What Is Blender Edge Split Modifier?

As the name suggests, this feature is used to split or separate edges within a mesh. The edge split modifier in Blender is often used after smooth shading is applied to a model.

The smooth shading is designed to make lower polygon 3D models look smoother than what they are and give a more realistic feel.

The problem though, when the model is a little on the low polygon side, the smooth feature tries to smooth over areas of the model that are already flat. This gives it a weird and unrealistic look!

This is when Blender’s edge split modifier comes to the rescue to rectify the issue. Essentially, the edge split modifier does a wonderful job (along side Smooth Shading) to make an extremely low polygon model look smooth and detailed. This is great for the gaming industry and reduces rendering times.

Rendering times in gaming can also be reduced by baking textures onto the model itself. One way to achieve this is by texture painting, which is essentially the process of manually painting over the model or adding textures (created on photo editing tools) to the model’s UV map.

Low polygon model made to look high polygon with the help of Smooth Shading & Edge Split

Note: You can clearly see the advantages this feature has for the gaming industry. By turning a model with few faces into one that looks like it has many, you can reduce processing power while maintaining great graphics.

Where is Edge Split Modifier Located?

If you are a regular user of Blender, you would have already guessed correctly that it is located in the modifier section on the right side.

Blender Split Mesh

The edge split modifier is located amongst all the other modifiers on Blender.

On the right hand menu, you will see the modifier icon (spanner) and that’s where it’s located.

How Do I Enable Edge Split In Blender?

Enabling the edge split modifier on Blender requires having your model selected first, then follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Select your model (it should highlight in orange)
  • Step 2: Click the modifier icon (the one that looks like a spanner)
  • Step 3: Then click on “Add Modifier”
  • Step 4: Finally select “Edge Split”
  • Step 5: Done! You’ve just assigned edge split onto your model

Let us follow these steps in more detail, while also using smooth shading so that we can achieve a high looking polygon model when in fact it is low-poly!

Step 1: Create Your 3D Model

Your low poly model is completed and you are happy with the final result. In this example mine looks like this ↓

Step 2: Apply Blender’s Smooth Shading

Blender has a one click smooth shader that makes your model look nice and smooth.

Let’s apply the smooth shader.

As mentioned, this can sometimes make your model look weird. As can be seen here, the smoothness doesn’t quite look right!

Step 3: Applying Edge Split Modifier

We’ve already demonstrated how to split meshes using the edge split modifier here.

By following these steps and applying the modifier, our model now looks like this ↓

You are done!

Is There An Edge Split Shortcut?

Unfortunately, this is a yes and no answer. However, it’s worth knowing about it, because you can learn how to apply the edge split modifier at specific areas of your model (not applying it throughout).

Once again, we’ll assume we have a model with smooth shading applied to it. However, this time we want to apply edge modifier to the top section of the 3D model and nowhere else.

How do we do this?

Step 1: Create Your 3D Model Again

This time I created a different looking model in low-poly for demonstrational purposes ↓

Step 2: Apply Smooth Shading

Apply smooth shading, because we want our low poly model to look nice. Follow these steps shown here on how to apply smooth shading.

Smooth shader once again creates a weird look due to the model being low poly.

Step 3: Localizing Edge Split

Let’s say, we want to edge split the top section of the model (but nowhere else). We do the following:

  • Go into edit mode
  • Select the vertices we want to split
  • Press “V” on keyboard to apply edge split on selected vertices
  • Done!

Notice how the area you selected is smooth while the rest of the model still has that funky smooth shader look?

You are done!

Why Isn’t Blender’s Edge Split Not Working?

I have no idea why Blender Edge Split modifier is not working. Every time I’ve used it, it has work flawlessly.

However, this was for Blender version 2.92.0. Therefore, if you’re experiencing issues, try upgrading to the latest version of Blender, or get in touch.

Closing Thoughts On Splitting Meshes

One thing I like about 3D modelling, is the ability to manipulate scenes to make them look better than they actually are.

“Better” can mean visually in terms of renders, more efficient modelling as you deal with less faces, and of course improved performance if in the gaming industry.

The split mesh modifier is but one of the tools in Blender’s arsenal. And I cannot wait to dig deeper to find out what other hidden gems there are.

To hit the message home, let’s compare the same model, one with high polygons and one low (with smooth shader and edge split applied).