Nodes are becoming a larger part of Blender and the worst part of nodes is they can become a confusing mess. Here’s everything you need to know about how to organize nodes in Blender.

This guide will cover the following six ways to organize nodes:

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Collapse Nodes & Hide Unused Sockets

The first way to clean up a messy node tree in Blender is to collapse nodes and/or hide unused sockets. These are two different things. On every node there is an arrow next to its label that toggles whether the node is collapsed or expanded.

To collapse or expand a node in Blender, toggle the arrow to the left of the node’s label.

The fully expanded Principled BSDF is displayed in the shader editor.
Fully expanded node
The Principled BSDF shader is collapsed in the shader editor.
Collapsed node

Collapsing a node will entirely hide all inputs and values of the node. An alternative is to hide only the unused sockets. This is especially useful for large nodes like the Principled BSDF Shader which have many sockets which may go unused.

To hide unused sockets of a node in Blender, select the node and use the shortcut “Ctrl + H.” To show the hidden sockets, repeat the shortcut with the node selected.

Below is the difference between a full Principled BSDF Shader vs when the unused sockets are hidden.

All sockets are visible on the fully expanded Principled BSDF Shader in the Blender shader editor.
All sockets visible
The Principled BSDF is smaller with its unused sockets hidden and collapsed.
Unused sockets hidden

Labeling Individual Nodes

We can give each individual node in Blender a unique name, label and color. This will work in all node editors (shader editor, geometry nodes, etc).

With a node selected, open the sidebar menu in the node editor by pressing “N” on the keyboard. The sidebar will expand on the right side of the editor.

A principled BSDF shader is labelled as "My Node" in the Blender shader editor.

We can give the individual node a custom name. This may be helpful in certain situations, but the name is not what appears on the node itself. What’s more useful is giving the node a custom label. The label will appear at the top of the node, replacing the default label.

A crowd of 3d people models.

Assign Color to a Node

Below the name and label options is a check box to give the node a custom color. Checking the box will activate a color picker. The color chosen will be the background color of the selected node.

The node color of a Principled BSDF shade has been changed to blue.

Node Color Presets

If we have a certain color we wish to apply to nodes often, we can save it as a preset. To do this, choose the color and then click the preset icon to the right of the color checkbox. Give the preset a name and press the plus icon. It will now be saved for use with future nodes.

The preset box for node colors is displayed and "Green Nodes" is selected which makes the node appear green.

To use a saved preset later, select a node. Activate the color checkbox but this time select the preset tab and choose from the saved presets. It will populate the color for the selected node.

Reset Node Label and Color

Above all of these settings is a reset button. To reset the name, label and color of an individual node, open the sidebar menu in the node editor by pressing “N.” Then press the “Reset Node” button to return the node to its default name, label and color.

Using Frames to Organize Nodes

If we have a complex node setup, frames are one of the first things we may consider using for organization. Frames are visual containers to hold nodes within the editor. They don’t contribute or restrict any functionality of the node tree.

Several PBR image texture nodes are grouped into a frame which is labeled "Maps" in the Blender shader editor.

Frames can be given labels to let you or other users know what the included nodes contribute to the final output. Frames can be colorized to help them stand out in a complicated node tree.

To group nodes using frames in Blender, select the nodes you want to group. Then, press Control + J to create a frame around them.

Once nodes have been placed into a frame, the frame will dynamically expand and contract if you move the included nodes. This ensures the nodes are always contained within the frame.

We can select the frame to move it by clicking on the border of the frame.

To remove a node from a frame, select the node and press “Alt + P.”

To delete a node frame, select the frame and press “X” on the keyboard. The frame will be deleted but the nodes inside the frame will not be affected.

Assigning Labels to Node Frames

After creating a node frame in Blender, we can select it by clicking near the edge of the frame. By default, it will be a black frame with no label but we can change this.

Select the frame and press “N” on the keyboard to toggle open the sidebar menu in the editor. In the sidebar, we will see name, label and color options for the selected frame.

A node frame is labeled and the node settings are displayed in the node sidebar.

The name will (obviously) name the frame but the name is not what appears on the top of the frame. The more helpful setting in most cases is the “label.” When we type something into the “label” field, it will appear at the top of the frame.

This can be useful to remember what the grouped nodes in the frame are contributing to the node tree.

Assigning Color to Node Frames

A good visual aid for organizing nodes is to assign different colors to node frames. To add a color, select a frame and make sure the sidebar is open in the shader editor. If it’s not, press “N” while hovering in the shader editor to open it.

