3 Massive Features of Blender 2.66 and How To Use Them

Blender 2.66 is out! Download it now if you haven't already. So what's all the fuss about this new release anyway? Well besides a whole bunch of bug fixes, there's also some pretty big Blender features included...

Let's take a look at each new feature in detail...

1. Cycles Hair Rendering

Arguably one of the biggest features of this release is the ability to render hair using Cycles.

What is it?

Put simply, it allows you to render strands using the Cycles rendering engine. Blender has had the ability to render strands using the internal renderer for years, but only now can you render strands with Cycles.

How do I use it?

Check out my full tutorial on rendering hair with Cycles. But in a nutshell...

Go to the ppost panel and you'll find a "Cycles Hair" section. Here you can change the size, method and shape of the rendered hair.

2. Dynamic Topology

Sculpting fans will rejoice to hear that Blender finally has the capabilities for Dynamic Topology (AKA Dynamesh from Zbrush).

What is it?

Dynamic Topology allows you to quickly add detail to a mesh without having to worry about topology. It automatically creates the required vertices on the fly. This makes it a great tool for quickly sketching out your ideas without getting bogged down with the technicalities of topology.

How do I use it?

Go into Sculpting Mode, press T to bring up the toolbar, and under Topology you'll find a button called "Enable Dynamic". Start sculpting and you'll notice your mesh magically generates detail wherever you paint. Change the detail Size to scale how much fine the detail is generated.

Watch it in action here.

3. Rigid Body Simulation

What is it?

Rigid Body simulation allows you make any object roll, collide, bounce or smash as it would in the real world. Previously this feature was only available to the game engine, and was cumbersome to use for animations. But it's now been fully integrated into the editor and animation system, making it much easier for artists and animators to use.

How do I use it?

Go to the Scene panel and click the Add Rigid Body World button.

Next press T to bring up the toolbar and you'll find a section called Rigid Body Tools.

For more, watch this full tutorial on getting started with the Rigid Body simulator.

Other cool features/improvements

  • Cycles Material Preview - You can now see how your Cycles materials look in the material panel, just like the old internal renderer. A BIG time saver for creating materials in Cycles.
  • Matcap - Allows you to quickly see how your model will look with different materials and lighting. Really helpful for sculpting.
  • Retina support - All text, buttons and icons are now clearer, crisper and higher res!
  • Highlighting of Render Tiles - Now when you hit render, you'll see orange boxes around the currently rendering tiles. Very nifty!
  • Support for packed textures - Blender now supports textures that have been packed into the .blend file. You no longer need to unpack them in order to render them correctly.
  • Transparent Panels - You now have the option of making your panels transparent for a more open feeling.

So what are you waiting for? Download the latest version now.

What feature are you most excited about? Leave a comment below.

Tips and TricksAndrew Price