Blender is a software that heavily rely on shortcut keys. In this article we discuss what we need to know to work with them effectively.
You can manage Blender’s shortcut keys by going to Edit->Preferences and find the Keymap section. Here we can search, filter, change and reset shortcuts. There are also multiple keymaps already in place that we can choose from.
Since keeping a copy of the original keymap is a good idea we will start by looking at how we can work with presets, then we continue to look at how we find the right shortcut to use, change and reset them.
Once we got the basics, we dive deeper into searching for specific hotkeys, by looking at how we can find the correct shortcut to actually change in the user preferences.
And last, we will look at how we can setup a hotkey to use custom operator settings when used.
How to use a custom preset keymap in Blender?
Before you make any changes to your keymap I suggest that you create a copy of the default keymap so that you always have a backup in case something happens.
Go to Edit->Preferences and find keymap. At the top, press the Plus button and give your custom keymap a name.
Keep in mind that when the default keymap, called “Blender” is selected, you can see preferences at the top. These are still in effect even if you switch keymap. However, they become hidden when another keymap is active.
To remove the selected keymap, press the minus sign.
You can also import and export keymaps. When exporting a keymap, press export. Choose a name and browse for a suitable location on your hard drive to store the file. The file saved is a .py file.
Only changed shortcut keys are stored in the exported file. The same is true for shortcuts added by add-ons. If they are not changed, they are not included in the export by default.
To include all shortcuts, check the “all keymaps” checkbox on in the right-side properties panel during export.
Related content: How to use application templates in Blender
How to find the hotkey for a feature in Blender
In some cases, we can hover a tool or operator to get a tooltip to see what hotkey we can use to activate it.
If the tool is in a menu, the shortcut is displayed on the right side with grey text.
However, in some cases there is no shortcut or even worse, a shortcut exists but it is not displayed in close approximation to the tool.
Let me use the loop cut and slide as an example. If we are in edit mode, we can activate the loop cut and slide tool by pressing the tool icon in the left side panel but hovering the tool to see the tooltip does not give us the shortcut key.
Instead, we must go to the edge menu and find the loop cut and slide tool there to see that the hotkey is Ctrl+R.
Instead, the best way I have found to research hotkeys is to use Google search. Just type the name of the tool or feature into Google followed by “blender shortcut” and you will often find what you are looking for.
Often this kind of search leads us to the Blender manual that seem to be well updated on shortcuts.
How to use menu hotkeys?
To complement the classic shortcuts, Blender also has menu shortcuts.
When a menu is open, the entries in the menu has a letter underlined. We can press this letter on the keyboard to either go to the corresponding sub menu, activate the tool, or use the setting.
We can also use the number row on the keyboard to select the corresponding entry, but this is limited to the first 10 entries in the menu, using 0 as the 10th menu item.
For example, in edit mode, we can access the loop cut and slide tool by pressing Ctrl+E to open the edge menu, followed by A that activated the loop cut and slide tool through the menu shortcut.
However, loop cut and slide tool is in the 11th position, so we cannot use the number row to activate it from the menu.
How to set or change a shortcut key in Blender?
The quickest way to set a shortcut key in Blender is to right click the operator you want to set a shortcut for and choose Assign Shortcut.
Next press the key combination you want as a shortcut for that operator. Start with the modifier keys just like if you were using the shortcut.
Another way is to go to Edit->Preferences and find the keymap section. Here we can search or browse for the operator we want to set a hotkey for.
To change a shortcut, press the arrow next to the operator name, then press the button labeled with the current primary shortcut key and set a new key. Then toggle any modifier keys you want to use with the shortcut key.
How to reset a shortcut key in Blender?
We can reset a shortcut key in the user preferences. Go to Edit->Preferences and find the keymap section.
If a shortcut has been changed from the defaults, a restore button will appear just above the shortcut key on the right side in the user interface. Press it to restore the operator to its default hotkey.
How to find a shortcut key you want to change?
We manage hotkeys in Blender by going to Edit->Preferences. Then find the Keymap section. You will quickly realize that there are many shortcut keys available and it can be hard to find the correct key to change.
We can find a shortcut through search. By default, the search is set to find by name. If you know the name of the operator or tool you want to change the shortcut for, search it and see if you can find it as the list gets filtered down.
In many cases though, it can be hard to find a shortcut by the operator name.
Instead, if a shortcut key is already configured and you want to change it to something else, it is easiest to search for the existing shortcut by the key combination if you are unsure of the operator’s name.
Press Key-binding and in the search box type the current keys used for the shortcut.
For example, to change the loop cut and slide tool that uses the shortcut CTRL+R, type “ctrl r” without the quotation. Notice that we spell out keys like CTRL, ALT and SHIFT and use a space between each key name.
You will find several shortcuts that are used in different context. But the loop cut and slide tool is a mesh edit mode tool, so we can easily locate it by name in the mesh category.
Even if you are not sure exactly what category your shortcuts operator belongs in, the list should be short enough for you to find the right key within a couple of tries.
Make a note of the operator name because just as you try to change the shortcut key, it will no longer match the search and it will disappear from the list. Instead, now that you know the name of the operator, change from key-binding to name and search for the operator name.
Once you found the correct operation again, press the arrow next to the operator name to expand the settings for that shortcut.
You can press the button labeled with the current primary key and press a new key to change it. Then highlight any modifier key you want to use with it. Keep in mind that on Windows, the Cmd key is equal to the Windows key.
How to change operator settings for a shortcut key?
We can’t change the default operator settings in Blender, but we can set custom operator settings for a shortcut key. So, whenever we use the shortcut key our custom operator settings will apply.
If the operator doesn’t have a shortcut key, set one using the instructions above.
In the Preferences found in the edit menu, go to keymap, and find the shortcut you want to change.
Expand the settings for the shortcut key by pressing the arrow icon next to the name, then just below where you set the shortcut key, you have the operator options available.
By default, they are greyed out. Change the setting and the parameter will become active.
To reset a parameter, press the X on the right side.
While Blender has the shortcoming of not always letting us know what shortcuts are available, there is a whole host of features related to shortcuts at our disposal.
Learning some of them is key for an enjoyable experience that flows well without too many hiccups along the way. Making 3D art is challenging work and shortcuts is one way to make it much faster and easier.