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Layers

Mode: Object mode

Panel: Draw (Object context, F7)

Hotkey: M

Menu: Object » Move to Layer...

Description

3D scenes often become exponentially more confusing with growing complexity. Also, sometimes the artist needs precise control over how individual objects are lit, and do not want lights for one object to affect nearby objects. For this and other reasons below, objects are placed into one or more “layers”. Using object layers, you can:

  • Only display in your 3D view objects on some layers, by selecting those in the 3D View header bar, which allows you to speed up refresh/redraw, reduce virtual-world clutter, and speed up workflow.
  • Control which lights illuminate an object, by making a light illuminate only the objects on its own layer(s).
  • Control which forces affect which particle systems, since particles are only affected by forces and effects on the same layer.
  • Control which layers are rendered (and hence, which objects), and which properties/channels are made available for compositing, by using render layers.

Armatures can become very complex, with different types of bones, controllers, solvers, custom shapes, and so on… All within a fairly close space, this can become cluttered. Therefore, Blender also provides layers just for armatures. Armature layers are very similar to object layers, in that you can divide up an armature (rig) across layers and only display those layers you wish to work on. Layers (armature and object) behave the same way, armature layers are discussed in the Armatures section.

3D layers differ from the layers you may know from 2D graphics applications: they have no influence on the drawing order and are there (except for the special functions listed above) mainly to allow you to arrange, to organize your scene.

When rendering, Blender only renders those layers selected. If all your lights are on a layer that is not selected, you won’t see anything in your render except for objects lit by ambient lighting.

Groups and Parenting are other ways to logically group related sets of objects. Please refer to those applicable sections for more info.

Viewing layers

Blender provides twenty layers; you can choose which are to be displayed with the small unlabeled buttons in the header (A 3D Viewport’s layer buttons). To select only one layer, click the appropriate button with LMB Template-LMB.png; to select more than one, use ⇧ ShiftLMB Template-LMB.png – doing this on an already active layer will deselect it.

A 3D Viewport’s layer buttons.

To select layers via the keyboard, press 1 to 0 (on the main area of the keyboard) for layers 1 through 10 (the top row of buttons), and Alt1 to Alt0 for layers 11 through 20 (the bottom row). The ⇧ Shift key for multiple (de)selection works for these shortcuts too.

Locking to the scene

By default, the lock button directly to the right of the layer buttons is enabled. This means that changes to the viewed layers affect all other 3D Views locked to the scene – see the 3D view options page.

Multiple Layers

An object can exist on multiple layers. For example, a lamp that only lights objects on a shared layer could “be” on layers 1, 2, and 3. An object on layers 3 and 4 would be lit, whereas an object on layers 4 and 5 would not. There are many places where layer-specific effects come into play, especially lights and particles. See below for how to place an object on multiple layers.

Moving objects between layers

Layer selection.

To move selected objects to a different layer, press M, select the layer you want from the pop-up dialog, then press the OK button. Objects can be on more than one layer at a time. To move an object to multiple layers, hold ⇧ Shift while clicking. If you wish to clone-display the object to additional layers, be sure to ⇧ ShiftLMB Template-LMB.png click the original layer as well.

Object context selection.

Another way to view or change a selected object layer is via the Draw panel, in the Object context (F7), Object sub-context, as shown opposite.

Layers in Object context, Draw panel.

You will then see the layer buttons in the Draw panel – as before the object can be displayed on more than one layer by clicking ⇧ ShiftLMB Template-LMB.png.

Animating Layers

An object’s layer “membership” can be animated. E.g. to have objects suddenly appear or disappear in a scene.

Example of object layer arrangement

As a suggestion, use the top row of layers for the real important things, and the bottom row for those you don’t use or change often, or for alternatives for the top row. In a staged set involving mainly two actors, then, you might have, for layers:

  1. Lead Actors.
  2. Supporting Actors.
  3. Supporting Crew (background actors).
  4. Particles and effects (vortex, wind).
  5. Main Stage.
  6. Main backdrops and panels.
  7. Main props (tables, chairs).
  8. Little props, fillers, decorations, trappings.
  9. Cameras, Lights.
  10. Lead Actors’ armatures.
  11. Supporting Actors’ armatures.
  12. Crew armatures.
  13. Alternative clothing.
  14. Mesh WIP.
  15. Different stage setup, dimensions.
  16. Different backdrops that maybe we should use.
  17. Other big props that maybe clog up the scene.
  18. Props WIP.
  19. Additional lighting.

Layer Naming Scripts

There are also a few scripts available that allows you to give names to layers: