On October 4th the new Blender 2.72 version has been released. It has some interesting new features as well as having hundreds of bugs fixed.
The general performance of Cycles has been improved, as well as Volume rendering and Shading. It took some time, but Basic Volume Rendering is now officially available on GPU. Also, Subsurface Scattering and Correlated Multi Jitter sampling is also available on GPU, although still experimental.
Other improvements are in nodes, baking and an updated OSL. A Quick Smoke node setup is available now.
The Pie menus feature has been implemented, allowing for menu items spread radially around the mouse cursor. It can be activated by enabling the Add-on "User interface: Pie Menus Official" in the Blender User Preferences.
Tooltips have been redesigned. Blender Interal render preview behaves similar to Cycles now. The Units parsing/handling in user inputs has been enhanced, and some other small improvements have been made.
Small changes have been made in the editors, so you can more easily do some channel filtering and datablock cleanup. Some changes to improve DOF hints in IK constraints and the armature’s undo workflow.
New “Face split by edges” tool, to split selected faces by loose wire edges. New options in “Dissolve vertex”, “Bevel” tools and “Select manifold” available. New “Edit Mesh Intersect” tool for quickly cutting up the geometry in Edit Mode. The Array modifier performance has been enhanced.
Sculpting and Painting
Texture painting has a new workflow, which is more tied to the mesh’s materials. It also displays any material textures that are suitable for painting, which enables easy selection. In texture painting, you can use a gradient as a color source. New tools: “Sharpen tool”, “Fill tool”, with several options. “Mask tool” for an easy use of the stencil feature in projective texturing. Then “Brush Opacity Control”, “Mask Pressure support” and 16 new blend modes. For all paint modes, new line/curved stroke moded, unified colors for brushes, support for palettes, and usability improvements.
The new "Sun Beams" node has been added to the compositor. This simulates the effect of bright light getting scattered in a room. This can be a very good and fast alternative to full volumetric lighting rendering, which is much slower. For a tutorial, click here.
Game Engine Many new useful features: A “Mouse” actuator, a new “Property Sensor” evaluation types, “Track To” actuator menus, "X-Ray", “Level mode” for “Property” actuator and “Property/Material” detection for mouse over any sensor. BGE debug API, constraint wrapper API, and unfortunately some compatibility issues.
Freestyle Non-photorealistic Rendering
Freestyle is now available in Cycles! Most of the options work in the same way as it does with the Blender Internal renderer. A couple of shader nodes have been added. For both the Blender Internal and Cycles, a new Freestyle-specific color property with the name "Freestyle line" has been introduced in material ID data blocks. The implementation of the Freestyle Python API has been improved significantly.
Weight paint tools are now also available in Edit mode. Weights can now also be drawn in wireframe mode. Improvements in temporary data storage manages to help keeping a clean temporary folder. Blender Internal rendered viewport is much smoother when navigating. Render result caching has been added as a simple method to save an EXR cache. "Reload render" feature added to the Image Editor for reloading the last render from cache when opening a Blender file.
In the compositor, defining the viewer node border preserves frame content, enables to easily see a visual comparison of tweaked and non-tweaked areas. The Color Ramps now have new HSV and HSL interpolation options.
New UV add-on to align distribution and copy/paste of UVs.
New Game Publishing Add-on is available for game developers
New add-on for named layers & grouped layer management.
New DXF importer with support for 3D(SubD) geometry, and geo-referencing. It imports curve types as curves and adds control over various geometry merge options.
FBX improvements: Import now supports armatures, shapekeys, animations, with shapekeys also being supported for export.
Want to know more? There are some video presentations available here!