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Transform Orientations

Mode: Object and Edit modes

Hotkey: AltSpace

Transform orientations selection menu.

A secondary orientation can be selected with AltSpace or through the Orientation menu in a 3D view header. This orientation can then be used as a transformation constraint (like axis locking).


Below is a list of different transform orientation types. On every image, compare the position of the manipulator axes (color axes over the object), which materializes the transform orientation, with the global (lower left corner of the 3D window) and local (the object is an empty, so just the local axes of the object are shown) ones.

The manipulator matches the global axis.

The manipulator matches the object axis.

The Z axis of the manipulator will match the normal vector of the selected object. Not very useful for the empty, see the example below.

Cube example.
A better example using an object with face normals, selecting faces in Edit mode.

The manipulator will match the 3D view, Y → Up/Down, X → Left/Right, Z → Towards/Away from you.

Custom Orientations

Mode: Object and Edit modes

Hotkey: ⇧ ShiftCtrlC

You can define custom transform orientations, using object or mesh elements. Custom transform orientations defined from objects use the local orientation of the object whereas those defined from selected mesh elements (vertices, edges, faces) use the normal orientation of the selection.

A name also needs to be assigned to the new orientation.

When adding new orientations, if the name correspond to an already existing custom orientation, the new orientation will replace the old one.

Transform Orientations.avi Demo Video (XviD)

Bits of Blender has a video tutorial on this topic:

Transform Orientations Panel

The Transform Orientations panel, available from the View menu, can be used to manage transform orientations: selecting the active orientation, adding and removing custom orientations and clearing all custom orientations.

Transform Orientations panel.
Selecting a custom orientation.
Transform Orientations panel with custom orientation selected.