What File Formats Are Compatible With Blender 3D?

Blender 3D is the single software solution built and maintained by the Blender foundation. This brings into question whether Blender is capable of using files created in other applications and if it is able to export files as well.

Blender can both import and export a wide variety of file formats for many different use cases. It can use FBX and OBJ files for 3D objects, JPG and PNG files for images, and MOV and MP4 files for videos. It is also compatible with many additional file formats for 3D models, images, and video clips.

It is important for any application to be compatible with a wide range of file formats so that it can be used for larger projects where other applications may be required. This is commonplace in the video games and animation industries which are commonly associated with 3D software.

The Different File Formats

To make things simple, we have constructed a table that lists all of the file formats that are currently associated with or are compatible with Blender 3D.

File TypeObjectImageVideoAlternativeAddOnImportExport
Blender (.blend)YYY
FBX (.fbx)YYY
Wavefront (.obj)YYY
Collada (.dae)YYY
Alembic (.abc)YYY
Motion Capture (.bvh)YYY
Vector Graphic (.svg)YYY
Stanford (.ply)YYY
Stl (.stl)YYY
glTF (.gltf)YYY
X3D Extensible (.x3d)YYY
Universal Scene Description (.usd)Y
JPEG (.jpg)YYY
Portable Network Graphics (.png)YYY
High Dynamic Range Image (.hdri)YYY
Python Script (.py)YYY
Portable Document Format (.pdf)YY
AutoCad DXF (.dxf)YYY
Nuke Animation Format (.chan)YYY
BNP (.bnp)YY
IRIS (.rgb)YY
JPEG 2000 (.jp2)YY
Targa (.tga)YY
Cineon (.cin)YY
DPX (.dpx)YY
Open EXR (.exr)YY
RadianceHDR (.hdr)YY
TIFF (.tiff)YY

Object Based Formats

These format types relate to the 3D objects and scenes used by Blender. While it is primarily used as a tool for creating 3D models you can also import 3D models from other applications and edit them using Blenders’ toolset. The blend extension is the default Blender format for all projects edited in Blender itself. It can be stored in an asset library, appended to a new project, or even saved into the asset folder of a game engine like Unity.

This isn’t strictly importing or exporting but follows similar principles. Blender is highly able to bring in numerous other object file types. The traditional obj format is commonly used to transmit 3D objects across applications, while the FBX format is suited to prepping assets for use in Game engines in particular.

Some extensions will allow you to export more information than others. For example, the OBJ wavefront format can import data on object geometry, textures, materials, and animations will the STL format only exports geometry-based information.

The different formats will fall into one of two subcategories. They will either be universal formats that are designed to be used across many different applications or be specialized formats designed to work in a specific application or workflow. The Stanford extension for example is a good format to use for 3D printing, while Alembic can be used to bring models over from Houdini.

Image Based Formats

These format types are generally used for one of four purposes. The first is to be used as reference material for potential assets that you want to create. These can be references gained from the internet or a photo taken on your phone. It could also be concept art of a character that you want to model.

If you are new to 3D modeling then you may not be entirely sure what the term render means. For a 3D application like Blender, this is the process of analyzing data from a specific viewpoint (aka the active camera) and creating an image of that viewpoint using pre-determined parameters like the resolution (found in the properties panel). This image then needs to be saved in a traditional image format like a jpeg.

There are a wide variety of image files to choose from, if you want images that have a small digital footprint (the memory requirement) then you can choose something like a jpeg. If you want a reliable file format that even others a transparency channel then you may go png.

Video Based Formats

These file formats are generally one of a few types, but each type can be used with a different encoder. A common combination for exporting an animation or edited footage from Blender is to use the FFmpeg video format and the MPEG-4 container to export your file, but you also have AVI Jpeg and AVI Raw as options as well.

You don’t even need to use a movie file when importing or exporting though. When importing you can bring in an image sequence, which is a selection of numbered images starting at 001, 002, 003, etc. Each image represents one frame and you select the whole list and bring it in as an image sequence. You can then edit that sequence using the video editor or the compositor or render it out as a full movie file.

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Alternative Formats

These file formats do not fall into any other categories and are used for very specific tasks. For example .py is the file extension for Python script. We use files of this extension name when we want to load in a custom script to use in Blender. We categorized these all as alternative file formats as they all do different things that are unique to each other.

Another cool example is the ability to export a grease pencil layer from the viewport as a PDF of all things.

Which Is The Best Format For 3D Printing?

When it comes to 3D printing, the most suitable file format is the one that can accurately represent your model’s geometry and retain crucial information. Among the file formats compatible with Blender, the following are commonly used and well-suited for 3D printing, STL, and OBJ.

The STL file format is widely considered the standard for 3D printing. It represents the geometry of a 3D model as a collection of interconnected triangles, known as a mesh.

STL files are compatible with most 3D printers and slicing software. Blender provides robust support for exporting models as STL files, making it a reliable choice for 3D printing projects.

On the other hand, we have OBJ files. While OBJ files are not specifically designed for 3D printing, they are widely supported and can be successfully used for this purpose.

OBJ files can store the geometry, texture coordinates, and material information of a 3D model. Many 3D printing software and services accept OBJ files, making it a viable option for exporting models from Blender for 3D printing.

The Best Format For Exporting Models To Game Engines

When exporting 3D models from Blender to game engines, it’s crucial to use file formats that are compatible with the specific requirements of the game engine. Here are some commonly used file formats for exporting 3D models from Blender to game engines:

  • FBX
  • OBJ
  • GLTF

The FBX format is widely supported by game engines and serves as a common interchange format for 3D assets. Blender offers robust support for exporting models as FBX files, making it an excellent choice for transferring 3D assets to game engines such as Unity and Unreal Engine. FBX files can retain geometry, materials, textures, animations, and other relevant data.

While not as feature-rich as FBX, the OBJ format remains widely supported across various game engines. OBJ files can store geometry, texture coordinates, and material information, making them suitable for exporting static models. If you’re working with a game engine that accepts OBJ files, Blender’s support for exporting models in this format can be beneficial.

GLTF (GL Transmission Format) and its binary counterpart, GLB, have gained popularity as a compact and efficient file format for 3D assets in game engines. Blender provides built-in support for exporting models as GLTF/GLB files, allowing you to transfer models with geometry, materials, textures, and animations to game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine.