Manage Your Layers Better in Blender

Managing Your Workflow

Managing workflow is critical for the successful completion of design projects. One key tool for proper job and time management in just about any graphics application is the proper use and labeling of layers.

I’m always surprised (and somewhat annoyed if I’m being honest) when I open up complex art files where the original designer didn’t bother to label and split up the individual elements into layers. How do they manage to complete tasks without wasting huge swatches of time? The answer is they don’t. They just steamroll through the job, clicking and dragging until they finally manage to wrestle out what the customer wants. Then anyone who follows them is left to their own resources when trying to decode the file. Some designers would say something to the effect of “But I know what/where everything is.” I’m sure they do… at least right now, but I can guarantee a year from now, they won’t.

Where? What? - From Adobe Illustrator
Where? What? – From Adobe Illustrator

If a project only has a couple of elements, it’s not a big challenge, but even then you should still employ the best practice of using and labeling your layers and elements. In the case of Photoshop, every time you add a new element, it is given its own layer with its own name (layer 1, layer 2, etc.) which is easier, but still takes some figuring out on complex files. At least the layer hierarchy is simple. Top layer = Top visible element. However in the case of other industry tools such as InDesign or Illustrator (or Blender), all the elements of a document can reside in the same layer. You may be able to name the individual elements or not, but you can always name the layers.

When properly used, layer management speeds up and makes work more efficient not only for you, but for any designer that may follow you.

Layers in 3D

3D is no exception. In fact, in 3D there is the extra complication that elements (objects) can reside anywhere in 3D space. Additionally, layers in 3D take on the role of being a critical tool towards rendering the final images. To properly composite images, you must be able to separate or isolate objects and output them for use in your image editor.

Blender Layers - Great for isolating and rendering. Not so great for finding.
Blender Layers – Great for isolating and rendering. Not so great for finding.

To this end, Blender layer integration is excellent. Except for one key feature… somehow layer labeling was overlooked.

This is where the Layer Manager by Alfonso Annarumma comes in. This fantastic add-on for Blender gives you the ability to intuitively name your layers.

 

 

Layer Manager Collapsed View ("Hide Empty" enabled)
Layer Manager Collapsed View (“Hide Empty” enabled)

The Layer Manager Add-on

The Layer Manager Add-on adds some much needed functionality to Blender. Once installed it will show up at the bottom of your Properties Panel (N key) on the right of your 3D view.

The Layer Manager enables you to:

  • Label (name) your layers
  • Control Layer Visibility
  • Move objects from layer to layer

My favorite use of the plugin is to intuitively organize my layers. For example: Lights on one, scenery, floors, walls etc on another and assets on a third. You can also easily name and organize layers for render setups. The only function I would like to see added to it is an Outliner style view of the objects that are on each layer.

Layer Manager adds labeling to Blender
Layer Manager adds labeling to Blender

Functions

  • Camera Lock Button – Toggles locking layer visibility for the camera to the scene.
  • Classic Checkbox – Toggles between selection style of the layers. “Classic” hides the other layers as you click the eye for each layer to make it visible while simultaneously hides the others. You have to Shift+Click multiple layers. Unchecked – you don’t have to hold Shift.
  • Index Checkbox – When checked shows the layer number by each layer.
  • Hide Empty Checkbox – This useful option will hide all layers that don’t contain any objects.
  • Options Checkbox – This toggles the options for each layer.
    • Arrow – Selects all the objects on the layer
    • Lock – Locks all the object on the layer.
    • Move (Square with circle) – Moves all the selected objects to the layer. Shift+Click to select several layers.

This is a great plugin to help manage your layers in Blender. Get it here.

Blender Manager Layer is by Alfonso Annarumma. See his other plugins here. His website is Solid-eye.com.

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