Blender’s Cycles Render Engine Pt 1

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and play with Blender 2.62, and more specifically the Cycles render engine.  It is still in development and has a ways to go, but
I think it’s pretty cool.  I know I’ve said before that Blender is not my first love, but it just keeps getting better and better.  They are definitely headed in the right direction.

Now as I said, I am using 2.62 which was downloaded from Blender.org.  If you have downloaded a version from GraphicAll.org then yours may look a little (or a lot) different.  That said, this is less tutorial, and more “look at the cool stuff I found” than my usual posts.

First off, if you have the plain version like I do, then the first thing you need to do is figure out how to set it to Cycles.  That is easy enough to find.  On the top bar, you will see “Blender Render” with arrows next to it.  Click there and choose “Cycles Render.”

Now, normally to render as you work, you would hit F12.  With Cycles, you can set it to constantly render while you move the view around.  This is a little hard to explain without showing you in video, but I’ll do my best.

At the bottom of your window, next to where it says “Object Mode,” is the Viewport Shading menu where you can choose wireframe, solid, texture, etc.  In that menu, with Cycles selected as the render engine, you can choose “Rendered.”

Go ahead and try it.  It will render a preview of your lovely cube in nice shades of gray since we haven’t put any textures on it.  What’s so special about that?  Well now, move your view around.  Try zooming in or use the mouse wheel to adjust the view angle and watch as it re-renders the preview automatically.  Pretty cool, huh?

The next thing I want to just touch on is textures.  I had a lot of fun playing around with this and in a future post I will go over some more about textures.  First, let me show you the end result.  It’s not anything pretty, but it does show some of what you can do with Cycles.

So, how did I do this?  Well, this is what the final version of my nodes editor looks like:

So how did I get to this thing called a nodes editor? And how did I get it to look like that?  We’ll start from the beginning.  If you’ve already been playing in Blender, you can go to File > Load Factory Settings to reset.  Don’t forget to select Cycles at the top after the reset.

Now, we need to make room for the nodes editor.  In the upper right corner of the User Perspective window are some diagonal lines.  I’m sure there is a name for it, but I have no
idea what it is.  Click on it and drag down so that you have 2 user perspective windows.  The cursor will change to crosshairs when you are over the correct spot.

Next, in the lower left corner of each of the User Perspective windows is a little cube with up and down arrows.  That’s where you can change between 3D view and various editors.  Select Node Editor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the lower window, create a couple of objects.  It’s always nice to have a “ground” plane as well so your primitives aren’t floating in space.  As a reminder, the short cut to add an object is shift A.  N brings up the properties so you can make adjustments to your object.

Now that we have some objects to play with, it is time to get to the fun stuff.  Select one of your objects (I picked a cube), go to the materials button, and click New.  You may have noticed 2 boxes appear in the nodes editor.

The Diffuse BSDF box on the left has the same selections as the materials tab on the far right of the screen (color selection and roughness) which means that you can make adjustments either place.  It is attached to a Material Output box located to the right in the Node Editor.  If nothing is connected to the Material Output box, then your object will appear black in the render preview.  You can drag the boxes around to make room for more boxes, or to neaten things up if you want.

Now, I’ve decided I want to add some gloss to my cube.  With the cursor over the Node Editor, hit shift A.  Go to Shader > Mix Shader.  This will give you a Mix Shader box
that is not connected to anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we’re going to connect it to the boxes we already have.  Click on the green circle next to BSDF in the Diffuse box and drag it to the top green circle in the Mix Shader box.  Now that Diffuse and Mix Shader are connected, we need to remove the connection between Diffuse and Material Output.  Click on the green circle next to Surface in the Material Output box and drag the line into the empty space.

 

 

 

 

Next, we need to connect the Mix Shader to the Material Output box by dragging from Shader to Surface. This is what your Node Editor should look like:

Using Mix Shader implies that we will be “mixing” a couple of things.  At the moment, we only have one, which is the Diffuse BSDF box.  So, we need to add a second one. Shift A and go to shader > Glossy BSDF.  Go ahead and connect the Glossy BSDF to the lower Shader green circle on the Mix Shader box.

Adjusting the roughness in the Glossy BSDF box will affect the reflection of other objects in your cube, or whatever object you started with.  I set mine to .01.  Play with it until you get a result that you like.

The next thing I did in my example was add a texture.  In the Node Editor, hit shift A and select something in the Texture menu.  I selected Checker because it’s pretty obvious what it does.  Move the resulting box up to the left side of the Diffuse BSDF and Glossy BSDF boxes.  Then connect the Texture box to the Diffuse BSDF box.  If you chose Checker Texture then you can do this by dragging from the yellow circle beside Color to the yellow circle on the left side of the Diffuse BSDF box.

Without changing any of the settings in the Checker Texture box, my render looks like this:

Go ahead and play with the settings in whichever texture you chose.  You may need to move any extra objects around as well to get the effect of the reflection in your main
object.

After playing around a little, this is what I ended up with.

You may have noticed that your render is a bit fuzzy or grainy.  You can adjust that somewhat by going to the little Camera button on the right side of your screen and making adjustments there.

Next time, I’ll talk some more about textures and we’ll get into lighting.

 

About Rebecca

Like Tempest, I have a degree in Animation and Game Design from Virgina College. We graduated together and Rio is not far behind! I like modeling buildings (all kinds, not just castles) and the furnishings to go inside. In my spare time (what little there is) I paint, model, write, create mods and custom content for The Sims 3, and play all kinds of games on my PC, Wii, and PS3.
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