Blender

Revision 1.2 | Updated: 05/12/2021

Rendering with Blender

You should know this before getting started:

  • Blender is for small/medium builds. Get too large, and Blender will start crashing.

  • It takes a while to fully setup a scene. In this tutorial, I spent approximately 2 hours total messing with the scene, not shown in this page.

  • Renders are decently fast on an RTX GPU, but can take a lot longer on CPUs.

  • There is an incredibly high amount of customisability for your scenes. If you can imagine it, you can probably recreate it.

  • Previous knowledge of Blender is definitely recommended, although not fully necessary for this tutorial. You can find a great tutorial by Blender Guru here.

  • Juni Learning has an 8-hour Blender course to go through the basics of Blender! You can check this out here. The course also covers rigging and animation.

  • Finally, this tutorial shows my own workflow. This is in no way the most efficient or the best way to render, but it is how I create my own renders. Each person has their own styles!


Looking for an easier, quicker tutorial for larger builds? Check out my Chunky tutorial!

What about Blender 3.0?

This tutorial works fully with Blender 3.0. A new tutorial may be released in the future with updated screenshots and information.

Getting started

This tutorial aims to get you started with rendering Minecraft Java builds in Blender. Please download the programs below, and take a look at the recommended system specifications before continuing.

Requirements


Recommended Specs:

  • 16GB RAM

  • Dedicated GPU

Downloading and installation

First, go ahead and download the programs listed under requirements, if not done so already. Leave the MCPrep addon as a .zip file - we will install this later. Install Blender using the provided installer, and unzip Mineways to a destination of your choice.

Mineways

Once everything is downloaded, open Mineways.exe in the Mineways folder. You may see a Microsoft Defender SmartScreen popup - press More info and Run anyway. You can then choose your world at the top left with File > Open World, or open a world manually using File > Open. You will then see a map of your world - you can resize this window to see a larger view. Use the scroll wheel to zoom out and left click to drag.

Use right-click to create a selection - this will be the area visible in your render. You might see a popup, saying that some blocks in your selection are visible below the current depth. Press Yes and continue.

To export this selection to Blender, press File > Export for Rendering. Choose a destination, and select these options:

Then press OK, and Mineways will start exporting the world as a .obj file. This process can take a while, depending on the amount of blocks selected. Once this is done, we can close Mineways.

Setting up Blender

Open Blender. If this is your first time opening it, you will be greeted with a welcome screen - you can use the default options and press ESC. We need to install MCPrep - to do this, go to Edit > Preferences (in the top left of the Blender window). Go to Add-ons and press Install in the top right.

Select the MCprep zip you downloaded earlier. Once you have selected it, don't forget to enable it by clicking the checkmark next to Object: MCprep. This is important!

If you have a dedicated GPU and are on Windows/Linux, you will need to enable it for use with the Cycles render engine.

Before proceeding, make sure your GPU drivers are up to date.

  • Go to Blender Preferences using Edit > Prefrences in the top left of the Blender window.

  • Under the System tab, enable the appropriate option under Cycles Render Devices:
    NVIDIA RTX Series: Enable OptiX, and make sure your GPU is selected.
    NVIDIA Non-RTX Series: Enable CUDA, and make sure your GPU is selected.
    AMD Radeon Series: Enable OpenCL, and make sure your GPU is selected.

You can now close the Blender Prefrences window. Note that if Blender crashes or closes before the next save, your settings will not be saved and you will need to redo this section again.

Importing the world

First, delete the default cube by pressing X with the cube selected. On the side bar, go to MCprep and choose Mineways as your world importer.

If you do not see the side bar, press N on your keyboard.

Press OBJ World Import under Mineways. Select the OBJ File from earlier.

Importing the world can take some time. Please be patient!

Once the import is complete, you can use the scroll wheel to zoom out. Use the middle mouse button to rotate the view, and hold shift while using the middle mouse button to pan/move around. Your world should be selected in orange.


If you cannot see the whole of the world, you can increase your "render distance" using the sider bar as before - go to View > Clip End and set the value to something a lot higher.

Now is a good time to save your blender file!

