Blender 2.80 is out today after almost a year and a half in development. Time to celebrate! This is one of the largest and most important releases of Blender. As big as 2.5 back in the day.
So, what’s the big deal?
Don’t be fooled by the version number. 2.80 isn’t just 0.01 better than 2.79, it’s 100x times better! Blender 2.80 comes with a full bag of UI changes, a whole new renderer, collections, a better dependency graph and more.
Here are my personal highlights
This is the #1 new feature for me. The old Blender internal renderer is gone and we have a new rasterizer engine. Eevee is a new realtime engine with full PBR support.
After years of waiting for the viewport to “clean up” or shift-z’ing, Eevee is a breath of fresh air. Realtime updates with little to no performance penalty. Eevee will be a boom for motion graphics, NPR and all kinds of visualization. It also made cool volumetric animations possible without waiting a galactic year to render.
I wrote a quick introduction to Eevee a while ago.
The new UI
Blender has gotten a lot of bad rep for it’s user interface over the years (some of it deserved). But
that changes with 2.8. The UI is now far more standard and accessible.
- The 3D viewport has a toolbar and settings bar along the top
- Left click to select is now a fully supported workflow and we have context menus everywhere.
- The editor menu is now split in categories and you can jump straight to an editor mode
- Workspaces have replaced the old layouts with tabs and many new features
- The Image editor now supports naming render slots
- The properties editor uses vertical tabs and takes less space
- The properties editor also supports sub-panels and reflowing the UI now
- We have a shiny new dark default UI
- We can now switch materials right from the nodes– Shaders editor
- The 3D view now supports gizmos for tools and navigation
- There’s a new shading mode called “Look Dev” made specifically for lighting/material work
- You can now enter edit mode with multiple objects
- And a lot more
No more 20-layers limitation! Collections are a new way to organize scenes in Blender. They replace both Groups and layers. You can now have an unlimited number of collections, name them and access them from the outliner. They can also have collections inside, used for instancing and more. Easily one of the biggest workflow improvements of this version. Collections also tie in with the new View Layers to control their visibility.
This is a small thing, but it’s one of those you thought would never happen in Blender. And it makes life much easier when troubleshooting complex models.
Grease Pencil 2.0
The new grease pencil is huge. Making annotations and creating drawings are now separate things. The drawing side gained tons of new features. With the new grease pencil Blender now has very functional 2D animation feature set.
- There’s a Grease Pencil object type. When you add them you can draw by going into Draw mode
- You can now have different layers with opacity and blend modes (like GIMP or Photoshop)
- Lines and color can be animated independently now
- You can also use guides to draw parallel lines, circles or snap them on a grid
- Each layer can also show the previous and next frames (Onion Skinning)
- Strokes can have materials now. Including textures both for the line and fill.
- You can add modifiers to strokes now
- You can also add effects, like blurring, pixelating, coloring, shadows and more.
Python API improvements
Note that with all the changes in the UI and features, the API is no longer compatible with previous releases.
This is actually great news, because the developers could take a second look at it and do some cleaning up. You can expect massive changes for any code related to groups, layers and render layers. Many aspects of mesh editing have been changed for the new dependency graph too. There’s a new timer system that can run functions at time intervals. There’s also a new handler that gets triggered when properties in the scene tree are updated:
depsgraph_update_post(). These two replace a lot of (mis-)uses of modal operators and the
scene_update_pre/post() handlers (which were removed).
Many names and minor things have changed too. For instance Bmesh now uses string enumerators instead of integers. Also, the Python version is now 3.7, so we can finally use
Another cool thing is the new confirm quit dialog on Linux. Yes, I’m tooting my horn but I’m happy to finally see this in a stable release (and the design was improved along the way too).
You can check the full list in Blender’s announcement.
Many of the ideas and features of this version had been floating around for a few years. Some projects even started in their own branches years before. Eevee came from the experimental PBR Viewport branch started back in 2016.
Development of 2.8 really kicked off with the Code Quest in February 2018. The Code Quest was a crowd funded coding sprint. The funding lasted from February until March and the target was US$200,000 + stretch goals. The community providing roughly 20% of that (US$40,000). The rest was provided by the Blender Fund, the Blender Institute (via Blender Cloud earnings) and other Sponsors.
The community side of the funding was raised by selling limited edition USB Drives. To go along with the launching theme they were designed as little rockets and 3D printed. The original plan was to sell 1,000 rockets by March.
But there were no brakes in the hype train for 2.8 and the community smashed through the target and stretch goals. The target was achieved in only 4 days, expanding the quest to 2,500 rockets.
The new target was also reached, 3 weeks later. By the end of the campaign the community raised almost US$100,000 all by itself. The coding work officially kicked off in April lasting until July. This is when most of the bigger changes happened. One of the early big changes came early when the good old Blender Internal was put to rest.
2.8 was slated to go into Beta by August, with the final release coming in October 2018. But things rarely go that smooth when it comes to software. The Beta didn’t happen until late November and the final release took another 8 months.
It’s been a wild journey. I’ll always remember the hype when watching Pablo’s Code Quest vlogs or that strange feeling when looking at a fully rendered realtime viewport. Or the rush to fix my addons when the API was still changing constantly in the beta!
During the development the art team worked on a new open movie using 2.80. You have to give kudos to the Spring team for producing this short on pre-alpha software. This gave developers real user feedback while being deep in the design and development process.
You can watch Spring right here:
Spring is the 12th Open Movie and as usual you can access all the source files through the Blender Cloud. The team also produced several tutorials and videos while working on it. Check out this Material Breakdown (it’s free).
Onwards and upwards
There’s been an avalanche of great news in Blender recently:
- Epic Games has joined the Blender Fund with a US$ 1.2 million grant.
- Ubisoft Animation has switched to Blender and joined the Blender Fund
- The everything-nodes project is moving along smoothly
- A new sculpt branch with new features like a Voxel remesher, better falloff and more.
- Work on supporting the Universal Scene Description format is also coming together
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and check out the Blender release of the decade.