Graswald has been around for several years. During that time it has evolved and aged gracefully. In its current state, I dare to say that it is both a good-looking and robust product with just a little too many bells and whistles. Let’s dive deeper into it in this review to see what I mean.
What is Graswald? Graswald is a Blender add-on and asset pack designed to help 3D artists create realistic nature. Specifically focusing on grass. It includes nearly 700 individual models and an add-on that builds on top of Blenders existing particle system to help distribute these nature assets across emitter objects.
If you go to the site, you can scroll all the way down to the bottom and find a link to the gallery. The images created with this add-on speaks for themselves.
But let’s dive in to the review first!
Get Graswald here: Graswald website
What are the different options Graswald offer?
Graswald comes in four different flavors.
- Asset Library
- Graswald Pro
You can find all of them on their website here:
Get Graswald here: Graswald website
We will focus on Graswald Pro in this review, but we will briefly go over each of the offers to give you an idea what they are.
GTry is the demo version. If you go to their website you can sign up for the newsletter and get a link to a free version of Graswald. The assets included are the Ribwort Plantain and Creeping Bentgrass as well as a Demo scene and a scaled down version of the Add-on.
This package is of course designed to get you on the E-mail list and move you towards buying the actual product. But since I like kits and goody bags I think it is a nice touch that you get to try it out. After all, compared to other add-ons for Blender, this one is more of a premium, so trying it out may help you decide if it actually is for you.
The asset library offer only includes the models and not the add-on. The models come as fbx files with png textures. This is probably a good option for all that use software other than Blender. Also, possibly for those that have a system in place for asset management and want to include the assets into that existing pipeline.
Keep in mind that the options below has particle system setups and materials ready. So if you are primarily using Blender, this is not the option for you.
This is the scaled down version of Graswald Pro. It features around 500 models, 473 to be exact. This is most of the models but the add-on also lacks some features of the Pro edition.
Things such as physics simulation/animation, additional material control from within the add-on and the ability to create your own assets are Pro features only. But you can add already created asset packs at this tire.
Personally I would be fine without the material features. After all, you can always tweak materials directly and I don’t want too many sliders and buttons to learn. An add-on like this should remove complexity and not add it. This means that the more control I have with fewer buttons and sliders, the better. That balance can be hard to achieve since all users have their own preferences.
But being without the one click animation feature may be a deal breaker for this tier. At least for me. Even if I don’t use the animation feature on a daily basis. It is enough for this feature to save me time on a single project to warrant the next tier. But if you feel like you can live without it, this is a good deal for most freelancers and hobbyists alike.
With this tire we can also add model packages if we happened to have any lying around. With the Pro version below we also get a tool to create such packages.
This version includes both the add-on and assets with ready-made materials and particle system, just like the basic Graswald version.
It has nearly 700 models and adds the animation features. I would say that those are the main selling points above the standard edition.
We also get the ability to add and create asset packages that we can use together with this add-on. We can also use the packages created with the Graswald standard edition as mentioned above.
This version also give us a bunch more settings for particle systems and materials, so we can tweak our grass for eternity if we want.
What I have learned from other purchases is that the highest tier also gets the most attention. This means that if new features or assets come in the future, they will surely end up in this version. But for lower tiers, you can never be sure if new features will be added.
For a full comparison list you can go to the Graswald website, click on “Buy” and scroll down to find the comparison chart link.
Get Graswald here: Graswald website
How do we install Graswald?
We install Graswald like any other add-on in Blender. After downloading it you will get a zip file. Be warned that the file is about 1.3Gb in size and may take some time to download on a lower end connection.
Go to the edit menu and find preferences. Go to the add-on section and press Install. Then browse for the Zip file you downloaded and press Install add-on.
Blender may freeze for a short duration since the add-on is quite large. It contains all the assets and Blender will copy them to Blenders add-on folder.
Once that is done, make sure to enable the add-on by checking the box next to the add-on name. Then close preferences.
You will find the add-on on the right side properties panel toggled with “n” in the 3D viewport. A new tab called “Graswald Pro” will appear.
How do we use the Graswald add-on and assets?
Once we located the add-on on the right side properties panel we will see that there is a number of sections under the new Graswald tab.
- Overall settings
To start using the add-on we need an object to scatter our grass assets across.
Let’s look at this from the top down.
The outliner section is where we add particle systems to our selected object.
