Tuesday, October 31st, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

PSOFT releases Pencil+ 4.05 Line for Blender

Originally posted on 20 April 2023. Scroll down for news of the Pencil+ 4.05 Line update.

Japanese developer P Softhouse – better known as PSOFT – has released Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender, a new add-on for the open-source software based on its popular Pencil+ non-photorealistic rendering toolset.

It generates rendered outlines around 3D objects, making it possible to emulate the line style of traditional anime in a 3D workflow, and can exchange data with the 3ds Max, Maya and Unity editions of Pencil+.

The add-on itself is free, but is designed to be used with PSOFT’s commercial Pencil+ Render software.

A non-photorealistic rendering toolset used in production on major Japanese animations
Already available for 3ds Max, Maya and Unity, PSOFT’s Pencil+ toolset is widely used in the Japanese animation industry, by studios including Toei Animation, Shirogumi and Marza Animation Planet.

The 3ds Max and Maya editions are more general non-photorealistic rendering toolkits; the Unity and new Blender editions are focused specifically on outline rendering.

Mimic the look of hand-drawn outlines in real time in the Blender viewport
Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender generates outlines around 3D objects mimicking the look of hand-drawn lines.

Users can control line properties like width, colour, brush angle, opacity and blend mode via parameter settings in the UI, or – for more control – from Blender’s Node Editor.

The results can be previewed in the viewport in real time, either overlaid on 3D geometry, or in isolation.

The plugin itself is open-source, but PSOFT’s new standalone application Pencil+ Render is required to actually render the lines, so it’s effectively part of a commercial product.

A still from Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time. Studio Khara used the beta version of Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender in production of the Blu-ray and DVD bonus features for the anime.

More control over line style than Blender’s native tools?
Although Blender has its own native NPR tools, in the shape of the Freestyle renderer and Grease Pencil toolset, the selling point of Pencil+ 4 Line is likely to be the control it provides over the lines generated.

Equally significantly, PSOFT has also released Pencil+ 4 Bridge for Blender, a free add-on that can be used to transfer Pencil+ 4 line settings between Blender and the 3ds Max, Maya and Unity editions of Pencil+.

The latter should make it easier for animation studios with existing Pencil+ pipelines to switch to Blender from other DCC applications, or to incorporate Blender into their pipelines.

The new add-on was developed in partnership with one such studio, Studio Khara, which used it in production on Blu-ray extras for Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time.

Updated 31 October 2023: PSOFT has continued to update Pencil+ Line for Blender.

This month’s 4.05 update adds support for viewport rendering, making it possible to render sequences of images from animations in near-real-time for checking.

Previous updates have added the option to export lines in EPS format.

Price and system requirements
Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender is compatible with Blender 3.0+ running on Windows 10+ only. It’s a free download. The source code is available under a GNU Public Licence.

Pencil+ Render is available for Windows 10+. It costs ¥63,800 (around $474) for a standalone licence, ¥95,700 (around $711) for a network licence.

Read more about Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender on PSOFT’s website

Download Pencil+ 4 Line for Blender from GitHub

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