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Visualization

We talk in this page about the armature visualization options available in all modes (the visualization types, the bones’ shapes, etc.).

In Pose mode, you have extra features, colors and groups to help you visually categorize your bones, ghosts and motion paths to help you visualize armatures’ animations.

Colors

In Pose mode, the bones can have different colors, following two different processes, controlled by the Color button (Armature panel, Editing context, F9):

  • When it is disabled, the bones are colored based on their “state” (i.e. if they use constraints, if they are posed, etc.).
  • When it is enabled, the bones are colored depending to which bone group they belong to (or as above if they belong to no group).

You can also mix both coloring method, see below.

Coloring from Bone State

This is the default and oldest way – there are six different color codes, ordered here by precedence (i.e. the bone will be of the color of the topmost valid state):

  • Purple: The Stride Root bone.
  • Orange: A bone with a targetless IK Solver constraint.
  • Yellow: A bone with an IK Solver constraint.
  • Green: A bone with any other kind of constraint.
  • Blue: A bone that is posed (i.e. has keyframes).
  • Gray: Default state.


Coloring from Bone Group

Mode: Pose mode

Panel: Link and Materials, Armature, Armature Bones

Bone groups facilitate the colouring (theming) of multiple bones. Bone groups are managed mostly in the Buttons window, Editing context (F9).

The default, empty Link and Materials armature panel.
The same panel with a bone group (default colors).

To create a new bone group, click on the Add Group button in the Bone Groups: buttons set (Link and Materials panel). Once created, you can use the top row of controls to select another group in the drop-down list (“arrows” button), rename the current group (text field), or delete it (“X” button).

The Bone Group drop-down list of a bone sub-panel.

To assign a bone to a given bone group, select it, and in its own sub-panel (Armature Bones panel), use the Bone Group drop-down list to select the chosen one.

In the 3D views, using the Pose » Bone Groups menu entries, and/or the Bone Groups pop-up menu (CtrlG), you can:

  • Add the selected bones to the active bone group (Pose » Bone Groups » Add Selected to Active Group, or CtrlGNum1) – if none exists yet, a small pop-up menu will ask you whether you want to create one.
  • Add the selected bones to any existing group, or to a new one (Pose » Bone Groups » Add Selected to Group or CtrlGNum2) – a Bone Group menu pops-up, for you to select to which group to add this bone.
  • Add a new (empty) group (Pose » Bone Groups » Add New Group).
  • Remove the selected bone from their respective groups (Pose » Bone Groups » Remove from All Groups or CtrlGNum3).
  • Delete the active bone group (Pose » Bone Groups » Remove Active Group or CtrlGNum4).
The Bone Color Set list of the bone group, and the color swatch of the chosen color theme.

You can also assign a “color theme” to a group (each bone will have these colors). Remember you have to enable the Colors button (Armature panel) to see these colors. Use the Bone Color Set drop-down list to select:

  • The default (gray) colors (Default Colors).
  • One of the twenty Blender presets (nn – Theme Color Set), common to all groups.
  • A custom set of colors (Custom Set), which is specific to each group.

Below this list, you have three color swatches and a button.

  • The first swatch is the color of the unselected bones.
  • The second swatch is the outline color of the selected bones.
  • The third swatch is the outline color of the active bone.

As soon as you click on a swatch (to change the color, through the standard color editing dialog), you are automatically switched to the Custom Set option.

The Const button, when enabled, allows you to mix group-coloring and state-coloring (the two colors are simply blended, which sometimes produces quite ugly colors…).

Bone group coloring example.
A small armature with arm and forearm assigned to Group bone group, with a red color theme.
The same thing, but with the Const button enabled – forearm is a posed bone, whereas arm is a standard default bone…


Ghosts

Mode: Pose mode

Panel: Visualisations

Ghosts examples.
Armature ghost arround current.png
Manual-PartIX-ie ghost.png

If you are a bit familiar with traditional cartoons creation, you might know that the drawing artists heavily use tracing paper, to see several frames preceding the one they are working on. This allows them to visualize the overall movement of their character, without having to play it back… Well, Blender features something very similar for armatures in Pose mode: the “ghosts”.

The Visualisations panel with the Ghosts types list.

The ghosts are simply a black drawing (more or less opaque) of the bones’ outlines as they are at certain frames.

