The primary object that we add to our scenes is the mesh object type, but there are many other object types that we use as a part of our projects. These object types include lights, cameras, and sometimes even images.
To add an image to your 3D viewport, open the Add menu by using the hotkey Shift + A. From this menu, hover over the image, and there will be two options, either Reference or Background. Select one to open the file browser, locate the image you want to import, and then select open image.
Images have many different use cases in Blender, so it is essential to understand how images are used in various scenarios, like in the 3D viewport.
What File Formats Are Best Suited For The 3D Viewport?
In Blender 3D, we have an application capable of using multiple file formats and file types.
We can import many different image file formats, for example. Such as TIFF files or webP files.
But does it matter which file format we use for any given task? Well, to an extent, yes. Different file formats will store different levels of information, and they will store that information differently depending on how they compress the file.
For example, to get the most quality out of our images, we want to use the TIFF file format when we are creating PBR materials. These TIFF files act as our image textures and allow us to add multiple forms of data, such as roughness and normal data.
But this is not necessary for the 3D viewport. Here using either a JPEG or a PNG file format would be sufficient as we are typically looking for the primary color information of the image and nothing else under the hood.
Fortunately, we can import these types of images without the need for any add-ons.
The Three Ways Of Adding Images
To add an image to the 3D viewport, we need to, first of all, go to the add menu, which can be done via either the 3D viewports header bar or by using the hotkey Shift + A.
Here we will be able to access all of the different object types that we can add to our 3D viewport. About halfway down this list, you will find the option for adding images to your scene. So highlight this option, and you will be greeted with a secondary menu that will probably only have two options.
These options will be to add a reference image or a background image. But for the most part, these are similar. But we will explain one key difference between the two of them. The third one, which will probably be hidden from me for the moment, will be the ability to add an image as a plane, which is very different from the other two options.
Adding A Reference Image
When you go to add a new image object, you will have the choice of adding either a reference image or a background image.
Before you do this, however, it is suggested that you first orientate your view so that your image will be correctly imported. This is because when images are brought into the viewport, they will be facing on with the scene camera at the time of import, which may be at an undesirable angle.
Orienting your view to a 2D orthographic view first is recommended so the image can follow a specific axis, making it easier to use.
In the case of a reference image, select the option which will open up the file browser in a separate window. Locate the image you want to bring into your viewport and select it, so it highlights as a blue color.
Then select the blue button labeled Open Image to import your image into the 3D viewport.
Because a reference image is classed as a type of object, it is able to have its transforms changed, so you can grab, rotate, and scale the image. You can do this using the hotkeys, the gizmo, or the side panel.
The primary purpose of reference material is to display an image of a model or object similar to the one we are designing. It would normally be positioned to the side of the viewport while editing, and does not need to be a pixel-perfect image, so a JPG works well for it.
Adding A Background Image
A similar solution is to add a background image instead. This is done the exact same way as with the reference image, following the same steps and recommendations for determining your view beforehand.
The main purpose of the background image is to serve as a direct reference to the model that you are creating.
In other words, the idea here is to create an exact or close, model of the background image. Therefore image quality needs to be a bit sharper here, so a PNG file is the recommended format for a background image.
The key difference with the image is that a background image will always appear behind another object, even when it is not.
Position the image between the scene view and the model, it will look like it’s behind the model, not in front.
The best way to use background images is to have an image for the front, right, and top of the design and position those images accordingly.
To see the image while editing the model, press the Z key to turn on Xray for all objects, allowing you to trace the dimension from the background image for your 3D design.
Import Image As Plane
There is a third, hidden way of importing images into your 3D viewport. A key disadvantage with both of the methods we have suggested so far is that these image objects will not be rendered.
Now, considering the purpose of the background and reference images is for modeling stage, this does make perfect sense.
But what if we actually wanted to render an image within our rendered image? One method of doing this is to add a plane object and then scale it up to the aspect ratio of the image we want to introduce to the viewports.
Then we would go to the shader editor in the shading workspace, create a material for that plane and add an image texture.
Click on the open button body image texture node, locate your image and then add it to your material setup.
But this seems like a lot of work just to add an image into your scene, so instead, we’re going to use an add-on that automates most of this process.
We are referring to the import images as planes add-on, which we can enable by going to the edit menu and opening the preferences panel.
From here, go to add-ons and then type in import images into the search bar. This will leave you with the import images as planes add-on. Tick the box and then close the preferences panel.
If you go to the add menu, and return to images you will see we have a third option so it now should read Reference, Background, And then Image As Plane.
If we select import images as planes We will once again be taken to the file browser where we can import our images, same as with the other two options.
The key difference here is that the imported image will be a texture that is positioned on a plane, and this plane will automatically have the correct aspect ratio for that image.
So by using the add-on, we skip most of the steps that we were required to do before. We also have an image that can be rendered Unlike the reference and background methods.
Thanks For Reading
We appreciate you taking the time to read through the article, and we hope that you found the information you were searching for. To learn more about how images are used in Blender, look at some of the posts listed below.
- Can Blender Import And Export PNG
- Can Blender Import And Export JPG
- Why Does My Rendered Image Look Pixelated
- How To Apply An Image Texture To An Object
- How Paint Transparency Onto An Image Texture