If you have ever opened a new official build of Blender, you may know the button in the upper center of the window that says “Blender Render”. You probably only know this button because it is the button that switches to the Cycles renderer. The cycles renderer plays an important role in 3D configurator projects. But why do we switch it to Cycles? What’s it all about with the Blender renderer?

Blender Renderer Cycles

Blender renderer.

Also known as “Blender Internal” (or BI), this is Blender’s original render engine with source code from the early 90s. It’s a conglomeration of new (ish) and old rendering technologies that are brought together, including raytracing, subsurface scattering, shiny reflections and even a primitive global lighting function, in general it’s a very fast render engine for most of its functions and is characterized by non-photorealistic (NPR) rendering. But it suffers greatly from photorealism. BI was developed at a time when realism could only be achieved by illusions. Using tricks and hacks to fake the properties of reality, but you probably haven’t heard much about BI in recent years, let alone used the renderer. Why is BI so little known?


Starting in 2011, Blender will also be offering a new, innovative renderer called Cycles in its toolset. It is a huge step forward in terms of realistic rendering, with full “global illumination” and physically accurate calculations: You’re wondering, “Why is it a separate engine and not an upgrade to BI?” Sometimes it’s just easier to start from 0 than to change an existing thing. BI has years of development with many features and upgrades behind it. As time went by, it became more and more difficult to continue the development and so Brecht decided to develop a new engine from scratch, which enjoyed great popularity and quickly became Blender’s first render engine. Cycles has earned a considerable reputation in the computer graphics industry. In fact, other 3D software developers have even ported it to other applications such as Cinema 4D and Rhino.

So why not categorically complete either engine?

This question can be answered with another question: Since when are alternatives something bad? The reality is that BI and Cycles make things so different that they don’t really compete. Rather, they are two tools that have their respective advantages.

When the Blender Renderer is a good choice:

Increase your conversion rate.

We help you to generate more inquiries from your website with 3D renderings.

  • Fast renderings: If you ever need a basic rendering quickly, BI should be your first option. By basic rendering, we mean just lighting and materials. As a scanline renderer, sample noise is usually not an issue. With Cycles, the engine is constantly refined and noise is always a factor.
  • NPR: In short, BI is a great option for any kind of non-photorealistic rendering. This can include motion graphics, cartoon animations, and information visualizations.
  • Texture Painting: Both Cycles and BI offer texture painting features with some major differences. BI’s Texture Painting in Viewport has a better interface to paint multiple types of textures simultaneously, called “Texture Slots”. With cycles, only one texture can be painted at a time.
  • Texture Baking Speed: Common texture baking styles such as Ambient Occlusion and Geometry Normals bake faster with BI than with Cycles.

When Cycles is a good choice:

  • Realism: Without question, Cycles is the best choice for realistic rendering. Since it is based on physical principles, it is very easy to use from an artistic point of view. To achieve a similar realism with non-physically based scanline renderers like BI, artists have to deal with a seemingly never-ending game of tricks and parameter experiments. Imagine it this way: The default settings of Cycles are essentially photorealistic – of course they’re not 100% perfect, but for the majority of people it comes very close. Then, as you move forward and want to optimize your rendering, you have the ability to optimize your settings for speed reasons, usually at the expense of physical accuracy. Then you have BI, where the default settings are far from realistic and you need to add and adjust new parameters to hope for a decent, realistic result.
  • GPU acceleration: Even though the development of cycles leads to ever higher rendering speeds over time, a major drawback is that the overall render times are still long. The imitation of the complex light system of reality is somehow difficult. To prevent this, Cycles offers GPU acceleration that can drastically reduce render times. If you can afford an expensive graphics card, you will benefit from a high performance Cycles engine. This is especially useful for viewport rendering for real-time lighting and material creation.

Final thoughts.

Don’t be fooled by the number of bullets – more in the list doesn’t mean better and less doesn’t mean worse. Cycles’ ability to lead realistic rendering is a huge advantage. But hopefully you also realize that BI is not obsolete and you should ignore this option. Each of Blender’s engines has its benefits and you will be a better artist if you know how to use them both.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact our experts via our forum.

Thank you very much for your visit.