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Selecting Bones

Selection in Pose mode is very similar to the one in Edit mode, with a few specificities:

  • You can only select whole bones in Pose mode, no more roots/tips…
The Select Grouped pop-up menu.
  • You can select bones based on their group and/or layer, through the Select Grouped pop-up menu (⇧ ShiftG):
    • To select all bones belonging to the same group(s) as the selected ones, use the In Same Group entry (⇧ ShiftGNum1).
    • To select all bones belonging to the same layer(s) as the selected ones, use the In Same Layer entry (⇧ ShiftGNum2).

Editing Pose

In Pose mode, bones behave like objects. So the transform actions (grab/rotate/scale, etc.) are very similar to the same ones in Object mode (all available ones are regrouped in the Pose » Transform sub-menu). However, there are some important specificities:

  • Bones relationships are crucial, as detailed below.
  • The “transform center” of a given bone (i.e. its default pivot point, when it is the only selected one) is its root. Note by the way that some pivot points options seem to not work properly – in fact, except the 3D Cursor one, all others appear to always use the median point of the selection (and not e.g. the active bone’s root when Active Object is selected, etc.).

As previously said, bones’ transformations are performed based on the rest position of the armature, which is its state as defined in Edit mode. This means that in rest position, in Pose mode, each bone has a scale of 1.0, and null rotation and position (as you can see it in the Transform Properties panel, in the 3D views, N).

An example of locally-Y-axis locked rotation, with two bones selected.
Note that the two green lines materializing the axes are centered on the armature’s center, and not each bone’s root…

Moreover, the local space for these actions is the own bone one (visible when you enable the Axes option of the Armature panel). This is especially important when using axis locking – for example, there is no specific “bone roll” tool in Pose mode, as you can rotate around the bone’s main axis just by locking on the local Y axis (RYY)… This also works with several bones selected, each one is locked to its own local axis!

Once you have transformed some bones, if you want to return to their rest position, just clear their transformations (usual AltG/AltR/AltS shortcuts, or Pose » Clear Transform » Clear User Transform, WNum5, to clear everything at once… – commands also available in the Pose » Clear Transform sub-menu).

There is another option, Pose » Relax Pose (or WNum6), that is somewhat related to the above topic – but it is only useful with keyframed bones (see the animation chapter). When you edit such a bone (and hence take it “away” from its “keyed position”), using this command will progressively “bring it back” to its “keyed position”, with smaller and smaller steps as it comes near it.

Conversely, you may define the current pose as the new rest position (i.e. “apply” current transformations to the Edit mode), using the Pose » Apply Pose as Restpose menu entry (or CtrlA and confirm the pop-up dialog). When you do so, the skinned objects/geometry is also reset to its default, undeformed state, which generally means you’ll have to skin it again…

Note that in Envelope visualization, AltS does not clear the scale, but rather scales the Dist influence area of the selected bones (also available through the Pose » Scale Envelope Distance menu entry – only effective in Envelope visualization, even though it is always available…).

The Armature panel.

Whereas in Edit mode, you always see your armature in its rest position, in Object and Pose ones, you see it by default in its pose position (i.e. as it was transformed in the Pose mode). If you want to see it in the rest position in all modes, enable the Rest Position button, in the Armature panel (Editing context, F9).

When you pose your armature, you are supposed to have one or more objects skinned on it! And obviously, when you transform a bone in Pose mode, its related objects or object’s shape is moved/deformed accordingly, in real time. Unfortunately, if you have a complex rig set-up and/or a heavy skin object, this might produce lag, and make the interactive edition very painful. If you experiment such troubles, try to enable the Delay Deform button of the Armature panel – the skin objects will only be updated once you validate the transform operation.

There are also in Pose mode a bunch of armature-specific editing options/tools, like auto-bones naming, properties switching/enabling/disabling, etc., that we already described in the armature editing pages – follow the links above…

Effects of Bones Relationships

Bones relationships are crucial in Pose mode – they have important effects on transformations behavior.

By default, children bones inherit:

  • Their parent position, with their own offset of course.
  • Their parent rotation (i.e. they keep a constant rotation relatively to their parent).
  • Their parent scale, here again with their own offset.
Examples of transforming parented/connected bones.
The armature in its rest position.
Rotation of a root bone.
Scaling of a root bone.

Exactly as standard children objects. You can modify this behavior on a per-bone basis, using their sub-panels in the Armature Bones panel:

The Armature Bones panel in Pose mode, with two selected bones.
When enabled, this will “break” the rotation and scale relations to the bone’s parent. This means that the child will keep its rotation in the armature object space, when its parent is rotated. And of course, scaling its parent won’t affect its own scale.
When enabled, this will “break” the scale relation to the bone’s parent.

These inheriting behaviors propagate along the bones’ hierarchy. So when you scale down a bone, all its descendants are by default scaled down accordingly. However, if you set one bone’s Hinge or S property on in this “family”, this will break the scaling propagation, i.e. this bone and all its descendants will be affected no more when you scale one of its ancestors.

Examples of transforming parented/connected bones with Hinge.
The yellow outlined Hinge bone in the armature.
Rotation of a bone with a hinge one among its descendants.
Scaling of a bone with a hinge one among its descendants.

Connected bones have another specificity: they cannot be translated. Indeed, as their root must be at their parent’s tip, if you don’t move the parent, you cannot move the child’s root, but only its tip – which leads us to a child rotation. This is exactly what happens – when you hit G with a connected bone selected, Blender automatically switches to rotation operation.

