How to use cryptomatte for masking in Blender

Cryptomatte is a new feature in Blender that will allow us to create masks based on materials, objects and even groups of objects. It is the kind of function that you never thought you needed but once you have started to use it, you can not live without. Considering how advanced masks you can make with cryptomatte it is a very simple workflow. Let us jump into what it is and follow up with how we can use it in Blender, some things to think about and possibilities.

Cryptomatte is used to create masks based on objects or materials. It can create very accurate masks with support for anti-aliasing, depth of field and motion blur. It consists of two parts, a compositing node and passes. Enable the passes object, material, and asset in the passes section found in the view layer tab in the properties panel under the cryptomatte subsection. Now you can start playing with the cryptomatte node in the compositing nodes.

What is cryptomatte?

Cryptomatte is a post-processing tool that enables us to mask out separate materials or objects. We can use it together with the compositor to have a very fast workflow where we make changes to objects and materials instead of re-render with new settings when we discover a mistake.

Currently, cryptomatte can only be used with cycles render engine. Before cryptomatte we had, and we still do have object index and material index among the render passes. But this needs to be set up on a per object or per material basis. With cryptomatte, all objects and materials can be set up automatically and it will also support depth of field, motion blur and anti-aliasing on the masks it creates. We can then just color pick the masks that we want in the compositor using the new cryptomatte node.

The reason that cryptomatte is in Blender is thanks to a movie project called Next Gen. Next Gen is available on Netflix and it was made almost exclusively with Blender. I think that is awesome! A technology like this can come to benefit the whole Blender community from one such project and I hope for more such projects in the future. Let’s look at how cryptomatte really works.

What settings do we have for cryptomatte?

Currently, it’s only available in cycles and by default, we are in the Eevee render engine. Therefore, go to the render settings tab in the properties panel and change your render engine to cycles. Now we can go to the view layer tab and bring down the section called passes. We will find a subsection called cryptomatte. You will see that we have access to object, material, and assets this worked like regular passes and we can just enable the cryptomatte that we want. The object and materials will do what you think and help you mask out specific objects and materials. The asset will mask out objects that are parented to the same object. Making us able to Mask off groups of objects much quicker.

settings in the properties panel for cryptomatte

We also have a level and an accurate mode setting. According to the Blender manual, the level settings will dictate how many materials behind each other that can be detected on a per pixel basis. Maybe we have a particle system with a lot of different object and materials. In these cases, this can be useful.

Accurate mode is only available when rendering with CPU. If you find yourself with an inaccurate mask, such as a line around your mask when you use it or another glitch. Try accurate mode. For me though, I have found it more efficient to try to solve the problem some other way than cryptomatte since CPU rendering takes so much longer. But you may find a use for it if you are ok with rendering on the CPU.

For me, in my everyday use, I mostly stick to the material and object pass and I am good for 95% of the way if not more with those 2 buttons alone. For demonstration purposes though we will set all three buttons and go through what they each do. With these three buttons pressed, we can now render our scene and once done, move over to the compositor.

How to set up the compositor for cryptomatte?

Press “use nodes” to enable the compositor for our render result. Enable the backdrop as well. We will use the eyedropper tool from the cryptomatte node to mask out materials and objects from the backdrop. More on this later.

check use nodes and enable backdrop, also switch from alpha and color to just color

To make the backdrop show up, we first need to add a viewer node. Press shift+a and choose search. Type “viewer” in the search bar and hit enter. Using the search option once you know the names of the most useful nodes is far more efficient than looking through the menu.

connect the view layer node to the viewer node instead of the composit node

Connect the image output from the render layer node to the viewer instead of the composite node.

I also had to toggle the view between “alpha and color” and just “color” in the header bar before my backdrop would update.

To navigate the backdrop you will need to remember the V key and the alt key as well as the middle mouse button. Zoom out with the V key, zoom in with alt plus V and pan the image around with alt and middle mouse button while moving the mouse. Personally, I usually set the image somewhere in the lower right corner.

