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Blender version: 2.9x

ToC

How to change the background in Blender?

When talking about backgrounds in Blender, we may mean different things. But the most common is that we want to change the background for our finished render.

To change the background in Blender we need to adjust the world material. This is a special material that is only applied to the world background.

  • In the top right corner of the 3D viewport, switch to rendered viewport shading.
  • Go to the world material tab in the properties panel, which is the red earthlike icon.
  • Find the surface section and expand it.
  • To set a single color as the background, press the color bar and select the color you want.
  • To use a texture, press the yellow dot and choose environment texture.
  • Press Open and browse for the image texture you want setup as the background image.
  • Background images need to be equirectangular to properly map to the spherical background.

Let’s continue to explore the other kinds of background, their options and how to change them.

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What are the various kinds of backgrounds in Blender?

Backgrounds are commonly used in three different contexts within Blender. Each of which has several alternatives for backgrounds.

  • Rendered world background
  • 3D viewport background
  • Background reference images

The most referred to is the world background and here we find the most diverse options. Here are a few examples of world background types:

  • A solid color
  • An equirectangular environment image texture
  • Transparent background
  • A sky texture
  • A mesh object, such as a plane

For the 3D viewport, we can have a different background or display the same background as we intend to use for the final render. Depending on the viewport shading mode there are several options.

  • Solid mode/wireframe
    • Theme
    • World
    • Viewport
  • Material preview/Rendered view
    • Scene world
    • Studio light HDRI

To display the same background as the final render, set your viewport to rendered view and check Scene World in the viewport shading drop-down menu in the top right corner of the 3D viewport.

With scene world turned off Blender will use one of several built-in HDRI images as the background.

The solid and wireframe mode supports flat color through any of the methods, or gradient and vignette through using the theme background if it is setup correctly.

You can read a complete guide to viewport shading in Blender here:

Related content: Blender viewport shading guide

The background reference images are different. There are objects that we bring into the scene to use as reference. Most often, these images are blueprints or sketches that we can trace geometry against for easier modeling.

You can read all about how to set these up in this article:

Related content: How to set up background reference images in Blender

How to use an alpha transparent background for the final render?

We can render the background alpha transparent. This will allow us to still get the light into the scene that the background provides, but instead of rendering the background, Blender will render it alpha transparent. We can do this in both Eevee and Cycles.

Follow these steps:

  • Go to the render tab, which is the camera icon in the properties panel
  • Find and expand the Film section
  • Check the transparent checkbox
  • For Cycles, also check transparent glass and adjust the roughness threshold for glass transparency if you have glass materials against the background in your scene.

Related content: How to use alpha transparent textures in Blender

How to use the sky textures as background for the final render in Blender?

In the introduction to this article, we learned how to setup a solid color or an image texture as a background for rendered view and final render. Blender also has a built-in sky texture that let us get sky lighting without needing a separate image.

To use the sky texture, we can follow the steps outlined in the introduction, but instead of choosing an environment texture, we choose the sky texture.

Another way to work with the world material and add a sky texture is to use the shader editor. Here are the steps to add a sky texture as a background through the shader editor.

  • Press the shading workspace in Blenders header
  • In the shader editor below the 3D viewport, press object in the shader editor header and switch to world.
  • If the use nodes checkbox is unchecked, check it.
  • Go to Add->Texture->Sky texture
  • Drop the sky texture to the left of the background node.
  • Connect the Sky texture color output to the background color input.

Related content: The complete beginners guide to Blender nodes, Eevee, Cycles and PBR

The sky texture node supports three distinct types of sky that all look a little bit different.

  • Hosek/Willkie
  • Preetham
  • Nishita

In Cycles all three skies are supported while Eevee lacks support for Nishita.

Each of the Sky textures have their own set of parameters with Nishita having the most diverse set of options. Nishita is also the newest addition.

You can read more about the individual settings in the Blender manual.

External content: Blender manual, sky texture node

How to change the 3D viewport background?

As touched on earlier, there are a few ways we can change the background. Let’s start to look at what we can do in solid and wireframe mode.

For solid and viewport shading mode we have three options.

  • Theme
  • World
  • Viewport

With viewport, we can set the color directly in the viewport shading menu.

The world setting will use the viewport display color. You can find it in the world material tab in the viewport display color.

With theme set, the background is decided by the theme settings. You can find these in the preferences. Go to Edit->Preferences and find the themes section.

  • Press the arrowhead next to where it says 3D viewport.
  • Scroll to the bottom and expand theme space then open gradient colors.
  • Herre you can set the background type and the two colors.
  • Only gradient low is used for single color backgrounds while the gradient high is used for vignette and gradient type backgrounds.

For material preview mode or rendered view we use either the world material or a studio light. There are several studio light HDRIs available in Blender together with a few parameters to control brightness, blur, and opacity.

When adjusting the opacity, the viewport display color from the world material will come through more as we lower the opacity.

We can also rotate the background.

When using the scene world, the world material is in effect. For instance, by setting up a sky texture, single color or HDRI image as described earlier.

How to change a reference background image?

We can bring in an image as a background reference image by drag-and drop. For instance from explorer, finder or any other file browser.

  • To change a background reference image, select the image.
  • Go to the object data properties, which is the red image icon in the properties panel.
  • Open the Image section and press the folder icon just below the source preference
  • Browse for the new image.

Final thoughts

In this article we have looked at how to change the background in Blender. We discovered that backgrounds could have different meanings. Primarily there is a difference between the 3D viewport background and the rendered background.

Thanks for your time

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Erik Selin

Erik Selin

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

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