Check out these great videos by Alex Pearce (as well as his excellent other content) which do a much better job of explaining how to use SImpleBake than I ever could.
A full changelog is available here. The latest version brings:
SimpleBake is the definitive baking solution for Blender 2.8.
Blender 2.8 provides a very powerful way to create complex PBR materials by using nodes. However, what should be a simple process of baking and exporting these materials for use with other software or systems (Substance Painter, Second Life, Sketchfab, Unity, etc.) is surprisingly difficult.
SimpleBake aims to address this problem. SimpleBake is an addon/tool that provides a one-click solution for baking PBR maps from materials created in Blender 2.8.
However, SimpleBake isn't just an add-on for PBR. You can easily bake all of the "traditional" Cycles bake modes, along with other kinds of specialist maps (Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, Thickness, Vertex Colours, and Colour ID).
See below for a full overview of the features, and also check out the FAQs and ratings for more information.
General (apply to all baking)
PBR Bake Mode
Cycles Bake Mode
Specials Bake Mode
Smaller Features Making all baking in SimpleBake just a little easier
I like to be upfront about any limitations. There is no point in mis-selling you something!:
If you are anything like me, you'll know most of what you need to know by simply looking at the UI.
The screenshots below show the three modes of SimpleBake - PBRBake, CyclesBake and SpecialsBake. See the FAQs for more information.
You will find SimpleBake in the render settings tab in the properties panel.
To bake, select the objects you want to bake in the viewport, set your baking mode, select your options, and then hit bake!
PBR Map Bake
Select the objects you want to bake, the maps you need, and the extra options you want (including external save, image size, etc.). After that, just hit PBR Map Bake, and watch it go.
The "traditional" modes of baking. This will bake as per whatever settings you have in the Cycles bake panel (usually the panel above SimpleBake itself).
SimpleBake will still take care of setting up all the images and materials, cycling through all your selected objects, generating new UVs, and saving externally (if you have selected those options).
Select the specials maps that you want to bake. Then set your other settings (texture size, new UVs, etc.) and hit bake.
Please contact me if you have any difficulties or questions.
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NOTE: The below is now out of date. It is now possible to bake in the background, leaving you free to keep using Blender. Some kind of progress bar is incoming, but not yet available.
After hitting bake, Blender will "lock-up" (freeze) until it is complete. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this. This is usually only brief but, if you are baking lots of stuff at high resolutions, it could also be for quite a long time (especially if you have a slow computer).
During the bake, SimpleBake will output various messages to the system console. These messages give you an idea of what is going on and how things are progressing. For this reason, I would strongly recommend always starting Blender from the console. If you start it from the Start Menu (or your operating system's equivalent), there is no way to see what is going on.
The primary purpose of SimpleBake is to bake PBR maps from materials created around the Principled BSDF and Emission shaders (only those shaders, or it's not really PBR). This is what a PBR Map Bake is, and it allows you to bake PBR compatible image maps such as Diffuse, Metal, Normal, Transmission, etc. Other programs and services (like Sketchfab) are set up to work with those kinds of PBR maps.
However, SimpleBake can also bake the more "traditional" bake modes that Blender offers. You can see these in the Bake panel in Blender, usually the one above SimpleBake itself. SimpleBake calls this a "Cycles Bake".
When you click Cycles Bake in SimpleBake, your bake will be based upon the settings in the default bake panel. For example, if this is set to combined, your bake will be a combined bake taking into account lighting, shadows, reflection, etc. You will only get one map. SimpleBake will handle all the node setup, image creation, and general configuration needed for a Cycles Bake, making it a one-click solution, and not the colossal pain it usually is to set up in Blender.
These maps you get from a Cycles bake are not PBR maps, but they can still be useful. I don't do any game development, but I think materials with lighting and shadows baked in are used for game development. These are the baking modes that Blender has offered since pretty much forever, and they do have their uses.
Baking with Blender (or, more accurately, with Cycles) will never be instant. It depends a lot on what you are baking and the speed of your computer.
SimpleBake makes a number of adjustments to your settings to try and streamline the baking process. That said, if it's still slow, there are some things to consider:
Start by baking at low resolution (128x128 or 512x512). Check that everything looks OK before moving on to the higher resolution bake.
Look at SimpleBake's output in the system console. This gives you an idea of what's happening step by step. If something is happening that you don't expect, you can usually see why from what's being written to the console.
Don't forget the memory usage option (in SimpleBake's panel). This is especially important if you are using a low-powered computer (my laptop will crash baking complex objects if I don't reduce this).
Check back often for updates! I'm always fiddling with SimpleBake, squashing bugs and making it better. Updates are frequent.
"Bake maps to target" allows you to specify a different mesh (the "Target Object") to the mesh(s) with the materials you are baking (the "Source Object(s)").
The Target Object is typically a low poly version of the Source Object(s), allowing you to essentially transfer the materials from the latter to the former. This is a common workflow for game development. The end result is one object (the Target Object) with the materials of the Source Object(s) projected onto it.
This process uses Selected to Active baking in Blender. The Target Object and the Source Object(s) must share the same space. You must also specify a Ray Distance and (optionally) a cage. You can think of it as rays reaching out from all points of the Target Object (at the distance you specify) and "finding" the Source Object(s). When a ray hits, it returns the part of the Source Object(s) material that it found, and that gets projected onto the Target Object.
You will need to change the settings in Sketchfab for the transmission/opacity texture.
Unfortunately, the Sketchfab API does not allow for this to be done via a script. It must be done manually.
Format for the texture must be Luminance, and Invert Texture must be turned on. See here.
If there is a newer version of SimpleBake than the one you have installed, you will see a notification at the top of the SimpleBake panel alerting to you to this fact.
You can then go into the add-on preferences for SimpleBake and use the auto-update function to update to the newest version.
There is also a link there to the release notes, so you can see what is included in the new update.
Once the bake is complete, your textures will be available within Blender. You can see them by going to the UV Image editor, and selecting one of them as the displayed image.
In common with other images created in Blender, your texture will not be saved when you save your blend file unless you selected the option in SimpleBake to export them. Blender only saves data that is being "used" somewhere and, straight after a bake, the internal only images containing the baked textures are not being "used" anywhere.
SimpleBake includes an option to automatically export your textures on creation. In this case, your textures will be saved into a folder called "SimpleBake_Bakes" (or whatever name you inputted on the SimpleBake panel) created in the same place as your blend file is saved.
If you have selected the "Copy objects and apply baked textures" option, you will find an object in the root collection with your baked materials applied. If you also enabled the option to save your bakes externally, that material will refer to your externally saved images.
It is important to appreciate that SimpleBake does not change the materials on your original objects (to ensure your hard work is not ruined!). After a bake, your original object(s) should look the same in the viewport, and your materials should be the same.
If you want to use the baked textures that you just created on your original objects (i.e. you didn't use the "Copy objects and apply bakes" option in SimpleBake), you will need to change your materials to refer to them (i.e. plug them all into a Principled BSDF), and make sure you have the correct UVmap selected. This is either your original UVmap, or the one created by SimpleBake if you checked the "Generate UVs" option. This is basically you doing manually what the "Copy objects and apply baked textures" feature mentioned above does for you automatically.
If you checked the box for "Export Mesh" when baking, a copy of your object will be saved externally (in the same folder mentioned above). This copy of your object is ready to accept your textures. It includes only the UV map you used for baking, and only one placeholder (blank) material per object. You could re-import this into Blender if you wished, but it's more common to take that exported mesh and baked textures to another program or service (e.g. uploading to Sketchfab).
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