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Top 10 weight paint tips for Blender

In this article I want to cover my top 10 tips for working effectively with weight painting. You might also find something that you didn't know you could do to create the weight paint you wanted.

These are the weight paint tips we will cover:

  • Weight paint all vertices at once
  • Clear all weight paint
  • Export weight paint
  • Flipping or mirroring weight paint
  • Gradient weight paint
  • Weight paint only selected faces
  • Hide part of the mesh in weight paint mode
  • Copy weight paint from one object to another
  • Convert weight paint to vertex color
  • Use a texture as weight paint

If you ended up here and don't know much about weight paint or vertex groups, I can suggest that you first read this article that covers what you need to know about vertex groups and also scratches the surface of weight paint.

Related content: How to use vertex groups in Blender

Let's dive in!

Weight paint all vertices at once

We can set all vertices on an object to have the same weight at once. This might be useful if we want to have a starting point that isn't zero when we start to paint, or we might want to set all vertices to a value of one.

To weight paint all vertices in a vertex group, follow these steps:

  • Select your object.
  • Tab to edit mode and make a selection or press A to select all.
  • Go to the mesh data tab in the properties panel, that is the green triangle icon.
  • Expand the vertex groups section and select your vertex group or press the plus sign to add a new.
  • Below the vertex group list you will find a weight slider, set it to the value you want your selected vertices to have.
  • Press assign.

We can assign any weight we want to any vertices we want this way. However it is a much more labour intense process than simply painting in weight paint mode.

Clear all weight paint

Similarly to assigning a particular weight to one or more vertices using the properties panel, we can also clear all weights in a vertex group.

Follow these steps to clear all weight paint for a single vertex group:

  • Select your object and press tab to go to edit mode.
  • Press A to select all vertices.
  • Go to the data properties panel and expand the vertex group section.
  • Select the vertex group you want to clear weights from.
  • Pull the weight slider to zero.
  • Press assign.

All weight paint will now be cleared from the vertex group you selected in the list. Another alternative is to simply select the group and press the minus sign to remove the group and add a new one.

Keep in mind that if you do this, any place where the removed vertex group was used, such as in modifiers or armatures will no longer maintain its link. So, you will have to go around the interface and add the new vertex group where you want to use it.

Export weight paint

Sometimes we need to export our weight paint to another application. We can export weight paints using the FBX file format but to do so the object needs to be parented to an armature and the vertex group need to be associated with a bone.

Related content: How parenting works in Blender

To export weight paint using the fbx file format, follow these steps:

  • In object mode, press Ctrl+A and add an armature with a single bone.
  • Select your object, then shift+select your armature and press Ctrl+P
  • Choose Armature deform
  • Go to your vertex group and rename it to "Bone" to match it with the name of the bone in your armature
  • Go to file->Export->FBX and export using the default export settings
  • Your vertex group is now maintained and can be used in any other application that supports vertex groups.

If you are interested in learning more about fbx import and export, you can read this guide.

Related content: Exporting and importing FBX in Blender

Flipping or mirroring weight paint

If we want to flip weight paint from one side to the other, meaning that we don't mirror it, we just transfer it between the two sides of an object, we can do so across the X axis. Follow these steps:

  • Go to weight paint mode
  • Go to weights->Mirror

This will not actually mirror what we have painted, instead it will move the weight paint from one side to the other. Essentially a flip functionality.

To mirror as we paint our vertex group, we can go to the properties panel and click the active tools and workspace tab. That is the tab at the very top. Expand the symmetry section and check "mirror vertex groups" then choose the axis you want to mirror across.

Related content: How to mirror in Blender

Gradient weight paint

When weight painting it is common to simply jump over to weight paint mode and start painting without further thought. But there is actually a handful of different tools in the left-hand sidebar that we access by pressing T.

One of those tools is the gradient weight paint tool. This tool is especially useful when we are using a vertex group to distribute foliage and other objects that should be dense closer to the camera but can be less dense further away to save on memory.

Related content: Memory optimization for rendering in Blender

To use the gradient weight paint tool, follow these steps:

  • In weight paint mode press T if the left-hand side toolbar isn't already visible.
  • Select the gradient tool.
  • Press left-mouse button and hold where you want to be the densest part.
  • Drag and release in the area the density should have decreased to zero.

In the operator panel in the lower left part of the 3D viewport we also have the option to set the gradient to be either linear or radial. The radial option will create a circular area with the highest density in the middle with a gradient going outwards in all directions.

Weight paint only selected faces

Sometimes we want to avoid weight paint to spilling over into certain areas of our mesh. In those cases it can be a good idea to limit weight paint so that can only influence certain parts of the mesh as we are painting.

While in weight paint mode we will find vertex and face selection in the header just next to the mode switch menu. By default, none of these are selected. If we choose either face or vertex here, we can make a selection and limit the weight paint to the selection only.