How to set up the nodes for cryptomatte?

Now we will manipulate some more nodes. We will start by enabling the node wrangler add-on which is included with Blender by default. Just go to the edit menu and find preferences. Within preferences, there is an add-on section. Here you can search for the node wrangler add-on. Tick the checkbox next to it in order to enable it.

Now you can hold ctrl+shift and left click on any node to cycle through its output and see it in the backdrop. Do this for the renderer layer node and once you come to the crypto outputs you will notice That these outputs have pretty odd looking outputs.

The first three are called cryptoobject00, 02 and 04. Next comes three outputs for cryptomaterial with the same ending numbers as well as cryptoAsset. Each set of cryptomatte outputs will need to be piped to a cryptomatte node.

You can think of the cryptomatte node as an extension to the render layer node. Hit “shift+a” for the add nodes menu. Here we will find that we have a cryptomatte node in the matte section, or just use the search.

The cryptomatte node takes four outputs as inputs. It needs the image output from the render layer node as well as one full set of crypto outputs either from object, material or assets. This is an example using the object outputs.

connect the three cryptomatte outputs to the inputs of the cryptomatte node as well as the image output. Use multiple cryptomatte nodes for each mask and for each type of mask

To use the cryptomatte node cycle to the “pick” output using the node wrangler add-on so that it is piped to the viewer node. This will make our backdrop look separated into multiple flat colors. We can use the eyedropper tool from the cryptomatte node and pick any color of the backdrop in order to add that to our mask.

We can add multiple parts to the mask by just continue clicking on those areas. You will see that a string of numbers will be added to the cryptomatte node. This represents the color that we pick. If we are viewing any other output than the “pick” output from the cryptomatte node then we won’t be able to use the eyedroppers to add or remove. This is because we will pick from other colors and therefore not create a correct mask or remove from the same mask.

Now cycle through the cryptomatte outputs again until you hit the matte output. This will show you a black and white mask representing your picks. We can now use this to make adjustments to these areas of the image.

The image output of the cryptomatte node is supposed to show the full color image with the mask applied as alpha. However, in my current build of Blender 2.80, I cannot use the alpha for the backdrop to show you. This is most likely a resolved bug when you are reading this. You will just have to trust me I guess^^

That is basically all there is to the cryptomatte node. From here you can use the matte output as a mask to separate out and make adjustments to specific areas of your image without having to spend to much time masking out areas by hand our having to always remember to use the material and object index on every project.

If you find yourself using cryptomatte a lot I would suggest that you enable the passes that you find yourself using and save it to the startup file. This way you will not find yourself without cryptomatte after hours of rendering your latest creation.

Example node setup

Below is the simplest possible example where I add some orange color variation to the grass in order to create some variation. I then mix it with the original image. Keep in mind when using particle systems with cryptomatte that all the distributions of the same object will have the same material and be the same object, so we can’t separate different instance of the same object. For that, we will need a hard duplicate done with “shift+d”.

use the mask from the cryptomatte node into the factor of a mix node to blend between the original image and a flat color
Before cryptomatte setup
After cryptomatte setup

Some things to watch out for and final thoughts

Note that if you are using the material cryptomatte you will have to separate your objects into appropriate materials. Sometimes I see workflows, typically with low poly modeling that involves an image made like a color palette, then in order to change “material” for an object, the UV island for that object is just moved to a different part of the UV Map to change the color. If you plan on using cryptomatte you will soon realize that this is not the same as changing the material.

Another little bug I found at this time is that if you switch to Eevee from cycles, your cryptomatte outputs will be hidden from the render layers node. Just keep that in mind if your outputs suddenly disappear after a render engine switch. Nothing is lost, you just need to switch back to cycles.

I am very glad that cryptomatte has made its way into Blender. It is one of those functions I didn’t know I missed but now when it is available I use it all the time to make smaller adjustments and tweaks.

