“Blender is free, so why should I pay for add-ons?”
Time and again, we get asked the same question. The answer is simple: you don’t have to - at all. You can stick to using Blender’s default UI and get along just fine. The truth is, there is nothing that add-ons will get you that you couldn’t do yourself. Except for (and this is where it gets interesting) it might be really, really difficult and take loads of your time. That's where add-ons come in. By their nature, add-ons are programs built within Blender that automate a specific part of the workflow, saving you the time and effort needed to do it manually.
Save Time and Do it Better
Take one of Blender Market’s most popular add-ons: Mirage is a comprehensive suite for building landscapes in Blender. “Sure, I could create a decent landscape model on my own,” says Matthew Muldoon. “But this would take me anywhere from a half-hour to several hours depending on my skill level and aptitude for remembering how certain things work. And the result might still not be exactly up to my standard. With Mirage, I can get the right quality in a fraction of the time.”And this doesn’t just apply to hobbyists, either. “I have heard many stories from professional Blender users whose project was saved by an add-on,” says Matthew, “It’s not that they couldn’t have done without it; but when you are strapped for time and want the best results for a client, a good add-on can be a serious lifesaver.”
The Luxury of Focusing on What You Do Well
“It’s safe to say that at this point, there is not a single person on this planet that knows all of Blender,” says Jonathan Williamson. “It’s virtually impossible for you to master everything the software has to offer; so why not take advantage of somebody else’s expertise through an add-on they created?” By “outsourcing” a part of your workflow to an add-on, you can focus on what you are good at - and continue getting better at it.
Wait...So Why Do Add-Ons Cost Money?
Let’s get back to our question: Why do some add-ons cost money if Blender is free? First, let’s keep in mind that Blender started off as a commercial tool before it became open-source. Similarly, professional-quality add-ons require a serious commitment, from planning to prototyping and actual coding. As Blender Market creator Jim Morren puts it: “Us developers spend a lot of time creating stuff with no guarantee it will sell, so we do want to get a return on the time and energy, not to mention the brain ache involved.” And let’s not forget: commercial add-ons come with customer support. That means that you can generally contact their developer with questions and you can expect them to fix bugs and release updates. Nice to have, right? Well, this is a big part of what you are paying for.
Spend Your Cash Wisely
To buy smart, ask yourself: What is the #1 hurdle you face within your workflow? The bigger the problem, the more headache an add-on is going to save you. Also, think about how often you are going to use the add-on; if it’s bound to help you out in multiple projects, it’s probably worth your money. “If you create landscape design or architectural renders often, getting an add-on like Mirage is a no-brainer. You will use it so often that it is incredibly easy to justify purchasing it; it will pay for itself soon after you’ve bought it by saving you so much time,” says Matthew.
The Bottom Line
In the world of limited resources, the most valuable one is your time; and Blender add-ons give you the option to spend it on what matters most.
Do you use add-ons to save time? Tell us about it in the comments!