It’s that time of the season again – a new Blender version has been released! Blender 3.5 is finally here, kicking off the year with a bang. It’s bigger, better, and more impressive than ever. Get ready for an amazing year ahead with Blender, starting strong with version 3.5!
? Blender Foundation and the developers community proudly present Blender 3.5!
? A massive release featuring: Viewport Compositor, VDM sculpting, built-in hair assets, USDZ, and so much more.
? What’s new: https://t.co/zMix5Ll1Ey
Huge thanks to everyone involved ?? #b3d
— Blender (@Blender) March 29, 2023
Blender 3.5 signals the beginning of the end of the legendary 3.X series, coming at its tail stronger and more mature than ever. Also, as the penultimate release in the series, it starts paving the way and setting the foundations for the massive 4.0 release to come at the end of the year.
Here is a look at the key features (and then some) that stood out to us in this newest release, but it’s highly recommended to check out the release notes and the release overview for a full picture of all the awesome new features available now at our fingertips!
Cycles, Blender’s groundbreaking path-tracer, continues to maintain its rapid pace of development and delivers yet another spectacular feature in this release: Light Trees, also known as as Many Lights Sampling.
Lights will guide you home
Cycles now supports light trees to more effectively sample scenes with numerous lights, significantly reducing noise at the expense of slightly longer render times per sample. Practically, at equal render times, a render with light tree enabled will have managed to complete less samples, but the image would have converged much further and have a much better noise ratio. Enabled by default in new scenes, light tree sampling can be disabled in the Sampling > Lights panel.
Materials with emission now feature a new Emission Sampling setting, which replaces the previous Multiple Importance Sample toggle. The new default setting, Auto, utilizes a heuristic to estimate the emitted light intensity, determining if the mesh should be considered as a light for sampling. For single-sided emitters or closed meshes, the Front faces only setting can help reduce noise with the light tree.
In summary, the presence of numerous lights in a scene, including mesh lights, no longer results in significantly increased render times!
Another unsurprising yet exciting development: Geometry Nodes gets another batch of new nodes and workflow improvements courtesy of the never-sleeping Geometry Nodes team!
The Blur node is one of the most anticipated features in geometry nodes, and unlocks blurring in the 3D workspace for the first time in years. It is extremely useful in geometry nodes, to smooth meshes, mix attributes, blur procedural and image textures, smooth attribute masks, and much more.
Nodes, Nodes, and More Nodes!
It’s not a new Blender release without a bevy of new nodes and functionality for Geometry Nodes. While it would be too long to name them all here, some highlights include the curve interpolation node, a fundamental node for hair and fur among other uses, Image Input and Image Info nodes, an Edges to Face Groups node, and much more!
There’s also been a lot of improvements to the user interface, including a re-organization of the add menu, disabling of automatically attaching nodes after adding or moving by holding alt. Check out the release notes for every new node added.
That’s my personal favorite feature, the first iteration of the viewport compositor, part of the real-time compositor project, now ships in Blender with this release!
The viewport compositor can be activated to always be applied on the whole viewport, or only when in camera view, and does exactly what its name suggests: It applies the compositing node tree to be applied directly to the viewport, unlocking a whole new level of interactivity and novel workflows, thanks to it being based on the GPU.
The viewport compositor is still missing some features, notably multi-pass compositing and the fog glow glare, but developer Omar Emara is working hard to bring it to feature parity with the old compositor. Once all the nodes are ported, the goal is for this new, much faster GPU based compositor to completely replace the previous CPU-bound version.
But wait: there’s more…
On top of adding exciting new features, this release also has hundreds of massive speed and quality of life improvements strewn all over Blender. Here’s a small sample of them:
Compatible with the VFX Reference Platform 2023
Based on the feedback they got during SIGGRAPH and from the community, Blender 3.5 brings back VFX Reference platform compatibility. This not only aids studio integration but also streamlines the process of incorporating Hydra render delegates into Blender, necessitating stricter alignment. In the third quarter of 2024, feedback gathered from blender.org channels like code.blender.org, devtalk.blender.org, and the bf-committers mailing list will be assessed to review this decision.
A new Flip Quad Tessellation operator allows control over the tessellation orientation of quads:
more over, to help in situations like this example, a simple alternative could be use the triangulate modifier or node that allow a selection to be use, however using this method for a few faces that need an inverted tesselation its overdoing it, the operator its a great addition pic.twitter.com/ABlyCrlMQm
— Nahuel Belich (@Nahuel_Belich) January 28, 2023
A new set attribute operator to control generic attributes in edit mode
Support for Vector Displacement Map (VDM) Brushes
“Essentials” asset library
Blender now ships with an “Essentials” asset library, which notably includes a number of hair node groups designed by Daniel Bystedt and implemented by Simon Thommes.
AND MUCH MORE:
Check out the official 3.5 overview over on the Blender.org website, Pablo Vazquez always goes above and beyond with the design to show what the latest Blender has to offer. Now, time to download Blender 3.5 and put all of these new features to the test. Happy Blending!