One of the key features of Blender is its ability to integrate with a wide range of render engines, each offering different features and capabilities. In this article, we will be discussing the top 10 render engines that can be used with Blender.
The list of render engines we will be going through in this article are as follows:
Before we start, let me be clear that if you are new to Blender, my advice is to stick to Cycles and Eevee. It is far easier to learn these engines since there are so much more educational material available for them than any of the other engines on this list.
With that out of the way, let's take a deeper dive into each of these now.
Eevee is the default render engine in Blender. It is Blender's own near real-time engine. This means that you can look around your scene in rendered view and see a 'live' display of what your final render will look like directly in the viewport.
Eevee use PBR materials with a node-based system that is compatible with the second built-in render engine in Blender called Cycles appart from a few differences. As far as I know, this is a unique feature. No other render engines share the same shaer system like Eevee and Cycles.
Since Eevee is built to be real time, it is not a ray traced render engine. instead, it is a rasterized renderer taking several shortcuts to give a realistic look. It is a completely different way of rendering to keep up with the frame delivery.
Eevee can still produce very good-looking realistic renders, but it takes a bit more work. The benefit is that render times comes down to a level that can be managed on a powerful enough desktop without necessarily taking days or weeks to complete. A game changer for people making animations at home.
Eevee has a wide range of settings and post processing effects built into it. To learn more about setting up Eevee you can read or reference our guide on Eevee settings and effects here.
Related content: A guide to Blender Eevee render settings
Cycles, a physics-based render system, is one of the most used and well-known render engines within Blender. Similar to Eevee, it used PBR materials, yet is able to render much more physically accurate textures with realistic displacements.
Cycles supports both CPU and GPU rendering, although the latter is naturally much more efficient. Whilst the multi-core CPU rendering is supported with SIMD, allowing for significantly faster render times.
Using the GPU with a NVIDIA, AMD, Intel, or Apple graphics card gives astonishingly faster rendering times. Moreover, Blender also supports multi-GPU use for further efficiency.
As of the Blender 3.0 release in January 2022, Cycles X has been released, which has allowed for even more optimized rendering with a GPU to help enhance render times.
Since it is physically based, Cycles has the potential to create stunningly photorealistic renders with very few, if not zero changes made to the out-of-the-box default settings.
Related content: Blender: A Cycles render settings guide
Within the viewport, the scene shown in rendered view is often seen as grainy and 'noisy' - this is due to the use of light paths to calculate how light in the real world would interact with the scene. For this reason, Blender has a built in denoiser to smooth out the noise after a certain number of samples have been rendered.
Related content: How do you Denoise in Blender?
Luxcore is an open source third-party render engine for Blender that is designed to produce photorealistic images. It is also a physically based renderer (PBR), meaning it models the behavior of light in a physically accurate manner. It also offers a variety of advanced features for producing high-quality renders, including support for both CPU and GPU rendering.
External content: Luxcore renderer website
Similar to Cycles, Luxcore also supports rendering using Nvidia OptiX. This allows for a decrease in render times: The more triangles in the scene, the better the effect of using OptiX.
As of its latest version Luxcore also supports non-uniform camera bokeh, allowing the user to get some creative and interesting effects using custom depth-of-field in their scenes. The material nodes also now have a "two-sided materials" option, allowing you to assign different materials to the front and back of the same mesh with just a single node.
Luxcore is also effective for it's many different customisable texture nodes, as well as the option to randomize the tiling for image textures or even randomize 2D and 3D mapping with much ease.
Luxcore is open source and free for anyone to use. You can download Blender compatible versions from their download page found here.
External content: Luxcore download
Corona renderer website: Corona renderer
While Corona renderer, also known as Chaos Corona, is currently only available for 3DS Max and Cinema 4D, there exist unofficial addons for use in Blender which work just as well.
Corona is especially popular among architectural visualizers. Renders made with this engine has a special quality to them that really make these kinds of renders pop.
Corona renderer allows the user to balance their workflow between speed and quality, as corona renderer is one of the fastest render engines available for most standard cases.
The renderer offers advanced material and lighting options as well as great levels of customizability to help achieve a photorealistic look in just a few steps.
Powerful procedural maps provided in the Corona renderer also grants artists a wide range of customizability and easy randomisation of textures in their scenes, allowing for a much more efficient workflow in areas such as interior design or exterior architectural visualisations, for example.
The current price for Corona is €26.90 a month for the solo version, giving you full access to the renderer plus support on one PC. For use with a larger team of people, the addon costs €34.90 a month. But for more recent pricing you can go here:
External content: Corona renderer pricing
The add-on for Blender is called Bcorona and can be bought on Gumroad or Blendermarket for $15. For recent pricing you can visit the sales pages here:
External content: Blendermarket Bcorona add-on
There is also information available on the corona forums.
External content: Corona forum
Octane render website: OctaneRender
Octane Renderer was the world's very first commercially available ray tracer to fully utilize the GPU instead of mainly relying on a computer's CPU. Today, Octane supports rendering using Nvidia, AMD, Intel, or Apple M1 graphics cards.
Octane uses unbiased rendering, meaning it takes absolutely no shortcuts in producing a rendered view and hence is as close to approximating realistic lighting as you could get, and shows rendered views for near-real time usage.
It comes with a ton of different features, such as the ability to create up to 8 'layers' of different textures on top of a base material for intuitive, customisable, and effective shading. And this is just the beginning - there's tons more features provided through software modules such as SPECTRON and VECTRON, which provide procedural volumetric lighting options and infinite procedurally generated scenes with zero memory footprint.
