(This page is based on a project by Marten Reichow, star of the the s5 ICT class 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 how light bounces off different surfaces. There 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.
The downside of using the Cycles Render engine is that it needs a pretty powerful computer - it doesn't run very well at school but may run well on your home computer and will run well on ALL computers in just a few years (even at school), due to the continuing rapid increase in the power of computers.
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 Cycles render (left) and Blender 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.
You want to change this to this . 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 choose the “Diffuse” Button in order to choose other material options. You will often use “Glossy” (metal looking), “Diffuse” (normal matte looking), “Emission” (will turn your object into a light source) and “Velvet” (plastic like looking). In “Color” you choose…the color of your surface. “Roughness” defines how clear your material is. For example: If you choose 0 at Roughness of 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. Be careful: Cycles does not fully support the normal Blender Render Lamps such as Point or Spot.
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 . You will now see a preview of your scene. If you want to render it, 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” section of this Blender-Tutorial site.
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 users of Blender explain every possible option.