New Material Preview
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With the addition of Eevee, we had to update our built-in material preview, which didn't work with it. This has prompted a larger update to the material preview.

The project makes use of work done by Robin Marin (Tuqueque) who put together some new material preview shapes. This has been adapted for use in the material preview.

List of changes

  • Added Shader Ball, Cloth & Fluid preview shapes
  • Removed the Monkey object. I think that the new shader ball is a better material preview object.
  • Replaced mesh lights with light objects, which work in both Eevee & Cycles.
  • Made the preview scene work with Eevee, with an Irradiance Volume and Light Probe
  • Added slight bevel to the cube
  • Objects have more subdivisions for previewing displacement.
  • Fixed & improved UV mapping for all shapes
  • Added the new icons for the new preview types.
  • Small changes to the Blender source code to support this new material preview

Here are some images that give an idea of what the new preview looks like. In this case Blender is set to Eevee:


Preview blend file:

Issues to be addressed:

  • Preview now is the wrong height by default to fit with the the new list of preview types
  • World Sphere is still here, but I think we should either remove it, or make it a separate toggle, so that it can be combined with any preview shape

Special thanks to Robin Marin (Tuqueque) who supplied the new preview shapes.

I would welcome some testing on this material preview with many types of materials.


William Reynish (billreynish) triaged this task as Normal priority.

Here are some additional examples of various types of materials using this new material preview. These are all examples using Eevee:

Here are some examples that show the improved preview of displacement:

These look great! Would it be worth making those scenes or objects available in the 'Add' menu of the 3D view, so you could easily get a large version for developing materials.

The number of pixels in the frame that are actually covered by the previewed material seems a bit small. What about having an additional button like [2X] or [Zoom] that would toggle the preview to show the middle 1/4 of the frame at 2x resolution (or maybe 3x would work better) to give a close-up view to see things more clearly? I think I'd use that a lot.

My 2 cents:

I think the blender logo is kind of getting in the way on the preview shapes. On the Maxwell Ball "ripoff" it's kindof okayish but it is not readable enough with the current lighting setup. But on the liquid I would have prefered something simpler. Maybe no pedestal at all. And for the cloth I don't see the point of having one. The shapes are here to have clear readability of the shading not to have some sort of branding.

On the eevee side, the cubemap shape should be Box with fade set to 0 and make the bound of the box correspond with the scene boundaries. You can put the probe a bit higher than the sphere. This will make the reflections/refractions much more accurate.

@Gavin Scott (Zoot): the reason it doesn’t go full edge to edge, is so you can see displacement. But even so I could probably zoom in a wee bit more.

@Clément Foucault (fclem): Yes, the fluid one is a bit excessive and doesn’t need a Blender logo, I agree. I also think that it’s probably too complex - it could be a simple drop or puddle. I will ask Robin Marin if he wants to make a new one.

For the cloth, we could omit it. But the point of these shapes is to better test your shading on something vault representative of the type of material you are creating. Robin Marin also made a hard surface preview object, which is somewhat interesting.

For the shader ball, the rationale is that the grey part is middle grey, so that you have something to compare to. It’s also become a convention that different apps have different cutouts.

Here's Robin Marin's Hard Surface preview shape, for reference:

I agree about the Blender logo getting in the way of the cloth, particularly if you're trying to see a texture pattern. On the shader ball the curves on the logo help to see what the material does, for the cloth the logo is not using the material, it's just a grey spot in the middle of the preview.

File size is a bit of a concern, this is .blend file is still 13MB compressed. I don't think the base meshes need to have that many polygons if subsurf was used, but maybe be a lot of work to remodel, I'm not sure.

@Brecht Van Lommel (brecht): Yes, I will update to remove the Blender logo on the cloth and to remove the base there too. Maybe Tuqueque has a version without the Blender-shaped hole.

I mean, we don't put a Blender logo on the sphere, and the hair doesn't work the outline of the Blender logo either :)

One of things that make the file large is the complex and detailed fluid object. I agree with @Clément Foucault (fclem) that it's too complex. Something smaller, simpler, more blobby would work well for fluid I think.

A few updates:

  • Removed Blender logo & pedestal from cloth:

  • Greatly simplified fluid. This is much more lightweight now, and removes the need to a pedestal here too:

I think this can still be better though.

What is the scale of the scene? I mean, how one of those squares on floor is big? 1 BU?
It would be great if one could set the scale of the preview, to se how mataerials react at arbitrary size

i think the ball should remain under the cloth to help visualize transparency

@nick wolfert (nicholasw) Yes I agree with this. The checkerboard texture you have there helps with this. I will add that.