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Blender 2.81 development watch #6: workflow

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With the feature list for the next stable version of Blender now locked, we investigate the new tools you can expect when Blender 2.81 ships in November. In the last of a week-long series of stories in which we preview the main features, we look at the latest workflow improvements.


The Workbench preview renderer now supports multi-layer matcaps, making it possible to display more complex materials while modeling or animating: just one of the workflow improvements in Blender 2.81.

6. Smaller features and workflow improvements

Not all of the new features in Blender 2.81 are part of big toolsets, so to finish this series of previews, we've picked out five smaller changes that should improve the way that you work from day to day.

  • Multi-layered matcaps
    The matcaps used by the Workbench renderer can now be OpenEXR files with separate diffuse and specular layers, making it possible to display more complex materials while modeling.
  • Eyedropper tool
    Grease Pencil, Blender's 2D animation toolset, gets a new Eyedropper tool, making it possible to select a material by picking a colour in the viewport, or even to create a completely new material.
  • New file browser
    As part of the ongoing work to make Blender's interface more familiar to artists coming to it from other 3D software, the file browser now opens in a floating window with a more standard layout.
  • Batch renaming
    To help keep large projects organized, it is now possible to batch rename items, adding prefixes or suffixes or changing case. Support for expressions makes it easier to find and replace characters.
  • Better Alembic export
    Blender 2.81 now exports mesh normals properly to the Alembic format, widely used to transfer geometry between software in VFX pipelines. It also now imports face-varying normals.

So when can I use all of these new tools?

Blender 2.81 is scheduled for release on 14 November 2019. If you want to try the new features before then, you can download the latest experimental builds for Windows 7+, macOS 10.12+ or Linux.

About Author

Jim Thacker

I've been writing about Blender since the mid-2000s when, as editor of 3D World magazine, I commissioned a series of on-set diaries from the Blender Foundation's first open movie. Since then, I've worked with ArtStation and Gnomon, ‘development edited’ books for Focal Press and Design Studio Press, and am currently editor of industry news website CG Channel.

4 Comments

  1. Some really great news, but really sad to see the file browser going this way. I really loved the old one above the 'more standard 'windowsy' layout. Mainly moving filters and sorting into dropdowns slows things down, these would be better unfolded. But I guess this is all much better for people switching to Blender.

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