modo bubbble logo

MODO's Work Plane

Home >> The MODO Toolbox >> MODO's Work Plane

back next

Using a two dimensional (flat) screen to create and edit content in 3D space can sometimes feel awkward and unnatural. Software has tried to resolve the disconnect using different solution over the years. The most popular is the four viewport method. Each orthogonal viewport only provides two axes at any given time, eliminating surprises to users as they create and modify geometry in a given scene. Another solution is to require the user to work with tool handles constraining operations performed in a perspective viewport to the same flat 2D axes of the four viewport method. Both of these solutions are reasonable and available in MODO. However, MODO also employs a third method called the 'Work Plane'.

Work Plane example

The Work Plane is a white grid that appears in the 3D openGL viewports. In this example above, the Work Plane has been highlighted for emphasis.

The Work Plane is an adaptive modeling aid that automatically adjusts itself to match the two major axes most closely aligned to the users current screen axis, represented by a white grid within any of the 3D OpenGL viewports. When you rotate the Perspective viewport the Work Plane will snap to one the dominant planes, XY, XZ or XY. Action Centers often use the Work Plane position to determine the center and axis of tools when activated. When hauling, many tools also use the work plane to determine the axes of operation as well when this information cannot be derived from a specific tool handle.

While the default mode for the Work Plane is to automatically adjust to the screens orientation, the work plane can also be locked and used as a construction plane. When applied as such, the Work Plane effectively positions the entire MODO universe to that fixed angle and position. There are a number of methods for manually setting the Work Plane to a specific center and axis. The work plane can be easily locked to a specific major axis and position, or you can snap the Work Plane to selected geometry or even just to the polygons directly under the mouse. This level of flexibility and control provides users with an incredibly fluid and rich set of options for editing their workspace.

Mastering the Work Plane will allow users the freedom to do most, if not all, of their modeling in a single perspective viewport. That means more screen real estate for viewing the geometry and performing the various modeling tasks allowing users to work more fluidly and accurately. Users are encouraged to experiment with the Work Planes when using tools and hauling, so they can get a better grasp of its behaviors and use them to their advantage.

Tip icon

TIP: Users can quickly offset the position of the Work Plane using a keyboard shortcut. By hovering the mouse pointer over some geometry in the scene where the Work Plane should move to, and then pressing 'Alt+O' ('Option+O' on a Mac), the Work Plane will retain its orientation, but move to the location where the mouse pointer intersects with the geometric element.

Work Plane Controls

The Work Plane is a persistent function of the 3D viewports, and is visible by default, users can toggle its display under the visibility controls of the viewport options panel that pops up when hovering the mouse pointer over a viewport and pressing the 'o' key. Additionally, users can toggle the Work Plane visibility by pressing the ' * ' (asterisks) key on the number pad. The controls for the Work Plane are conveniently located in the interface under the Work Plane menu button, or within the menu bar under the "Edit > Work Plane" menu. Users can also use the 'Home" key to dynamically position the Work Plane to any geometry directly under the mouse pointer, centering under where the pointer tip intersects the polygons surface and aligning it to the polygons normal direction.

Work Plane Menu

Reset Work Plane

Invoking this command returns the Work Plane to it's default behavior. Only applies if the Work Plane has been aligned as a fixed construction plane.

Align Work Plane to Selection

Aligns the Work Plane to the current component selection as described below. If nothing is selected, the Work Plane will be aligned to the average normal of all foreground polygons.

When selecting vertices--
If a single vertex is selected, only the center of the Work Plane is changed.
If two vertices selected, the first vertex sets the center and the workplane will be altered to align the Z axis with the second vertex.
If three vertices are selected, it uses the first vertex to set the center, the second to set the Z axis and the third will define the XZ plane.
If more than three vertices are selected, the center is located at the average of their positions, and the plane is angled to put all vertices as close as possible to the XZ plane.

When selecting edges--
If a single edge is selected, it is treated the same way as two vertices using the ends of the edge (above).
If two edges are selected, they are treated the same as three vertices (above).
If three or more edges are selected. this results in the same solution as vertices, using the end points of the edges as the vertices

When selecting polygons--
If a single polygon is selected, the workplane is centered on that polygon with the Y axis aligned to the polygon normal. The longest edge of the polygon will be along the Z axis.
If multiple polygons are selected, the average normal is along the Y axis, and the system uses a "best guess" to determine correct orientation.


Rotate Work Plane

The Rotate Work Plane function provides users a means to accurately rotate the Work Plane a defined number of degrees away from its current position. Invoking the command opens this dialog pop up-

Rotate Work Plane

Axis: This option defines around which axis the Work Plane will rotate, originating at the Work Plane origin (0,0,0) position.

Angle: Defines the number of degrees to rotate the Work Plane away from its home position.


Offset Work Plane

The Offset Work Plane function provides users a means to accurately position the Work Plane by way of an offset from its current position. Invoking the command opens this dialog pop up-

Work Plane Offset Dialogue

Axis: This option defines around which axis the Work Plane offset its position along.

Offset: Defines the distance to offset the Work Plan away from its current position.


Edit Work Plane

Displays the current values of the work plane as offset from the true world origin position at 0,0,0. Users can edit the values to precisely position and rotate the Work Plane.

Work Plane Edit Panel


Work Plane Tool

Work Plane Tool PanelThe 'Work Plane Tool' allows for interactive placement of the Work Plane itself. When combined with Snapping, the Work Plane can be placed very accurately. The tool is found in the main Work Plane popup menu, selecting it activates the tool. LMB+clicking in the 3D viewport will draw the tools handles to allow for interactive placement. The initial click will place the handles at the intersection of the mouse click position and the existing Work Plane. What you'll see will be the standard 3-point axes handles colored accordingly, with a small square at the center and two more at the ends of the axes pointers. The initial square at the Center defines the work planes center and the other two work together with the center to define a plane.

To use, activate the tool, and then ensure the 'Preview' option is enabled in the tools property panel. Then LMB+click in the 3D viewport, use the resulting tool handles to place the center and define the plane by clicking and dragging them in to the proper position. Numeric values on the tool properties panel can also be modifies to adjust the plane manually. Disabling the 'Preview' option with the tool still active will then place the work plane, locking it to the defined location. Pressing 'q' will drop the tool, allowing further editing of the scene with the newly defined Work Plane.


Draw Axes

This toggle will enable/disable the drawing of an axes handle widget in the viewport at the origin position of the Work Plane making it easier to recognize the center and axis directions.




back next