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Cycles tutorial : A thorough introduction


Peter Drakulic uploaded his new Cycles introduction tutorial.

In this 33 minute long video he covers the following:

  1. How to use the Ivy generator in Blender.
  2. How to set up and fine tune mixed (blended) materials in Cycles
  3. How to apply textures to them and,also how to efficiently map them
  4. How to use alpha masks for mapping the blending of mix shaders
  5. How to add and adjust an Emission material for a light
  6. How to set up a textured background by using the Background material (Background shader)
  7. Overall,how to efficiently work with material nodes,texture nodes and ,even,scene compositing nodes

Peter is a 3D artists and CGI trainer who is using Blender extensively for about 5 years now.


  1. Finally something new! No wait ... there were like 15 of those before covering exactly those very same rather basic topics, weren't there? ;)
    Would be nice if somebody would cover some of the more advanced topics like the different usages of the light path node.

    • Thanks for commenting
      .actually I made this tutorial a couple of months ago,already,having in mind trying covering (and focusing on) the need for a node based workaround as far as the absence of an "alpha/transparency channel" -the "traditional" Blender Internal way- was concerned...
      I,also,tried to describe the >>> concept behind nodes (such as how creating a simple sky background through mixing two simple color nodes and let a "blend texture" control the gradient),not necessarily the way how to get some "pro" results ...
      so,this is a rather old ,yet not outdated,tutorial,at least so I hope...:-)
      but yes,I think you're right, we,actually,all need start sharing some cool and more advanced stuff,which I strongly believe will be the case in the near future,since the community has got excited by and is constantly experimenting with this new render engine of awesomeness!
      Thanks again for your well aimed comment

      • I didn't mean to criticize your tutorial in particular. We should be grateful for everybody who spends his time on educating the community. It was rather targeted towards the lack of advanced tutorials and the flood of basic ones  in general when it comes to cycles. But I believe that you got my point already. :)

    • Months ago I posted a similar comment, Blender tutorial writers tend to cover a surprisingly tiny ecosystem of topics. So the are lots of tutorials but the tend to be very similar. So you sit with the situation of 15 introductory cycles tutorial none covering the more in-depth topics

      • Thats especially a problem with free tutorials. The commercial training videos i.e. at cmivfx are really good and in depth. But sadly to my knowledge there isn't anything advanced available for Cycles at all - commercial or not.
        Probably that's just caused by the fact, that Cycles is rather new still. But yeh, no need to repeat the same stuff over and over again.

  2. I didn't watch it yet but I don't see in the list an important thing, and no Cycles tutorials I saw mentioned that. Sorry if it is mentioned in this video! (I'll watch it but now I'm at work. Damn.. :) )

    This important thing is how to improve render speed! It is so hidden in the bottom of the object menu that I don't think many of the users noticed it. There is a section called "Ray visibility", and you can set if the selected object is visible to different light ray types. By default every object is visible to everything, that's why it is so slow! The slowest thing is the "diffuse ray", unfortunately it is the thing that boosts realism. One thing for another...
    If you don't need GI just "blender internal style" renders but with the cool new material system, for every object disable the "diffuse ray visibility" and you will get a HUGE speedup. I would recommend enabling it for large flat surfaces like floors, walls and ceilings. Small objects don't have to scatter around diffuse rays, in most of the cases it is not that much visible. You can play around with other ray visibility options to tweak the scene. They can also cause speedup but not that much as diffuse rays.
    Also you can disable caustics unless they are needed.

    • Thanks for commenting
      no,actually,it is not mentioned in this video and thank you so much for mentioning it in your comment!...:-)
      of course,we should have in mind,that,Cycles,it's all about "making it look real" and,therefore,having some advanced features (such as GI) enabled -even at the cost of some render time- is,probably,one of the main reasons for preferring Cycles over Blender Internal,I guess.
      But,I 'll come to agree with you,in that Cycles allows for some "non realistic" setup which could prove to be a real time saver,in some cases!
      The cool thing  about sharing some tutorials with the community,at a public forum like this one,I think, is that they,usually,tend to become real "wikis" ,where inquiring minds,like yours my friend, are sharing their own experience,adding to the initial content (as imperfect  -given the human nature- as this may be) and ,eventually enriching it for the benefit of all of us!
      having said that,I thank you,once more,for your well aimed comment.

    • it seems,it was >>> my mind biased at the moment I was writing this,instead...:-)

      >>>Blender Nation is NOT biased whatsoeverl,as you have just proven it is "free as in free speech"!...:-)
      I'm also impressed by how fast,you guys,responded to my "complaint" (sort of...)...
      keep it this way,keep it alive,guys,it is for the benefit of all of us to have such a forum that we can trust!!!

      although,words aren't just enough some times to restore what some other words have greatly disturbed...>>>
      please,accept,my friends,my sincere apologies! 

  3. I have watched this tutorial yet but I plan on it.  I've watched several of Peter's other tutorials and he provides some interesting tips and tricks that I found very useful.  I'm quite surprised at some of the negative comments... if you don't find it useful, don't watch it.. shame on him for giving a free tutorial. 

    As for more advanced tricks, how about we wait until Cycles is actually in official builds.  Currently I haven't even had any luck getting a working version of Cycles for OSX.

    thanks again Peter!

    • +1 on this remark!! It is very kind from Peter to make the effort to produce such a tutorial. Even if the main topic has already been treated, there are always good things to grab from this kind of tutorial.

