The Cycles Render Engine

(This page is based on a project by Marten Reichow, star of one of my ICT classes in 2012-13)

Most of the Blender pages in this site assume you will use the Blender Render engine which was the normal way of working until recently. However, the Blender Render engine has a huge weakness - it renders images using only direct light - it does not make any attempt to calculate what happens when light bounces off one surface and then another. Thus the rendered images are far from correct and can look unnatural.

The Cycles Render engine DOES calculate how reflected light will illuminate surfaces, and therefore gives a more realistic result without 'fudging'. Also, the Cycles Render Engine can be set to run all the time, so that you can always see a rendered image without having to repeatedly request renders manually. Thus, Cycles is the future of Blender, the engine you should concentrate on learning. Thus Cycles is a rendering engine which allows you to use realistic, physics related calculations in order to analyze lighting, textures, glass- and glossy materials for you get a realistic end-result.

Here a comparison between Blender render (left) and Cycles render (right):

To activate Cycles, you first need to change the rendering engine from “Blender render” to “Cycles”. To do this, there is a button at the top of the Blender-window. Simply click on the button and choose Cycles.

Now, if you move to the Materials panel, you will notice that it looks completely different. Choose “Use Nodes” if this panel does not appear.

You can click the 'Surface' button in order to choose other material options. You will often use “Glossy” (metallic look), “Diffuse” (normal matte look), “Emission” (will turn your object into a light source) and “Velvet” (plastic-like look). In “Color” you choose…the color of your surface. “Roughness” defines how rough your material is. For example, if you choose 0 roughness for your Glossy-Material, it will work as a mirror, while a Roughness of 0.2 will make it work as if the mirror is foggy or a metal.

Use « Mix Shader » to blend two different Materials in order to create a new one. So for example, if you mix “Velvet” and “Glossy” with a Roughness of 0 you will get something really metallic looking.

Fac. (Factor) defines how much of each Material is mixed in the new Material. Thus, 0.5 will mix equal parts of each Material; 0 will leave you with only the first one; whereas a value of 1 uses only the second material in the mixing slots.

Create objects and apply a “Emission” Material on them in order to let them give off light in your scene. Depending on the size of your object and the strength of your emission, the brightness will increase or decrease.

If you go to the bottom of the 3D Part of Blender you will see this:

If you click on the White dot you will be able to choose 'Rendered' . You will now see a preview of your scene, updated continuously in real time. If you want to make a still render in higher quality, click on the F12-Key. That’s how simple Cycles is!

To learn how to apply multiple Materials on the same object, go to the “Materials” page.

Should you want to learn a bit more about the multiple functions of this incredible rendering engine, I encourage you to have a look at YouTube, where many talented Blender users explain every possible option.