If you’re just beginning to work with Blender, you may find that a little red circle keeps popping to where you click. And you may find it really annoying. Well, that’s the 3D Cursor and, believe it or not, it’s actually pretty useful. You may have managed to avoid it up to this point, but it’s time to embrace this little tool for all it can do.
So What Is the 3D Cursor?
The 3D Cursor allows you to define where the pivot point or origin of an object is. And it allows you snap a selected item to a precise location. It’s a handy tool that helps with transformation and placement.
Let’s say that you want to rotate an object around a particular point. Perhaps you have a door that needs to rotate at the hinges, or a pillar that needs to topple over, rotating from its base. These are perfect situations for the 3D Cursor.
Moving the Pivot Point of an Object
With the door example, you could select the edge that the hinges are attached to and press Shift + s to get the Snap Menu. From this menu, select Cursor to Selected. This will move the cursor to the center of your selection. Now to rotate around that point, go to the Pivot Point menu at the bottom of the 3D View and change from Median Point to 3D Cursor.
Now when you change to the Rotate tool, the rotate manipulator is centered at the 3D Cursor. You can rotate the door at the hinges.
But this won't work for animation. This is just a temporary solution, suitable for rotating the door to a particular angle. The origin of the door object still remains where it was. For animation we need a more permanent solution.
Blender allows you to move the pivot point of the object separately from its origin. But when we animate, we will animate the origin.
Moving the Origin of an Object
To move the origin of the object we can use the Set Origin pull-down menu in the Tools tab on the left. Make sure you are in Object Mode, click the Set Origin menu, and choose Origin to 3D Cursor. Now the origin is placed at the hinges of the door.
You can change the Pivot Point menu back to Median Point as well.
Now you can animate the door, creating key frames so the door can rotate around the origin as if it is opening.
So the take-away point of all this is that Blender allows you to move both the pivot point of an object and its origin. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same location. But when you animate an object, they should be.
I hope this has been helpful. For more Blender goodness, check out my Youtube channel for my Blender Character Creation series.