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Erik Selin
Erik Selin

3D artist & all that other stuff

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30 Blender addons (install, manage, free and paid)

A Blender addon is just a piece of software that extend Blenders functionality. It can be in the form of a new tool, a new way to export a file format or a bunch of shortcuts that someone thought was a good idea to put together.

The goal of blender addons is generally the same: Simplify some process or add functionality.

If you are just interested in the add-on list, click here to take you further down the page.

There is not much limit to what can be put into an addon. There are addons like animation nodes that extend Blender to allow for node-based programming of your scenes to the f2 addon that simply adds some functionality to an existing tool.

In this article, I will go through and look at how Blender organizes addons, how we install new ones, as well as a list of addons that can be helpful to you in one way or another. I list my own favorite addons as well as some that are generally considered useful. Most of them do some action in bulk, like exporting multiple formats at once, automatically pack UV islands effectively or simply make an existing tool use fewer clicks.

Manage Blender addons

Let’s start to look at how we manage addons and what addons come with blender by default.

Blender comes with a large set of built-in add-ons. Some of them are enabled by default while others are not. To find the built-in add-ons go to “Edit->Preferences” and find the “Add-ons” section. There are three categories of blender addons. These are:

  • Official
  • Community
  • Testing

You can toggle the visibility of each category by clicking on the respective buttons at the top. Hold shift while clicking on the categories to enable multiple categories. When all three buttons are blue you have a complete list of available addons to scroll through and explore.

There is also a filter drop-down where you can filter add-ons based on subcategory or status, like enabled or disabled just below the three category buttons. Addons with a checked checkbox and white text are enabled. Simply click the checkbox to enable any addon in the list.

We can also search, install and refresh. When searching the list of add-ons will update as we start to type. We will look at the installation of addons later.

For now, let’s zoom in on an addon in the list and see what information is available. Click on the little arrow to the left of any addons checkbox.

I will use the node wrangler addon as an example. Addons generally have the following information.

  • Description
  • Location
  • File
  • Author
  • Version
  • Internet

Most of these are self-explanatory and just basic information. For usage of the addon, I would say that the description can be a good read but the location is the most important information to get going with an addon.

The Internet property lists links to external webpages and if you have an addon that you installed yourself and was not built-in, there will be a “remove” button here to uninstall the addon. Checking to see if there is a “remove” button here will therefore also tell you if the addon was built-in or not.

Just another word on the location property. It is helpful, but it is not always accurate.

If you where to go to the node editor you would soon realize that “ctrl+space” is the shortcut for full screen on the window your mouse is hovering. But if we press “n” we will find a tab for node wrangler and there we will find out that the shortcut is changed to “shift+w”

This may be the case for quite a few addons at this time since this information has not been updated since the shortcut key changes for Blender 2.80. If you are using 2.79 or earlier, chances are that more of these shortcut keys are more accurate. Still, I always look at the location property after installing a new addon to easily find where it is located in the interface.

When an addon is enabled, there may appear even more settings and information depending on the addon. In the case of node wrangler, we get a handful of preferences and a hotkey list. Most addons though has no extra information here but for the more advanced ones, there may be anything from extra installation instructions to API key inputs to just a couple of shortcut key references. It all depends on the addon of course.

Blender addons installation

So, how do we install an addon in Blender? It can be easy to be tripped over by some small difference between how different addons are installed. Therefore we will now continue by looking over the most common ways to install addons and some hiccups that you may encounter.

Blender addons are made with the programming language python. Therefore a blender addon can be as simple as a single python file with the .py extension. More commonly though is that an addon is a collection of files contained in a .zip file.

In a perfect world, after you have downloaded an addon, all you would have to do is:

  • Go to edit->Preferences->Add-ons section
  • Press install
  • Browse for the downloaded addon .zip or .py file
  • Press “install add-on from file”
  • Enable addon and go!

For the most part, this is all that you need to do.

Common installation problems

The world is not always perfect though and addons don’t always install the way you would like. Almost all addon installation problems though are related to a misunderstanding between how the creator intended an addon to be installed and your idea or it. Here are some common problems.

  • Addon .py file that gets viewed as code in the browser when you intend to download it.
  • An addon downloaded as a .zip file but was intended to be installed as a .py file
  • An addon .zip that is packed to deep.
  • An addon zipped inside a .zip.

These are the three main issues I come across when installing addons. None of them are related to blender itself but rather how the addon is packaged by the addon creator. I have had these issues with both paid and free blender addons. Let’s look at them in turn.

Troubleshooting Blender addons installation

Addon .py file that gets viewed as code in the browser when you intend to download it.

