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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Moving, Rotating, and Scaling

After you create objects in your 3D scene, you need to be able to control where they are located, how they are oriented, and what size they are. In this section, you see how to do just that. Moving, rotating, and scaling are the three different transform operations you can perform on any 3D object, and there are several ways to do it.

Using Active Tools

The most obvious way to transform an object is to use Active Tools: the buttons with icons that are shown on the 3D Viewport’s toolbar (you can show or hide this bar pressing T), as shown in Figure 3.1.

FIGURE 3.1

FIGURE 3.1 Active Tools to move, rotate, and scale objects, located on the 3D Viewport’s toolbar

It’s simple: you choose the Move, Rotate, or Scale tools, and they become the Active Tools. The manipulators for the selected type of transform will be always shown for the current selection, and you can click and drag parts of those manipulators to perform the transformation. (For more information about using manipulators, see the next section.)

There is a fourth Active Tool for transforms, conveniently named Transform, as it shows manipulators for moving, rotating, and scaling simultaneously.

Although this method for transforming objects can be obvious to new users, it’s not always the most efficient method. Sometimes, you may prefer that your Active Tool be a different one, and you have to switch back and forth.

It’s convenient when you have the objects in your scene and all you need to do is to place them. The purpose of Active Tools, after all, is to stay active so you can use them repeatedly, but if you’re using different tools often, Active Tools may not be your best option.

Using Manipulators

There is an option to show manipulators for transforms while using other Active Tools. All you have to do is enable them on the Viewport Gizmos pop-up within the 3D Viewport’s header. (See Figure 3.2.)

FIGURE 3.2

FIGURE 3.2 Manipulators in the Viewport Gizmos menu on the 3D Viewport’s header and different manipulations

When you want to transform objects or elements in the 3D scene, Blender offers manipulators that help you control those transformations. The following are the manipulators:

  • Move (A): Changes the position of an object in space

  • Rotate (B): Controls the orientation of an object

  • Scale (C): Manipulates the size of an object

  • All Transforms (D): Allows you to use more than one transform manipulator at the same time

In the 3D Viewport’s header, you can select the type of transform you want to perform. If you press Shift while clicking different transform icons, you can perform multiple transforms at the same time. (In Figure 3.2, example D shows all three transform manipulators being used at the same time.)

Using the manipulators, you can move, rotate, and scale objects. These manipulators appear at the pivot point of the object (marked as a little orange spot called the origin in Blender), and you perform an action with them by using the following controls:

  • Left-click one of the axes to make the object move, rotate, or resize on that specific axis. (X is red, Y is green, and Z is blue.) Left-click again to confirm the transform. Or press Enter to confirm or Esc to cancel.

  • To enable Precision Mode, press and hold Shift after you click to transform. This action makes the transform slower, allowing you to make precise adjustments.

  • To lock one axis and manipulate the other two, press and hold Shift before you click the axis you want to lock. If you press Shift and then click the Z-axis to move it, for example, the object actually moves on the X- and Y-axes, as the Z-axis is locked. (This option works only for moving and scaling; it is not available for rotations.) On top of using keyboard shortcuts, you can use the little squares present in the Move and Scale manipulators. You’ll see that, for example, there’s a green square between the X- and Z-axes, and it’s green because it locks the Y-axis (green).

  • Move and Scale manipulators have a small white circle in their centers. Click and drag the circle of the Move manipulator to move the object, using the current point of view as a reference (dragging it parallel to the view). Click and drag the small white circle of the Scale manipulator to scale the object on every axis.

    The Rotation manipulator also has an outer white circle but is slightly different; click and drag that circle to rotate the object, using the current point of view as the rotation axis. Instead of having a small white circle in its center, the manipulator for rotations has a spherical shape in transparent gray, and its axes are drawn on the surface of that sphere. Click and drag anywhere within the Rotation manipulator’s sphere (without clicking any of its axes) to enter Orbit Mode, which allows you to rotate on all axes at the same time.

  • Hold down Ctrl while using these manipulators to switch between normal transforms and Snap Mode. This feature allows you to snap to several elements while you perform transforms. If snapping is enabled, holding down Ctrl frees the object when transforming; if it’s disabled, holding down Ctrl enables the snapping. This feature is very useful because you won’t need to continuously turn the Snap tool on and off by clicking the Snap icon on the 3D Viewport’s header. You’ll learn more about snapping tools later in the book.

  • In the 3D Viewport’s header, you can select Pivot Point and Transform Orientation. Pivot Point defines the point around which objects rotate and scale. By default, Transform Orientation (access this menu by pressing Alt+Space) is global, which means that it’s aligned to the 3D World axes (default scene axes: X is left/right, Y is front/back, and Z is top/bottom). You can switch Transform Orientation to the local axes of the selection to transform objects using their own orientation.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts (Advanced)

Although you can use manipulators easily, the expert, really fast way to transform objects in Blender is to use keyboard shortcuts. Sometimes, the manipulators are useful, but most of the time and especially for simple transforms, using the keyboard is faster and more efficient (even though it requires a bit of getting used to and memorizing the keyboard shortcuts). Here are some of the most relevant keyboard shortcuts that make transforms easier and faster:

  • Press G (Grab) to move, R to rotate, and S to scale. When you do these things to move and rotate the objects, they move and rotate according to the view. Left-click or press Enter to confirm, and right-click or press Esc to cancel.

  • After pressing G, R, or S, if you press X, Y, or Z, the selection transforms only on that global axis. Press X, Y, or Z twice to align to the selection’s local axis.

  • Press R twice to enter Trackball Rotation Mode, which makes the object rotate in all axes simultaneously following your mouse movements.

  • As an alternative to the previous option, when you’re transforming with no attachment to a given axis, you can press MMB. Lines for the axes appear, and if you move the object close to one of those lines, it is automatically locked to that specific axis.

  • The options for precise transforms, snapping, and axis locking using Shift and Ctrl while transforming with manipulators also apply when you use keyboard shortcuts. Press G and then Shift+Z to translate the object in the X- and Y-axes at the same time, for example.

Using Menus

You can also use numerical fields in menus to transform objects. You’ll find such fields in two places of the interface (see Figure 3.3):

  • 3D Viewport’s Sidebar (press N to show and hide). Within the Sidebar, pick the Item tab, and you’ll find the Transform panel, where you can see numerical fields for every location, rotation, and scale axes.

  • In the Object tab of the Properties Editor, you will also find the Transform panel.

FIGURE 3.3

FIGURE 3.3 On the left side, you can see the Item tab of the 3D Viewport’s Sidebar. On the right side, you can see the Object tab of the Properties Editor. Both Transform panels can be used to input values to transform objects.

In any of those panels, you can do either of the following things:

  • Click and type a specific number in the input field.

  • Click the arrows on the sides of the input field to increase or decrease the number.

  • Click and slide left and right to increase or decrease the number. Hold Shift while sliding to change the number with more precision. Hold Ctrl while sliding to change in increments. Hold Shift+Ctrl while sliding to change in smaller increments.

  • If you change a value in one of those parameters, the change will affect only the active selection. Hold Alt while you change a value to affect the entire selection; this command essentially expands the changes from the active selection to the rest of the selected objects where applicable. Click and drag up and down to select several adjacent fields (works only when those fields are grouped together) and then release to write a number that will be entered simultaneously in all of those fields, or drag left and right to use the sliding options in all of the selected fields at the same time. For example, if you wanted to scale an object in all axes, you could click and drag from the X scale field toward the Z scale field, release, type 2 on your keyboard, and press Enter to input the value of 2 in the X, Y, and Z scale axes in a single action.

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