the last supported release for Windows XP. 
Blender features an internal file system that can pack multiple scenes into a single file (called a ".blend" file).
- All of Blender's ".blend" files are forward, backward, and cross-platform compatible with other versions of Blender, with the following exceptions:
- Loading animations stored in post-2.5 files in Blender pre-2.5. This is due to the reworked animation subsystem introduced in Blender 2.5 being inherently incompatible with older versions.
- Loading meshes stored in post 2.63. This is due to the introduction of BMesh, a more versatile mesh format.
- All scenes, objects, materials, textures, sounds, images, post-production effects for an entire animation can be stored in a single ".blend" file. Data loaded from external sources, such as images and sounds, can also be stored externally and referenced through either an absolute or relative pathname. Likewise, ".blend" files themselves can also be used as libraries of Blender assets.
- Interface configurations are retained in the ".blend" files.
A wide variety of import/export scripts that extend Blender capabilities (accessing the object data via an internal API) make it possible to inter-operate with other 3D tools.
Blender organizes data as various kinds of "data blocks", such as Objects, Meshes, Lamps, Scenes, Materials, Images and so on. An object in Blender consists of multiple data blocks – for example, what the user would describe as a polygon mesh consists of at least an Object and a Mesh data block, and usually also a Material and many more, linked together. This allows various data blocks to refer to each other. There may be, for example, multiple Objects that refer to the same Mesh, and making subsequent editing of the shared mesh result in shape changes in all Objects using this Mesh. Objects, meshes, materials, textures etc. can also be linked to from other .blend files, which is what allows the use of .blend files as reusable resource libraries.
Blender features a fully functional, production ready Non-Linear video editor or VSE for short. Blender's VSE has many features including effects like Gaussian Blur, color grading, Fade and Wipe transitions, and other video transformations.
Blend4Web, an open source WebGL framework, can be used to convert whole Blender scenes with graphics, animation, sound and physics to work in standard web browsers. Export can be performed with a single click, even as a standalone web page.
Rendering and Ray Tracing
Cycles is the ray-tracing render engine that is designed to be interactive and easy to use, while still supporting many production features. It comes installed as an add-on that is available by default and can be activated in the top header.
Cycles supports GPU rendering which is used to help speed up rendering times. There are two GPU rendering modes: CUDA, which is the preferred method for NVIDIA graphics cards; and OpenCL, which supports rendering on AMD graphics cards. Multiple GPUs are also supported, which can be used to create a render farm – although having multiple GPUs doesn't increase the available memory because each GPU can only access its own memory.
|Open Shading Language||Yes||No||No|
|Correlated Multi-Jittered Sampling||Yes||Yes||No|
|Branched Path integrator||Yes||Yes||No|
The integrator is the rendering algorithm used for lighting computations. Cycles currently supports a path tracing integrator with direct light sampling. It works well for various lighting setups, but is not as suitable for caustics and some other complex lighting situations. Rays are traced from the camera into the scene, bouncing around until they find a light source such as a lamp, an object emitting light, or the world background. To find lamps and surfaces emitting light, both indirect light sampling (letting the ray follow the surface BSDF) and direct light sampling (picking a light source and tracing a ray towards it) are used.
There are two types of integrators:
- The default path tracing integrator is a pure path tracer. At each hit it bounces light in one direction and picks one light to receive lighting from. This makes each individual sample faster to compute, but typically requires more samples to clean up the noise.
- The alternative is a branched path tracing integrator which at the first hit splits the path for different surface components and takes all lights into account for shading instead of just one. This makes each sample slower, but reduces noise, especially in scenes dominated by direct or one-bounce lighting.
Open Shading Language
Materials define the look of meshes, NURBS curves and other geometric objects. They consist of three shaders, defining the mesh's appearance of the surface, volume inside, and displacement of the surface.
When the surface shader does not reflect or absorb light, it enters the volume. If no volume shader is specified, it will pass straight through to the other side of the mesh.
If one is defined, a volume shader describes the light interaction as it passes through the volume of the mesh. Light may be scattered, absorbed, or emitted at any point in the volume.
The shape of the surface may be altered by displacement shaders. This way, textures can be used to make the mesh surface more detailed.
Depending on the settings, the displacement may be virtual, only modifying the surface normals to give the impression of displacement (also known as bump mapping) or a combination of real and virtual displacement.
Blender can be used to simulate smoke, rain, dust, cloth, water, hair and rigid bodies.
A cloth is any piece of mesh that has been designated as 'cloth' in the physics tab.
Physics Fluid Simulation
The fluid simulator can be used for simulating liquids, like water hitting a cup. It uses the Lattice Boltzmann methods to simulate the fluids and allows for lots of adjusting of the amount of particles and the resolution.
Particle Fluid Simulation
Since the opening of the source, Blender has experienced significant refactoring of the initial codebase and major additions to its feature set.
