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Blender 2.8 Background Images Workflow


Gottfried Hofmann writes:

The background images feature in Blender 2.79 had some technical issues so the developers decided to improve empties instead and create an entire new workflow:

About Author

Gottfried Hofmann

Founder of, co-author of the Cycles Encyclopedia. Blender enthusiast since 2.50 alpha 0. Got a knack for simulations and teaching.


  1. This could have its uses but don't see it as a good replacement to the old system, it was so fast and I liked that it wasn't actually an object in the scene, I always felt it was a better system than Maya and Max image plane systems, it was actually a background image. This feature seems more like reference planes than a background image. I think there's room for both. Please Just put the old one back.

  2. I really dont like this too. The old system of background images was better, i dont know why they try to change everything that was great. I hope there will be some addon that brings old background system back.

  3. This system looks fantastic. Reference images that stay put no matter my camera angle, and allow for easy transparency to view my model? Yes please. Modeling exclusively from the front/top/side in orthographic view really feels like a fight when you're trying to model organic meshes or creatures. I've been using images with textures for a whole now anyways, it'll be nice to have a system like that, but better that also works in shaded and wire frame display mode.

    • I never got this because as soon as you move the camera the image plains are missaligned and prity usless anyway. Again i can see where you would use it but its not a replacment for the current system!

  4. I totally love how easy is now to import images as planes, I use that almost 100 times/day, thanks to the amazing developers......

  5. Keep old system as an option, which is super easy and really fast. Single view modeling in Blender is superior to any other 3D package.

  6. Two things that didn't come up in the video:
    -Is it possible to set these image-bearing empty objects to be non-selectable in the outliner, so that we don't accidentally select them while we're working on our meshes?
    -is it possible to set the visibility of the images to x-ray, so they show through other geometry?

    If the answers to those questions are both "yes," I'm having trouble thinking of any reason why the old system is inherently better than the new system. True, it takes a few extra clicks to set up images for front, side and top views, but you usually set up reference images once when you start working on a project and don't touch them again until you set up the next project; it's not like those extra clicks add up in any meaningful way.

    Maybe some kind of macro or script could be implemented to quickly generate up to six empties from appropriately-named image files (like "reference_front.png", "image_left.jpg" or "blueprint_bottom.exr"), automatically disable selectability on the created objects, and set their alpha to 0.5 automatically? That would save us some time, at least...

    is there some key feature of the old background image system that I'm forgetting?

    • *edit*
      I just confirmed that 2.79 already allows you to "restrict viewport selection" in the outliner for empty objects set to display an image, and also to enable "X-Ray" display mode for them. The difference is that dragging an image to the 3D view in 2.79 creates an old-style background image, where it creates an empty with an image in 2.8.

      Unlike Kristy, I'm not convinced that having the empties remain visible in non-ortho views is a good thing. However, it looks like it is possible to set up a driver on the image's "restrict viewport visibility" outliner setting... if the global camera angle could be used to drive the image's visibility, that would make it possible to hide the image at non-ortho viewing angles. (right now, the global camera can't be selected as a driver object, because it's not an object, but maybe there's a way to do it with Python?)

  7. I like the new way to use backgrounds in 2.8 better. Frustrating when you are working on a model barely move the model enough to make the image vanish. The other thing about the change I like is now once you get your basic shape done you can move the image aside and use it as a reference image.

  8. Looks like a fine replacement. The only thing I'd like to see is a way to lock/unlock the background images so that they aren't selectable when you are selecting objects.

  9. Im used to old system. Worked a lot with image planes in 3ds Max6 years ago and prefer blender vieport planes. When working on complex model with tens or hundreds of parts, I just do not want additional objects in the scene. Disapeering background images is great to quickly inspect model from different angles, unlike empties, that will stay in scene.

  10. Yeah, I agree with some of the others here: I rather prefer the older way, for several (nuanced) reasons.

    This looks like a time where having the option for the older way of background images and this newer way would best benefit the user base.

    I'm all for good new things, but sometimes the best option is options. Sometimes, one size doesn't fit all. This is one of those times.

    I hope the developers (if you're reading here) keep the various feedback written here (and elsewhere) in mind.

  11. I find this new method difficult when using multiple references on the same axis (Example: Top and Bottom orthographic reference). From what I can tell the image planes have no way to turn off back face visibility so to model with references on the same axis you have to set up multiple collections and toggle visibility to see the proper reference. If single sided view port rendering was an option this wold solve this problem.

  12. I just downloaded the latest 2.8 version ( bb0b4b008ed-win64 ) hoping to get a jump on the new work space. I only got as far as trying to setup the background images. Holey Moley... Was there some big problem with the old way of doing it that I wasn't aware of because it was working great for me. Oh well I guess I'll just have to plug away at this for a while... Who knows maybe I'll end up liking it better.


    Thank you very much for this very clear tutorial. But I want to render background in camera view. I check "View as render" but I can't see any background. Could you explain what I forgot to check to get it? Thanks.

  14. Hmmm, I've been mostly playing about with 2.8 for now, there were some issues before that for the most part have been fixed by now... but this is maybe the first time I thought "wow, it may actually make sense to start working in 2.79 and then bring the file into 2.8 if needed.

  15. I would be so happy if somebody would create a 2.7 background image addon for 2.8. The old way was so much better, in my humble opinion.

  16. my only issue is this system seems ass backwards as far as left and right orientation of the character when creating a reference background image. The character's left side has to be put and aligned to the right view and the visa versa for the character right side. Nothing in the documentation of 2.8 makes this clear until you try and put the character left on the viewpoint left, then the front view will be the back of the head if you work on the left side first.

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