The Asset Browser was added to Blender 3.0 but was initially not very useful. As Blender continues to add functionality to the feature, this page will be updated to serve as a comprehensive and current guide to the asset browser. Join my mailing list below to stay updated on new Blender features! Video tutorials can be found on my YouTube channel.
A technical (but important) aspect of Blender’s Asset Browser is that it’s not a true asset library which stores and imports assets. It is instead a pointer system that tells Blender where to find assets to bring into your Blender file.
Table of Contents
What Are Assets?
I’ll be using the term “assets” a lot in this guide. Assets refer to items which can be “marked” to appear in the browser. In the 3.0 release of the Asset Browser, only a few things could be marked as assets. Now, collections and other data blocks can also be marked as assets.
There is work being done to add more data blocks to the Asset Browser functionality. When I use the term “asset” it could mean an object, a material, an HDRI, a collection or other data block supported by the browser.
Setting up the Asset Browser – File Paths
The Asset Browser adds a new editor in the list of Blender editors. The icon looks like books on a shelf.
Before the Asset Browser will work, we need to do two things. We first need to set up a library in our preferences. The library is a location (or several locations) on our computer where Blender can find assets we want available in the browser. After we do this, we will have to “mark” our individual assets.
The concept of this library can be confusing. There is generally no need to move files or create duplicated .Blend files just to populate the library. When identifying a library location in the preferences (I’ll show you how in just a minute), Blender needs a file folder on your computer. This folder can have as many subfolders as we want. So, if we have a master folder where we keep all of our assets, choose that folder (even if it has multiple sub-folders).
We could choose a location as large as our “C” drive on our computer. The larger the library folder, the longer Blender could take to search for it. So something more specific would work better.
To do this, we will go into preferences and find the tab on the left called “File Paths.” There will be several options, but toward the bottom we find “Asset Libraries.”
There should be a default library set up called “User Library.” This probably isn’t where we store our assets. We can leave it and add a new one or change it.
The column on the left is where we can name our library. The column on the right is where we give the file path for a folder containing the assets. There’s a plus icon (+) below where we can add additional library paths.
If we choose to use only one library, that is fine. We can organize a single library using “catalogs” which will be covered later. Or, we may choose to have (for example) one library path for models and another for materials, etc. How we choose to manage our libraries is entirely up to us. But we will need to have at least one library set up with a file path containing .Blend files with the assets we will want available in the browser.
The bottom line is the Asset Browser will only look for assets in a .Blend file which is contained inside one of the identified file paths (aka “libraries”) we identify in the preferences.
Two things you MUST do to use the Asset Browser:
1. You have to set up a file path for a library in the preferences
2. Individually mark assets
Setting up the Asset Browser – Marking Assets
After we’ve set up at least one library (file path) with .Blend files in it, we need to mark individual assets to appear in the browser. Assets won’t be available in the browser unless they are “marked.”
For objects and collections, right click on them in the Outliner. Then select “Mark as Asset” from the dropdown box.
To mark a material as an asset, go to the material properties panel and right click the material in the materials list. Then choose “Mark as Asset.”
Once an asset (object, collection, material, etc.) is marked, it will appear in the asset browser. Remember, it will only appear if it is marked from a file which is saved in the file path (or subfolder) identified in the preferences.
Also, to open this asset from another .Blend file, we will need to save this file.
Worlds can be marked as assets by going to the world properties settings in the properties panel. Right click the world (HDRI or other settings) and select “Mark as Asset.”
Setting up an HDRI library could be a great use of the Asset Browser. Here is a video introducing how to use HDRIs IN BLENDER.
Actions are advanced animation tools which allow us to save a series of keyframes into actions which can then be manipulated in the Non-Linear Animation editor.
By right clicking on the action title in the action editor (found in the dope sheet), we can also mark these as actions. They do not generate preview images though.
Disclaimer: I have not played around with these very much in the Asset Browser.
