An essential part of 3D modeling is to know how our transformations are done and a lot of our tools, such as rotation and scaling depend on a point of reference to perform the action in relation to. We call this point, the pivot point.
To change the pivot point in Blender's viewport, go to the center of the header section and find the transform pivot point menu between the transform orientation options and snapping options. Click it and choose the element you want to set as your pivot point.
By default, the pivot point is set to the origin of the object. That is the small orange dot placed at the center of our object. But we can use many other points as the pivot point to transform around.
You can also find related topics in this article:
Related content: How to center objects, origins and pivot points in Blender
Let's explore this topic deeper.
The pivot point is primarily the point we perform transformations or modeling tool operation in relation to. For example, we might rotate some selected portion of our mesh around a point in edit mode or we might scale an object or the distance between objects in relation to a pivot point.
Related content: How selecting works in Blender
By default, the pivot point is the selected object's origin, or the median point between multiple selected object origins.
If we reach outside the 3D viewport, for example into the UV editor, we have a pivot point here as well. In the case of the UV editor, we might rotate UV islands around the pivot point.
There are other editors that has a pivot point as well, one example would be the graph editor.
Since pivot points are most relevant in the 3D viewport, we will cover the options found there. Once you know the pivot point options for the 3D viewport it is easy to translate that knowledge to other editors that also support transformations around a pivot point.
We can set the pivot point to be any of these things:
There are no additional settings to setting the pivot point, after all, it is just a single point in space. We simply state what point is going to be our active pivot point.
Here are the different elements we can set as the pivot point and how they work.
Each object has a bounding box around them; its size is determined by the position of the geometry and will have the exact size needed to fit all mesh inside. With this set as our pivot point, Blender will use the bounding box center as the pivot point.
Note that the objects origin can be outside of the bounding box. Only the geometry decides the size of it.
We can view the bounding box by going to the properties panel and to the object properties tab. For mesh objects, which is the yellow box icon. Expand the viewport display section and check the checkbox next to bounds. The bound type should be set to box by default, but if not, you can change it in the dropdown menu next to the checkbox.
For edit mode, the bounding box will be a temporary box that fit all the currently selected elements.
We can use the 3D cursor as the pivot point. This is a very flexible pivot point since we can rapidly move the 3D cursor around very precise. For example, we can quickly move it to our current selection by pressing Shift+S and choosing "Cursor to selected".
You can learn more about manipulating the 3D cursor here.
Related content: How to use the 3D cursor in Blender
Individual origins is special since it will use the origin of each individually selected object or selected mesh portion. If we select multiple objects and double tap R to trackball rotate with this, we can get a good idea for how it works.
Each object will rotate individually around its own origin as opposed to rotating all objects around a single point.
It can be very useful for performing bulk operations.
Median point is the default option. Essentially, Blender calculates a median point for your selection and use it as the pivot point.
For example, if you have a group of objects close together and one object a bit further away that you selected, the median point will be closer to the group of objects since they have a higher "weight".
This is different from, for example, the bounding box that will simply take the center of everything selected without weighting and use it as the pivot point.
The active element is the last selected element. If you select multiple objects in a row by holding shift, the last selected object will have a lighter outline, indicating that it is the active element or active object. This is the point that will be used as pivot point in this case.
In object mode it will be the origin of the active object. In edit mode, it will be the median point of the last selected element. In vertex select mode it will simply be the last selected vertex, but for edges it will be the center of the edge and for faces, the median point of the vertices connected to the face.
For pivot points in other editors, the UV editor and graph editor are probably the most noteworthy.
In the UV editor we have the same kind of tools as in the 3D viewport, only that this time, we work in 2D instead of 3D, so it is quite a bit simplified. We use it to make transformations as we manipulate the current UV map.
Related content: The definitive tutorial to UV mapping in Blender
For example, here we only have these four options.
They work just like their counterpart in the 3D viewport, except they only take the X and Y coordinates, or I should say, the U and V coordinates.
For the graph editor it is a similar deal, but we lack the median point option. We can use the pivot as we transform the keyframes and adjust the interpolation between keyframes.
Keep in mind that the 2D cursor is a combination of the playhead and a horizontal line that we can move by holding Shift and right click and move the mouse. It is also available through the right-side properties panel accessible by pressing N.
The pivot point options are crucial to have a good understaning about when 3D modeling. We need to first understand the options we have to use it effectively and then work with 3D modeling to commit using the pivot point effectively to muscle memory.
Thanks for your time.