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As someone who comes from a Maya background, I got quite used to being able to open Maya's Hypershade window and see all the materials in my scene at a glance. However, in Blender it seems that the materials tab only shows materials that are assigned to the active object. Is there a way to display a material preview for all materials in a scene?

Currently, the only place I can find the materials added to my scene is in the outliner in datablocks mode, which shows me that there are materials in my scene, but I can't see previews of them or easily check if the textures have loaded correctly.

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  • $\begingroup$ For finding missing textures, you can use File > External data > Report missing files. The only thing I can think of for previews is a python script. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 18 '13 at 0:45
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No, this is not possible out of the box with Blender. You can only see previews of the current material(s) of the currently selected object.

There is a workaround I could suggest however, it might be a little more work but worth it if you really want to see this, It could possibly be even automated.

Add a new primitive to the scene, you can change the Display Type to Wire so it doesn't distract you or move it to another layer until you need it. Mine is the MATERIAL_HOLDER below.

Now open the compositor and switch to the Material View. Select the temporary object and tick, Use nodes and delete the Output node. Now for each material you add to the scene, just add a new Material node to this object and press Toggle Hidden Node Sockets in the N to make them a bit smaller. This is effective as all the other objects still have their unique materials and properties but this object can show all the materials in the scene.

Here is how it could possibly look like (larger), I have also changed the preview object of the materials to a cube, It can be very flexible with some tweaking.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. It's a shame it's not currently possible, as it's handy to be able to see all materials quickly at a glance. I find the material selection icons to be too small to be useful, and I can't get it to scroll properly with my wacom tablet :/ $\endgroup$ – MrFlamey Jun 9 '13 at 2:16
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What you really want is an old todo item. In two ways things already possible though.

  • Browse the materials in memory for linking (menu button to left of button where you can change material name). It shows icon-size previews. Blender already supports popups with larger previews (used for matcaps, brushes). Something similar could be coded to be used here too.

  • You can inspect materials (with previews) inside any other .blend file with using the File->Append browser, it allows to go into a file and see materials. Set file browser to view thumbnails. This type of browsing could be used for linked large collections of materials, textures or images too.

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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't aware of the Append thumbnails, that's very handy. Unfortunately it doesn't work for Cycles materials. Only Blender internal. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Williamson Jun 8 '13 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. Both useful tips. I couldn't see thumbnails when using the append browser though, and my materials are about as simple as can be (lambert, 1 texture, no alpha, specular etc.) $\endgroup$ – MrFlamey Jun 9 '13 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ I also noticed they don't get generated well now... it's such an uncommon (unknown) feature it's never tested :) Goes on the todo. $\endgroup$ – Ton Roosendaal Jun 10 '13 at 15:16

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