I hope you found this article useful. If you did, consider joining the newsletter below to get a heads-up from time to time when new content is released.

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Blender box mapping workflow, a quick look

If you are like me, you are lazy. Making a UV Map for every object takes time and even if I am still sitting in my chair while doing it, it involves an internal meltdown. At least for me. Sometimes. Box mapping to the rescue!

Box mapping is a way to project a texture onto a 3D object without a UV map. We project the texture from 6 sides, XYZ and their negative counterparts. Box mapping is often called triplanar projection. To use box mapping for a texture in Blender, select the image texture node and change projection from flat to box. Use a texture coordinate node with generated or object coordinates connected to the vector slot.

What is box mapping?

With box projection, we project the texture from six sides. Positive and negative X, Y and Z. In the UV map we can tell what pixels the faces (polygons) should have projected to it, but in box project mode we are limited to the 6 sides of projection. What we sacrifice with box projection is control, but what we gain is speed, lots of speed.

In a way you could say that box projection is a good effort to make an image texture a procedural texture.

When do we use box mapping?

Box mapping or trilinear projection as it is also called is not suitable for every type of 3D model. But one area where it excels is architectural visualization and interiors. The reason for this is that there is a lot of objects that are quite square and we can box project our texture on to those objects, make some adjustments and be done.

How to use box mapping?

We have two different kinds of textures that we will consider. An image texture that is seamless and is quite uniform, meaning there is no clear direction as to how the texture should be laid out. This could be a moss or rock texture. The second image texture is also seamless but it has a clear direction to it. Like wood.

Let us first look at the uniform type since it is the simple one.

Start with a texture coordinate node and a mapping node. Use the generated or object output from the texture coordinate node and pipe it to the mapping node. Generated and object coordinates works differently but for our intentions here they will serve a similar enough purpose.

Pipe the mapping vector output to an image texture and change the image texture from flat to box. Now you will get a blend value that you can raise to blend between the 6 angles the texture gets projected from. For a rock or mud texture a value around 0.2 or 0.3 usually gets rid of any seams that might have been.

This is as simple as it gets for box projection.

The tricky part is when we come to the second type of texture where we have a clear direction that absolutely needs to be rotated correctly. If you try to change the rotation value in the mapping node you will get less than ideal results in most cases. Here we have two options. Lets first look at the rotate image option.

Use a 2D image editor or an add on

We can ether rotate our texture in a 2D image editor and save a rotated version and use that in the same way as we did with the uniform texture. For this, I have written an addon that can help. It has two functions. The addon is made for Blender 2.80 and is available here:

Boxtoggle tools

Install it like any other add-on. Go to edit -> user preferences, find the add-on section and click install. Browse for the add-on zip file on your hard drive and chose it. Check the checkbox next to the add-on name once it appears in the list. Close preferences and open the shader editor to start using it.

The first operation is a toggle between box and flat image texture projection. When toggled to box project the blend value is set to 0.2. This is just to speed up the process of toggling multiple image textures to box project at once. IT helps if you have PBR materials with hoards of different texture maps.

Select the image texture nodes in your node tree that you would like to toggle. Hit alt+q or hit space and type “boxtoggle” and hit enter to use this function.

Ok, now for the tricky rotation stuff. This will give us some control, but not full control. The second operation will rotate the image texture that is set for any selected image texture nodes. Use it with alt+w or search for “rotateimage”. How does it do that, well it looks for an existing rotated image or makes one.

Let’s say that we are trying to box map “my_cool_wood.png” to our object. When we run the “rotateimage” operation Blender will look inside the blendfile if an image called “my_cool_wood_rotated.png”. If it finds it, it will switch to that image.

If Blender can’t find the image it will look in the original folder on the harddrive for “my_cool_wood.png” and see if there is a “my_cool_wood_rotated.png”. If  the image is found there, Blender says, great! to itself and loads in the texture. If the rotated version still can’t be found it will just be created and stored in the original folder on disk.