Current File vs. Library Path
Once we’ve set our file path and marked an asset, we will want to go to the Asset Browser (we can open it in any workspace or create a new workspace). We may or may not see anything in the browser. In the top left, we see a drop-down box which defaults to “Current File.”
The “Current File” refers to the .Blend file which we are currently working in. Only assets (which have been marked) that are already in the currently open .Blend file will appear here. If we just marked our first asset and looked here, we should see it (if not, try saving the file).
The term “Current File” also refers to an asset’s original file location. Later we will see that we can only make changes to where an asset is stored if we are in the asset’s “Current File.” This should make sense soon enough.
If we marked an asset in a .Blend file and then went to another .Blend file where we wanted to import the asset from the browser, we will NOT see it here in the current file. Selecting the drop-down box will show the libraries (file paths) we set up in the preferences. We can choose the library which contains the .Blend file of the marked asset to see the asset in the browser.
We can go into any .Blend files that are stored in our library path and start marking assets for the browser. But, before we go any further, we are going to want to discuss asset browser organization using catalogs.
Asset Browser Catalogs
Catalogs are a method for organizing an asset browser library regardless of where the assets are actually stored or how they are organized on our computer. They are sort of like subfolders but a better comparison is filters. Creating a catalog and adding an asset to it allows us to view groups of assets. We can assign the same asset to multiple catalogs without duplicating the storage of the asset.
Unfortunately, to assign an asset to a catalog, we need to be in the asset’s “current file” – meaning the original file from which the asset was marked. This is annoying because if we added a whole bunch of assets from a lot of different files, it’s going to take some time to go back and assign them all to catalogs. The best practice is to establish catalogs we want early and assign assets to our catalogs immediately after we mark them as assets.
Organize assets as soon as you mark them!
Assets can only be assigned to catalogs from the original (“Current”) .Blend file – the one where they were marked as assets. So assign them to catalogs ass oon as you mark them!
Let’s make sure we are in a .Blend file from which we marked an asset (aka that asset’s “Current File”). If we change the drop-down box from “Current File” to the correct library which houses the asset, we see the catalog areas just below. Assuming we haven’t set any catalogs up, we should just see the option for “All” and “Unassigned.”
The “Unassigned” area will display any assets which have not been assigned to a catalog. Press the small plus (+) icon at the top of the list to create a new catalog within the selected library. Give the catalog a name. Now we can go to the “unassigned” assets and drag and drop assets from the browser into the catalog we created.
As we do this with more and more of our assets, the catalog will grow. ALWAYS save your file after marking and assigning assets to catalogs!
Importing Assets into a Scene
Now that we know how to set up the browser and add assets into libraries and catalogs, let’s cover how to import them into a scene.
For objects, it’s as simple as selecting the object by left clicking on it in the browser and dragging it into your scene. A box and grid appear in the 3D viewport to guide you as to where it will appear.
Collections work similarly but there are some (frustrating) issues with collections at the moment (more on that below). Marking either a parent or child object won’t mark the other related objects with it.
This is most frustrating with character rigs. I don’t have a good answer for how to mark a rigged character as an asset.
Materials are given a nice preview image in the browser and can simply be dragged onto an object as well. Not much more to explain on this.
It took me a while to figure out how to add a second material to an object from the Asset Browser. To do it, add a second material slot with the + icon in the material panel. Drag the second material onto the second empty slot. Then it can be assigned to different parts of the mesh.
Worlds can be imported simply by dragging and dropping a world to anywhere in the scene. This is a great use of the Blender Asset Browser!
I’m putting together a TUTORIAL ON BUILDING AN HDRI LIBRARY. Coming soon on my YOUTUBE CHANNEL.
Again, I haven’t experimented much with actions in the Asset Browser. They are a little advanced for me, but I’m sure serious animators will find this useful.
There are no default thumbnails generated for actions so naming them will be very important.