Bones relationships also have important consequences on how selections of multiple bones behave when transformed. There are many different situations, so I’m not sure I get all possible ones below – but this should anyway give you a good idea of the problem:

  • Non-related selected bones are transformed independently, as usual.
Scaling bones, some of them related.
  • When several bones of a same “family” are selected, only the “most parent” ones are really transformed – the descendants are just handled through the parent relationship process, as if they were not selected (see Scaling bones, some of them related – the third tip bone, outlined in yellow, was only scaled done through the parent relationship, exactly as the unselected ones, even though it is selected and active. Otherwise, it should have been twice smaller!).
  • When connected and unconnected bones are selected, and you start a grab operation, only the unconnected bones are affected.
  • When a child connected hinge bone is in the selection, and the “most parent” selected one is connected, when you hit G, nothing happens – Blender remains in grab operation, which of course has no effect on a connected bone. This might be a bug, in fact, as I see no reason for this behavior…

So, when posing a chain of bones, you should always edit its elements from the root bone to the tip bone. This process is known as forward kinematics, or FK. We will see in a later page that Blender features another pose method, called inverse kinematics, or IK, which allows you to pose a whole chain just by moving its tip.

Copy/Paste Pose

Mode: Pose mode

Panel: 3D View header

Menu: Pose » Copy Current Pose, Pose » Paste Pose, Pose » Paste Flipped Pose

Blender allows you to copy and paste a pose, either through the Pose menu, or directly using the three “copy/paste” buttons found at the right part of the 3D views header:

  • Use either Pose » Copy Current Pose, or the “down arrow” of the header (ManRiggingPosing3DViewHeaderCopyPoseButton.png), to copy the current pose of selected bones into the pose buffer.
  • Use either Pose » Paste Pose, or the “up arrow” of the header (ManRiggingPosing3DViewHeaderPastePoseButton.png), to paste the buffered pose to the currently posed armature.
  • Use either Pose » Paste Flipped Pose, or the “up-revert arrow” of the header (ManRiggingPosing3DViewHeaderPasteMirroredPoseButton.png), to paste the X axis mirrored buffered pose to the currently posed armature.
The 3D View header in Pose mode.

Here are important points:

  • This tool works at the Blender session level, which means you can use it across armatures, scenes, and even files. However, the pose buffer is not saved, so you lose it when you close Blender.
  • There is only one pose buffer.
  • Only the selected bones are taken into account during copying (i.e. you copy only selected bones’ pose).
  • During pasting, on the other hand, bone selection has no importance. The copied pose is applied on a per-name basis (i.e. if you had a “forearm” bone selected when you copied the pose, the “forearm” bone of the current posed armature will get its pose when you paste it – and if there is no such named bone, nothing will happen…).
  • What is copied and pasted is in fact the position/rotation/scale of each bone, in its own space. This means that the resulting pasted pose might be very different from the originally copied one, depending on:
    • The rest position of the bones, and…
    • The current pose of their parents.
Examples of pose copy/paste.
The rest position of our original armature.
The rest position of our destination armature.
The first copied pose (note that only forearm and finger2_a are selected and hence copied)…
…pasted on the destination armature…
…and mirror-pasted on the destination armature.
The same pose as above is copied, but this time with all bones selected, …
…pasted on the destination armature…
…and mirror-pasted on the destination armature.

Note that this feature is somewhat extended/completed by the pose library tool.

Copy Attributes

Mode: Pose mode

Hotkey: CtrlC

Menu: Pose » Copy Attributes…

The Copy Pose Attributes pop-up menu

With this tool, you can copy one or more chosen attributes from the active bone to all selected ones. So, unlike the previous one, it only works inside a same armature, in one step. It is in fact the transposition of the Copy Attributes tool in Object mode…

Either using the Pose » Copy Attributes… menu entry, or hitting CtrlC, you display the Copy Pose Attributes pop-up menu (you must have at least one bone selected…), with the following choices:

Local Location/Local Rotation/Local Size
These entries will copy the transform properties of the active bone, in the bones’ spaces. So as with the copy/paste tool above, the result will depend on each bone’s rest position and its parents poses… This also implies that copying the location/rotation/scale of an active bone in rest position has no effect on the other selected ones!
Visual Location/Visual Rotation/Visual Size
These are essentially like their non-visual counterparts - except they key the 'after-constraint' position ( except IK-constraints, being iterative ). This allows animators to constrain something, visual-key it, and then remove the constraint after, without any visual difference to the bones position.
Copy rotation example.
The original state – the active bone is in a slightly lighter blue.
Result of Local Rotation option.
Result of Visual Rotation option.
Constraints (All) and Constraints…
These entries will copy to the selected bones all or some of the constraints applied to the active one.
If you chose Constraints…, a Select Constraints dialog will pop-up, with a toggle button for each constraint of the active bone, named after their names. Their are all enabled by default, so disable the constraints you don’t want to copy, and click on the OK button to validate!
Note that all constraints’ settings are copied, including targets…
Transform Locks
This will copy to the selected bones the state of all transform locks of the active bone (transform locks are the small “lock” buttons at the left of each transform numeric fields, in the Transform Properties panel, that allow you to prevent any modification of the corresponding channels).
IK Limits
This will copy to the selected bones the IK limits of the active bone. See the inverse kinematics page for more details on this topic.
Bone Shape
This will copy to the selected bones the shape object name of the active bone. Note that the “wire” option (W button) is not copied. See the armature visualization page for more details on this topic.