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Erik Selin
Erik Selin

3D artist & all that other stuff

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How to import images into Blender

There are many ways to import images into Blender. The best way depends on what we want to do with the image once we imported it.

The most basic way to import an image into Blender is to drag-and-drop it. If you drop it in the 3D viewport it will become a background image object. If you drop it into the shader editor, it will get added as an image texture node.

There are more ways that we can import an image into Blender. We will look at each of the practical ways in this article.

Basics of importing images into Blender

No matter how we import an image into Blender, once we imported it, it is available for us in all areas of Blender.

We only have to import it once. Then we can select it from Blenders internal image storage. For example, if you had the intention to bring in an image as a background image and later need it as a reference image, you can select it from Blenders internal storage.

How to import an image as a background image

The easiest way to import an image as background is to drag-and-drop it from your file browser. When you do the image will align to the view. We can reset the rotation with Alt+R.

From there we can position the image using the regular transform tools, Rotate, Move and, scale.

Another way is to press Shift+A in the 3D viewport and go to image→Background. Then browse for the image we want to import.

Note that we also have a “Reference” option in the image submenu. This will import the image in the same way but with different preferences set. The background image will always be drawn behind other objects while a reference will show up in front.

If you need a more complete guide on how to set up reference images you can read this article.

Related content: How to use background images in Blender

Convert a background image to a plane

If we imported an image as a background and later realize that we need to have it as regular plane. We can use the add-on Empty-To-Image-Plane. You can get it here:

External content: Empty-To-Image-Plane github page.

If you need help to install the add-on you can check out this article:

Related content: 30 Blender addons (install, manage, free and paid)

Once we installed and enabled Empty-To-Image-Plane we need to be in Object mode and have the 3D viewport properties panel open. Toggle it with the N key. We get a tab on the right side of our 3D viewport called “Empty to image plane”.

Select the image and press “Add image planes”

How to import an image as plane

To import an image as a plane means that we import a mesh object with a single face set to the dimensions of the image. We also get a matching UV map and material to show the image on the plane.

In Blender, we need to enable an add-on to import an image as plane.

  • Go to Edit→Preferences and find the Add-on section.
  • Search for “images as planes”. The list will filter and as you find the add-on, enable it.
  • Now go to file→Import→Import images as planes and browse for your image file.
  • The image then gets imported into the scene as a plane with the correct dimensions.

If you can’t see the image, go to either material view mode or render preview mode in the top right corner of the 3D viewport.

How to import an image as a reference

We can use the same process we use for background images if we want a reference image in the 3D viewport. But if we want it in its own window we can use Blenders image editor.

  • First rearrange your interface so that you have some screen space for an image editor in your layout.
  • Once you have an image editor open, hover it with your mouse and press Alt+O or go to Image→Open to browse for your image.
  • If your image is already imported to Blender, you can go to the dropdown menu in the image editor header and choose your image from there.
  • Zoom and pan the view so that the image fits in the editor

You can learn more about rearranging the interface here.

Related content: Blender 2.8 editors and interface

How to import a vector image such as an SVG file

To import a vector image into Blender go to File→Import→Scalable Vector Graphics(.svg). We then browse for the SVG file we need to import. As we import the image it will become a curve object.

If the curves are closed when you import them and you need open curves follow these steps:

  • Tab to edit mode
  • Select everything with A
  • Press Alt+C to toggle between Cyclic or non-cycling curves.

How to import an image as a texture

If we want to use an image as a texture, the fastest way is to drag-and-drop it from your file browser into Blenders shader editor.

  • Go to the shading workspace
  • Select the object in the 3D viewport
  • Press “new” in the Shader editor header if you don’t have a material
  • Drag-and-drop the image into the node editor
  • Connect the Image texture node color output to the basic color input of the Principled BSDF node.

Note that you need a UV Map on your object for the image to show up properly. You can learn more about using textures in Blender in this guide.

Related content: How to use textures in Blender

How to create a new image

If we want something simple such as a flat color image or a test grid for our UV Map we can create the image inside Blender. We can do this from many places.

A few examples are the Image editor, UV editor or from an image texture node in the shader editor among other places. In this example we will use the image editor.

  • Open an image editor window.
  • Find the image dropdown widget in the center of the header.
  • Press “new” or the double sheet icon if an image is already present.
  • Name your image.
  • Change resolution color etc to your needs.
  • Press ok.

The image is not saved to disk when you create it. Instead, it is a generated image that lives in RAM and is only accessible inside Blender. For some operations you need to save it to disk first.

In the image editor you can go to Image→Save and save the image or press Alt+S.

Final thouights

Since Blender is an entire suite of applications built into one there are many ways we can use images. We still didn’t cover all cases. For instance how to import an image into the sequence editor for video editing. But if an image is already imported into Blender once we can generally access it where we might need it.

The exception might be the conversion between a plane and other kinds. In those cases it is probably easiest to use the “Import images as planes” add-on or convert it from a background.

Thanks for your time.

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