Tuesday, May 9th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

See the 2023 Blender development roadmap

The Blender Institute has updated its list of key development targets for Blender this year, forming a 2023 roadmap for the open-source 3D software.

Projects due for release in Blender 3.6 next month include the new node-based simulation framework, with light linking in Cycles and an overhaul of dynamic topology also available in experimental branches.

Those still due before the end of the year – which would mean that changes roll out in Blender 4.0 – include the transition to Vulkan for viewport rendering, and the ‘Eevee Next’ overhaul of Blender’s real-time renderer.

However, the Brush Assets system, intended to create shareable presets for Blender’s painting and sculpting brushes, is now delayed, and the wider overhaul of Blender’s texturing system is even further off.

The big ticket features for Blender in 2023
The new blog post is an update to the list of ‘Projects to Look Forward to in 2023‘ released in January.

It covered the big-ticket features targeted for release in a stable build of the software this year: either Blender 3.5, which was released in March, Blender 3.6, now in alpha, or Blender 4.0, due in November.

New features released in Blender 3.5, or already confirmed for 3.6
Of that list, one project has already been checked off, with the new real-time Viewport Compositor getting its initial implementation in Blender 3.5.

Those set for release in Blender 3.6 include Simulation Nodes, the extension of Blender’s Geometry Nodes system to support particles – and later, other types of simulation – which has just reached daily builds.

The release will also feature an overhaul of Blender’s UV packing system that lets users choose the packing shapes used, and “dramatically improv[es] performance on large meshes”.

An overhaul of Blender’s Cycles renderer to support light linking and a refactor of the sculpting toolset’s dynamic topology system are both now available in experimental branches of Blender 3.6.

Updated 31 May 2023: Light linking is now listed in the release notes for Blender 4.0.

Still in active development: migration to Vulkan, and Eevee Next
Projects still in active development include the transition from the ageing OpenGL graphics API to Vulkan, its successor, for the display of Blender’s UI and viewports, and the Eevee real-time renderer.

The migration – which is due for completion “in 2023” – would make Blender one of a relatively small number of DCC tools to have adopted Vulkan, along with game engines Godot and Open 3D Engine.

A broader update to Eevee, codenamed Eevee Next, is also still in progress, with support for subsurface scattering and improved volumetric rendering currently in active development.

Work on irradiance baking within Eevee has not yet begun in earnest, and two other new features mentioned in the January blog post, screen-space global illumination and panoramic cameras, are not listed.

Still in active development: Grease Pencil 3.0, the Extensions Platform and Animation 2025
Outside the rendering toolset, projects still in active development include Grease Pencil 3.0, the latest major update to Blender’s storyboarding and 2D animation toolset, now due to be merged into the main branch.

Updated 31 May 2023: Grease Pencil 3.0 has been confirmed for Blender 4.0.

The Extensions Platform, which would create a set of officially approved add-ons that can be updated directly inside Blender, now has an initial design document, although the online work looks further off.

Work also continues on the Animation 2025 project, the long-awaited – and frequently delayed – overhaul of Blender’s character animation system, although it’s listed as initial planning, with no specific deliverables.

Now delayed: Brush Assets
Projects currently stalling include Brush Assets, the planned switch to saving brush presets outside the .blend file to make them shareable, which “is delayed and encountering unforeseen technical difficulties”.

A wider overhaul of the texturing system, including support for layered textures and procedural texturing, still doesn’t have a start date, despite originally having been announced as a goal for 2022, although there is a note that it may become a development target for the next-but-one Blender open movie.

Release dates and system requirements
Blender 3.6 is currently scheduled for a stable release on 27 June, with Blender 4.0 due later in 2023.

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

Read a list of key features planned for Blender in 2023 on the Blender Developers blog