A monthly subscription will cost you €23.95 a month, whereas an annual one saves you a bit and comes in at €19.99 a month. This subscription is both for standalone artists and studios. Moreover, OctaneRender provides network rendering, meaning users can edit and render a scene from multiple different computers to improve on render times and enhance their creative process.
For recent pricing, you can go here:
External content: Octane Render pricing
Radeon ProRender website: Radeon ProRender
Radeon ProRender is AMD's own completely free render engine. It provides hardware-accelerated ray tracing on AMD Radeon RX 6000 series graphics cards with an improved rendering algorithm. It also features denoising options using artificial intelligence to speed up the process.
Fully available through a simple free addon, Radeon ProRender is fully integrated into Blender and even comes with its own optimized material library to choose and customise for creating new shaders.
The renderer also comes with its own environment and sky texture setup with a wide variety of options for lighting your scene in a realistic manner with ease.
Radeon ProRender uses Blender's native shading nodes to avoid a hassle over learning new shading techniques, and instead it automatically translates the nodes for use upon rendering. On top of the native nodes, it also has additional nodes such as the RPR layered texture and layered shader node, allowing the mixing of up to 8 different materials within a single node or even mixing multiple different shaders at a time.
Lighting setups in Radeon ProRender are also greatly improved: they provide a wide range of new options built on top of the native and limited Blender lighting options. Rendering interior scenes has become more effective than ever through Portal light support, which prioritizes focusing only on environment light entering through windows or entries marked as portals in your scene.
To download Radeon ProRender you can go here and click on your preferred platfrom.
External content: ProRender Download
Website: D5 Renderer
If you're looking for something with a more gradual learning curve, D5 Render is the way to go. The interface of this software feels very elegant and easy to use.
Both the base and pro versions come with access to a custom assets library, whereas the pro version also comes with a cloud-based asset library with over 10,000 models and PBR materials for interiors, exteriors, animals, environments.
D5 Render is based on ray tracing as well, allowing for near-real time renders with incredibly precision. It supports multi-channel rendering, meaning multiple types of data (such as material ID, alpha, etc.) are rendered with the content and allow for more efficient post-processing workflows.
From custom HDRI settings and geographically accurate sun and sky information to volumetric lighting and cinematic cameras, D5 Render has a wide range of lighting tools.
With its incredibly intuitive and user-friendly interface, the base version is available for free, while the pro version comes in at $38/month or $360/year.
External content: D5 renderer pricing
Website: Maxon Redshift
Redshift renderer is the world's first fully biased GPU-accelerated renderer. This means that it achieves high quality photorealistic renders with even greater efficiency as it uses estimations to speed up calculation times while still preserving a significant amount of quality.
It allows the user to adjust the quality of different elements in their scene and prioritize the more important features and base their workflow on balancing their needs for a quality/performance trade-off.
Redshift provides near-real time render views and advanced shading techniques to get production quality renders. The out-of-the-box functionality of redshift is amazing on its own, as it allows the user to get photorealistic renders with very few changes in settings and in just a matter of minutes.
That said, if you do need to make any changes to a scene, its easily updated with Redshift's incredibly fast computing times. While it isn't entirely PBR based, there exist many addons that can be used to very easily convert cycles-suitable materials to Redshift-PBR materials with just a few clicks.
Redshift for individuals starts at €46.74/month for a monthly subscription but becomes significantly cheaper on an annual subscription of €274.29/year (coming down to an average of €22.85/month this way).
External content: Redshift pricing
Renderman is the render engine produced by the famous animation studio, Pixar.
In terms of the interface, RenderMan has a robust and flexible interface that is designed to be user-friendly. It includes a wide range of tools and features that are intuitive and easy to use, making it accessible for artists and developers of all skill levels.
It is ideal for use in film, animation, and other applications where realism is a key requirement as it also uses PBR-based textures. Whilst it may not be the fastest render engine out there, it is highly efficient for use in complex and large-scale scenes.
It maximises the quality of your scene and easily overcomes common problems in other render engines such as anti-aliasing.
Renderman is free for non-commercial usage and for the commercial license the price is $595 for the first year and $250 for annual support after that.
External content: Renderman pricing
Website: Chaos V-Ray
V-Ray is probably the most well known renderer in the 3D art industry at large. Or at least has been historically.
Similar to Corona Renderer, V-Ray is also produced by the company Chaos. However, unlike Corona, V-Ray does come in the form on an official Blender addon.
V-Ray comes equipped with a vast library of materials and resources for quick and easy use when trying to visualise scenes for yourself or for a client on-the-go.
The renderer comes with an enormous amount of customizability, and users can control every single parameter in their scene with incredible precision. With the large amount of features, V-Ray might be a bit scary for first-time users, but has excellent online courses for beginners on how to get started and how to get the most out of the render engine.
On top of this, V-Ray also now supports PBR materials directly with its own generic shaders. It's a great tool to use for creating architectural visualisations especially!
Note that V-Ray is only supported on Blender version 2.79. It can be a bit confusing because in the documentation you can find mentions of version 3.0. But this is not the Blender version, it is the V-Ray version number.
For a commercial license, the price comes in at €67.90/month if you want to use it with Blender. This is because we need to use the stand-alone version of V-Ray with Blender together with a Blender add-on.
External content: V-Ray pricing
We've gone over a lot of different render engines here, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you are trying to minimise your render times or maximise the quality of your renders, choosing a render engine that suits you is entirely dependent on your needs and the type of scenes you are working on. You could perhaps even combine the use of multiple render engines to get a wide variety of effects in different scenes of your project!
Thanks for your time, and get rendering!