Now the rotated version will definetly exist and the next time you run the operation Blender will just toggle between the rotated and non rotated version of the image.

This gets us some more control. We get to rotate all projections by 90 degrees at the same time. But we still can’t rotate every projection angle individually.

Solve the problem with a node group

The other method is to use a node group. The math behind this node group was made by MartinZ on blenderartists and the node group was then put together by Nathan_boder. You can read the full forum thread here. However the download links seems to be broken. But you can get the blendfile here. You need 2.80 or later to open it. A 2.79 version is available from the thread above.

Append all node groups from the file. Use the nodegroup called “texture preferencies” instead of the texture coordinate node and pipe it straight to your image texture. This node uses the flat projection method so change from box to the default flat. Notice here how we lose the blend slider when we use this method. This is one of the drawbacks. The seams that might be however, may not be so obvious and if this way of texturing can save us UV Mapping and still gives us enough control, then we might have saved ourselves some time. 

To learn how it works setup it up in the shader workspace to see how the texture behaves as you change the values in realtime.

Putting it all together

So, how could we use all this to our advantage? Well, this is my approach. First I determine if my model is fit for box projection or if I need a UV Map. Most of the time I will go with a UV Map starting with a Smart UV Project but if my model is simple enough or unimportant enough I will go ahead and try box project first.

You can read more about UV Map workflow in my article The definivive guide to UV Mapping. It is a long read though, but it might help you understand different workflows of  mapping ,why we uv map and what aim you should have for your uv map in different situations.

Then I will select all image textures that I want to box project and use the boxtoggle addon above. I inspect the projection and see if it fits my needs. If not I may rotate the images using the addon if it is the rotation that is the issue or just adjust add a mapping node and adjust the scaling if that seems to be the problem.

If I am still not happy I will delete the texture coordinate node and use the node group from the blenderartists thread above. From there I adjust the parameters as I see fit.

In case I am still not happy with the mapping. maybe I need different rotation and scaling independent of the projection angle for instance. Then I will go back and walk through the appropriate UV Mapping workflow.

This may seem like a lot, but all this is probably done within the minute if Blender is setup correctly. Toggling box projection is super quick with the addon, same with rotating the image. Switching the texture coordinate and mapping for the nodegroup above is also seconds away. We are simply moving from the simplest and fastest to the more complex medhod as we may discover limits we may or may not tollerate in our scene as we go.

Final thoughts

We learned how to use box mapping and that it can also be called triplanar projection in other applications than Blender. We also looked at increasing our control over how the mapping is done by rotating and scaling in different ways. Ether using a rotated image quickly made with the addon above or through a nodegroup. With the nodegroup though we lose the blend value but the rotated image approach can’t rotate individual projections.

I hope you found this useful and I would like to encourage you to share this on your social media channels as well as commenting if you have any questions or feedback. it really helps out a lot. It motivates me and also helps others.

Also consider joining the newsletter. I don’t send regularly and not very often. Instead it comes as a friendly reminder from time to time that I am still here, making your 3D art life just a little bit easier every time you come around to read a little bit more.

Thanks for your time

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More than 30 Blender modeling tools explained

Blender has a large array of modeling tools. They range from modifiers to curve tools, metaballs and mesh tools. In this article, we will focus on the tools we use for mesh objects. We will look at the modeling tools in Blender starting at the more common ones and working our way towards less common but useful ones. When you find yourself in a situation that requires some special manipulation or transformation of your geometry, one of these tools might be just what you need.

We can make most models with just a handful of modeling tools. But having more tools at our disposal helps to speed up the workflow and understand what options are available.

We can further adjust most tools using the operation panel in the lower left corner once we have confirmed an operation. Keep in mind that these extra settings will be lost as soon as you make another operation. Even clicking anywhere else in the 3D viewport will remove these settings, so be careful.

