Blender is a versatile digital content creation tool that has been used in a variety of high budget and low budget productions. It’s free, it’s open-source, and it’s incredibly flexible — if you have the right workstation.
This guide will cover the ins and outs of building a computer-tailored to fit Blender’s hardware requirements.
The end result won’t differ too much from your usual gaming or workstation setup, but there are a few factors we’ll cover that can have a big impact on Blender’s performance.
We’ll start out by taking a look at how Blender uses your computer hardware, and follow it up with a breakdown of what features you should look for when buying computer parts. After that, we’ll show you some finished builds that are great for Blender users with different budgets.
Finally, we’ll take a look at how Blender’s hardware requirements may change in the future, and the things you can do to make sure your build will be ready when those changes happen.
If you already know what you’re looking for, feel free to skip ahead to our hardware recommendations or finished Blender PC-Builds. Otherwise, read on! TABLE OF CONTENTS
How Blender Uses Your Hardware
Blender is a versatile program that has been used to make everything from movies to 3D printed dentures. It has modes dedicated to 3D modeling, 3D animation, 3D sculpting, 2D animation, rendering, shader editing, video editing, compositing, and even text editing!
Image-Source: Software Blender
This versatility makes it hard to pick a single performance scenario that’s more important than the rest, but there are a few common categories that are important for every user.
While it’s theoretically possible to use Blender without digging into its 3D modeling system, most users work with it extensively.
Blender tries to split modeling workloads between the CPU and GPU. Using the former for high-precision tasks — modifiers, shape keys, drivers, etc — and python modules, and the latter for things like geometry selection, viewport rendering, and overlays.
This approach makes Blender a wonderfully undemanding tool for low-poly and mid-poly modeling, but you’ll still need a powerful workstation for high-poly work. You’ll need all the power you can get in order to take advantage of things like OpenSubdivision and parametric modeling.
Blender’s sculpting system was partially refactored for version 2.8, shedding a lot of unmaintainable code. The developers didn’t have time to implement all of the performance optimizations they wanted to before 2.8 hit release, but the features on the road map still show a lot of promise.
The current sculpting system is CPU-based, with decent multi-threading, and it relies on aggressive RAM caching to deliver consistent performance while working on high-poly models.
Image Source: Blender Software
Blender hits RAM capacity and CPU processing bottlenecks faster than other sculpting programs because of this, but it still delivers solid sculpting performance on the right hardware.
Under the hood, Cycles is a cross-platform physically-based unidirectional path tracer that can run on CPU, GPU, and CPU+GPU hybrid mode in single-processor and multi-processor (CPU or GPU) configurations. In simple terms, it’s flexible, powerful, and surprisingly easy to work with.
Like all production engines, though, Cycles is demanding. It takes full advantage of multithreading where it can and it’s a popular benchmark tool for both CPUs and GPUs.
Cycles renders faster on GPU by a fair margin, but it has a larger feature set (including OSL support) on CPU.
Eevee can’t achieve the same fidelity as a production ray tracer like Cycles, but it isn’t meant to. Eevee’s built for real time rendering and look development, with a PBR feature set that parallels real time engines like Unreal and Lumberyard.
As you’d expect, Eevee is a GPU-only engine and that doesn’t run on multi-GPU configurations. Eevee supports bloom, ambient occlusion, depth of field, screen space reflections, motion blur, volumetrics, and indirect light baking.
Eevee runs smoothly on mid-to-high-end consumer GPUs in most situations. It performs best when it has access to ample VRAM, and it can be bottlenecked by excessive draw calls. It performs a bit better on Nvidia cards than AMD, mostly due to the close relationship between Nvidia and the Blender development team.
Best Hardware for Blender Explained
Now that we’ve looked at Blender’s general hardware requirements, we can dig into the specific details that’ll influence how you’ll build your Blender workstation.
While Blender takes advantage of multithreading where it can, there are certain tasks that have to be handled on a single thread. You can usually predict what is or isn’t multi-threaded, though, and striking a good balance isn’t too much of a challenge.
If you’re interested in all of Blender’s features, or you’re building a generalist workstation that doesn’t target a particular pipeline, pick a processor with a balanced feature set.
