Development & Art by Phil Gosch

Blender to Sketchfab Tutorial

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Hey guys!

I already wrote an introduction to Sketchfab once, so if you’ve never heard of it, here’s what I wrote:

“I’m sure you’ve already heard of the awesomeness that is Sketchfab? If not: It’s a place where you can upload and host your models for interactive viewing in any browser without additional plugins, you can even embed it in you own homepages (like I did already at the end of my magnemite tutorial) and best of all: It’s FREE! (Although there’s a premium membership available with advanced features like custom backgrounds or private models!)”

Sounds great right? Well it get’s even better because Blender now includes a Sketchfab exporter by default which makes it possible to upload your models directly from within Blender. Here’s an interview for those interested in how Sketchfab came to be the first company to have their addon included in Blender: Sketchfab is the first ‘Commercial’ Add-on Bundled with Blender

Of course you can still upload your models using the uploader on the homepage along with one of the many supported file formats. Even the .blend format is supported! (A videotutorial about uploading .blend files can be found here) But that is not what this tutorial is going to be about, we will focus on uploading directly from within Blender. I’ll be using my model of Majoras Mask from the Legend of Zelda series as an example for this tutorial:

So let’s start Blender version 2.70 or above. If you have a look at the toolbar (T) you can see the newly introduced tabs. One of them should read “Upload” and, if clicked, show the fields for Sketchfab uploads. If this tab isn’t there you have to first activate the addon. You can do so by opening the User Preferences (Ctrl+Alt+U), go to the “Addons” section and search for “sketchfab” there. If you found “Sketchfab Exporter” simply activate the checkbox next to it and the Upload tab should be available.

The Upload Tab

The Upload Tab

The next step is to prepare your model/scene. First you should convert your paths/surfaces/text objects to polygon meshes (you can do so by selecting the object and pressing Alt+C).  Odds are high you have a finished model originally intended for rendering with cycles or Blender Internal, if that’s the case and you’re using complex node setups for mixing different color textures for a single material inside Blender it is best you bake down your textures to a single color-texture (Blender Internal Baking does a fine job at this). The same applies for specular-, specular-color-, glossines- etc. maps. I recommend using UV-mapped textures. The Sketchfab FAQ mentions support for Blender Internal materials (diffuse: toon, lambert, fresnel, Oren Nayar, mineart and specular: cooktorrence, phong, blinn toon, wardiso) and mixing/multiplying of textures, however I recommend the way described above for full control over the end result.

Also very important: Give meaningful names to your materials! When you have a drop-down menu in the sketchfab interface and all the entries just read “material.001, material.002, material.003, …” you’re going to have a very hard time finding the one you’re looking for. We will be fine tuning the materials and textures later via the sketchfab online interface, so be sure to properly name your materials. And related: Try to avoid special characters in your material and texturefile names!

After that is done, let’s have a closer look at the upload-options, most of them are pretty self explanatory:


The upload settings

The “Model” setting lets you choose if you want to upload the current selection (“Selection“) or all objects in your current scene (“All“). Pay attention to hidden objects and layers as these could result in uploaded models being empty! The “Lamp” setting works similar tot he “Model” one, it let’s you select if you want to export all lamps in the scene (“All“), only the currently selected lamps (“Selected“) or no lamps from your scene at all (“None“). In the case of “None” the default sketchfab lighting will be used, which is two default directional lights on the camera. All of Blenders lamp types except Area are supported, Arealights will be converted to Hemi. You can also use an environment for image-based lighting, which will be covered later in this tutorial.

Model info:
Title“: This is the name of the Sketchfab model you’re about to upload.
Description“: Describe your model in a few sentences.
Tags“: This lets you specify tags for your model, seperate the tags with a “,”.
The “Private” checkbox finally lets you upload your model as private and only be visible to the people you choose to. This option requires a Pro account to work.

Sketchfab account:
This is maybe the most important setting, as it tells the addon which account the model should be uploaded to! For this you have to enter your unique API token. You can find your API token by 1. going to and logging in or signing up if you haven’t already (remember it’s free!). Then 2. hover your mouse cursor over your account name at the top of the page and click on “My settings“. And finally 3. click on “Password” to find your API token. You can also click on “Claim your token” inside Blender, which prompts you to enter your email adress and get a Sketchfab token.

