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Exporting and importing OBJ files in Blender

When transferring three-dimensional (3D) content across devices or platforms, a common file format to use is OBJ. Blender supports exporting and importing OBJ files, as does many other 3D software.

To export or import an OBJ file in Blender, in the top left corner click File > Export/Import > Wavefront (.obj).

Continue reading to learn more about OBJ files, how they can be used and their import/export settings.

What is an OBJ file?

OBJ files were first developed by Wavefront Technologies, a video graphics company specializing in animation software, but has since been adopted by other 3D vendors. OBJ files are essentially text files that contain the 3D object’s information in a plain text format.

The primary uses for OBJ files are to store a 3D model/object and transfer the file to another 3D graphics software or device. OBJ files store the 3D object’s geometry information but can also store multiple colors and textures. However, they cannot store any scene information or animations and do not support parenting or empty objects.

The reason to use OBJ files over other file formats is due to their simplicity and wide range of support from other 3D graphics software. This is because OBJ files are an open source file format, meaning that it has been made freely available to distribute or modify. Consequently, OBJ is now considered a universal 3D file format and is supported by many 3D graphics and image editing software.

How to import an OBJ file into Blender?

Follow the steps below to import an OBJ file into Blender.

  • Click on File at the top left corner of the window > Import > Wavefront (.obj)
  • Browse through the files to find your desired OBJ file (note that you will only be able to see and select OBJ files)
  • Select Import OBJ

Before clicking on your OBJ file, there are a few settings to be aware of, which are:

  • Include smooth groups – Surrounds the OBJ’s smoothing groups with sharp edges. This will only be displayed when you use an edge split modifier
  • Include lines – Includes OBJ lines and two sided faces as mesh edges
  • Clamp size – Clamps the OBJ to a fixed size
  • Forward/Up – This converts the forward and up axes, since it’s common for some other software to use different axes
  • Split by object/group – Splits the OBJ by object or group and organizes names according to the OBJ file
  • Keep vert order – Compared to splitting the OBJ by object or group, this keeps the vertex order of the OBJ file

There are no prerequisites or add-ons required to import OBJ files.

When importing, you may also need to keep in mind that the OBJ will be placed at the point where it was set in the OBJ file. This may not be in the center of your scene or where you expect it to be. Another factor to consider is the object’s scale, since its scale may differ from the rest of your scene and therefore be difficult to locate.

If you are unable to find your imported OBJ, select the object from the outliner and click period on the numpad to zoom to the object.

How to export an OBJ file from Blender?

Follow the steps below to import an OBJ file into Blender.

  • Click on File > Export > Wavefront (.obj)
  • Choose the destination to save your OBJ file
  • Select Export OBJ

There are a few different settings for exporting OBJ files, here is what they do:

  • Limit to selection only – Exports only the selected objects. If unselected, all objects in the scene will be exported
  • Objects as OBJ objects/groups/material groups – This writes out each object/group/material group as an OBJ
  • Animation – This exports a numbered OBJ file for each animation frame
  • Scale – Sets the global scale for export
  • Forward/Up – This converts the forward and up axes, since it’s common for some other software to use different axes
  • Apply modifiers – This exports the mesh with modifiers applied as seen through the 3D viewport
  • Smooth groups – Writes smooth groups data
  • Write normal – This writes out the face and vertex normals. You may want to use this setting if you have used normal map textures.
  • Include UVs – Writes out the UV layers coordinates
  • Write materials – Creates a material file (.mtl) alongside the OBJ
  • Triangulate faces – Triangulates the faces of the mesh (quads become two triangles)
  • Curves as NURBS – Writes out NURBS curves instead of converting to geometry
  • Polygroups – Separates any vertex groups into OBJ groups
  • Keep Vertex Order – This keeps the vertex order in place when exporting

There are no prerequisites or add-ons required to export OBJ files.

Depending on your object as well as your use of the OBJ file, the settings you use may differ. I recommend you to try out the settings to see what arrangement works best for you and your project.

Final thoughts

Overall OBJ files are a very useful file format for 3D objects due to its compatibility with most other 3D software. We have also gone through Blender’s simple method of importing and exporting OBJ files, and the various import and export options.

Thank you for your time.

Written by: Jun

Editor & Publisher

Erik Selin
3D artist, writer, and owner of artisticrender.com

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