Introductory tips and tricks for importing and rendering your 3D scans in one of the most popular free 3D programs available.
Interested in making renders of your 3D scans? Blender is an incredibly versatile (and free) tool that comes with a powerful render engine. In this quick tutorial, we'll be walking you through importing a 3D scan into Blender and creating a lifelike render in Blender's Cycles engine. If you have not downloaded Blender already, you can do so here.
Step #1 - Bringing your 3D Scan into Blender
In Blender, go to File > Import > select the file type that matches your 3D scan > and import your model. Your scan may take more time to load if it has a large polygon count.
Note: If you are importing a .obj your texture should automatically load in with your model. If not, it's easy to add it in manually!
Start by hovering your mouse over the upper right corner of the viewport until you see a ' + ' icon. Click and hold to drag out a new window. In the new window change the "Editor Type" to "Shader Editor" by clicking the upper-most left icon in the window. Select your 3D scan and hit 'shift + a' > Texture > Image Texture in the new window. Drag and connect "Color" from the Image Texture node to "Base Color" on Principled BSDF. Finally, click "Open Image" (folder icon) on your Image Texture node to select the missing .png from your files. To verify this worked, tab over to the Material Preview (hotkey 'z + 2') in your 3D Viewport window.
Adjusting Your Model
Once imported, you'll need to rotate (hotkey 'r') and scale ('s') the model so it is oriented to your liking.
Tabbing over to the material preview in Viewport Shading (located in the upper right corner of the viewport) you may notice your 3D scan is extra glossy. This is because models automatically import in with '0' Roughness. To fix this, with your scan selected, go to "Material Properties" in the Properties Editor (lower right of the screen) and raise the roughness value of the item to your liking. In the image below, we brought the roughness of this vintage purse up to 0.7 for a more realistic leather look.
Step #3 - Setting up a simple background
Building the background with planes
A clean and undistracting background helps showcase your 3D scan while adding a professional flair to your renders.
Start by adding the floor of your background by hitting 'shift + a'> Mesh > Plane. Scale up your plane ('s') so it is quite a bit larger than your 3D scan. When we add a camera to the scene you'll want to make sure your plane is big enough that the edges can't be seen through the camera view.
Note: you may need to adjust the orientation of your scan so it doesn't clip through the floor plane.
Toggle over to "Edit Mode" (upper left of the viewport) and click "Edge Select" (located directly right of "Edit Mode" and circled in the image above). Select the edge closest to the back of your 3D scan by clicking on it.
To extrude this edge up into a wall, press 'e + z' and drag the edge up with your mouse. 'e' allows us to extrude the edge, while 'z' makes sure we are only moving up along the z-axis, so our wall is straight and not listing in any odd directions.
Creating a slope
With the plane selected in your Outliner, return to "Object Mode." In the Properties tab, scroll down to "Modifier Properties" (the green wrench icon) to add a modifier. Hit "Add Modifier" and select "Bevel." Adjust 'Segments' and 'Amount' to your liking and hit 'Ctrl - A' to apply. To finish things off, right-click on your plane in the viewport and select "shade smooth."
Step #4 - Lights and camera
Setting up your camera
Hit 'shift - a' to bring up the add menu and select 'camera.' A quick and easy hack for setting up the camera involves using your viewport navigation tools. Use the navigation tools to rotate, zoom, and move your view around your 3D scan. When you've found the perfect view go to View > Align View > Align Active Camera To View (shown in the photo above). Check how your scene looks through the camera's lens by clicking the camera icon on the right side of your viewport (shortcut Numpad 0). Make sure the edges of your background aren't showing when you look through the camera view.
Creating a composition with your 3D scan
While you may only need to render a single head-on image of your 3D scan, we recommend creating a composition with multiple copies of your model arranged in different positions. This will produce a more dynamic render that showcases various details of the scan from multiple angles. Use hotkey 'd' to duplicate a selected object and 'r' and 'g' to rotate and move it into a composition of your choice.
Moving over to the "Rendered" view in the Viewport Shading tab (upper right of the viewport), you may notice that your scene is very dark. To remedy this, let's add some simple lighting to the scene. First, in your Properties tab, select the Scene tab (the camera icon) and make sure the render engine is set to "Cycles." Then in your viewport hit 'shift - a' > Light > Area (illustrated in the image below).
If you don't see anything, you'll likely need to scale up your light ('s'). Once scaled, move the light so that it is directly over your 3D scan. Now that the light is in position, it's time to adjust its brightness. Make sure your Area Light is selected in the Outliner and navigate to the Object Data Properties (pink lightbulb icon) in the Properties tab. Under "Power" enter in a fairly large number. You'll have to play with the numbers a bit to find the right strength for your scene, but we usually start with 500,000 for a standard brightly lit render. We recommend you change the shape of your light to disk, as it creates softer reflections in shiny objects than an angular shape does.
Composing the lights
Next, we'll want to add in a couple more lights to make sure our scene is well lit. Do this by duplicating ('d') your first area light, moving it to the side ('g'), and rotating it ('r') so that it is angled inwards, towards your 3D scan. Repeat this process on the opposite side, so your scene resembles the one pictured below.
Step #5 - Rendering
To create a render, simply navigate to the "Render" tab and click "Render Image" (pictured above). Before you do so, we have a few recommendations on your render settings that can be quickly set in the "Render Properties" tab. Note that while these settings work for us, you may have to make slight adjustments depending on your rendering needs.
Make sure "Render Engine" is set to "Cycles" and "Device" is set to "GPU Compute"
Go to Sampling > Viewport and set "Max Samples" to 32
Go to Sampling > Render and enter the following settings:
Noise Threshold: 0.0100
Max Samples: 400
Min Samples: 0
Under Sampling > Denoise make sure "Denoise" is checked and use "Optix" as your denoiser.
Under Sampling > Advanced make sure "Seed" is set to 0.
Go to Light Paths > Max Bounces and enter the following settings:
Under Light Paths > Caustics turn off "reflective" and "refractive" and make sure "Filter Glossy" is set to 0.
After your render finishes, save the image to your computer by going to Image > Save As (illustrated above).
Here we have the final result! If you'd like to take your render up a level, you can play with the values in an image editing tool like Adobe Lightroom, to adjust variables like sharpness and contrast. While this tutorial followed a very simple render setup, Blender also allows you to create ones that are much more complex.
We hope you enjoyed our quick tutorial on rendering 3D scans in Blender! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions and we'll be happy to help.