Blender is well-optimized for multithreaded CPU rendering, but not to the point that it struggles on processors that prioritize single-core performance.Search:
|CPU Name||Cores||Ghz||Score (minutes)|
|AMD Threadripper 2990WX||32||3.0||06.16|
|AMD Threadripper 2970WX||24||3.0||07.40|
|AMD Threadripper 2950X||16||3.5||10.32|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||12||3.8||10.55|
|AMD Threadripper 2920X||12||3.5||13.02|
|AMD Threadripper 1920X||12||3.5||14.05|
|Intel i9 9900X||10||3.5||14.23|
|Intel i9 7900X||10||3.3||15.02|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X||8||3.9||15.30|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||8||3.6||16.18|
|Intel i9 9900KF||8||3.6||16.45|
|Intel i9 9900K||8||3.6||16.45|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X||8||3.7||18.24|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X||6||3.8||21.01|
|AMD Ryzen 7 1800X||8||3.6||21.09|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700||8||3.2||21.10|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||6||3.6||21.55|
|Intel i7 8700K||6||3.7||22.04|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||6||3.6||24.27|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||6||3.4||26.26|
|AMD Ryzen 5 1600X||6||3.3||27.12|
|Intel i7 7700K||4||4.2||32.48|
|Intel i5 8400||6||2.8||35.18|
|CPU Name||Cores||GHz||Score (minutes)|
The chart above is from our recent Blender Benchmarks article. The CPU’s we tested run the gamut from basic consumer processors to dedicated workstation chips, covering both ends of the budget range.
The benchmark tool we used was built by the Blender Foundation, and it’s a part of their open data platform. If you’re interested in seeing more rendering benchmarks, take a look at their Top 50 CPUs List.
If you aren’t specifically optimizing for CPU rendering, don’t worry too much about picking an expensive processor. You probably shouldn’t go for an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 1500x if you can afford something better, but there’s no need to break the bank here.
Best CPUs for Blender – CPU Recommendations
- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core CPU for fast active work performance and good CPU rendering performance.
- AMD Threadripper 2990WX 32-Core CPU for great CPU rendering performance.
- Budget picks include the 3rd gen Ryzen 7 and 5 Series, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, AMD Ryzen 5 3600.
If you’d like to stay on Intel’s side, the Intel i9 9900K is a good buy for Blender with fast active work performance, but it lacks behind in multi-core performance compared to AMD’s offerings.
Blender makes liberal use of GPU acceleration, which means that a good GPU can have an impact on just about everything you do in Blender. Not all GPUs are alike, however, and there are some important differences you should be aware of before you commit to a particular brand or price point.
CUDA vs. OpenCL
While CUDA and OpenCL are both programming architectures that can be used for general purpose computing on GPUs, it’s hard to compare them directly.
CUDA is a proprietary architecture, toolkit, and API from Nvidia that only works with Nvidia graphics cards. Nvidia provides tons of resources and hands-on support for developers that use it, and it’s a powerful tool for users with the right hardware configuration.
OpenCL, meanwhile, is an open source architecture for heterogeneous computing that was originally created by Apple. It’s a general purpose toolkit for making different kinds of processors work together when they otherwise couldn’t, and it’s known for its flexibility.
Blender renders faster and runs smoother on CUDA GPUs for obvious reasons; CUDA is built to be used the way Blender uses it. OpenCL isn’t designed to compete with CUDA, instead catering towards bootstrapped processing networks that mix in non-consumer processors like DSPs and FPGAs.
What About RTX?
“Does Blender use RTX raytracing?”, is a common question, and it deserves a thorough answer.
Nvidia’s ray tracing API isn’t called RTX. RTX cards have dedicated ray tracing hardware, but the API itself is called OptiX.
OptiX isn’t a driver and it can’t be used to accelerate ray tracing tasks automatically. OptiX is more comparable to architectures like CUDA and OpenCL, albeit with a narrower focus.
Blender’s development team is working with Nvidia to integrate OptiX features into Blender and OptiX accelerated CUDA rendering will eventually be available alongside the existing CUDA and OpenCL implementations.
Blender 2.8 did not ship with OptiX support.
So What GPU Should I Use?
Blender’s heavy use of GPU acceleration and its rock-solid CUDA implementation makes an Nvidia graphics card a safe choice for most users. Non-CUDA cards (read: AMD cards) aren’t the best choice for rendering, but they’re still a good choice for users interested in consistent viewport performance.