Graswald uses Blenders particle system behind the scenes. If you are familiar with it, you may know that it is made up of containers that may in turn, contain a set of particle system settings.
This means that we have the slots for particle systems, and then we have the actual settings that may populate one or more of those slots in this section.
We add a particle system to the selected object with the plus icon next to the currently empty list. Then we press “Create new settings” to populate that slot with settings that we can start to change and reuse across different particle systems.
If you press the settings tab afterwards, you can see the list of settings as well as what objects are currently using them and the particle system container name. A very handy overview.
Switching back to the systems tab, there is a down arrow at the lower right corner of the list. Here we can automatically rename all the particle systems we created according to the grass we choose in the next section.
There is also an export fbx button. The first time I tried this I got a message to save the file first, strange since the built-in exporter does not have this requirement.
After saving the file I tried again and the exporter threw an error. However, the files seems to be saved. A single fbx containing the entire scene as well as a folder with textures.
I don’t understand why this is here but it doesn’t bother me much since it is not a core function of the add-on and I can always use the built-in fbx exporter.
Other than that I couldn’t find any major problems. For instance if I try to add a particle system to a non-mesh object such as the light, a message is shown in the info bar at the bottom catching the mistake.
In many cases when testing add-ons things like this is not accounted for, instead we get a cryptic python error, and we can’t know if the operation was half completed or not.
So far, nice error handling except for the not so obvious fbx exporting feature.
This is where Graswald really shines. There is a good amount of grass species as well as debris, moss and leaves to scatter. For each species there is a few variations like flowers, tall and short grass etc. Some just have one variation, but many of them have 3-4 variations as well.
The quality of these models are just excellent. There is nothing to complain about.
I also find myself enjoying the custom thumbnails and icons in this section as well as in the outliner above. It gives a nice touch to the interface.
We can filter the collection by type, such as grasses, weeds or fallen leaves.
We also have the option to select the species either from a traditional thumbnail viewer or from a drop-down menu. This is very welcome since thumbnail viewers in Blender are very slow to load while the icons are instant.
The growth section is where this add-on tries to complement Blenders particle system by exposing parameters in the interface so that the user don’t have to go and find parameters in the particle system interface every time.
Personally I am mildly against this kind of interface addition since the target audience most likely have fairly good grasp of the particle system anyway. But I understand that there is a good intention behind it.
If I have one or two add-ons that try to overlay Blenders interface like this I don’t mind. But if there is a dozen add-ons all trying to add their own interface on top of the particle system or node graph or whatever part of Blender, that becomes a pain to manage and learn.
With that said, Graswald has a pretty good implementation. The settings are neatly packaged into groups depending on their influence, and they are easy to understand.
The only feature I regularly miss is to control the distribution based on a texture. For this I have to go back into the particle system settings and add a texture there.
A neat feature that I really appreciate is the elegance concerning the density setting. If you set the density to some value, say 100, which is supposed to be “moderately dense”, the number of particles will adapt accordingly if you change the size. The perceived density will stay the same.
Sliding the density value, it goes from 0 to 100 but if you input a higher value, like 250, the slider adapts and the maximum density becomes 500. Set it to a lower value again and it once again the max value drops.
Small features like this adds a ton to the quality and overall feel of a product.
Dropping to the “orientation” subsection there is a neat feature I want to highlight where we can have the assets rotated towards a sunlight. Pretty cool feature.
Despite generally being against adding an interface on top of an interface, I think, for the most part, it makes sense in this case.
Leaving my skepticism about adding interfaces on top of interfaces, I think the material section is nice and tidy. It is easy to understand the individual sliders, and they do what you would expect.
Each specie have its own material and the sliders available can vary depending on the species you choose. This is what the material section looks like for the Creeping Bentgrass.
At the top we can choose between three different quality levels depending on how far away our grass will be from the camera.
Next we have a pass index value. This refers to the material pass we can add as a pass in Cycles to mask out the material in the compositor. However, I suggest that you use cryptomatte instead since it has support for anti-aliasing on the mask creating a much smoother edge. Here is a simple example and you can read my article on cryptomatte here:
Related content: How to use Cryptomatte in Blender
With the advanced settings checked, Graswald takes its interface to the next level and exposes more sliders than fit on a 4k screen. I am thankful that these are tucked away nicely and only exposed when I really do want ultimate control.
This section features some optimization settings.
We can change the viewport draw type. This is otherwise found in the object data tab, under viewport display for each object. But here we can change the draw type for the entire particle system at once.