The next thing to keep in mind before we jump into the tools is that when a modeling tool is active and you are moving your mouse to adjust the tools influence there is often more information in the header row about how the tool works. We can also access these settings in the operation panel.

The most common modeling tools are available in the tools panel once you enter edit mode. Some less common ones you will find through the menus at the top of the 3D viewport. These are named “Mesh” “Vertex” “Edge” and “Face”. Some modeling tools have shortcuts while others don’t. If all else fails you can find tools through the search function if you hit “F3” or “Space” if you have your space bar set up for search.

The last way I know to access some of Blenders modeling tools is through the right-click menu. The right-click menu, changes depending on context. It matters if you are in edge, vertex or face select mode.

New in 2.80 is that in the properties panel, we now have a tab for the active tool. This goes for edit mode too. This means that some settings available in the operator panel can be set beforehand.

Now, delete that default cube, “shift+a” to add a new one, tab into edit mode and let’s try some tools!

Extrude tool

Can be used with: Edges, Faces, Vertices

Shortcut: E

The extrude tool is one of the most common modeling tools. Select one or more elements of your mesh and hit “E” to extrude a new region. The tool has some variations. “Alt+E” will bring up the menu to let you choose any of the alternatives.

Extrude along normals is the first alternative. This will extrude every face in its normal direction instead of bringing all faces to a median direction. This is most useful when extruding multiple faces along a curved surface and we want to maintain this curve.

Extrude individual is the last option. As it says, it will bring out an individual extrusion for each face. Useful when making a pattern for example.

Loopcut and slide

Can be used with: Edges

Shortcut: ctrl+R

Loopcut and slide is often referred to as just a loopcut. It is really a macro that does two operations. You activate the tool and move your mouse over your mesh, and Blender will show a line where a new loop of edges will be created. To increase the number of loops, scroll the mouse wheel. Click to confirm, then move your mouse again to set the exact location you want for your cuts. If you want to center the cuts just cancel the operation with “Esc” or “right click”.

Bevel tool

Can be used with: Edges, Faces, Vertices

Shortcut: ctrl+B

The bevel tool will take the edges in your selection and push them out, dividing them into two or more edges. We can also use it on vertices by hitting “V” once the tool is active.

Scroll your mouse wheel to increase or decrease the number of segments. You can also hit “P” while the tool is active to adjust the profile.

This is one of the most misused tools in Blender in my opinion. The reason is that it is often used to create a small bevel around your model for shading. If this is your goal, then turn to the bevel modifier instead and your mesh will be very much easier to work with.

Inset tool

Can be used with: Faces

Shortcut: I

We use the inset tool to take one or more faces and create a perimeter around the selection, pushing the selection inwards.

A very common and useful tool when adding detail to an object. You can hit “I” again once the tool is active to have every face inset individually.

Knife tool

Can be used with: Faces

Shortcut: K

The knife tool is an interesting modeling tool, it works differently from the other once we covered so far because it has no extra options and it confirms by hitting enter instead of clicking.

Use the tool by hitting “K” then hover your mouse over any edge to create a new vertex there. Then move your mouse to any position on your mesh to create a straight line to that location. Continue until you have cut the edges you want and confirm with enter.

Note that the knife tool is not limited to your selection like most other tools are.

Bisect tool

Can be used with: Faces

The bisect tool is an alternative to the knife tool. But it is also different. This modeling tool does not have a shortcut. Instead, we activate it through the tools menu on the left side. Click and hold the knife tool until a menu comes up, then hold and drop your mouse while hovering “Bisect”.

Unlike the knife tool, bisect only works on your selection. Select your whole mesh or a portion of it, then hold and drag a line across your mesh. The bisect tool will cut an edge through your selection. In the operations panel you can then adjust the cut and select “clear inner” or “clear outer” to remove either side of the cut.