When it comes to looking at GPU specifications, pay attention to the number of compute cores (CUDA or OpenCL, depending on what brand you buy) and the amount of VRAM. Blender is just as hungry for VRAM as it for normal RAM, and a GPU with ample VRAM is worth paying extra for if you’re interested in sculpting, high poly modeling, or GPU rendering.
Best GPUs for Blender – GPU Recommendations
- Performance Pick: Nvidia RTX 2080 TI or RTX 2080 SUPER
- Value Recommend: Nvidia RTX 2070 SUPER and 2060 SUPER
- Budget Choice: Nvidia GTX 1660TI
- Radeon RX 5700XT or RX 5700
- Radeon Vega 56 / 64
While earlier versions of Blender were known to have a relatively modest memory footprint, the Blender 2.8 reverses that trend. While you can generally get by in Blender with mid-range processors and graphics cards, insufficient RAM is a show-stopper that can’t be circumvented.
So why does Blender use more RAM than other programs?
Blender does a little bit of everything, and it isn’t optimized for narrow performance conditions like other modeling tools.
It has multiple data structures for meshes, operations that can run on both CPU and GPU, and a system for animating just about every object property you can imagine.
Blender juggles these operations and not-quite-identical data structures by caching and duplicating object data in your RAM, giving each system a clean instance to operate on. This limits data loss and improves Blender’s stability, but only by consuming a significant amount of RAM.
This RAM caching system has a notable impact on Blender’s modifier stack, as it repeatedly re-caches objects for each active modifier. It has a similar impact on sculpting, too, due to the differences between the sculpting and modeling mesh data structures.
If you’re using Blender for anything beyond low-poly modeling and simple scenes, you’ll want at least 16-32gb of RAM. If you have a tendency to multitask and this isn’t your first workstation build, stepping up to 64gb isn’t a bad idea.
When it comes to RAM speed and how many sticks to get, check out this section of our general workstation guide. It’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Best RAM for Blender – RAM Recommendations
- Best Value Choice: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 RAM 3200MHz CL16
- Performance Pick: G.Skill RipJaws 3600MHz CL16 or Crucial Ballistix 3600Mhz CL16
Data storage can have a surprisingly large impact on Blender’s performance, and investing in the right drives definitely pays off.
Blender is built with data preservation in mind, which means that it’s constantly writing temporary files and auto-saves to disk. This is great for most users, but it can lead to frustration I/O bottlenecks in large projects.
To get the best performance, you’ll need to distribute your workload across multiple drives, preventing software and operating system I/O from bottlenecking data cache and storage I/O.
A 3-drive configuration, with your OS and software on one SSD, your active project files and data caches on a second SSD, and your archived files on an HDD, will give you the best performance when you’re working on projects with cached lighting, physics, and/or animation data.
This kind of configuration is commonly used by video editors, which shouldn’t be too surprising. The Blender Foundation has a long history, and much of Blender’s feature set caters to open source short film production.
For SSDs, we strongly recommend choosing an NVMe SSD. The price difference between SATA and NVMe SSDs isn’t negligible, but the performance gains are significant.
The size sweet spot will depend on how complex your projects are and how many of them you have going at once; if you tend to work on one project at a time, you can get away with using smaller SSDs and move your completed projects to an HDD as you go.
HDD prices are low enough that you should be able to get a high capacity drive for relatively cheap. If this is your first workstation build, you don’t need to worry about complex RAID configurations or NAS enclosures; you’ll know when you’ll need them.
- For Project Files: Samsung 970 EVO Plus or 970 Pro Series (Nvme M.2 SSDs)
- For OS / Software: Samsung 860 EVO or Pro Series (SATA SSDs)
- For Backup / Archiving of Projects: Seagate Barracuda HDDs or Western Digital Blue Series
I’m going to focus on ATX cases here, as the build process for Micro-ATX and ITX form-factors are involved enough to deserve their own article.
For ATX cases, though, the rubric is simple. Your case should be well-built, properly sized, and adequately vented, with mounting points for additional fans and a logical air-flow design. Tie-off points for cable management are always helpful, and front USB-C ports can be incredibly convenient.
Beyond those basics, though, choosing the right case is mostly a matter of aesthetics.
If you value air flow above all else, get a case from Cooler Master. My current workstation is in their HAF XB EVO, and, while it isn’t the prettiest case in the world, it’s a rock-solid test bench with excellent cooling.
