One of the many strengths of Linux is its good range of open source software for artists, photographers, animators, and designers. With inexpensive hardware, free software, and a modicum of talent and inspiration, anyone can create professional-looking computer graphics.
If you are new to computer graphics, it may not be clear what is meant by the term rendering. To clarify, rendering is the process of generating an image from a model (or a collection of models, known as a scene file) using computer software. This entails the computer software to perform calculations to translate the scene from a mathematical approximation to a 2D image. To generate the image, the scene file contains objects in a defined language or data structure, containing geometry, lighting, shading, texture, and viewpoint. This data is processed by the rendering software to generate a raster image file or a digital image.
There are three main computational techniques used by rendering software: scanline, raytracing, and radiosity. Rendering is a CPU-intensive process, so some software also makes use of the Graphics processing unit (GPU) to speed up the process. Images can be rendered by a single computer or with a network of computers that work on a different part of the image.
There is a large selection of open source rendering software to download. To provide an insight into the quality that is available, we have compiled a list of our favorite rendering software. We give our strongest recommendation to Blender, LuxCoreRender, Cycles and appleseed. But there’s lots of other good open source software available if they don’t meet your specific requirements.
Let’s explore the 9 renderers at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot of the software in action, together with links to relevant resources.
|Blender||3D computer graphics software toolset that excels in many areas|
|appleseed||Physically-based renderer targeted at production rendering|
|Cycles||Physically based production renderer developed by the Blender project|
|Mitsuba||Extensible rendering framework written in portable C++|
|LuxCoreRender||Physically based and unbiased rendering engine|
|Art of Illusion||3D-modeler, renderer and raytracer|
|Renderer||Interactive 3D visualization of triangle meshes|
|Aqsis||3D rendering solution adhering to the RenderMan standard|
|Radiance||Suite of tools for performing lighting simulation|
Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.