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How can the current viewport view be rendered as a preview?

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Blender 2.8x

This is now accomplished with the fully interactive Rendered viewport shading mode.

Click the rightmost sphere icon in the top right of the 3D viewport to enter Rendered mode, which displays the scene (more or less) exactly as it will be rendered:

Viewport shading modes

Alternatively, hit Z and select the Rendered mode from the Shading pie menu:

Shading mode pie menu

To remove any overlays, outlines, or gizmos covering up parts of the rendered view, turn off Gizmos and Overlays by clicking the icons beside the dropdown arrows left of the shading mode:

Gizmos and Overlays

Blender 2.69 – 2.79

Use the key combination ShiftZ to switch to Rendered mode. Hit the key combination again to return to Solid mode. Alternatively, switch the Viewport Shading mode between the white sphere (Solid) and pink sphere (Rendered) in the 3D Viewport header/footer bar.

Render mode selection menu

This lacks viewport overlays, however, so it will be difficult to work in fully rendered mode. Nonetheless, it is possible to pivot the view and look around.

Blender 2.68 and Earlier

Switch the Viewport Shading mode between Solid and Rendered as described in the section above. However, the ShiftZ shortcut is not bound by default in earlier versions of the software. But you can bind it yourself:

Open the User Preferences (File > User Preferences...) and switch to the Input tab. From the expandable list, locate 3D View and expand it, then also expand 3D View (Global) immediately below.

User Settings > Input > 3D View > 3D View (Global)

Scroll to the bottom of the expanded list and you will find an Add New button.

Add New button at the bottom of the expanded list

Click Add New, then expand the new entry entitled "none".

Add New button and its expanded new unbound keymap

With the new, unbound keymap entry expanded:

  • Replace none with wm.context_toggle_enum which should lead to three new text fields appearing beneath.
  • Bind the Z key by clicking the key field (contains the default A) and press Z.
  • Check the Shift keyboard modifier checkbox.
  • Fill the new three values, starting with space_data.viewport_shade for Context Attribute.
  • Next, enter SOLID for Value 1 (beneath Context Attribute).
  • Finally, enter RENDERED for Value 2 (right of Context Attribute).

Values filled in for the full keymap

To save these changes for future use, click Save User Settings at the footer of the User Preferences window which will update the startup file with the currently open one that now includes the added keymap. Make sure this is a clean startup file.

User Settings footer with Save User Settings button

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    $\begingroup$ Note: this will not use any compositing you may have. $\endgroup$ – Garrett Apr 6 '14 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Note: this shortcut was added in 2.69. For older versions you can setup this shortcut manually. $\endgroup$ – sambler Apr 6 '14 at 7:51
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Rendering the Current View

The easiest way to do this is this:

  1. Set the camera's view to your current viewport's view:
    CTRLALTNumpad 0

  2. Then render the image with one of these methods:

    • Info header -> Render -> Render Image

    • Object Properties window -> Render tab -> Render section -> click the Render button

You can read more about rendering in Blender here on the Blender Wiki.

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    $\begingroup$ Useful for doing an actual render, but the purpose of this question was to make people aware of Shift + Z to preview render the current view. $\endgroup$ – Keavon Apr 6 '14 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I didn't realize you only wanted to talk about the Rendered View mode for the 3D Viewport. $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Apr 6 '14 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ It's a useful answer if people are looking to do a real render so you may want to label the answer as such and keep it. $\endgroup$ – Keavon Apr 6 '14 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't want the camera to permanently move to your current view, make sure to keyframe it first. $\endgroup$ – Garrett Apr 6 '14 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Or make another temporary camera. Or just use Ctrl + Z after rendering to undo it. Not to be confused with Shift + Z, the other solution. $\endgroup$ – Keavon Apr 6 '14 at 6:30
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For people using a custom input setup (I'm using the packed-in 3ds max settings with a few modifications) the keyboard shortcut alone isn't very useful. For anyone wanting to find, change, or add these settings in File -> User Preferences -> Input, their names and values are:

For "Quickly previewing the current view" (Shift Z): Toggle Rendered Shading
(in 3D View -> 3D View (Global) with the value view3d.toggle_render)

For "Rendering the current view" (Ctrl Alt Numpad0): Align Camera To View
(in 3D View -> 3D View (Global) with the value view3d.camera_to_view)

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