To bring them in, drag them from the Asset Browser onto the dropdown box where an action’s name is displayed in the action editor. This is a little different, so thankfully GIFs have been included.
Collections have been a frustration since the Asset Browser was released. At first, they straight-up didn’t work at all. Then, a workaround was discovered but with the 3.1 update, even that didn’t work. According to developers, one of the problems was they couldn’t figure out how to generate preview images for collections. In 3.2 collections became supported but still have some bugs.
An important problem to point out is that parenting relationships don’t seem to be recognized by the Asset Browser. If we have an object parented to another object, one would think that marking the parent object as an asset would include the child objects in the Asset Browser. But that doesn’t work – even when they’re placed into a collection.
Also (for some reason) collections are currently brought into the scene as collection instances. If you’re not familiar with these, the entire collection will be brought in as a single object. You can fix this once it’s imported. Select the instanced collection and press F3 to search for “Make Instances Real.” This will separate the objects and bring them back to how you had them arranged in your collection.
Import Options (Append / Linked)
The asset browser allows us three ways to import an asset into our scene. At the top and center of the asset browser is a drop-down box for import options. From here, we can choose three options: Link, Append and Append (Reuse Data).
Import Option: Link
Importing a linked object will directly link the object’s data from its original scene. We initially won’t be able to move or edit the object at all. To do so, we will have to add a library override. Using linked objects allows the object to be managed only from its original file. This can be useful when multiple people are working on a project. One person could be editing an object in one file and its changes will appear in the file where it is linked. Multiple people could be working on objects from different files and they’ll be updating in the master project file (awesome!).
Import Option: Append
Appending an object into our scene creates a new copy of the object and its data. This object will not be connected to the original file at all. Each version of the object will also have its own data. So if we imported the same object into our scene twice, we could edit one of them without the changes affecting the other object.
Import Option: Append (Reuse Data)
This option allows us to append the object, which creates a new set of data not connected to the original object’s file. However, with the reuse data option, any subsequent imports of the same object will be linked to each other. So if we imported the same object twice into our scene, editing one of the objects would change the other. The use of data with this method is more efficient rather than duplicating data unnecessarily. For most cases, this is the option I recommend.
Miscellaneous Asset Browser Features
I can’t call this the “Ultimate” Asset Browser Guide without covering a few other details.
To remove an asset from the asset browser, you need to be in the file where you originally marked the asset. Find the asset and go to the same place you go to add them (differs by asset type and explained above). Right click the asset and instead of “Mark Asset” you’ll now see an option to “Clear Asset.” Clicking this will remove it from the browser but remember to save the file afterwards.
Assets Context Menu
If we right click on any asset in the Asset Browser, we get a context menu of options. One of these options is “Open Blend File.” Choosing this will open the .Blend file where the asset was originally marked (it’s “current file”). This will open in a new instance of Blender so it won’t close the file we are working on.
We can also change the display size of the icons in the browser and refresh the asset library to show any recent changes you’ve made.
Asset Browser Sidebar Menu
While hovering over the Asset Browser, we can press “N” on the keyboard to open up a sidebar menu in the browser. If we are in a selected asset’s current (original) file, we can edit various parts of the asset’s metadata from this panel.
We can rename the asset. We can add a description and an author. We can upload a different preview image. We can add tags.
Notice there is a handy search bar at the top right of the Asset Browser. This allows a search of all our assets by name, description, tag, etc.
Filter Assets by Type
There is also a filter icon at the top right of the Asset Browser editor. Selecting this allows us to toggle on and off different types of assets to display.
If we had a large selection of different kinds of assets but wanted to only see objects, we could filter it down to only display objects, etc.
I think the Asset Browser is a long overdue feature in Blender. It’s definitely not perfect and I’ve heard plenty of complaints about various aspects of it. I can tell you that its functionality has improved since its original release in Blender 3.0. I look forward to future improvements.
I will maintain and update this page as the Asset Browser evolves, so feel free to check back again.
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