Rendering is the process that converts your 3D scene to a 2D image or animation. During this process, Blender calculates the properties of materials and lights in the scene to apply shadows, reflections, refractions, and so on—everything you need to build your cool final result and turn it into an image or a video.
To set the resolution and format for the image, you need to go to the Render Properties tab of the Properties Editor (the camera icon). You can set the resolution in the Dimensions panel and the format in the Output panel. (The output is not needed for still images, as you can save them after the render, but you should set it if you’re rendering an animation.) After selecting a resolution and format, click Render to complete this simple process. In the following sections, I describe the differences between rendering with Blender Render and rendering with Cycles.
Rendering in Blender Render
You can adjust a lot of options for the render, but Blender Render doesn’t have many important options to configure. You can set up things like antialiasing samples to get a smoother render or improve the performance depending on your computer’s specs, but for this basic scene, the render is adequate as it is.
Rendering in Cycles
If you render in Cycles, you’ll probably need to change the samples number. Cycles uses samples (a sample is like an iteration on the image) to render, so if you don’t use enough samples, you’ll get a noisy image. Each sample refines the scene further, so with more samples, you get cleaner renders. This feature is handy for doing quick test renders and not spending lots of time on them. Even if a render is noisy, it gives you an idea of how everything will look in the end, so you can change the number of samples based on how much time you have.
On the Render Properties tab, look for the Sampling panel. If you’re getting a noisy render, increase the Render Samples value, if not, leave it as it is or reduce it to speed the render. (The default Render Samples value at the time of this book’s publication is 128, but it may change in future versions of Blender.)
Saving and Loading Your .blend File
Now you’re at a good point to save your file. Rendering can take some time, and something can go wrong in the meantime (such as power failures or software crashes) that could cause you to lose your work. That’s why it’s recommended that you save your file often.
You can save your file by pressing Ctrl+S. If you’re saving a file for the first time, Blender displays a menu where you can select the location where you want to store your file and name the file. If you’ve saved the file previously, press Ctrl+S to overwrite the previous version. If you press Shift+Ctrl+S, Blender displays the Save menu again so that you can choose Save As, which allows you to create a new copy of the file with a different name.
To open a file, press Ctrl+O. Blender shows you the folder navigation menu, where you can look for the .blend file you want to open. On the File menu, you can also access the Open Recent option, which shows you a list of the latest files you’ve worked on so you can open them quickly. You don’t need to use those shortcuts, of course; you can always choose the Save and Load options from the File menu.
Launching and Saving the Render
You can start your render from the Render Properties tab of the Render panel, which has three options: Render (still frame), Animation (animation of several frames), and Audio (audio only). You can also use keyboard shortcuts. F12 renders a still frame, for example, and Ctrl+F12 renders an animation. (If you render an animation, make sure that you configure the output file path and format on the Render tab so the images are saved automatically where and how you want.)
When you start rendering, you see the process inside a UV/Image Editor, and when the render is complete, you can save the resulting image. Press F3 to save, or go to the Image menu on the header of the UV/Image Editor to access the Save As Image option. Press Esc to return to 3D View.
Figure 3.10 shows the images that result from both engines’ renders. It’s clear that even with a really basic scene, Cycles produces more realistic results (but also takes more time to render).
Figure 3.10 The results of these very basic renders with Blender Render (top) and Cycles (bottom)