Improvements include an animation system refresh; a stack-based modifier system; an updated particle system (which can also be used to simulate hair and fur); fluid dynamics; soft-body dynamics; GLSL shaders support in the game engine; advanced UV unwrapping; a fully recoded render pipeline, allowing separate render passes and "render to texture"; node-based material editing and compositing; and projection painting.
Blender is extensively documented on its website, with the rest of the support provided via community tutorials and discussion forums on the Internet. The Blender Network provides support and social services for Blender Professionals. Additionally, YouTube is known to have a great many video tutorials available for either Blender amateurs or professionals at no cost.
Use in the media industry
Blender started out as an inhouse tool for a Dutch commercial animation company NeoGeo. Blender has been used for television commercials in several parts of the world including Australia, Iceland, Brazil, Russia and Sweden.
NASA also used Blender and Blend4Web to develop an interactive web application to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. This app makes it possible to operate the rover, control its cameras and the robotic arm and reproduces some of the prominent events of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The application was presented at the beginning of the WebGL section on SIGGRAPH 2015.
- As an animatic artist working in the storyboard department of Spider-Man 2, I used Blender's 3D modeling and character animation tools to enhance the storyboards, re-creating sets and props, and putting into motion action and camera moves in 3D space to help make Sam Raimi's vision as clear to other departments as possible. – Anthony Zierhut, Animatic Artist, Los Angeles.
The French-language film Friday or Another Day (Vendredi ou un autre jour) was the first 35 mm feature film to use Blender for all the special effects, made on Linux workstations. It won a prize at the Locarno International Film Festival. The special effects were by Digital Graphics of Belgium.
Special effects for episode 6 of Red Dwarf season X were confirmed being created using Blender by half of Gecko Animation, Ben Simonds. The company responsible for the special effects, Gecko Animation, uses Blender for multiple projects, including Red Dwarf. The episode screened in 2012.
Every 1–2 years the Blender Foundation announces a new creative project to help drive innovation in Blender.
Elephants Dream (Open Movie Project: Orange)
In September 2005, some of the most notable Blender artists and developers began working on a short film using primarily free software, in an initiative known as the Orange Movie Project hosted by the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk). The resulting film, Elephants Dream, premiered on March 24, 2006. In response to the success of Elephants Dream, the Blender Foundation founded the Blender Institute to do additional projects with two announced projects: Big Buck Bunny, also known as "Project Peach" (a 'furry and funny' short open animated film project) and Yo Frankie, also known as Project Apricot (an open game in collaboration with CrystalSpace that reused some of the assets created during Project Peach). This has later made its way to Nintendo 3DS's Nintendo Video between the years 2012 and 2013.
Big Buck Bunny (Open Movie Project: Peach)
On October 1, 2007, a new team started working on a second open project, "Peach", for the production of the short movie Big Buck Bunny. This time, however, the creative concept was totally different. Instead of the deep and mystical style of Elephants Dream, things are more "funny and furry" according to the official site. The movie had its premiere on April 10, 2008.
Yo Frankie! (Open Game Project: Apricot)
"Apricot" is a project for production of a game based on the universe and characters of the Peach movie (Big Buck Bunny) using free software. The game is titled Yo Frankie. The project started February 1, 2008, and development was completed at the end of July 2008. A finalized product was expected at the end of August; however, the release was delayed. The game was released on December 9, 2008, under either the GNU GPL or LGPL, with all content being licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.
Sintel (Open Movie Project: Durian)
The Blender Foundation's Project Durian (in keeping with the tradition of fruits as code names) was this time chosen to make a fantasy action epic of about twelve minutes in length, starring a teenage girl and a young dragon as the main characters. The film premiered online on September 30, 2010. A game based on Sintel was officially announced on Blenderartists.org on May 12, 2010.
Many of the new features integrated into Blender 2.5 and beyond were a direct result of Project Durian.
Tears of Steel (Open Movie Project: Mango)
On October 2, 2011, the fourth open movie project, codenamed "Mango", was announced by the Blender Foundation. A team of artists assembled using an open call of community participation. It is the first Blender open movie to use live action as well as CG.
Filming for Mango started on May 7, 2012, and the movie was released on September 26, 2012. As with the previous films, all footage, scenes and models were made available under a free content compliant Creative Commons license.
According to the film's press release, "The film's premise is about a group of warriors and scientists, who gather at the 'Oude Kerk' in Amsterdam to stage a crucial event from the past, in a desperate attempt to rescue the world from destructive robots."
Cosmos Laundromat (Open Movie Project: Gooseberry)
On January 10, 2011, Ton Roosendaal announced that the fifth open movie project would be codenamed "Gooseberry" and that its goal would be to produce a feature-length animated film. He speculated that production would begin sometime between 2012 and 2014. The film was to be written and produced by a coalition of international animation studios. The studio lineup was announced on January 28, 2014, and production began soon thereafter. As of March 2014, a moodboard had been constructed and development goals had been set. The initial ten minute pilot was released onto YouTube on August 10, 2015.
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