Using a 3D View to preview scenes

Do you find yourself constantly switching in and out of camera view while working in Blender? There’s a better way!

Just keep a separate 3D View to preview your scene while you work on another. You can use this view to render in the viewport, check composition or animation as you move things around. Making a viewport for previews is easy. The first step is to make a new 3D View by splitting some editor. I usually do it above the Outliner or the Properties Editor.

The next step is the most important bit: Detach the 3D view.

You’ve probably noticed that when you change a setting in a 3D View, it also changes it in any others you have open. Detaching a 3D view separates it from the rest and lets you set it up on it’s own.

With that out of the way, let’s start by enabling all layers. Since we have detached this View, these layers will only be active here. You can enable all 20 layers at once or you can activate them as you go, just remember they won’t affect the final render. Blender will only use the layers active in the “main” 3D View for rendering.

We’re going to use this editor to check our scene as it’s seen from the camera, so go ahead and set it to camera view (pressing numpad 0). I personally prefer to keep the area outside the camera dark to focus better on composition. The french (and Blender) call this passepartout.

To use it, select the camera first. Then look into the camera tab of the Properties Editor and scroll to the Display panel. Enable “Passepartout” and set it to about 0.95. This is enough to help you focus on what’s in front of the camera but still translucent enough to check around it. Don’t forget to check the composition guides while you’re in the camera tab.

We’ve got our view set up, but there’s still a lot of distracting stuff we don’t need. Let’s remove them and add some fancy to our preview.

Open the N-panel (pressing N), scroll down to the Display panel and tick “Render only”. This will hide lamps, empties, and other objects that aren’t rendered. Also untick “Grid Floor” and enable “World Background”, so you can get a closer idea of what the scene looks rendered. Scroll down and enable Ambient Occlusion for extra coolness.

Finally, hide the manipulators and enable Render Border in the Render tab of the Properties Editor. You can also use matcaps if you’re sculpting, it can even be a different matcap than the one you use in the main 3D View.

If you want to save a couple pixels you can also hide the header. Simply click on it’s top border and drag it down.

Here’s the final result on a scene I’ve been working on (still WIP). The preview editor has been an enormous help in getting everything organized, as well as doing preview the final render.