Sometimes an addon is just thrown up on a web server with a link. In these cases when you press the link to download the addon, instead you see the addon code as a python file directly in the browser.

The solution to this is to go back one step to the download page and right-click the download link and select “save target as…” or similar depending on your browser. Then you will get to download the file instead. Then proceed with the “perfect world” example above.

An addon downloaded as a .zip file but was intended to be installed as a .py file

The next scenario is when the addon downloads perfectly as a .zip package but when you try to install it in Blender nothing shows up in the addon list inside Blender.

Depending on what we find there are different solutions.

If you find a .py file with the name of the addon this is a strong indicator that the addon is meant to be installed by installing this .py file directly. Browse for the .py file directly when installing the addon from preferences in Blender and see if that helps. If not, move up one folder and rezip that folder as a new package and try to install that .zip file. I usually use 7zip for this.

An addon .zip that is packed to deep.

When an addon is supposed to install as it comes it sometimes comes packed one level too deep. This is sometimes a problem when downloading addons from GitHub. We will use it as an example.

You found the addon on GitHub and press “clone or download” and then “download zip”. The browser starts to download a file that looks like “<addonname>-master.zip” In a lot of cases you will have to unpack this file and make a new zip of the folder inside before you try to install it or it won’t install properly.

The last case we will cover is when an addon is packed inside a package. That is some confusing terminology I know, but it is a quite good solution to distribute addons.

An addon zipped inside a .zip.

Sometimes when you download an addon you get a zip package, but instead of being intended to directly install, the zip package contains documentation, install instructions and other files along with the actual addon installation files.

It looks like you could install the addon directly, but in reality, the actual installation file is contained within this package that is making up the entire addon.

In those cases, you will most likely find a .zip file within the .zip file that you can use to install the addon.

Those are some common pitfalls that I have experienced when installing addons in Blender. Usually, it is small differences that make you unable to install an addon. Knowing how the addon creator intended the install experience is essential to get an addon installed.

How to find addons for the correct Blender version?

These days with 2.80 just released there is a new problem with addons. Incompatibility. When installing an addon in 2.80 and it looks like it installs as it should but you get the message “upgrade to 2.8x required”. This means that the addon was made for Blender version 2.79 or earlier and will not work in 2.80.

A lot of addons have been reworked to work in Blender 2.80 and a google search might help you find a newer version of the addon you are trying to get to work.

For example, the popular textool addon is made for blender version 2.79, and at the time of this writing, there is no indication of a 2.80 version on their website.

However, viewing this thread on blenderartists.org there is another developer who has unofficially ported the addon that can be found on GitHub.

Even if the official channel for an addon does not have a 2.80 version ready you may be able to find an unofficial update.

If you are interested in porting addons to 2.80 here are some resources that might help.

Jayanams updates add-on video on YouTube

Add-on update cheat sheet on blenderartists

With the simpler blender addons it is not as hard as it first may sound.

Where do addons go?

When an addon is installed it can be hard to know where it actually gets installed. On windows, there are generally two locations with a third sometimes existing. According to the manual, this last one is called “addons_contrib” in the application folder and it needs to be created manually. However, for me, this has been created automatically in some way. Either way, there are the locations on Windows that is used for addons in Blender.

C:\Program Files\Blender
Foundation\Blender\2.80\scripts\addons
C:\Program Files\Blender
Foundation\Blender\2.80\scripts\addons_contrib
C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Blender
Foundation\Blender\<blender version>\scripts\addons

If you end up having to troubleshoot an addon these are the places to look at to see if an addon is installed. For other platforms and more information on Blender’s paths you can take a look in the manual.

Now that you know how to install add-ons and what pitfalls there are to look for if an addon does not install correctly, we can continue to look at some of the most common and useful ones.

So these are the add-ons that I have found useful over the years of Blending. The list is 2.80 compatible. Some are built-in, some are free and others are paid addons.

30 Blender add-ons to start with

All add-ons below has a version compatible with 2.80 or later. Some may be in alpha or beta stage.

Modeling add-ons

BoolTool

How to get: Built-in

This add-on adds a few shortcuts to quickly create boolean operations. Select the boolean object and then shift select the base object. The operations are then done by holding ctrl and press one of the basic math operations on the Numpad. Most commonly used is probably “ctrl+num-” for a different operation.

F2 Addon

How to get: Built-in

The F2 addon is my absolute favorite add-on of all time. The only thing it does is that it adds some functionality to the F key that improves the modeling workflow. It adds a few functions to the “F” key. You can create a face from a selected corner vertex and fill faces way quicker than without this addon. Watch this short video on how it works. It works pretty much the same in 2.80 but it has some added settings for further customization.

