Should I Use Eevee Or Cycles For My Rendering?

This is a question that has been asked since the inception of the Eevee render engine back when Blender version 2.80 was released. Which engine should you use to render your scenes and animations? Should you go with the speed provided by Eevee, or is the quality attainable with Cycles as your choice of render?

You should use the Eevee render engine for designing assets for video games, and for animations where realism is not the priority. On the other hand, Cycles should be used for still renders, higher quality animations, architectural designs, and designing products for manufacturing.

There are a number of reasons why you would need to use a render engine in Blender, and the reason why can also define the which, as there are some use cases where Eevee is the much better option and then there are others where Cycles is the best choice.

When Should I Use Eevee And Why?

There are many differences between the Eevee and Cycles render engines that can dictate which engine you decide to go for. Here are some of the reasons why you should choose Eevee over Cycles.

Eevee Is An Online Renderer

There are two types of render engines, online and offline. Eevee is classed as an online renderer, which means that you can navigate your scene in real-time without having to wait for any calculations being made for lighting, materials, etc.

Every game engine from Unity to Unreal Engine uses an online style render system to view their 3D scenes in real-time, as having to wait for your screen to process every time you perform an action is not going to cut it for a video game.

The Renders Are Lightning Fast

If you are used to using cycles and were to test out your scene with the Eevee render engine you would be amazed at how fast a scene can render.

While not always instant a render can take a matter of seconds to render with the Eevee engine compared to Minutes or even hours on Cycles.

You Have Control Over What Effects You Want To Use

What makes Eevee so fast is that it does not include many of the processing effects and lighting behaviors that you would see in an offline render engine.

What you can do however is enable and adjust each of these behaviors from the render tab in the properties panel. For example, you can enable effects such as bloom, screen-space reflections, and subsurface scattering to bring your Eevee renders closer to realism.

Keep in mind that enabling these features will gradually slow down your render times, especially if you start enabling settings such as refraction for glass objects. That said it’s very difficult to get your Eevee renders to take as long as Cycles does for rendering similar scenes.

Where Is Eevee the Better Choice?

If you are designing assets for video games, then you are going to want to preview how your objects will look under similar lighting and material conditions. The Eevee engine is a much closer comparison to what you will get in terms of the visual appearance of a game engine and is perfect as a preview option before you export.

Indeed, in any situation where you will eventually use materials created in other applications, you will probably want to stick with Eevee, as it is only being used as a preview in this sense.

For longer animations, Eevee may be your only option for how you render. A single image takes a certain amount of time to process but you can minimize the time spent in any render engine.

For an animation, however, a single image is rendered per frame, and if you have 3000 frames to render it can take a very long time to complete.

In this scenario, imagine if an Eevee render takes 3 seconds per frame, which adds up when you have 3000 frames to complete. but compare that to cycles where it takes 1 minute even with the best settings applied. You don’t need me to tell you that is an incredible amount of time to wait.

When Should I Use Cycles And Why?

For every characteristic that you can associate with Eevee the opposite characteristic applies to Cycles. While the cycle’s render engine came a long time before Eevee they exist as perfect parallels to each other in the Blender ecosystem.

Cycles Is An Offline Renderer?

The first parallel of note is that the Cycles render engine is classed as an offline renderer. Whereas an online renderer generates 3D graphics in real-time, an offline renderer goes through a process of calculating the lighting, materials, and geometry of a scene to produce as accurate an image as possible.

When you change your view or perform any meaningful action the renderer repeats the process of calculating all of the data in your scene. During this time the screen becomes noisy and as the data processes it cleans the image up more and more.

This of course is not what you want when playing a game, but we aren’t playing a game here, we are designing a scene.

No Need To Adjust Settings For Realism

For Eevee, many of the settings for material behavior and lighting are parameters that can be turned on and off on the properties panel, like for screen space reflections.

However, for cycles, many of these settings are permanently enabled in the engine itself and are not considered as additional effects but key features of the render process.

Are You Only Using Blender For Your Project?

In cases where the only application that you are using is Blender itself, then you can use the cycles engine to take advantage of all of Blenders features for materials, lighting, VFX, etc.

If you are creating a portfolio of artwork, you will want to produce the best quality possible, and that is a big advantage for Cycles.

Even a beginner can create a semi-realistic scene in a matter of minutes when using the cycles render engine, and if you are mainly using Blender then you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues either.

Where Is Cycles The Better Choice?

If the goal is to create something that emulates realism, then Cycles is your better option. While not preferable to use for game assets, this engine comes into its own when designing scenes that need to look real, such as when you are designing objects for architecture, manufacturing, and concept art.

Animations can take a long time to render in Cycles, a very long time, but with the upgrade to Cycles X the engine has never been as fast or as effective. While you cant make a render instantly, every second that you are saving adds up in the long run.

If you save 10 seconds for every frame of a 3000 frame animation that adds up to 30000 seconds of time saved by the end. If your animations need to be centered around realism, then there has never been a better time to create them with cycles.

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