Another release for the fast-moving Blender, now Blender 2.91. What are the main new items?
* Most interesting for NPR renders and comics makers is more development of Grease Pencil. Antonio Vazquez’s automated “Trace Images into Grease Pencil” feature is now in there and you can apparently drag in a 2D image and convert it “with one click”. B&W only. The next release of Blender is likely to expand this to cope with importing image sequences and have PDF export (important for studios where designs need ‘sign-off’ from studio managers). You can now also re-order in the modifier stack for Grease Pencil, but I thought you could already do that. You also now open holes (“hold outs”) in filled areas.
* For modellers, you can now trim a 3D mesh “just by drawing lines in the viewport”. Super. I was astounded recently to see a demo which included fiddly multi-step / multi-panel / multi-button operations just to do something as simple as cutting the top off a 3D mesh. But it sounds like that particular fiddle has now been squashed.
* Better search, now with new “fuzzy matching” and abbreviation-awareness, for finding stuff in Blender’s labyrinthine interface. Although that assumes you can remember what the desired tool is being called this week, and how its naming differs from the 50,000 others. However, the placement of the search does look excellent, static and right at the top of the most used panel.
* For modellers and sculptors, lots of new sculpting brush improvements in things like edge brushes, cloth sculpting. More refined bevelling of mesh edges, and better Boolean intersections of meshes when modelling.
* ‘Volume to mesh’, so for example you can turn a volumetric cloud into a 3D mesh, then apply procedural textures. You can also go the other way, making a mesh into a volumetric cloud.
* New simulations for things like making a linked metal chain, and then being able to animate the chain swinging around.
* Simultaneously released, Radeon ProRender 3.0 for Blender, offering “hardware-accelerated ray tracing on AMD’s new Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs”, matching NVIDIA’s RTX ray-tracing and opening up some welcome competition there which should help to trim graphics-card prices in due course. Also (most interestingly) ProRender 3 has “a new contour rendering option for non-photorealistic renders”. Poser 12 uses the latest Blender Cycles, but apparently ProRender is a plugin for that and also has its own materials system. It is thus not likely to be supported in Poser just to aid the Poser Comic Book makers. Adding it would apparently require content makers to make and test yet another new set of materials for their store content.
Take the five-minute YouTube tour here.