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Image courtesy of Lee Griggs

Introducing Arnold 5.1

We're excited to bring you Arnold 5.1 featuring a set of powerful new tools to help deliver a better rendering experience to artists everywhere. 

Building on the core architecture updates introduced with 5.0, many of the new features are in direct response to artists' requests, providing solutions to some of the most complex rendering challenges. And since 5.1 is fully binary compatible with 5.0, upgrading is easy.

Among the key updates, major advancements in sampling and denoising give artists more control over image quality, while a new Toon shader and enhancements to built-in shaders deliver a more satisfying out-of-the-box experience. A fully native Alembic procedural and material assignments and overrides offer ultimate flexibility to keep pipelines running smoothly and efficiently. A new Profiling API and structured statistics provide an extensive set of debugging tools that will help technical users to maximize render throughput.

Optimizing for quality and speed

  • Adaptive sampling offers a streamlined way to easily tune image fidelity, so users can reduce render times without jeopardizing final image quality. 
  • Two new denoising solutions give you the option to use much lower quality sampling settings to optimize your rendering process:
    • The OptiX Denoiser based on Nvidia AI technology is now integrated into Arnold for use with IPR.
    • The Arnold Denoiser is a standalone tool ("noice") that offers the temporal stability and high-quality needed for final frame denoising.
  • Parallel scene initialization means faster renders with less time to first pixel, taking advantage of all the cores and threads in today's CPUs.
  • More efficient texture mapping provides reduced texture I/O in complex scenes for even faster renders, using less memory.
Interactive denoising in the IPR window
Raw render vs. denoised render

Toon shader

A new Toon shader has been integrated as part of a non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) solution, provided in combination with a high-quality Contour filter, making it easier to achieve incredible new styles and effects. While Arnold is long known for producing beautiful photorealistic imagery, many users (hello, Japan!) have asked for functionality allowing toon or stylized non-photoreal looks, and this new shader will open up a tremendous range of options. The contour lines are even visible through reflection and refraction, and their shape and color can be customized in many ways.

Images courtesy of Lee Griggs

Managing complexity and scale

For technical users, Arnold continues to offer the stability needed to scale performance without sacrificing image quality. 

  • A native Alembic procedural will help studios working with Alembic pipelines to better integrate Arnold, optimize their Alembic workflow, and eliminate production bottlenecks.
  • A new profiling API plus structured statistics, including the ability to output data in JSON format, offer a set of powerful debugging tools so users can more easily identify performance issues and fine-tune rendering processes. The JSON stats can be visualized in Google's Chrome web browser "chrome://tracing/". Additional timing statistics, organized by both nodes and categories, make it even easier to see where the rendering bottlenecks are.

Interoperability for open pipelines

Arnold 5.1 lays the groundwork for major developments in supporting open industry standards, helping to dismantle technical roadblocks that might be limiting your choice of tools.

  • Material assignments and overrides: Fully interactive inside of Arnold, a new set of operators makes it possible to override any part of an Arnold scene and modify the Arnold universe at render time. Support for open standard frameworks including MaterialX will make it easier than ever to transfer rich material and look-development content between applications and renderers.
A full list of new features and functionality including progressive rendering and overall enhancements to built-in shaders can be found in the Arnold 5.1 release notes. Visit the Arnold Support Portal for details.


Arnold has supported plug-ins available for Maya, Houdini, Cinema4D, 3ds Max, and Katana.