How to find your API Token.

How to find your API token. (Click for bigger resolution)

Finally this button starts the upload process and you get a notification after your model was uploaded successfully! yay! :)
Additionally a button reading “View Online Model” will be displayed under the “Upload” button, which should open your model in a web-browser.

But we are only half done at this point. Now that the model is uploaded we have to fine-tune the settings and materials. So head to the Sketchfab homepage and find the recently uploaded model in your dashboard(“My models“). It probably won’t have any textures applied to it, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of that now. Click on it to view the model and find the orange “Settings” button underneath, which opens a submenu if you hover your mouse cursor over it. If you click on “Properties” you can change or add to the title, description and tags. But we are looking for the “3D Settings” now, so click on this menu entry.


Finding the 3D settings

After you clicked on “3D Settings” you should see the following screen, showing the general settings for your model:

The general settings tab of the Sketchfab interface.

The general settings tab of the Sketchfab interface.

Here you can change settings like the models orientation, camera properties, shading mode, wireframe view, and so on. Most of the settings are pretty self explanatory again. Under “Fixed Background” you can change your background, or even turn it off completely. Pro accounts can even define their own custom backgrounds. Finally the “Environment” tab lets you specify an HDR environment for reflections and lighting. I usually set “Exposure” pretty high and turn off “Replace Background“. Then when working on the materials I individually set the environment reflection amount for each of them, which works pretty well. To edit the materials just switch to the “Materials” tab:

Editing materials.

Editing materials.

From the dropdown menu at the top you can choose which material to edit. Because of this it was important to give proper names to your materials in Blender, remember? So choose a material to edit and you see the individual components like diffuse, specular color, glossines, normalmap etc. With the little switch next to each components name you can turn this component on or off and with the slider underneath you can control the amount this component is contributing to the material. If you don’t know what an individual component is used for just hover over the little “?” next to its name. To add a texture to a component of the material click on the square that is on the left hand site of the slider. In the floating window that pops up select “Texture” and then “Import Image” as shown here:

Assining textures to individual components of the material.

Assining textures to individual components of the material.

After clicking on “Import Image” just find the texture file on your hard drive and open it. You can do this for each component you have a separate texture for, usually that’s color, specular-color, glossiness and bump/normal. You can also apply a pre-baked lightmap if necessary or a separate texture for transparency. I wanted the eyes of my model to glow a little, so I added the color texture also in the “Emission” component and turned up its power a little. In the “Environmental Reflection” tab you can then fine tune how much each material should reflect the environment. And under “Faces Rendering” you find options to turn a metrial two-sided or single-sided. You can find out more about the material editor by clicking here.

As a last step rotate your model so it looks nice and click on “Take Screenshot” to get a nice thumbnail for your model. And that’s basically it, play with the settings some more until you are satisfied and then share your model with the world! ! hope this guide was helpful, let me know in the comments!

Have fun and don’t forget to show your models to me :)

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  1. Jack April 28, 2014

    Cool Stuff, good to find out about these sorts of cool websites.

  2. Gilles November 4, 2015

    One question: what format is used ? Is it COLLADA, OBJ ?
    When I export as COLLADA from Blender I get a 4 Mo file but when I use the addon I get a 50Mo file.
    Hence my question.

  3. SaphireS November 4, 2015 — Post Author


    If you need animation I’d recommend using .fbx!
    If it’s just for static meshes either .fbx or .obj are fine, I haven’t used Collada that much to be honest. Unfortunately I have no idea how the Blender Addon does the upload, I guess you’d have to ask at the Sketchfab Forum ( ).

    Hope this was helpful :)

  4. Gilles November 7, 2015

    As far as I understand, the entire Blender file is exported since when I download from Sketchfab, I get the same intial Blender file or very similar to. This is why the exported file is large.
    Too bad the addon does allow to export rigged meshes (even without the armature). If you try, you’ll get the T-pose only.
    Collada works fine. With OBJ I don’t have the texture exported but maybe I missed something.

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