For cases with more traditional aesthetics, I’ll defer to Alex. Here are a few of his recommendations:
Mid-Tower (Standard-Sized Build)
- Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Mid Tower Case
- Corsair Carbide Series 200R ATX Mid Tower Case
- Corsair Carbide Series 275Q ATX Mid Tower Case
Big Tower (For lots of GPUs)
Picking the right power supply is pretty simple. Grab an online calculator (like this one!) and add up your system’s power draw. If the average draw lines up with the peak of the PSU’s efficiency curve, and you still have some headroom for future upgrades, you’re good to go.
If you care about cable management (and you should care about cable management), get a modular power supply. These PSUs cost a smidgen more than non-modular power supplies, but the convenience of only having to deal with the cables you need in your case is worth the premium.
Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of budgeting. With that, and energy efficiency, in mind, here are a few PSUs we’d recommend:
- 550W: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply
- 760W: Corsair Professional Series Platinum AX760 760W Power Supply
- 1000W: be quiet! Straight Power 11 1000W ATX 2.4 Power Supply
- 1600W: Corsair AX1600i 1600W ATX 2.4 Power Supply
The importance of a high-quality motherboard is hard to quantify, as the associated costs tend to be tied up in materials and quality controls that provide stability rather than direct performance improvements.
You’ll feel the impact of those materials and controls once you start overclocking, though, and you’ll appreciate the additional PCI slots, rear I/O, M.2 capacity, and power stability when it comes time to upgrade.
The specific motherboard you choose will, of course, depend on the CPU socket and form factor and amount of GPUs you are planning on using you’re interested in. Larger motherboards tend to have more internal expansion slots and rear I/O ports than smaller motherboards, and newer socket revisions tend to come with better features than older revisions (even when they’re compatible with the same hardware).
Check out this guide if you want to dive into the nitty-gritty details of buying the best AM4 motherboard; keep reading to see our current recommendations.
- Socket AM4: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite or MSI Tomahawk B450 MAX for those not needing PCIE-4
- Socket TR4: Gigabyte Designare Ex X399
- Socket LGA-1151 v2: Asus Prime Z390-A II
- Socket 2066: MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon ATX 2066
Picking the right computer monitor for Blender is fairly straightforward, since Blender doesn’t require monitor features that other modeling programs don’t.
This lets you pick a monitor configuration that fits the overall workflow you like to use without worrying too much about how Blender will fit into it. Blender’s UI is functional on both small and large screens, with hiDPI support on all platforms, too.
We explore monitor choices in detail in this writeup, which is worth reading if you’re looking for a high-end screen. In general, though, you’ll probably want an IPS panel monitor with minimal light bleed and a broad color gamut. A 4k monitor isn’t mandatory, but the step from 1080p to 1440p is worth it if it fits your budget.
When it comes to screen size, number, and aspect ratio, it’s mostly a matter of personal preference. Your productivity won’t scale linearly with more and/or larger monitors, and you’ll benefit more from a single high-quality screen if you’re doing any sort of texturing, rendering, or color grading.
Here are a few monitors that fit that description:
- Best 27” All-Rounder: Dell UltraSharp UP2716D, 27″
- Serious Color Accuracy Work: Eizo ColorEdge CG2420, 24″
- Best 4K Budget Monitor: Philips 276E8VJSB
The PC hardware market changes quickly, and some hardware configurations are more upgradable than others. If you want to build a PC for Blender that you can upgrade later on, there are a few factors that’ll affect your hardware choices.
The biggest factor is your motherboard’s CPU socket type. Some sockets are designed to be forward-compatible (with bios updates), while others aren’t.
Depending on when you build your computer, relative to hardware release cycles, a newer low-end CPU can be a smarter choice than an older high-end CPU if you’re intending to upgrade later on.
Intel changes socket designs frequently, which gives AMD an edge for users interested in future-proofing. AMD’s AM4 socket won’t go away any time soon, either, which makes it an especially solid choice.
On the practical side of the equation, picking the right case can make upgrading a lot easier. I specifically chose my ugly brick of a case for its horizontally mounted motherboard, which makes upgrading a breeze. I can pop the top panel off and swap hardware out in minutes
The form factor of your build can also make upgrading harder; small cases don’t have a lot of wiggle room for longer GPUs and larger coolers, and compact motherboards have a limited number of PCI lanes and RAM slots.