Scatter Objects

How to get: Built-in

This addon makes it easy to scatter objects in an area based on a grease pencil stroke. Very handy when you want to add some debris or scatter some rocks around an area. Select the objects you want to scatter, then select a target object last. Hit F3 or space and search for “scatter”. Start the operation and paint on the target object. Hit enter when done. Extra settings are available in the Active Tool tab in the properties panel.

Simple Lattice

How to get: Github add-on page (free version)

Just like bool tool enhances the boolean workflow, simple lattice improves the lattice workflow. The addon adds a menu entry in the object menu in object mode and in the mesh menu in edit mode. When selecting either of them a lattice will be created around the selection, adding a lattice modifier to the object.

It even works with Blenders new multi-edit support. It will add a lattice modifier to any object that is fully or partially selected and add a lattice modifier to that. Then it will also add a vertex group for the selected geometry in edit mode.

Three point arch

How to get: Github add-on page (Free version)

This addon adds a tool that makes you able to create quick arches. It is found in the N-panel in the 3D view under the create tab. Hold ctrl to snap to vertex then just click three times following the gizmos visuals.

MakePillow

How to get: Github page (Free version)

Search for “Make Pillow” in the F3/Spacebar menu and just click it. A pillow will be added with everything needed to simulate it and the simulation will even start, making a pillow within a second or so. From there you just have to adjust it to your needs.

MB-Lab

How to get: MB-Lab community website (Free version)

An addon that allows you to add a human character and adjust it with just a few clicks. It is really impressive. Perfect for anyone who does not work with characters from day to day but still occasionally needs one.

If nothing else it is a pretty fun addon to just play around with. Like so many other addons it is available through the “n-panel”. It has its own tab named “MB-Lab”.

Modeling cloth

How to get: Blendermarket (Free & paid version)

This addon aims to bring some of the functionality of Marvelous Designer to Blender. It is a stand-alone cloth system that is built on top of shape keys. The most noteworthy feature is probably that you can grab and move the cloth in real-time in the viewport.

modularTree

How to get: Github page (Free version)

ModularTree adds a new node editor to Blender specifically designed to create trees using nodes. It is a pretty cool implementation that, once you get going feels natural. You can add levels of branches and adjust a large set of parameters to get the tree you want. The biggest advantage I have found is that you can go back and adjust a tree at a later point if you want to change something. This has not been possible with other tree generating solutions.

The sapling tree addon that is the built-in free alternative to this only allows you to modify the tree right after its creation. As soon as another operation is carried out the settings for adjusting the tree is no longer available.

The Grove

How to get: The grove website (Paid version)

The go-to solution to generate realistic trees. It is a very intuitive add-on. As with most tree generating software and addons, there are a ton of settings. This one, however, takes a different approach and the settings are more natural. This is a “grow tree” addon rather than a “make tree” addon. It is a more organic process where settings are more related to what happened to your tree during its lifetime rather than fixed parameters.

Archipack

How to get: Free built-in with Blender, paid version on the archipack website (Free & paid version)

Archipack has a built-in version in Blender. There is also a paid version that comes with a lot more features that helps with making kitchens, terrain and a whole lot more. I would suggest starting with the built-in version and if you find it useful, have a look at their website for more features.

Shading & Texturing add-ons

Node wrangler add-on

How to get: Built-in

Another built-in addon that significantly speeds up work with shaders and nodes. You can quickly import entire materials with this addon or add multiple nodes with a shortcut. There is quite a large array with speedup tools within this add-on. Personally, I only use a handful. Those include “ctrl+shift+t” when having a principled shader selected or “ctrl+t” on a texture node. Also “ctrl+shift+click” on a node is helpful to get a preview of its output.

UV Mapping add-ons

UVPackmaster Pro 2

How to get: Check out the review here (paid version)

This add-on is an absolute must-have for anyone tired of manually packing UV maps. It is a well thought out add-on that quickly packs your UV Maps according to your needs. Since I have already written a full review, check that out for more info.

UV Squares

How to get: Github page (Free version)

A neat addon for hard-surface and archviz modeling. Makes it easy to create straight UVs. Select a UV island in the UV Editor, the click “alt+w” to straighten it. Simple.

Lighting add-ons

Pro Lighting Studio

How to get: Blendermarket (Paid version)

The number one lighting add-on in my opinion. Very quickly add a template light set up and work from there instead of creating all lights from scratch every time. This one is on the expensive end in add-on terms though. If you are working professionally with Blender though, I have not yet found an add-on that can be considered expensive.