      Thank's for that Peter

    • There are some good osx graphicall builds of cycles, if you just do cpu rendering. I'll have to check out your tutorial. I decided to try and convert an old project to cycles, and I realize how much opportunity to explore some uncharted territory, So I hope you get a chance to make more tutorials.

    • Light rays are scattering all the way around, that is GI. It will never be fast unless you have many parallel processing cores.. or turn off GI

  4. Thank you and all others who write tutorials or provide other interesting content here. Please don't be discouraged by those who seem to have endless time to troll their way through the comments instead of doing (or sharing) something useful. The Quality of blender and the enthusiasm of those dedicated to improving and promoting it is simply amazing - just as the amount of ignorance of those not apreciating what they get here for free.

  5. thank you so much all these cycles have some sort of map textures and don't explain anything. Hopefully this covers like bump maps etc. Bc I have been fiddling with cycles and texture nodes extensively lately and it can be frustrating hopefully your tutorial can help me and my barrel scene

  6. This is all good and so forth, but I've recently been stuck with a visual effect I want, and can't seem to replicate.

    The idea, is that on the 'outside' of an object, the index of refraction is 1 - basically, air. Then in the center areas, the IoR is something like 1.5, like glass.

    I was wanting to use the new nodes based system, to make a dynamic IoR of the object using the object's normal (relative to the camera). However, I can't find a way to do this.

    This may be a bit of a complicated effect, but I've managed to create it in Maya's material nodes - and my experiments DO show that dynamic IoR is possible in Cycles.

    I just can't seem to find a way to use the objects normals relative to the camera to manipulate a material.

    • I dot know how much exploring you've done, but check out It might give some ideas on an approach, or you can post what you learn.

  7. Anyone who is proficient at using Blender is not automatically a Pro at teaching others how to use blender.
    So having lots of tutorials which cover the same topics is a good thing, one tutor will undoubtedly explain a subject better than another tutor did.
    Instead of complaining about the tutorial already covering topics you have been shown, sit and watch it the chances are you will learn something new or how to do something a different way, or the tutor will present the information in a way you find easy to understand.
    As for more advanced tutorials on Cycles - well these will most likely follow once its stable and officially released.
    While your waiting get your noodles out and do some testing you never know what you might create, it could be you showing us how to create a cool effect!

    • "one tutor will undoubtedly explain a subject better than another tutor did"
      I would vote strongly for a tutorial on making tutorials. I greatly appreciate the authors effort in teaching, but some very basic rules need to be followed - have a script, rehearse it. don't just hit record and call it a tutorial. again, I do appreciate the author's effort, but if we threw out unneeded words, I bet this tutorial would be 1/3 the length and serve its purpose a whole lot better.

      • +1 on your critique,I'm working hard on this issue each single day,I can assure you,trying to improve my English,thanks to all of you for helping me to become more useful to the community through your remarks and critique!....Peter

  8. I haven't looked at the tutorial yet. Anyway, whoever gets the trouble of concocting a more than 30' video and uploading it as a free tool deserves gratitude, in my opinion.
    So, thank you Peter, you are a nice guy, and always thank you Bart for the awesome site.

  9. Very nice tutorial! Thank you for it! Just a not though.. in your material for ivy leaves you don't need 2 scale nodes you just take the output of the one and feed both your alpha and diffuse with it ! Keep on the good work!

        • well...that's another great idea,my friend!...thanks for sharing it with the rest of us! be honest,I didn't think of this straightforward technique,I was so much excited about describing the ease of use (and the flexibility) the Texture Coordinates node offers in many cases!,also,thank you for your kind words!..:-)

    • Thanks for commenting
      yes indeed,speaking a foreign language (I'm not a native English speaker,as this should be,already,evident) for describing how to use a complex interface while,at the same time,trying to express oneself's  thoughts in a helpful way for those who are watching,could be quite the frustrating experience,I must say...
      native English speakers have an advantage,as for this,to those who speak English as a foreign language
      actually,this is part of my effort to improve my spoken English on which I'm working really hard....but yeah..
      you are absolutely right when saying that this can become really annoying...
      I do find,though,that narrating (even with some mistakes) is a much more preferable method in what has to do with  the educational attitude (and efficiency)
      in my most recent videos,though,I have tried to minimize this disturbing effect,at least so I hope...:-)
      thanks again for your well aimed comment and remark!...:-)

      • Your written English is fantastic.  Haven't watched your video yet but plan on it, as I am new to Cycles.  It's nice to see that you are open to criticism and others are providing constructive criticism.  I think it really helps everyone learn new tricks and keep moving forward.

  10. Thanks for the tutorial.

    Does the fact that you have to use an alpha mask in the tut mean that you can't directly use a photo already containing an alpha channel (the leaf without the mate) ? I have tried to do so without success. I have also try to get the alpha channel from the photo but don't have a "get alpha" node available at material node level. This would be an intermediate way to come back to you situation (mixing a diffuse and a  transparent shader).

  11. Hello Peter,
    thanks for this tutorial, it's great. I have been puzzled by your statement at 17.12 that the leaves aren't unwrapped. It seems to me that the ivy-generator itself generates a named uv-map called 'Leaves', as you can see in the UV/Image editor. This map can also be found in the properties-window in the UV Maps panel on the ObjectData-tab.
    I consider myself a beginner, so I like really like to know whether I'm interpreting this right or wrong.

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