We are a bit limited to how we can select, but the shortcuts for selection tools such as B for box select and C for circle select work. But we cannot click a vertex or face to select it since the left click is dedicated to painting while in weight paint mode. Instead hold shift and click to add or remove single faces or vertices from the selection.

However, we can use Ctrl+L to select linked if we have separate parts in our mesh that we want to paint separately.

If you want to disable your vertex of face selection again you can just click the corresponding selection mode button again and you are back to weight paint modes default behavior.

Hide part of the mesh in weight paint

If you read the previous tip you now know taht we can use the face and vertex select modes in weight paint to have our weight painting only affect selected parts of the mesh. We can also use these selection modes to hide part of our mesh even while in weight paint mode.

To hide parts of a mesh in weight paint, follow these steps:

  • Go to weight paint mode.
  • Enable vertex or face selection in the left part of the header in the 3D viewport.
  • Make a selection using any of the supported selection methods in weight paint mode.
  • Press H to hide.

These are some of the supported selection tools in weight paint mode.

  • Press C to circle select.
  • Press B to box select.
  • Hold Shift+left-click to add or remove a face or vertex from the selection.

To unhide everything you can press Alt+H.

Copy weight paint from one object to another

In Blender, it is possible to transfer weights from one object to another. There are two methods. We can copy a vertex group from one object to one or more other objects using indices or indexes.

By using a modifier we can also go the opposite way and copy many vertex groups from different objects to the same object. Let's start with the first method.

This is useful when we have two objects that contain different meshes and both should have similar weight painting.

However there is one limitation, both objects need to have the same number of vertices.

Each vertex has an index. The vertex group is copied so that the vertex with the same index in the target mesh is going to get its corresponding weight from the mesh we copy from. Therefore it rarely makes sense to copy vertex groups between objects that are not identical.

The vertex group might look completely different depending on the order of index for the vertices.

To copy weight paint from one object to another, follow these steps:

  • Select the object you want to transfer your vertex group to.
  • Hold shift and select the object that currently have the vertex group.
  • Go to the object data tab in the properties panel, that is the green triangle icon, and expand the vertex group section.
  • Press the down arrow icon to access a menu.
  • Choose copy vertex group to selected.

The other way to copy a vertex group from one object to another is through using the data transfer modifier. This method is explained in this article but for completions sake I will also list the steps here.

Related content: How to use vertex groups in Blender

To copy weight paints from one or more objects to another using the data-transfer modifier follow these steps:

  • Go to the wrench tab in the properties panel and add a data-transfer modifier on your target object.
  • Pick the weight painted object as a source.
  • Next, check vertex data and expand the section. Here you can find various methods on how to transfer the vertex data.
  • Click vertex groups.
  • Choose a mapping method.
  • Click “Generate Data layers”.

This way we can use various other mapping methods that makes more sense when we are transferring vertex data between objects that are not similar. We can map using various kinds of distances instead of the index number.

Convert weight paint to vertex color

If we need to convert a weight painted vertex group to vertex color data we can do so thanks to an add-on that you can get here:

External content: Vertex color master for Blender (Github)

Once the add-on is installed and activated (something you can learn how to do in the link below) follow these steps to convert a vertex group to vertex color.

  • Go to vertex paint mode.
  • Press N to open the right-hand side properties panel.
  • Go to the VCM tab.
  • Use the data transfer settings and set the src to w:<name of vertex group>.
  • Set the dst as col, this is the vertex paint group, similar to a weight paint group.
  • Press weights to dst.

This is useful, for example, if we need a vertex group to be accessible in a Cycles or Eevee material. We cannot directly access vertex groups, but vertex color can be used through either the attribute node or the slightly newer vertex paint node.

Use a texture as weight paint

Instead of manually painting or assigning vertex weights through the properties panel, we can also use a texture to automatically create the weight paint for us.

To use a texture as a weight paint follow these steps:

  • Select your object and go to weight paint mode, this allow us to see what we are doing.
  • Go to the mesh data tab and add a vertex group. Tab to edit mode and give all vertices a value other than zero.
  • Go to the modifier tab.
  • Add a VertexWeightProximity modifier.
  • Select the vertex group you created.
  • Set any object in your scene as the target object.
  • Expand the influence section and press "new" to add a new texture.
  • Press the right most button to go to the texture tab.
  • Configure your texture and you should see the result in the 3D viewport.

This is an easy way to create a vertex group that can match any texture. In the modifier you can set the texture coordinates. For example, you might want to use UV if you are doing this with an image texture.

Final thoughts

In this article we went through a lot of different techniques related to weight painting and vertex groups. There is a lot we can do with weight painting and there are many places in Blender that support them to mask different sections of a mesh.

Thanks for your time.

Written by: Erik Selin

Editor & Publisher

Erik Selin
3D artist, writer, and owner of artisticrender.com

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