4 New Blender Features That Will Blow You Away

In case you missed the news, Blender recently underwent a “merge hurricane”. Meaning that a bunch of new features that were in alpha development phase, have now been merged into the trunk version Blender.

These features are massive and are going to change the way we use Blender in the future.

Here’s a brief explanation of each feature and how to start using them:

1. Cycles

In a nutshell: New improved rendering engine, more realistic renders

Arguably the biggest thing to happen to blender in the last few years is the Cycles rendering engine. Cycles is a completely new way of rendering in Blender that produces far superior results to the outdated internal renderer. Bounce lighting, caustics and glass are now available as standard without any messing around.

Cycles will eventually replace the internal rendering engine, becoming the standard that every Blender user will soon use. The sooner you can jump aboard, the better.

To get started, check my Introduction to Cycles tutorial.

2. Camera Tracking

In a nutshell: Allows you to add 3d elements to moving video footage.

Anyone who’s tried adding 3d elements to video footage knows that if the camera is moving, you need to use a camera tracker to match the motion to your 3d scene. However dedicated camera trackers aren’t cheap, some costing cost upwards of $3,000. But thanks to Sergey Sharybin, we now have this feature in blender.

You can now track camera motion, add 3d elements, composite it, render it and edit the video, all without leaving Blender. Expect lots of budding film makers to suddenly show an interest in Blender as this is developed further.

To get started, check out this early Camera Tracking Tutorial by Sebastian Koenig.

3. Dynamic Paint

In a nutshell: Makes the environment react to interaction

When a character walks through snow, or a car skids it’s tires, it helps to have the environment react accordingly. Previously this wasn’t possible without doing some fiddly workaround, but thanks to Dynamic Paint it’s a piece of a cake.

The way it works is by baking animated textures onto the objects surface. These textures can these be used for reflections, displacements or anything else you wish.

To get started, check out this Dynamic Paint Guide by the developer Miika Hämäläinen.

4. Ocean Simulator

In a nutshell: Allows you to simulate a realistic ocean.

A much desired feature for the nature buffs out there is the ability to create realistic oceans. Whilst this may seem like a rather specialized feature, oceans are an incredibly necessary part of 3d work as they make up 2/3 of the earth, and without a dedicated feature they are almost impossible to create realistically.

To get started, check out the Ocean Wiki or wait for The Nature Academy to reopen.

How to Get These Features

The features are now included in the official blender version!

Just download the newest release here. Anything from v2.61 will have it.

A massive thank you to Brecht Van Lommel, Sergey Sharybin, Miika Hämäläinen and Matt Ebb for developing these four incredible features!

Which feature are you most excited about? Leave your comment below.

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
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  • apm-designs

    I am on Blender 2.62 with Ubuntu and trying to figure out how to use GPU instead of CPU. Is there a plugin i need to download here, because I cannot see anywhere in the User Preferences to make this change.

    I have to say though, this is a nice article and very informative. In fact I discovered GPU from this author

    Thank you

    • Max

      That depends on your graphics card and CPU, if your GPU is older and hence slower than your CPU, you won’t be able to render with the GPU and it won’t show up, and it’s only available on nVidia graphics cards.

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  • Hemachand

    I am new to blender,I’ve started it just one month ago. I want to if we can make real existing human faces in blender,like if I want to make my face.If not how do they do it in computer games and stuff like that.Sorry if this is not correct place to put this question.

    • Valentinas Kazlauskas


      • gratere

        **** off.

    • Heri Agape

      you can do that just over night… as you said: You are new! to do so you need tons of practices and you should be very observant about things in the real world so that you can understand how to replicate then in Blender

  • Hemachand

    I am new to blender,I’ve started it just one month ago. I want to if we can make real existing human faces in blender,like if I want to make my face.If not how do they do it in computer games and stuff like that.

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  • Rich

    Thanks to all those that have contributed and made Blender such a wonderful and useful tool. Can’t wait to really start using these new features.