Piecemeal upgrades in tight cases are challenging, and you’ll end up spending more time planning and installing hardware upgrades than you would in a larger case. PSUs should be strong enough from the start if you plan on getting more hardware later on, especially with multi-gpu setups that are planned to be expanded.
Building Your Workstation
This is a site for PC building enthusiasts, which means we really like the part where we get to put our workstations together. It’s fun, it’s amazingly easy, and it’s a great way to save money.
If you don’t know where to start, though, don’t worry; there are tons of guides online. We’ve found this video from Bitwit to be particularly helpful for first-time builders:
Putting your workstation together should only take a few hours; less, if you set up your workspace properly beforehand.
Best PC-Builds for Blender at different Price Points
Best Computer for Blender, AMD at roughly ~700$
Some Build notes:
This very low-budget Build can be made even cheaper if you use the CPU Cooler that comes with the CPU. It doesn’t have as great a Cooling Power as the CoolerMaster Hyper 212, but this is not entirely necessary with such a CPU.
Some CPU upgrades include the Ryzen 7 2700 or 2700X if you have some extra cash. Of course the 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs are an option too, but will increase the money you have to spend some more.
Best Computer for Blender, AMD at roughly ~2000$
Some Build notes:
This is a great “all-rounder” AMD build that will make Blender run fast in all kinds of workloads – multi- and single-threaded. The Case is professional, minimalistic and quiet and there is room for 3 Optical drives in case you want to add some DVD/CD Drives.
The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is the fastest of the third Generation Ryzen CPUs. It has excellent Multi-Core and great Single Core performance. Be sure to take a look at this article on the best motherboards for Ryzen 3rd Gen CPUs, to see which one exactly you will want to get.
I added a Samsung 970 EVO PLUS M.2 NVMe Drive in this build that will give you extreme Storage Performance. The Nvidia RTX 2070 offers great CUDA GPU Rendering Performance at a reasonable price, but can be interchanged with the 2060 Super if you’d like to save some more money.
Best Computer for Blender, Intel at roughly ~2000$
Some Build notes:
This is a solid Intel build with an extremely well-performing Processor in Blender. The Case is professional, minimalistic and quiet.
The Intel i9-9900K is the currently leading CPU in single-core performance, meaning your viewport and active-work speed will not get any faster than with this CPU.
If you are planning on some extreme overclocking or sustained high-workload, you might want to consider an AiO CPU cooling solution.
Best Computer for CPU Rendering in Blender, AMD at roughly ~3000$
This is an excellent Build that leans towards CPU Rendering Performance and less towards active-working performance in tasks such as 3D Modeling or Animating.
Some notes on this build:
As this build is focused on CPU Rendering, the other parts such as storage and GPU are proportionally low-end compared to the 32-Core Threadripper CPU. This build has an absolutely fantastic CPU Rendering Performance.
64GB of RAM is a lot. It should be more than enough for nearly all scenes. You can save some cash by downgrading to 32GB though.
Best Computer for GPU Rendering in Blender, AMD at roughly ~7100$
This is an excellent Build that will bring you the maximum plug & play GPU Rendering Performance (on a single Consumer Mainboard) combined with an excellent CPU for good Workstation performance. But it comes at a steep price.
Some notes on this Build:
4 GPUs need a Motherboard with 4 PCIE Slots that are spaced far enough from each other to allow for 4 dual-Slot GPUs. This is possible with the Gigabyte X399 Designare EX Motherboard.
At ~$1,200 each, RTX 2080TIs are expensive. If you’re okay with slightly slower performance, but want to save a decent chunk of money, I recommend going with 4x RTX 2070, as these come in at around $550 each. You’ll only have 8GBs of VRAM per card, but the GPU rendering performance/price is much better.
The Case is big. It has room for 8 single-slot (or 4 dual slot) Cards. The Power Supply should provide at least 1250W and I added some headroom here with the excellent 1600W Corsair Titanium Power Supply.
Threadripper CPUs are excellent for multi-GPU setups, as these CPUs have 64 PCIE-Lanes to drive all of those GPUs in 16x and 8x Mode.
– All of these builds will of course need a Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor and Operating System to be complete, but I’ll let you figure those out on your own. –