Using Blender on an old laptop or low-end pc can be really frustrating. Long waiting times, freeze frames and crashes are part of your everyday life. But let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be like this. In the following paragraphs I share a few tips and general principles to make your 3d work enjoyable on any machine.
One of my recent creations in Blender!
There’s nothing more satisfying than a smooth and responsive viewport experience. It is just so much more fun to work in Blender when your edits update in real time and animations can be played back fluently. If you are working on an outdated laptop you are probably used to long waiting times and lagging viewports. Here are a few tips to prevent those common issues and improve your 3d viewport performance: Keep the visible geometry light. Bring down the subdivision levels or turn them off completely for preview, hide objects you are currently not working on and temporarily disable unnecessary modifiers.
Keep the viewport settings as simple as possible. You don’t need to have shadows, cavity, depth of field or see the textures while modeling. Make use of the simplify tab in the render properties. This allows you to globally turn down subdivision levels, limit texture resolutions and optimize volumetrics without having to adjust those settings for each object individually. This section is your best friend as a low-performance Blender user!
Disable unused add-ons! Blender slows down a lot if you have lots of plugins enabled. Only turn those on that you are actually using for the current project.
Simplify, the key to smooth viewport performance.
Optimize Rendering 🔗
By far the most performance dependent task in any 3D software is rendering. With a slow pc you’ll never achieve stunning render times and you can only dream of real-time rendering; however, there are still quite a few adjustments you can make to speed things up. As this is a frequently discussed topic in 3D communities there is a lot of content about it available. Here are a few videos that I found to be valuable for render optimization.
This fantastic tutorial 18 Ways to Speed Up Blender Cycles Rendering by Andrew Price was recorded a few years back with an outdated version of Blender; however, the same principles still apply. You can learn a lot about rendering and get speed improvements from those 18 tips in the video.
Flowframes is an AI software that calculates interpolations between frames. In this tutorial CGMatter demonstrates an interesting approach to use this and only render a fraction of the frames while letting the AI algorithm interpolate the rest. It gives astonishing results and can save you a lot of render time!
Karim Joseph here demonstrates a new feature coming with Blender 2.93 that drastically improves render times for animations. Persistent data caches the render data in order to speed up rerendering and animations.
Speed Booster Eevee
When working on a slow computer I highly recommend you to use eevee instead of cycles. Eevee is a render engine that was introduced to Blender in version 2.8 with the goal to achieve real-time rendering. It’s way faster than cycles and still leads to stunning results.
Go Low Poly
In most cases the amount of polygons in your scene is the number one factor that is dragging the performance down. Therefore the best advice I can give you is to keep them as few as possible. The quality of your models and scenes doesn’t depend upon the number of polygons you have in the scene.
Creating compelling renders with as few vertices as possible is an art in and of itself that is highly valued in the 3D industry. In game design this skill is essential, as it is extremely important to keep all the assets as light as possible to make real-time rendering possible. Just check out this compelling design by low poly artist @aronzblackz on Instagram.
High Resolutions are Overrated
A mistake I see a lot of people make is to use really high image textures, even though it is usually not necessary at all. Oftentimes lower resolutions do the job just as fine, especially if the object is going to be placed in the background. I used to make this mistake for a long time and always opted for the highest resolution available until I realized that in most cases it only slows down my viewport performance and wastes memory without improving my work. Now my default is the lowest resolution and if I feel that I need more resolution I’ll upgrade it before the final render.
If you don’t believe me, you should take a look at Ian Huberts work. He uses extremely low resolution textures and still achieves stunning results.
The same way you should also consider the resolution you use for rendering. There is no need to render in 8K, as I’ve seen a lot of beginners do! The render won’t get any better by choosing tremendously high resolutions. My personal default is 1080p and I only go to 4K on special occasions. Sometimes I might even render lower resolutions than FullHD.
Use Old Blender Versions
Naturally the new Blender versions have higher system requirements than the older ones. Blender 2.93 won’t even support Windows 7 anymore. So if Blender is really slow on your configuration it might be worth trying out an older version to see if it helps. All the Blender versions that ever existed are listed up and can be downloaded here.
From what I’ve seen, there are still a lot of people using versions older than 2.8 and plenty of tutorials and add-ons for them are still around. You’ll have to get along without all the fancy new features but you’ll still get a solid 3D software that is capable of creating remarkable renders.
Blender 2.79, still a viable alternative for low-performance Blender users.