Preparing materials

With the world selected, press Prep Materials under MCprep tools. Use the default options, and press OK.


Note: Some objects that are biome dependant (such as leaves and grass) may appear gray. This is normal and will not appear in the final render.

Applying a texturepack

For this tutorial, we will be applying the VanillaPBR texturepack. This allows for PBR materials (roughness, normal maps and more). To do this, press Swap Texture Pack under the Prep Materials button with the world selected. Make sure the texturepack is unzipped, and navigate to it. Select the pack.png image, and enable Use extra maps, Animate textures and Prep materials.

Press Swap Texture Pack to apply it.

Aligning the camera

Reminder:

Use the scroll wheel to zoom out. Use the middle mouse button to rotate the view, and hold shift while using the middle mouse button to pan/move around.

Move your view to a nice spot for your camera - the view will roughly represent your camera view.

Press Control + Alt + Numpad 0 to set your camera to your current view.

Hints:

  • If you don't have a numberpad, go to Edit > Prefrences in the top left, then go to Input and enable Emulate Numpad.

  • If you are struggling to zoom in, go to Edit > Prefrences in the top left, then go to Navigation and enable Auto Perspective + Auto Depth.

Now is also a great time to hit save again!

Your view may look completely blank. If so, you need to increase your camera "render distance" - with the camera selected, go the options and change the Clip End.

In this tab, you can also change the field of view (focal length) - decrease the Focal Length value for a wider field of view, and increase it for a more zoomed-in look.

You can also change add Depth of Field and enable the Composition Guides to help you align your shot (such as Rule of Thirds).


Feel free to keep changing the shot and camera angle until you find one that works!

Now is a good time to save your blender file!

Materials and Rendering

Here comes the main bulk of the rendering workload. Here, we need to adjust lighting and materials until we are happy with the scene.

For this tutorial, we will be using the Cycles render engine. Go to the scene options and change the Render Engine.

If you have a dedicated GPU, change the Device to GPU.

If you are using Blender 3.0, please see the Blender 3.0 Section at the bottom of the page.

We want to preview the scene as we change our materials - so we should turn on Viewport Denoising under Sampling > Denoising > Viewport. Leave this at Automatic.

While we are here, we should also turn on the denoiser for the final render. Check the Render box too, and select OpenImageDenoise.

  • OpenImageDenoise (OIDN) is best suited for single frame renders, like what we are doing now.

  • OptiX is extremely fast and great for animations, although it is lower quality and leaves more artifacts than OIDN.

  • NLM sucks and you should never use it.

Now we need to switch to rendered view - with the mouse over the main viewport, hold Z and move the mouse upwards to select Rendered.

The first time you start rendering, Blender may need to load the rendering kernels - this may take some time.

You should be able to see lighting and materials in Rendered View.

If your scene looks perfect, skip ahead to Rendering! But, more likely, if you need to make adjustments, we need to enter the Shader Editor.

The Shader Editor

The Shader Editor is where we will be making changes to the materials. We can enter the Shading tab at the top, but I like to split my workspace:

To split your workspace, go to the top right corner of the view window and drag it to the left:

This should create two views:

Now at the top left of the second window, click the Editor Type and set it to Shader Editor:

You should now be able to see nodes for the selected object.

Editing materials

To edit a material, first select the object - we will be editing the torches first, since the default nodes for the torch can produce extremely bright lighting. Selecting an object can be easier in Solid View (hold Z in the viewport and select Solid).

Deleting and adding Nodes:

  • To delete a node, press X on your keyboard with the node selected.

  • To create a node, press Shift + A and press Search to search for a node.

  • To move a node, press G.

  • You can link nodes together by dragging the connectors to other nodes.


We now have the torch selected, and we can see the node setup. For the VanillaPBR texturepack, I modified the torch shader to look like this:

This node setup modified the torch to look like this:

I modified the rest of the materials, increasing the Normal Map strength to 10 for visible materials, and changing roughness, specular and metallic values for different materials.

For other materials, such as the glass, I just modified the shaders completely - in the case of the glass, I swapped all the nodes for a glass shader.


