In Blender version 3.5 we are now able to composite in real-time within the 3D viewport. It has its limitations, but the Realtime Compositor is a big improvement for Blender artists. Here’s how to use real-time compositing in Blender 3D.

Side Note: While real-time compositing is a huge improvement to Blender, I still prefer to do most of my post-production work with Topaz Studio 2.

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How to Activate Real Time Compositing in Blender 3.5+

Turning on the real time compositing in Blender is easy. This is only available if you have version 3.5 or higher of Blender installed. Here’s how to update to the latest version of Blender if you need to.

Real-time compositing will work in Eevee or Cycles, but will be slower and more demanding on your computer when using Cycles.

To activate the Realtime Compositor, be sure you are in either material preview or render preview mode.

Step 1: Go to Viewport Shading Settings

At top right of the 3D viewport (where you choose the preview mode) is a drop-down arrow with additional shading settings.

The viewport shading options expanded in the 3D viewport.

Step 2: Enable Viewport Compositing

At the bottom of the viewport shading settings menu is an option to activate real-time compositing. It has three available options: Disabled, Camera and Always.

The viewport compositing settings in the viewport shading menu.

If the compositor is disabled here, its effects will not display in the 3D viewport.

“Camera” will only show the real-time compositing when in camera view.

“Always” will show effects from the compositor at all times in the 3D viewport regardless of our view.

Using the Real-Time Compositor in Blender

Once activated, we need to open a compositing editor in our workspace. We can drag to split our screen so that both the compositor and 3D viewport are visible.

A compositor and 3D viewport open in Blender with "Use Nodes" highlighted.

Be sure the “Use Nodes” box is checked in the compositor!

Add Nodes in the Compositor

With the above settings enabled, we can add many nodes to the Compositor and their changes will reflect in the 3D viewport.

For example, I used it on this scene in the viewport:

A Blender scene with a 3D viewport and compositor editor open.

Then I added some contrast using a brightness/contrast node in the compositor:

A scene in the viewport with contrast added in the compositor.

The differences were immediately displayed in real-time within the Blender 3D viewport.

Industrial 3D Models in the Blender viewport.
Industrial greeble assets in Blender 3D viewport.

Limitations of the Blender Viewport Compositor

There are several limitations with the viewport compositor currently. Here are the big ones…

Viewport Compositing Only Supports One Layer

We can only use the viewport compositor on one compositing layer at a time. It will use the currently selected render layer.

Viewport Compositing Not Supported on Mac OS

According to the Blender manual, viewport shading is not currently supported on Mac operating systems.

Some Compositing Nodes Aren’t Supported

There are several compositing nodes that are not supported in Blender’s real-time compositor. Nodes that do not support the real-time compositor will display a warning message in the top right corner.

The denoise node in the compositor with a warning message
The Denoise Node displays a warning

Cryptomattes and ID Masks Aren’t Supported

Hopefully these features become available in a future version of Blender.

Limited Functionality of Glare Node in Compositor

The glare node is one of the most popular nodes in the Compositor. It will work in real-time with the streaks, simple star and ghosts settings. It unfortunately will not display “fog glow” in real-time in the viewport.

More About the Blender Real-Time Compositor

Here’s a short video from Southern Shotty who quickly goes over the new compositing features which were released in Blender 3.5.

Blender 3.5's Game-Changer: Real-Time Viewport Compositing!

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