Whether you’re a long time Blender user or on the verge of downloading your first instance of this amazing open source software, you’ve probably seen this discussion before. Until recently, the proposition of Blender as an alternative to the more widely used 3d suites out there, particularly for Architectural Visualization has been falling on deaf ears – or more aptly, on eyes glazed over from all of the rebuttals on Reddit and other forums. You aren’t wrong in opting to invest your time and energy on a program that will more likely land you a job in a studio, but times are changing (and I’m sure you’ve heard that before as well!). Really though, the times really are changing..erm, this time.
With the release of Blender 2.80 around the corner, and the increasing number of professionals joining the Blender Community, not to mention all of the prospects outlined in The Blender Foundation’s Chairman, Ton Roosendaal’s SIGGRAPH REPORT, now is a better time than ever to learn Blender for Archviz. Here are some reasons why:
Blender.org updates regularly, featuring developments in the Foundation’s efforts or in the software itself, but the tagline never changes, and encapsulates Blender and what it represents in two sentences: Open Source 3D Creation. Free to use for any purpose, forever. This mission vision statement is what a large portion of the community stands by, but sadly, has also been the main cause of skeptical eyebrow raises among students and professionals window shopping for a new program to try out. If you took to the many forum threads about which software is better, or some similar topic, you would have inevitably come across impressions of users who’ve opened older versions of Blender and stopped there, because of its uncommon interface and navigation/selection. What not everyone is aware of, however, is how keenly the Blender Foundation listens to the Blender community, and how every major release is tested in an actual production environment, with seasoned professionals from all over the world working with developers to make Blender great for them (and you) to work with.
If you enjoy the software, you can donate what you can, and recently, a more streamlined way to support the foundation has been made available. And while this system raises questions of Blender’s stability, the sponsors listed on the Blender Development Fund page would assuage at least some doubts. Most importantly, the flexible nature in which you can make a contribution to sustaining Blender gives you the freedom to allocate your budget to other auxiliary software that will enhance your workflow. Programs that have proven invaluable to getting through a 3d pipeline faster can often be inaccessible to freelancers who need to operate on a budget, and sometimes contribute as much to achieving a professional quality as your 3d suite does, and most 3d suites can really eat up your budget. Just have a look at this chart as featured in this informative article from Designer Hacks.
We’ve touched on this earlier, but the rate at which the Blender community has been growing is unprecedented, and apart from increasingly stunning blender renders that are surfacing on the interwebs, independent developers are sprouting everywhere, with addons that can be a godsend for an Archviz modeler, not to mention archipack, which comes with Blender by default, and is a great tool for streamlining Architectural visualization projects. On top of all that, Blender dedicated asset providers like Chocofur and more community-driven initiatives like BlenderKit make ideation and blocking an absolute breeze, and in the case of the latter, are another potential income channel for those more inclined to specialize in models, shaders and whatnot.
A bit of a shameless plug here, but you can also find loads of useful tips tuts and livestreams with some of the most renowned Blender Artists in the scene over at our YouTube , Facebook and Instagram channels!
Think Blender is just for hobbyists and enthusiasts? Think again
A quick search on ArtStation will reveal a good amount of tasty Architectural renders made in Blender by professionals with years of experience under their belt. Not to mention some who have gone on to create entire businesses based on Blender! It would be naive to say that you’ve got a guaranteed spot at one of the big studios as a Blender artist, but you’d also be surprised to learn that it isn’t as much of a red flag as the forums might have you think, and the freelance pasture is as lush as ever.
Here are a bunch of Blender Pros you can find on ArtStation
Even avid Blender fans will admit that Blender’s limitations are apparent when weighed against software from distributors with a bigger team of developers behind it, one glaring issue being the unpalatable viewport and interface, but version 2.8 is seeing to that, and that’s barely scratching the surface of what goodies 2.8 is bringing to the program. A dependency graph overhaul, real-time rendering, better modeling and retopology tools, more refined instancing, cryptomattes and much more is on the horizon, and the beta builds have reached a level of stability that brave souls can make full productions with. Another interesting extended feature set is Blender’s grease pencil, which can now serve as a full-fledged 2d animation tool. If you’re at all handy with a pen and tablet, what it can do for all your previz work and ideation is just one of the many great ways this can augment your work.
We don’t live in a bubble, and it’s only fair to point out that this doesn’t mean Blender is one-upping all other programs with these changes, but it certainly has been fitted with all you need to create beautiful Architectural renders, or even, an entire animated movie if you were so inclined.
It isn’t my intention to put Blender on a pedestal or invalidate other non-open source software, but I’d like to break the stigma of having to work with “industry standard” software to have a shot in the industry. Work dynamics are also changing, online jobs are increasing and building networks can be done from home
Of course, in the end, it is about personal dedication and not the tools used, however, Blender certainly offers a more practical way to truly explore 3d and develop skills which can ultimately be transferred to another program if the need to migrate arises.