The display percent slider comes from the particle system settings. It just changes how many particles of the actual rendered particles will be visible in the viewport. A very handy optimization feature and nicely exposed here.
The optimized material checkbox seems to change the material to an emission shader. This checkbox is also available in the material section above. But it also only seems to work when the material quality is set to high. To be honest, I have no idea when I would want to use this since there are also material quality levels.
Next we have a modifiers section. Each model has a subdivision surface and a decimate modifier in its stack that’s by default set to 0 for the subdivision and 1 for the decimate, effectively nullifying its effects.
Here we can either increase or decrease the resolution of the mesh with these sliders that are connected to the corresponding modifiers values.
This is one of the selling points for the Pro version. The physics system can be a bit sensitive and it is easy to get glitches. Therefore, I suggest that you test with just a few particles first and add complexity and test settings as you go.
For quick animations though, it works well with the default settings, just making very slight tweaks.
Here are a couple of short tests. Keep in mind that this was rendered below 4 seconds per frame in Cycles on RTX 2070 Super so the image quality may not be great. But it gives a taste of how an animation can look.
Note that in the second test the image suddenly jumps, that is not a video glitch, instead it is the simulation that exploded on a couple of frames.
The physics system do need some additional work. It works for occasional animations but not for daily use.
In this section we can change some default settings and access the Package management system. I won’t go into the package management system into detail. But what it does is that allow us to create packages that can be imported and used within the Graswald interface. Only the Pro version allows creation of Graswald packages but the non-Pro version can also import packages created in the Pro version.
We also have some general settings such as linking vs appending on import and the default draw mode and a scaling parameter we can play with if we think that the assets default size is incorrect.
What are some drawbacks of Graswald?
Apart from a few glitches such as the fbx export feature there are primarily three things that come to mind when talking about drawbacks. The first one I think is the interface. Many asset related add-ons struggle with this.
Graswald does a pretty good job with exposing parameters in one place. Some key features are missing though, like a good way to mange distribution by texture. I still have to use both the particle system tab and texture tab to get this going.
It defeats its purpose when I have to get out of the Graswald interface for this.
I can also miss having an easy way to add wind direction in the physics tab. The current system just gives some general turbulence. The physics tab also needs some constraints since it is pretty easy to mess up your animation.
The second one is the package management system. Personally I would reevaluate the value of those features in its entirety. I don’t think Graswald should be an asset management add-on and therefore shouldn’t aim to bring assets into it’s add-on.
Instead, I think they should focus on getting Graswald into other asset management systems. However, that is easier said than done. There is no real telling how users manage their assets since there is no standardized way.
Hopefully the upcoming asset management system for Blender can solve this so that we no longer need an add-on for every kind of asset we have.
The last point I want to mention is performance. Working with high quality assets is taxing on your computer.
This is not an issue that the Graswald team can do much about. You just need to take one step at a time and not go overboard to quickly or you might find Blender coming to a halt quite frequently.
There are features in place to help us with this but just know that these assets is not buttery smooth to work with if you don’t do some optimizations.
What are the benefits of Graswald?
Graswald has the best grass assets I have seen. The assets are really the highlight of this product. That is the main selling point of this entire package and a strong benefit of using Graswald.
There are also nice highlights about the add-on. For instance, I don’t have to wait for the thumbnails to load. Instead, I can use the drop-down menu and select the species I want from there. A nice example on how to get around Blenders limitations.
I also appreciate some other details such as how well the density parameter works and the fact that I can display only the essential material parameters or choose to expose all of them with a checkbox.
Also, the drop-down where I can easily select different material qualities is a very handy feature.
I also like how we can rotate the assets based on the rotation of a sunlight.
I could go on and on with examples of details that speak to me regarding the add-on and I can find myself sitting, playing with the particle system settings for much longer than I should, just because it’s fun to see how nice it all looks.
Get Graswald here: Graswald website
There are both ups and downs to Graswald. But overall I think it’s a good system to add nature to your scenes. For me it is currently the system I use when I need realistic grass.
The most important part is the quality of the assets and that they are easy to add and use. I think Graswald hit the major points and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who regularly find themselves in need for quality nature.
Get Graswald here: Graswald website
All the links to the Graswald website from this review are affiliate links and by buying Graswald through one of the links you not only get great nature assets, you support both Artisticrender and the continued development of Graswald at no extra cost to you.
Thanks for your time.