A new generation of real-time rendering with EEVEE Next

A new generation of real-time rendering with EEVEE Next

When EEVEE was first introduced in 2019, it was a massive upgrade to Blender’s existing biased renderer (known as the Blender Internal Renderer), making high-fidelity real-time rendering possible for the first time in Blender. Since then, EEVEE has received dozens of updates that have been slowly improving the renderer. All of this has led to the introduction of EEVEE Next, the next iteration of the renderer set to be included in Blender 4.1 in March of 2024.

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EEVEE Next will include improvements to almost every part of EEVEE, including the addition of ray tracing to the renderer, opening up a whole new frontier of possibilities for the engine. Without further adieu, let’s dig into what’s coming!

Real-Time Ray Tracing

The headline feature of EEVEE Next is support for ray tracing in the engine. This means that lights and materials can now interact far more realistically, dynamically lighting scenes and allowing emissive objects to light the objects around them. Previously, realistic reflections were only available with the limited screen-space reflections in EEVEE, which provided semi-realistic, yet fairly limited results.

A new generation of real-time rendering with EEVEE Next

As you can see above, materials that emit lights now interact with other objects in a far more realistic way than before. Additionally, the EEVEE vs Cycles comparison is now much closer.

Shader Displacement 

Shader displacement is finally here! With this version, EEVEE will finally have support for shade-based displacement, allowing artists to use complex displacement maps in their materials. In the past, only mesh-based displacement using Blender’s displacement modifier was possible in EEVEE, which limited the control and performance of using displacement maps for real-time projects. With this change, EEVEE will now behave similarly to other major real-time render engines, where shader displacement is often an important part of rendering complex surfaces and characters. 

Better Rendering Parity with Cycles

Since its inception EEVEE has been designed as a counterpart to Cycles, Blender’s path traced render engine. The goal was to allow artists to light and shade their projects so that they could fluidly switch rendered when comparing EEVEE vs Cycles. This goal was resurrected by developers in EEVEE Next with a strong focus on matching the results of each engine’s renders.

Subsurface scattering has been improved with a new algorithm that better matches the look of Cycles while also improving light leaking issues and adding support for per pixel subsurface radius.

A new generation of real-time rendering with EEVEE Next

Additionally, volume objects will soon be calculated in object space, leading to much better petter rendering parity when rendering in EEVEE vs Cycles.

EEVEE Next also eliminates many of the limitations that held it back from competing with Cycles on large projects. For example, light and shader count limitations have largely been removed, allowing for infinitely complex lighting and shading setups with the renderer. This was done largely because of the performance improvements that EEVEE next brings, making it much more feasible to render large amounts of lights and PSDF shaders without big performance impacts.

Other Improvements

This release also includes a host of other improvements and optimizations for EEVEE. Including two fairly major ones:

The baking system for irradiance caches has been completely rewritten and now maps data to the light probes in the scene, allowing users to further modify their scene without rebaking the light cache. 

A new generation of real-time rendering with EEVEE Next

Secondly, shadows in EEVEE have been improved with changes to the virtual shadow mapping system. Higher resolution shadows (4096 shadow maps vs. 1024 in previous versions), with better sharpness should now be possible without using loads of system memory thanks to improvements in the shadow maps implementation. 


EEVEE Next marks a major next step for Blender in the growth of real time rendering. Ray tracing, in particular, has the potential to allow EEVEE to compete with the likes of Unreal Engine and other real-time renderers in places where EEVEE has faltered in the past.

If you’d like to try EEVEE Next in its current state, you can download the latest daily experimental builds of Blender 4.1 from blender.org. While not yet feature complete, the improvements are already quite impressive compared to EEVEE’s existing feature set.

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