I want the whites to be "white" and not grey, and the shadows to not be so dark. Is this just a matter of setting up appropriate lightning? Or is there a shortcut to getting the viewport results (but with more control, like alpha channel)?

Bad render:

Bad render

I'd like an more illustrative or "cartoon" style render. With subtle shadows, etc. Perhaps I should just do this in Illustrator -- but I saw the great tutorial on this and wanted to try out Blender. :D

  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried freestyle on Blender render? $\endgroup$ – user1853 May 2 '14 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ While that isn't Cycles, it is at least closer. The shadows still end up being way too dark. $\endgroup$ – chrisp May 2 '14 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Try using a toon shader in cycles, or setting the diffuse and specular type to toon in BI and tweaking the settings. Note that it is possible to render the sky as transparent with opengl. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 May 2 '14 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ How do I render the sky transparent when I do the viewport OpenGL render? $\endgroup$ – chrisp May 2 '14 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ @jacobsd Set Alpha to Transparent in Render settings > OpenGL Render. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 May 2 '14 at 5:58

Here is a comparison of different render engines/techniques:


Using just a toon shader:

enter image description here

This render is with large mesh lights, which give soft transitions. With some small point lamps you can get a more sharp result:

enter image description here

Manually defining a vector to create a sharp gradient/cartoon kind of shading:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Light sources do not affect this shader unfortunately, you must manually define the vector with the mapping node.


Toon shading:

enter image description here

The spots are basically the same, except very dark gray (not quite black).

enter image description here

Other scene settings:
Single sun lamp with a light gray shadow, AO enabled in World settings.

An effect very much like the second cycles example can be achieved with the Emit value set to 1. You can also get finer control over the colors/intensity of the toon shader by enabling ramp:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Note that this one uses light sources properly, so it can be used in animation.


When you have GLSL enabled, the openGL view will actually render the BI toon shading settings in real time. You can even render shadows:

enter image description here

To make the sky transparent when rendering openGL renders, set the Alpha to Transparent in Render settings > OpenGL (render settings > Shading when BI is the current render engine). This is under Render > OpenGL options in the info panel as of 2.71.

To render an animation or still with OpenGL, select it from the render drop down, or click the button on the header of the 3D view:

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks like a great answer! I will try them out and get back to you. How would I make the "white" whiter in the cyclers render? $\endgroup$ – chrisp May 2 '14 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ @jacobsd In the first one or the second one? For the first one, mostly just brighter lighting (I think I may have had the shader color on .8 (the default) too, make sure it's set to white). You could artificially brighten it with an emission and mix node or some compositing as well. Also see blender.stackexchange.com/q/6850/599. For the second one, it renders as exactly the color specified in the the color ramp node (except for color managment). $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 May 2 '14 at 17:38

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