Poly build tool

Can be used with: Faces

This one is new in Blender 2.80 and I think it still needs some refinement. It is meant to be used as a retopology tool with your snapping settings setup accordingly for it to work as intended. Let me explain.

Activate poly build from the tools panel. If you click anywhere in the scene you will create a vertex. To start using any other feature of the tool you need a face.

So to start you can create for vertices, then select them with circle select but hitting “C”. Then hit “F” to use the fill tool and create a face. We have to do circle select because we can’t use the regular box select since the poly build is active. We also can’t use the tool on a watertight mesh.

Now, when moving your mouse you will get a vertex or edge indication. When hovering a vertex, click and drag to create a new face.

When hovering an edge, you can click and drag to create a triangle or hold ctrl and click an edge to create a new vertex on the edge. If you do this on a triangle a quad will be created. On a quad a five sided n-gon and so on.

Also if you have not changed your snapping settings you will notice that snapping will also enable while holding ctrl. Turn on snapping and change it to face to have the tool work more as intedned.

Spin tool

Can be used with: Vertices, edges, faces

We can find the spin tool in the tools panel. It has no shortcut key.

The spin tool will spin your selection using the 3D cursor as the center. In Blender 2.80, we can move the 3D cursor with “shift+right-click”. The operations panel will give you additional options for how many segments will spin around and some other parameters.

We can find an alternative to the spin tool by clicking and holding the spin tool in the tools panel, then select “Spin duplicates” The difference between these tools may not seem clear at first.

Let’s say that we use the spin tool with a cube selected, we will create duplicates, but if we only select a portion of the mesh, we will see a difference. The elements we extrude with the “spin duplicate” tool will not be connected.

Shear tool

Can be used with: Edges, Faces

Shortcut: ctrl+alt+shift+s

The shear tool has the most convoluted shortcut left since the key-map rebinding of 2.80.

It is probably the most forgotten modeling tool on this list. It has gained some recognition back since it has a good place on the tools panel in 2.80, but it is very unknown.

What this tool does so well is to make 45-degree angles of profiles, and this is gold for architecture visualization.

Extrude your profile in X or Y then go to top orthographic view and activate the shear tool. If nothing happens, press X or Y to change the axis and move your mouse until you see that the profile gets an angle. Press 1 on the number pad for a 45-degree angle and enter.

I don’t know how many weird ways I have seen 45 degrees angles made in Blender, but this is the tool to do it.

You can find a video tutorial I made for the shear tool for 2.79 here. It is still applicable to 2.80.

Blender shear tool video tutorial

Split tool

Can be used with: Vertecies, Edges, Faces

Shortcut: Y

The split tool will work differently when used on vertices and edges as opposed to faces.

When used on an edge or vertex, the tool will duplicate the feature. But with a face selection, we will detach the selection from the rest of the mesh.

Rip tool

Can be used with: Edges

Shortcut: V

The rip tool is not very much unlike the split tool. But it only works on edges. It will rip the selected edge or edges and adjacent edges when needed. What part gets ripped depends on your mouse position when the rip occurs. The closest face will be ripped and selected for movement.

Fill(New edge/face from vertices) tool

Can be used with: Edges, Vertices

Shortcut: F

This tool will take your selected edges and vertices and try to fill an area where you want a face. You can, for example, select two opposite edges and hit “F” to fill in a face between them. You can also select two vertices to fill an edge and so on. A very useful tool.
There is also the F2 addon that expands on this behaviour. You can watch a video about it here:

F2 add-on explained

The next tool in the list is the actual tool that is called fill in the interface, this tool is probably just confused with it thanks to its functionality and shortcut key.

Fill tool

Can be used with: Edges, Vertices

Shortcut: ALT+F

Yep, the tool names can be tricky. This is the actual “fill tool” and we use it to fill an empty area. To view it in action, you select a ring of edges and hit “ALT+F” to fill the area with triangles.