  • http://www.notaleproductions.com Michael Megison

    I really mean it… Thanks!!!

  • http://www.notaleproductions.com Michael Megison

    My name is Michael, but my friends call me Meg-Ah
    I live on the beach and really enjoy the weath-ah (weather)
    I like diving for clams and drinking a beer and knowing
    my life is really good here.

    Thanks Andrew for all your hard work, because sharing your knowledge
    comes through in my work.

  • Hikaru Ai

    I tried to render hair particles in cycles and it didn’t work >.<

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  • mohamed Konate

    i always dreamed about fast and robust blender internal render and there we are god answered my wish The coolest render engine EVER CYCLE.

  • Owldude

    I’m excited about Cycles because there are no builds that have it that I can use. However I also need the ocean simulator and the build made for it seems primitive now, so I’m glad about that. The dynamic paint is also absolutely necessary for me because I’ll be doing a lot with characters walking/sliding through snow and things like that (I’m making a film about owls who live in a very snowy environment.) In a nutshell (as you would say) I need pretty much all of them, so I’m SUPER excited.

    P.S. The ocean covers more like 3/4.

    • mohamed Konate

      Yes y’re all right those are incroyable blender futur that we have been waiting for a lon time…

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.vineyard adam

    I love cycles, I just cant seem to get rid of graininess. this video rendered 700 frames in 15 hours with quad core… but still grainy.


  • Hene

    Why can’t I use GPU for rendering with cycles? I have the latest build and GT 540M which is cuda craphics card.

    I just cant find cuda GPU option from under the render panel. There are only CPU and OpenCl Gpu but only CPU works.

    • Chris

      Get the latest nvidia driver for your card, its now working, I had the same problem.

  • http://nonyet Alex Taylor


    You are the best……. I am knocking 75 and started Blender about 18 months back, I have followed many tutorials but you seem to make the ones that I can follow, I would love to buy them on CD/DVD.

    In answer to your question, me I would like them all— yes all four new features.

    I used to make up stories for my kids, now I am writing them down so as to plan how to make them into animations, so far I have used renders from poses then added them to sound etc in a video editor program as I could not get the hang of using the full Blender system – now I am going to have a try at a simple walk talk and display story

  • reidh(ray)

    I would like to say that I think Blender is now better, and always was, and more user friendly than 3DS max.

  • reidh(ray)

    True, Bevel must be round or fillet must work. The present 45 degree bevel is really a chamfer, like from wood working. Fillet is round but it doesn’t work in 2.59 or 2.6+

    Camera tracking? why is it called that. it sounds like the camera tracks something, but all it is doing is moving pov. or camera angle changes. tracking looks like a “handheld” motion.

    Cycles does not work on low memory, no GPU etc. But it is really advanced.

    Ocean Sim, same as cycles.

    Dynamic paint likewise.

    Question, what is the minimal hardware setup one might want to use with these latest blender builds? I would settle with a 32 bit machine, but what is the minimal fastest for the least $$ USD that is? What are the prices for good equipment in Van Deiman’s Land?

    • JaysWays

      What you saw in the camera tracking video was someone took a handheld camera and filmed some now and trees and used the Camera Tracking feature to track there model into the actual video.


  • jo

    I prefer :
    1-knife tool least like in 2.49b
    2-bevel tool like in 2.49b
    3-yes cycles is good

  • Blutarsky

    1st – cycles
    2nd – cycles
    3rd – girlfriend
    “x”th – my bed for some sleep ( probs when cycles is rendering anyway)

    btw for people who can’t wait. to workarround with cycles and renderlayers, i render the scene with the objects i want to have in that particular layer. disable the camera/render option in the outliner for the other stuff.
    for masking objects i use the holdout shader -> makes it all black.
    after rendering save the image as OpenEXR, RGBA.
    In the compositor i add the image as inputlayer and with alpha-over node you can play and mix like as it is a rendered layer.(sortoff)

    works for the time being and some passes

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