Minecraft renders are where you take your Minecraft save, convert it into a 3D model, and output an image using modelling or rendering software. It sounds confusing, but it's absolutely not. Using a couple of free bits of software, you can do it yourself. We recently used the technique for a special subscriber's cover of PC Gamer UK, the image for which you can see inside.
If you want to just look at some examples, flip through the gallery. If you want to do it yourself, read on. The instructions are long, but it should only take you around 20 minutes and I swear that anyone can do this.
1. There a bunch of different types of software you can use to convert Minecraft saves to .obj models. I use mcobj , which is a small command line program, but best for dealing with the large save files we want. Download mcobj version 0.14 .
2. To render the model once we've got it, we'll need a 3D modelling package. If you have thousands of dollars/pounds, you can use Autodesk Maya or 3D Studio Max. I use Blender though, which is free, robust, and has a good set of tutorials. Set that downloading too.
That's an untextured Minecraft Azeroth render above.
3. Open up the Windows Start menu and in the Search box (or by clicking 'Run', if you're on an old version), type '%appdata%' without the ' and press enter. This will bring up a hidden folder on your computer, normally C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Roaming. In there, you'll find a folder called '.minecraft'. This is where the blockbuilder installs all its files. Hop inside, and then into the folder called 'saves'. Here are all your save games. Copy the one you want and paste it somewhere else on your computer. Let's say 'C:\renders\[savegame] where [savegame] is the name of your, uh, saved game.
4. Open up your mcobj zip, and extract it somewhere on your computer. Let's say C:\renders\mcobj.
5. Open up the Windows Start menu again and this time type 'cmd' into the search box and press enter. This will bring up a command prompt. Welcome to Windows' long distant past. You can do pretty much anything from a command prompt, but we're going to keep this simple. For now, just do what I do: type 'cd C:\renders\mcobj' without the '. cd means Change Directory, by the way. Now type 'mcobj', and it'll run the mcobj.exe in the directory we're now looking at. This will pour out a bunch of instructions for what mcobj's different instructions do.
6. Let's keep keeping it simple. Now type 'mcobj -cpu 4 -s 20 -o world1.obj C:\renders\[savegame]' where [savegame] is the name of your saved game. This will use 4 CPU cores (change the number if you don't have a quadcore processor) to output 20 chunks of your saved game immediately around the spawn area, and will create it in a file called 'world1.obj'. There's a bunch of stuff you can tweak: rendering areas other than the spawn, or larger areas, or underground areas, and so on. For now, press enter, and a pouring stream of text should appear as it turns all those Minecraft-y blocks into a renderable 3D model.
7. Install and open Blender like you would any other piece of software.
8. Click the 3D cube that's in the middle of the screen by default. Press Delete on your keyboard, and remove it. Then press space, and in the Find window that appears, type 'import'. At the top, you'll see Import OBJ. Click that, and browse to your C:\\renders\\mcobj folder. Here, you should find the world1.obj you created. Open it and wait; this might take a little while, depending on how much memory your computer has.
9. Boom, you should now have a 3D model of your Minecraft world open in Blender. Now you need to position the camera; there's one already created by default. Press '0' on the numpad to select it, then when your 3D view has snapped to the Camera's position, press Shift+F. This enters Fly mode, and lets you control the cameras position by moving the mouse and rolling the scroll wheel. It's a little fiddly, but for a video example of it in action, try this video tutorial .
10. Once you've got your camera positioned, look at the sidebar on the right. Click the little globe icon a couple of inches down from the top. This is the World settings, and it's here that you can tweak things like the skybox and the lighting. For our purposes, just tick 'Ambient Occlusion' a little over halfway down. Then tick 'Paper Sky' and click on the Horizon Color box just below. Select a nice shade of blue.
11. Now click on the little camera icon, two buttons to the left of the globe. These are your render settings. By default they should be set to render at 50% of 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels talls. This is useful, as lower resolution images take less time to render, and we don't want to commit to a lot of time until we know for sure the camera is where we want it. Leave all these settings as they are, and hit F12 to start rendering.
12. Afer a short wait, again depending on your computer's memory, you should be looking at a 3D render of your Minecraft world. To save it, press F3 and choose a location on your computer. If you decide the camera position is perfect, you can set the render size from 50% to 100% and output yourself a nice desktop wallpaper. Or, if you want to change the camera position, click the little photo icon with an up/down arrow next to it about two inches above the bottom left corner and select 3D view to go back to the editing pane. Then repeat step 9 to re-position your camera.
Or you can do what I do, and spend an entire weekend reading Blender tutorials to try and get better at lighting and shadows.
That's as far as I can take you, though. If you use this guide to make something, why not post a link to your work in the comments or on the mcobj sub-Reddit ? Or click on for more pictures - including Minecraft maps rendered in two other pieces of software.
This is the spawn area of the PC Gamer UK server. Our community built everything you've seen in these images - with the exception of Azeroth - and they all work hard to make the server a fun, friendly place for people to come build. If you ever hop on to the PC Gamer Minecraft server , visit the valley of the mods (centre left of image) to salute their hard work.
This image was taken from Chunky , a Minecraft rendering tool that comes with a GUI. It's simpler to use than the command line stuff I've just described, and much easier to get textures working, but I've never had much luck with getting it to render large worlds like the PC Gamer server. This image is from Chunky's map view, which helps you select the areas of your save you want to render, while also looking cool all on its own.
This image is taken from a Google Map of the entire PC Gamer Minecraft server. Why not put the map itself online? Because it's 477,861 files and 24GB. The map was created using the stunningly easy and well documented Overviewer .