Grid fill tool

Can be used with: Edges, Vertices

I could not live without this one. It is a very efficient tool compared to the alternatives. Just like the fill tool above you select a ring of edges or vertices and use this tool. We access it through the face menu in the 3D viewport but you can also search for “grid fill” using “F3” or possibly “Space” if setup.

If the grid isn’t what you expected, you can use the operator tools panel to adjust the span and offset.

Now go use this tool to fill some holes!

Bridge edge loop tool

Can be used with: Edges, Vertices

This one doesn’t have a shortcut ether and honestly I kind of forget about this tool, but it is very handy.

It takes two rings of edges opposite from each other and fills in a tunnel of geometry between them. Then you use the operator panel to customize the connection. You can add loop cuts, twist, make different profiles, and smooth the shape.

It works even if the two rings don’t have the same number of edges, but works best when they do. If both sides are the same, you can avoid triangles if that is a concern. The image shows how bridge edge loop is used between a cube and half a sphere

Join(Connect vertex path) tool

Can be used with: Vertices

Shortcut: J

Another tool with a little unimportant name confusion. Most of the time, just called join. Join is used to connect two vertices, cutting through whatever geometry is between them. If the vertices are not connected you can use the “F” key instead to fill with an edge.

Merge tool

Can be used with: Vertices, Edges, Faces

Shortcut: ALT+M

Merge can be done with edges and faces, but you will most likely use it with vertices. It takes your selection and merges it down to one vertex at some location, except for the last option called “by distance”. In 2.79 they called this “remove doubles” and it just merges any vertices that are close enough to each other.

The first two options, “at first” and “at last” is only available in vertex select mode, and as the name suggest they merge your selection at ether of those locations. “At center” of the lot and “at cursor” will use the 3D cursor and not the position of the mouse.

Collapse takes a little more explanation. When you have a bunch of vertices selected it will act like “at center”. But when you have multiple islands of connected vertices selected each one of those islands will act as its own entity and merge at its own center.

Subdivide tool

Can be used with: Edges, Faces

Subdivide, the tool and not the modifier. They are two different things but work very similar. We find it in the Edge menu. It will subdivide your mesh the number of times you set the iteration to in the operator panel.

The tool has some extra features to deal with the mesh that is not completely quads. We can keep some n-gons and make finer adjustments. We also have a fractal slider to randomize the position of vertices. We can use this to create irregularities like a simple ground surface or similar.

Un-subdivide tool

Can be used with: Edges, Faces

The un-subdivide tool is one of those that is not used often but sometimes it can be a godsend. It has a modifier counterpart just like subdivide. It is hidden in the decimate modifier as a setting.

Unsubdivide has a single parameter in the operator panel called iterations.

The obvious use case is to reverse any subdivisions made. We do this with an even number of iterations. With an iteration set to “1”, this tool becomes very interesting. It will twist the loop paths to create a spiral pattern that can be very hard to make otherwise.

Rotate edge tool

Can be used with: Edges

Rotate edge works best with a single edge. It rotates the edge around connecting it to the next two vertices in a clockwise or counterclockwise order.

Available from the edge menu or right click when in edge select mode.

Edge split tool

Can be used with: Edges

This tool splits the selected edge into two, separating the faces on either side. The tool won’t have any effect if you are just selecting one edge and there are adjacent edges that are still connected. In those cases use rip or regular split.

Found in the edge menu and right click when in edge select mode.

Poke faces tool

Can be used with: Faces

This is a neat tool. It creates triangular fans by making a vertex in the middle of each selected face and connecting each edge to the center.

In the operator panel, we can set an offset and set the method for how to calculate the center. You find it in the face menu.

Triangulate face tool

Can be used with: Faces

This tool will triangulate each face. No surprise here. There is also a triangulate modifier. When you are dealing with ngons, this can be very useful before exporting to another application, since there is no standard way of how to triangulate faces between applications. It can mitigate shading issues if you can stay in control of how this is done.

