There are many good add-ons for Blender making various tasks easier or at all possible. This is a list of the ones I have found to be the most useful as I work with Blender.
Many of these have become built-in to Blender over the years, and you can enable them from your preferences. No extra download needed. Some, though, are still stand-alone add-ons that you need to install separately.
If you need the install instructions, you can check out this article where I give you all the details.
Related content: 30 Blender addons (install, manage, free and paid)
But let's get on with the list. After all, the best free add-ons are right here below.
The F2 add-on is the bare minimum to have for any 3D modeler that use Blender. It enhances the features of the F hotkey. That is one of the fill tools in Blender.
For instance, it allows you to fill with less geometry selected and it uses your mouse position to determine the direction to fill.
In 2.80 and later there are some extra settings in the add-ons section in your preferences. You can, for example, have the added geometry still in the active move tool and place it manually or you can have it stick to exactly the opposite side of your selection.
One of the first articles and videos I made for artisticrender was on the F2 add-on. You can read it here.
Related content: Blender F2 Addon Tutorial
No matter how much experience you have with shader nodes in Blender, the node wrangler add-on is a must have, and it also comes bundled with Blender.
Node wrangle add a lot of handy shortcuts you can use to quickly make common node connections or add common node combinations.
For instance, you can select a texture node or image texture node and press Ctrl+T to add a texture coordinate and a mapping node correctly connected to it.
The most used feature of this add-on is probably to add a viewer node so that you can quickly view any output of any node. Press Ctrl+Shift and click a node to add a viewer node to it to see its output.
Continue clicking while holding Ctrl+Shift to cycle through the outputs.
If you didn't know though, the viewer node is just an emission shader with default settings. Also, now you can directly connect any node output to the material output node surface input to preview the result and Blender is smart enough to figure out that you want to view the output even if the output socket isn't a green shader output.
If you want to learn more about the node wrangler and shortcuts, you can read here.
External content: Blender manual, node wrangler
For those of you looking for a free open-source video editor you can stop looking. Blender can perfectly handle most video editing scenarios, and Power Sequencer is the primary reason for that.
It has a lot of extra editing tools and shortcuts that make video editing much easier in Blender. For example, concatenate strips and align audio.
There are also features for trimming, selecting, and transitions to name a few. There is also a YouTube render setting preset that automatically gives you the correct output settings for YouTube.
Power sequencer also comes with PBSProxy and PBSRender. These are command-line tools that enable you to render your proxies and final render multithreaded. These speeds up the rendering process for Blender by a lot.
The list of features for Power sequencer is quite long and you can find out more here.
External content: Power Sequencer feature reference
Animation nodes is the most complex and versatile add-on on this list. There is so much you can do with it, and I have only just learned some basics.
Animation nodes is a node system that allows you to create all sorts of motion graphics in Blender. Your imagination is the real limit with this add-on.
If you want to get started with it, you can just enable it in the user preferences and find Chris P's guide to it here.
External content: Chris P Youtube playlist of animation nodes basics
Between animation nodes and geometry nodes, it is hard to decide what to learn.
Bool tools is a simple add-on that adds shortcuts for creating booleans. It speeds up the boolean workflow by a lot compared to manually adding a boolean modifier and configuring it.
You use it by selecting the object that will be the target on the modifier and then shift select the object you want to have the boolean modifier on. You can then use one of these shortcuts.
The slice feature is not part of the boolean modifier. Instead, it is a combination of operators in a macro that creates the result.
A must-have timesaver that can be enabled in the preferences.
Amaranth is an add-on that is hard to define. It is a collection of features that makes your life easier in many areas of Blender.
Amaranth toolset is included with Blender, so you can enable it from your preferences.
You can enable this add-on and continue to work in Blender as usual, and you will discover extra features that make your life easier across the interface in all parts of Blender.
Then after a while, disable it again and you find that there are features scattered everywhere that you are missing.
The latest available list of features is available here:
External content: Amaranth tools feature list
This add-on has a couple of features, but the only feature I use it for is to quickly create a square UV map. It takes your selection in the UV editor and creates square faces that are correctly aligned.
It is a lifesaver whenever you have a UV map that is slightly off. Sometimes it can work on more complex UV maps, but mostly it is good when working on simple meshes or hard surface objects that are square shaped.
You can find it here: UVSquares on Github
EasyFX aims to make it easier to add post-processing effects using the compositor. EasyFX adds an interface in the image editor with traditional UI elements. We can enable and disable different effects and adjust them from this separate UI.
In the background, it adds nodes in the compositor, creating the effects. This means that we can further customize the EasyFX adjustments with the compositing nodes if we want to tweak even further.
I have found that EasyFX is excellent at speeding up the post-processing part of the pipeline right inside Blender. Instead of having to add-and connect nodes, I can just check boxes, set come colors and adjust sliders and the nodes are added for me in the background for me to use later if I wish.
You can get EasyFX here: Nils Söderman website, EasyFX download page
You can also read my guide here: How to use the EasyFX Blender addon
This is one of my absolute favorite add-ons. It helps you to manage multiple cameras in the same scene and render them after one another in one go. This is ridiculously valuable for anyone who wants to batch render.
The add-on has some nice shortcuts as well. For instance, a one button-click to track an object with the camera or switch between camera views.
We can also do some individual camera settings in the add-ons interface so that we don't have to switch back and forth to the camera data properties tab.
When you download and install the add-on just keep in mind that the add-on is called "my big button" in the add-ons tab in preferences. So it's hard to find if you don't know what to look for if you install by copy-pasting the python file into your add-ons folder.
You can get the add-on here: Blenderartists.org camera manager thread
MB-Labs is perfect for artists like me who have no clue how to model characters but still need them from time to time.
MB-Labs is the latest iteration of this add-on. There is a standalone software and a couple of add-ons that can easily be confused with each other. But this is currently being developed.
The character you can create with this add-on are of high quality, ready to be animated with facial expressions. Ready for hair, clothing, and shading to name a few features.
The creation process is parametric driven. Meaning that you push and pull sliders to change your characters until it looks the way you want.You can also start from several templates.
The licensing of models generated from the add-on is AGPL3. But when used in a 2D render, the artist is considered the sole copyright owner since the 3D model cannot be reverse engineered.
You can get the add-on here: MB-Labs website
The license information can be found in the manual here:
External content: MB-Labs add-on license
There are plenty of free add-on for Blender. Most of the free premium quality add-ons are getting integrated into Blender these days, but there are still a handful left we find scattered across the internet.
In this article I covered my favorite free Blender add-ons with premium quality. There are plenty more available through, and some of them can be found in the Blender-addons repository here on artisticrender.