Remember to keep saving your Blender file!

Hint: You can also preview materials in the Materials Properties:

Adding a HDRI

While for this project I used mostly indoor lighting, you can use a HDRI to light your builds from the outside. You can grab a HDRI image off PolyHaven.

Then, in the Shader Editor, change the shader nodes to world, and use this setup:

You can change the Z Rotation under the Mapping Node to rotate the HDRI. Material preview can be helpful with aligning your image, although make sure to select Scene World under the top right dropdown:

Adding Volumetrics

Volumetrics is created by creating a cube (Shift + A > Mesh > Cube) and scaling it to the build (S). I also moved it to cover the camera (G).

Add a material to it by pressing New:

This is the node setup used:

Lighting

For lighting, I created a spot light (Shift A > Light > Spot) and moved it using G + (X/Y/Z) - with XYZ representing the axis I wanted to move the light on. I changed the Color, Power, Radius, Spot Size and Blend for the spotlight.

Godrays were created by creating a plane with a black material (to prevent unecessary light bounces), subdividing it and creating holes.

To subdivide, enter edit mode by pressing TAB and select all with A, and then press right click > subdivide and subdivide until you have enough squares to work with. Deselect everything with Alt+A and select a few to delete with X. Exit out of edit mode once completed with TAB.


I wanted to create a darker atmosphere, so I used another plane with a black material to block out most of the light from the glowstone.

This worked nicely, and with that in place, my scene was good to go.

Test Render

It is time to create the first test render! From the viewport, you should have a rough idea on how the scene shoud look - but it's always a good idea to create a test render before the final one, so you can finalise everything and be fully sure that you are ready to render.

Head over to Dimensions and change the % to 50 to render at half resolution.

You can also change the main X and Y resolutions if you want to render in a different resolution entirely.


We can also change a few options to get a quicker render:


  • Go to Performance > Tiles and change the tile sizes to:
    256x256 for GPU
    16x16 for CPU

  • Above, under Light Paths > Caustics, turn off Reflective and Refractive

We also want to scroll all the way up and change the Sampling. While we have a denoiser enabled, more samples will results in less denoising artifacts and will ultimately result in a cleaner image, at the cost of render time. I recommend 2048 or higher for the final render, especially if you are using volumetrics - but play around with this until your render times are comfortable.

For the test render, I set the Samples to 512.

To start the render, press F12.

Blender 3.0 - Cycles X

With the introduction of Blender 3.0, there is a new rendering method replacing Cycles - Cycles X. It is considerably faster, with improvements from 2-8x from Blender 2.9x. However, some settings have changed:

Viewport Changes

  • NLM has been removed as a denoising method.

  • Preview renders now stop at a noise threshold. You can can change this value.


Final rendering

  • There are no longer any tiles. You can change the Memory tile size from default for higher resolution images to save on RAM usage.

  • Denoising is on by default for final renders.

  • You can modify Max samples, if your scene requires higher samples. Blender by default will stop rendering when it decides that the noise level is low enough.

  • You should still turn off Reflective and Refractive under Light Paths > Caustics.

Hint: Change the Look under Color Management (at the bottom of the first tab) to get a more contrasted look!

Once the render is complete, we can make additional changes, and once happy, we can move onto Compositing.

Compositing

Head over to the Compositing Tab and enable Use Nodes.

You will be faced with a nodes, similar to what we saw before in the Shader Editor. I used this node setup for the final render:

I recommend the Glare node especially, to add bloom and lens flares.

Final Render

Congratulations! You made it to the final render. Go ahead and change Sampling to your final value, and change the resolution back to 100%. You are good to go! Save your scene and press F12.

Generally, render times can range from 30 minutes to 8 hours, depending on your scene complexity and settings.


Once your render is complete, press Alt+S in the render window to save your render. I recommend saving as EXR for keeping full dynamic range for post processing later, or PNG/JPEG for a quick export to share online.


The original map is linked here: The Uncensored Library - Reporters without borders


Thanks for checking out this Blender Tutorial!

The Uncensored Library | 2048 samples @ 1080p | 40 Minutes