You guessed it, find it in the face menu.

Tris to quads tool

Can be used with: Faces

Shortcut: ALT+J

This tool will rearrange edges to recreate quads from a triangulated mesh. It is to triangulate what un-subdivide is to subdivide. There are shape and face angle values in the operator panel that you can adjust to fine tune the operation.

This tool will not remove or add vertices to create quads. This means that sometimes a quad can still look triangulated just because there is a vertex in the middle of one edge technically making it quad topology. Look in vertex select mode to make sure that the result is what you expect.

Solidify faces tool

Can be used with: Faces

Solidify faces have few and simple properties. There is only one thickness value. It just pushes out the selected faces in the normal direction, creating thickness. Compare this to the solidify modifier that looks like a cockpit control panel in comparison.

I never used this before, but since I made tests for this article, I have used it from time to time thanks to its simplicity.

Wire frame tool

Can be used with: Faces

Another tool with a modifier counterpart. The neat things with this kind of tool is that it only affect the selection as opposed to the modifier that works on the whole mesh or you have to create vertex groups to isolate the influence of the modifier.

Select one or more faces and use the wire frame tool through the face menu. It will add new geometry around the edges separate from the original mesh. In the operator panel, you can choose if you want to keep the original mesh. There is also a host of other settings similar to the corresponding modifier.

Here I use it on a subdivided and triangulated cube, removing the original geometry. We find this modeling tool through the face menu.

Beautify faces tool

Can be used with: Faces

This tool has a very specific use case. It takes long triangles and rearrange them to make more even sized triangles. Let’s take an example. I made the image below with a text object converted to mesh.

The top example is the converted text out of the box. The middle example is after the beautify faces tool has been used. A clear topology improvement.

After that, I used the “tris to quads” modeling tool. Still not perfect but a very much improved topology that would take quite some time if we were to go over the topology piece by piece. This way, we can improve it with just two of Blenders modeling tools in almost no time. We can still continue to tweak from here if we want.

weld edges into faces tool

Can be used with: Edges, faces

This tool combines a loose edge or set of edges with one or more faces. You need to be in edge or vertex select. Select both the edges and faces you want to weld and select the “weld edges into faces” option from the face menu. Watch the example image. The top shows what we started with and the bottom shows the result after the weld. Here we could use some triangulation since we just created two ngons with this tool, but you get the idea.

A tool I don’t use at all right now. After having played with it for a while I think it is a cool tool though. For instance, if you have a grid of edges you can weld an un-subdivided plane into it without having to fill the grid manually. But I rarely find myself in a situation where that would be needed.

Shrink/flatten tool

Can be used with: Vertices, Faces, Edges

This is one of the modeling tools in Blender that I just can’t find a use for. It pushes the selected elements forwards and backwards from their normals.

If you are looking at this tool, I think you should try to use “S” to scale followed X, Y or Z to constrain the scaling. This will make the kind of flatten I would guess people think of when looking at this tool.

Mirror tool

Can be used with: Vertices, Edges, Faces

Shortcut: ctrl+M

The mirror tool is not really a mirror tool. Instead, it flips the selection on the given axis.

Use it with “ctrl+m” followed by X, Y or Z for the given axis. This is the same as scaling the selection on the given axis by “-1”.

Final thoughts

Apart from what we already covered, there is also a whole range of add-ons for Blender that expands this list even further. Also, we should not forget that we also have things like sculpt mode and modifiers to further help us in our quest to create the perfect 3D scene.

This list is not complete ether; there are even more tools that we didn’t cover, but I had to draw the line somewhere. I hope you find it useful and that you start to think about some combinations that would create cool geometry or simplify a tedious modeling process.

As always, please subscribe to the newsletter if you like what I am creating here and you find value. Submit questions and feedback in the comments or through the contact form. You will find the link in the footer.

What is your favourite unknown and hidden Blender tool?

Thanks for your time

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