Gaffer

How to get: Blendermarket or GitHub page (Paid but free)

Gaffer is a complement to Pro lighting studio. It works quite differently. It more organizes your light set up instead of coming with templates and gathers some neat functions like being able to turn off all lights except one or some tools to easily aim your lights. Works best with cycles, but some functions also work in Eevee.

Rendering add-ons

D-NOISE Denoiser

How to get: Github page (Free version)

This one requires an Nvidia graphics card. But if you got one this is probably the best denoiser available for Blender right now. Easy to use and gives a better result than the built-in denoiser for the most part. Denoisers are not that great for animation yet since they don’t take the previous or coming frames into account. This results in flickering.

In Blender version 2.81 there will be an implementation of Intels denoiser. If you get the latest daily build, it is already available as a node in the compositor.

Turnaround camera

How to get: Built-in

Very fast and simple camera set up for rendering showcase turnarounds. Settings are found in the “n-panel” under the “view” tab. After a camera is a set up you will have to go into the graph editor and change the interpolation of the camera animation to linear if you don’t want the camera to accelerate or slow down as it goes around.

Check out: 5 cool camera tricks in Blender 2.80

Create IsoCam

How to get: Bitbucket repository (Free)

Same as above but for iso cam instead of a turnaround. Just add this one and you can start creating your low poly square floating world kind of image. Add the iso cam through the “shft+a” add menu in object mode.

Eevee Presets

How to get: Github page (Free)

This addon adds a section to the render tab in the properties panel when using Eevee. It has a very simple interface where you can add, remove and load render setting presets. Saves a ton of time!

Render Burst

How to get: Github page (Free)

This addon enables us to render multiple camera angles at once one after the other. This is very useful when a project Is supposed to be rendered from multiple angles. The addon adds a small interface in the render tab, properties panel, where you can choose to render all cameras or only selected cameras.

Video Sequence editing add-ons

Power Sequencer

How to get: Suprise!, another github page (Free)

The one and only add-on for VSE in Blender, made by GDQuest. It adds a whole range of useful shortcuts and operators to Blenders VSE. It also has a few scripts that can’t be run from within Blender yet. This includes creating proxies and rendering with multiple cores. Check the add-on subfolder called scripts and these videos on how those functions work.

Super fast proxy creation video

Multi core rendering with the VSE

Baking add-ons

Bake Tools

How to get: Blendermarket (Paid)

A very nice tool to set up multiple render jobs with Blenders baking system. It takes a little while to understand the interface but if you are used to baking with Blenders default tools or with another package then you will most likely get up to speed quite quickly. Access it in the “n-panel” under the “BakeTool” tab. Not that cycles must be enabled for the tab to appear. Eevee does not have support for baking.

Principled baker

How to get: Github page (Free)

This add-on bakes the inputs of a principled shader to textures. Very handy when you have created your material and just want to convert it to a texture set.

Textools

How to get: Github (Free)

Both a utility baker and UV tools add-on in one. Personally, I mostly use it for baking capabilities. But it also features a very large collection of tools to work with UV Maps.

Asset add-ons

Simple asset manager

How to get: Gitlab page (Free)

Currently, Blender does not have its built-in asset manager.  This add-on is probably the best solution to that right now. You will still likely have add-ons that implement their own kind of mini asset management system but for everything else. Start here.

Simple Renaming panel

How to get: Gumroad page (Free)

This is another handy add-on to manage large chunks of objects. It is located in the “n-panel” under the “misc” tab. The interface gives you a serach and replace function to change the name of objects. You can also add prefix or sufix to a name.

Graswald

How to get: Gumroad page (Paid)

This is really an asset pack. Well known in the community. It is a large pack of grass and weed assets of very high quality. It comes with a well thought out add-on that lets you easily manage the grass particle systems.

Other add-ons

Screencast keys

How to get: Github page (Free)

When making videos explaining a workflow in Blender or similar this can be used so that the audience can see what keys are being pressed. Like so many other addons it is found in what I like to call the “n-panel”.

Multi Exporter

How to get: MultiExporter Gumroad page (Paid)

This is another one of those time-saving add-ons. If you want to export to multiple formats at once, let’s say that you want to export a model for use in multiple applications, then this is another one of those timesavers. It puts all the export settings for the supported formats in one place and makes you able to export them all at once. It is located in the “ME” tab in the “n-panel”. Sadly, it lacks support for some major file formats.

Final thoughts

There we have it. A smorgasbord of add-ons together with some basics of how to install, manage and troubleshoot for the most part. When you have reached this paragraph you should have a good understanding of how Blender addons work on a high-level overview.

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