The ghosts settings are found in the Visualisations panel (Editing context, F9), only available in Pose mode. You have three different types of ghosts, sharing more or less the same options:

Around Current Frame
This will display a given number of ghosts before and after the current frame. The ghosts are shaded from opaque at the current frame, to transparent at the most distant frames. It has three options:
  • GStep – This numeric field specifies whether you have a ghost for every frame (the default 1 value), or one each two frames, each three frames, etc.
  • Sel – When enabled, you will only see the ghosts of selected bones (else, every bones in the armatures have ghosts…)
  • Ghost – This numeric field specifies how many ghosts you’ll have on both “sides” (i.e. a value of 5 will give you ten ghosts, five before the current frame, and five after).
In Range
This will display the ghosts of the armature’s bones inside a given range of frames. The ghosts are shaded from transparent for the first frame, to opaque at the last frame. It has four options:
  • GStep and Sel – These are the same as above, with the same effects.
  • GSta – This numeric field specifies the starting frame of the range (excluded). Note that unfortunately, it cannot take a null or negative value – which means you can only see ghosts starting from frame 2 included…
  • GEnd – This numeric field specifies the ending frame of the range, and cannot take a value below GSta one.
On Keyframes
This is very similar to the In Range option, but there are ghosts only for keyframes in the armature animation (i.e. frames at which you keyed one or more of the bones). So it has the same options as above, except for the GStep one (as only keyframes generate ghosts).
Oddly, the shading of ghosts is reversed compared to In Range – from opaque for the first keyframe, to transparent for the last keyframe.
The different ghosts types settings, in the Visualisations panel.
The Around Current Frame ghost types settings.
The In Range ghost types settings.
The On Keyframes ghost types settings.

Finally, these ghosts are also active when playing the animation (AltA) – this is only useful with the Around Current Frame option, of course…

Note also that there is no “global switch” to disable this display feature – to do so, you have to either set Ghost to 0 (for Around Current Frame option), or the same frame number in both GSta and GEnd (for the two other ghosts types).

Motion Paths

Mode: Pose mode

Panel: Visualisations

Hotkey: WNum3, WNum4

Menu: Pose » Motion Paths »

A motion paths example.

This feature allows you to visualize as curves the paths of bones’ends (either their tips, by default, or their roots).

Before we look at its options (all regrouped in the same Visualisations panel, in the Editing context, F9), let’s first see how to display/hide these paths. Unlike ghosts, you have to do it manually – and you have to select first the bones you want to show/hide the motion paths. Then,

  • To show the paths (or update them, if needed), click on the Calculate Path button of the Visualisations panel, or, in the 3D views, select the Pose » Motion Paths » Calculate Paths menu entry (or use the Specials pop-up menu, WNum3).
  • To hide the paths, click on the Clear Paths button, or, in the 3D views, do Pose » Motion Paths » Clear All Paths, or WNum4.

Remember: only selected bones and their paths are affected by these actions!

The paths are drawn in a light shade of gray for unselected bones, and a slightly blueish gray for selected ones. Each frame is materialized by a small white dot on the paths.

As with ghosts, the paths are automatically updated when you edit your poses/keyframes, and they are also active during animation playback (AltA, only useful when the Around Current Frame option is enabled).

The motion paths settings, in the Visualisations panel.

And now, the paths options:

PStep
This is the same thing as the GStep for ghosts – it allows you the only materialize on the path one frame each n ones. Mostly useful when you enable the frame number display (see below), to avoid cluttering the 3D views.
Frame Nums
When enabled, a small number appears next to each frame dot on the path, which is of course the number of the corresponding frame…
Show Keys
When enabled, big yellow square dots are drawn on motion paths, materializing the keyframes of their bones (i.e. only the paths of keyed bones at a given frame get a yellow dot at this frame).
Keyframe Nums
When enabled, you’ll see the numbers of the displayed keyframes – so this option is obviously only valid when Show Keys is enabled.
Around Current Frame
By default, the motion paths are shown for a given range of frames (see PSta/PEnd settings, below), like the In Range option of ghosts. When you enable this button, you rather get paths for a given number of frames before and after the current one (again, as with ghosts).
This setting enables two additional ones:
PPre/PPost
These two numeric fields are respectively the number of frames to “path-display” before and after the current one.
Bone-Head Path
By default, you get the tips’ paths. When you enable this setting, you’ll get the paths of the bone’s roots (remember that in Blender UI, bones’ roots are called “heads”…). You have to Calculate Paths again when you modify this setting, to update the paths in the 3D views.
PSta/PEnd
These are the start/end frames of the range in which motion paths are drawn. You have to Calculate Paths again when you modify this setting, to update the paths in the 3D views.
Note that unlike with ghosts, the start frame is inclusive (i.e. if you set PSta to 1, you’ll really see the frame 1 as starting point of the paths…).