A node frame for PBR maps is lapeled and colored red in the shader editor.

Below the name and label options is a checkmark for “Color.” Check it on and expand the arrow to open more options. A color picker will display which can be used to give the frame a custom color.

Using Node Groups to Organize Nodes

Frames are great for organizing nodes that you want to see at all times. But often, we want to condense nodes to make our node trees less complex.

Node groups allow us to combine multiple nodes into a single node and choose which settings can be adjusted from the condensed node. This results in a completely customizable node.

To create a node group in Blender, select nodes we wish to combine. Press “Control + G” on the keyboard to create the node group. Press “Tab” to enter and exit the node group when it is selected.

When we create a node group, we are taken “inside” the node group and will only see the selected nodes. Node groups act similar to objects in how we edit them.

Pressing tab will take us into something similar to “Edit Mode” where we see the nodes inside the group and edit the group. Pressing tab will exit the node and take you back to the main shader editor setup.

A beach scene with nature assets
Geo Scatter Add-on for Blender

Creating Node Group Inputs

When combining a series of nodes, there may be several inputs of different nodes we want to be adjustable without entering the node group. We can create custom inputs for the node group.

Inside the node group will be a Group Input Node. It will begin with one output socket on its right side that can be connected to any input socket within the group.

A group input node is connecting to a noise texture scale input to create a custom node group in Blender.

Once the first socket of the group input node is connected to a node, a new socket will appear. We can add as many group inputs as we want.

To illustrate this, here is an example of a node group with no inputs added to the group.

A custom node group with a single color output socket in Blender.
No custom values
A custom node setup with a noise texture and color ramp plugged into a group output node in Blender.
No custom inputs identified in group

And here, two inputs have been added (scale and detail) to the node group. These inputs are now adjustable from the custom group node.

A custom node group with two custom value settings in Blender.
Custom group node
The group input node of a custom node group is connected to the scale and detail values of a noise texture node.
Scale and Detail inputs added in node group

The nodes can continue to be customized as much as we want. We can connect input sockets to any node within the group. Only the identified inputs will be adjustable from the custom group node.

Node Group Labels & Colors

Similar to individual nodes, we can give a node group a custom label and color. With a node group selected, press “N” on the keyboard to toggle open the sidebar menu. Select the tab labeled “Node.”

A custom node group is colored blue and the node settings tab is shown in the Blender sidebar.

We can give the node group a custom label and change the color of the node.

Ungrouping Nodes

To ungroup a node group, we first select it. Then right click in the node editor and choose “Ungroup.” We can also use the shortcut “Ctrl + Alt + G.”

In Blender, a context menu is open with the option to ungroup selected nodes is highlighted.

Find more information about node groups in the Blender Manual documentation on node groups.

Reroute Nodes

Sometimes the best way to better organize a node tree is to organize the noodles connecting the nodes. One way to do this is to use a reroute node.

These small nodes don’t contribute anything to the node tree, but are used to reposition the noodle connections between nodes.

In the shader editor, a PBR material nodetree is displayed and in the search menu a reroute node is selected.

To add a reroute node in Blender, press “Shift + A” and search for the node called “reroute.” Drag the new node onto a node connection or create new connections to the node.

The simple UV mapping node from Poliigon is connected to a reroute node which connects to multiple PBR image texture nodes in the Blender shader editor.

A reroute node can only have one input connection but can have many outputs. Reroute nodes can be labeled like other nodes and the label will appear just above the node in the shader editor.

Adjusting Node Connector “Noodle” Curving

The connections between nodes in any of Blender’s node editors are known as “noodles.” The curviness of a noodle (or how straight the connections between nodes are) can be adjusted in the Blender User Preferences.

The themes tab in the Blender user preferences.

To adjust noodle curving in Blender, go to Preferences > Themes > Node Editor. Scroll down to the “Noodle Curving” setting. A higher setting will make node links more curvy. A lower setting will make the links straighter.

The noodle curving setting in the Blender user preferences.

The noodle curving setting can be set between zero and ten. At zero, the noodles will be straight lines from an output to an input.

A mapping node is connected to a reroute node with straight noodles in Blender.
Noodle curving set at zero
A mapping node is connected to a reroute node with curving noodles in Blender.
Noodle curving set to ten

An Add-On to Preview Nodes

An add-on I’ve been using for a while to visualize node preview images is called Node Preview. It’s available on Blender Market. It’s simple and works. Learn more about the Node Preview add-on here.

Brandon Stocking

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