For beginners or when using a tablet, the graphical gizmos or widgets can be a major help for making basic transformations in Blender.
By default, the gizmo is hidden. You can activate it in the Gizmo menu found in the top right corner of the 3D viewport. Enable the checkboxes for move, rotate and scale respectively to enable it once again. Also make sure that the gizmo icon is enabled, or the widget will not be showing.
In this article we will learn about the basic gizmo, manipulator, or widget as it is sometimes called. How we can use it, how to bring it back if it is hidden and some things that is good to know when using it.
The gizmo is the graphical tool in the 3D viewport that let you make transformations by clicking and dragging on it with your mouse.
There is the basic gizmo that allow you to move, rotate and scale but there are also several edit mode tools that has their own custom gizmo designed specifically for that tool.
You can enable a tool specific gizmo in edit mode by activating the corresponding tool in the left side tool panel.
The gizmo is primarily useful for beginners that want simple ways to transform objects. But once you start to dive deeper into 3D modeling, the gizmos won't be especially useful anymore. They are too slow to work with compared to using shortcut keys.
Related article: Blender shortcut keys: How to find, manage, change, and reset
However, it can also be useful when you don't have direct access to a keyboard. For example, when you are sculpting or drawing using a pen tablet. In these cases, easy access to a gizmo that can help you make basic transformations without the need for a keyboard can be useful.
The transform gizmo has three parts that all can be activated independently, or multiple at the same time.
This is what they look like:
To activate each one go to the gizmo menu in the top right corner and in the object gizmo section, check move, rotate and scale.
When all gizmos are active, click and drag in the middle small white circle to move the object according to the view.
The large white circle also use the view, but instead rotate the object.
The circular lines will rotate the object in the given axis. Blue for Z, Red for X and green for Y. If you ever forget what color each axis has, you can look at the navigation gizmo in the top right corner.
The arrows will move the object in the corresponding direction and the square boxes will scale.
When only the move widget is enabled, we get three small squares, one for each axis. When clicking and dragging these we move the object on a plane.
For example, the red square will move the object on the Z and Y axis, omitting the X axis from the transformation.
By the way, you may also be interested in reading these articles on viewport shading and overlays for the viewport:
Related content: Blender viewport shading guide
Related content: How to use 3D viewport overlays in Blender 3D
If we instead have only the scale widget enabled, the larger white circle appears again. This time it indicates that we can put our mouse between the smaller and larger circle to scale the entire object.
The closer we click and drag to the outer circle, the less sensitive the transformation will be. So, clicking and dragging further out and closer to the larger circle allow a more fine-tuned transformation.
When the rotation widget is active alone it works the same as when all widgets are active with the difference that if we click and drag in the middle, we get a trackball kind of rotation.
One last note, when both scale and move is active and not rotate, we have the small squares in the widget. But these now work for the move command and not the scale command. These squares always disappear if rotation is enabled.
When we have any of the selection tools enabled or the 3D cursor from the left side tool panel, we can choose to enable or disable these individually from the gizmo menu in the upper right corner of the 3D viewport.
We can disable and enable gizmos by clicking the show gizmo button next to it. If we disable gizmos here, we also disable the control options present in the top right corner that is meant to be used for navigation.
Opening the viewport gizmo, you will find multiple options.
The first checkbox, navigate, enables the navigation widgets mention just above.
The next checkbox is active tool. This enables or disables the gizmo that is present based of what tools we have selected in the left side tool panel. Unchecking this makes it so that if we then enable the move tool, the gizmo will stay hidden.
The active object option is a toggle to enable or disable the use of the object gizmos as a group. These are the settings described above and enables the gizmo when no specific tool with its own gizmo is enabled. It also includes all the other settings below it in the menu.
The rest of the gizmo options for empties, light and camera toggle their respective gizmos. Empties require an attached force field or an image to have gizmos.
In the case of force fields, a yellow arrow appears that enable us to change the strength.
For images we can move it by click and drag from the middle and resize at the corners.
Lights also have object type specific gizmos that allow the sun, spot and area lights to be pointed in a direction and for spotlights and area lights we can adjust the size.
Last, we have the camera, by clicking and dragging the camera frame edge we can change the focal length. We can also control the focus distance. But to do that we first need to go into the object properties found in the object data properties tab. That is the green camera icon. Go to viewport display and enable limits.
A crosshair will appear along a line that we can click and drag to change the plane our camera is focusing.
The deciding factor of where the gizmo appears is the transform pivot point. You can find this right in the middle of the header in the 3D viewport. Just next to the snapping menu.
Related content: How to use snapping tools in Blender
By default, this is set to median point so whenever you add objects to your selection, the gizmo will move to stick in the center of the selected objects.
If this is set to 3D cursor, the gizmo will follow the 3D cursor wherever you move it.
The only exception is if you choose individual origins. If this is the case the gizmo will go to the median point.
To reset the position of the gizmo, select the median point as the transformation pivot point.
The gizmo comes in many shapes and sizes depending on what kind of object we are working with and what tools we are using. Each edit mode tool has its own gizmo. But the most used gizmo is the transform widget.
It is an effective way for sculptors and painters to do basic transformation without a keyboard as well as a way for beginners to learn basic object manipulation.
Once we get a little more seasoned in Blender though, we want to start using shortcuts to speed up our modeling process.
Thanks for your time.