Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Grease Pencil 3.0 is coming in Blender 4.0

Grease Pencil 3.0, the upcoming major rewrite of Blender’s 2D animation toolset, will be rolled out in Blender 4.0 this November, developer Falk David has announced.

The initial release will focus on the core changes needed to improve performance when working with large projects, but will also add support for layer groups and instanced drawings.

A complete 2D animation toolset used on award-winning animated features
Grease Pencil is one of Blender’s older toolsets, having been orginally introduced to the open-source 3D software in 2008’s Blender 2.48 as a simple viewport annotation system.

It took a huge step forward in 2019’s milestone Blender 2.80 release, with Grease Pencil 2.0 evolving into a fully fledged storyboarding and 2D animation toolset.

As well as the Blender Animation Studio’s own open movies, it has been used on the Goya Award-winning animated feature Unicorn Wars.

The Grease Pencil 3.0 project, confirmed earlier this year as part of the 2023 Blender roadmap, is another complete rewrite, aiming to “lay a solid foundation for the next 10+ years”.

Key developers from Grease Pencil 2.0 return for the Grease Pencil 3.0 project
The core team for the project include three of the key players in Grease Pencil 2.0, developer Antonio Vázquez and artists Daniel Martínez Lara and Matias Mendiola.

They are joined by full-time developer Falk David and Amélie Fondevilla from the technical department of French animation studio Les Fées Spéciales.

Initial release due in Blender 4.0
The initial release, scheduled for Blender 4.0, will focus on the core changes needed to improve performance when working with large production data sets.

The implementation – which will be API-breaking – is being built on the same multi-threaded backend as the curve-based hair system introduced in Blender 3.3 last year.

Although the main goal is simply to achieve feature parity with the current toolset, there will also be new features, like the option to organise Grease Pencil layers into colour-codable layer groups.

The timeline is also being refactored, with new options including support for instancing drawings across multiple layers, with updates to the original drawing propagating to the instances.

By the time you read this, Grease Pencil 3.0 should be available in alpha builds of Blender 4.0 for initial testing, with the stable release scheduled for November 2023.

More new features proposed for future releases
Future releases – presumably those in the Blender 4.x series – will expand the Grease Pencil toolset.

Potential new features noted in Falk David’s post on the Blender Developer Blog include support for Boolean operations in fills and more “and better” textured brushes.

Another promising proposed change is integration with Blender’s Geometry Nodes system, which would make it possible to apply node-based procedural workflows to 2D animation.

Release dates and system requirements
Blender 4.0 is due for a stable release in November 2023.

The current stable release, Blender 3.5, is available for Windows 8.1+, macOS 10.13+ (macOS 11.0 on Apple Silicon) and glibc 2.28 Linux, including Ubuntu 18.10+ and RHEL 8.0+ and equivalents.

Read more about the Grease Pencil 3.0 project on the Blender Developer blog
(Includes details of how to contribute to the project)

Download the current alpha build of Blender 4.0