Scope and scene structure

With Modeler it's possible to create amazing creations without ever worrying about the scene or scope. Sometimes a single layer is all you need. However, for more complex creations, Modeler's scene assembly tools and scene hierarchy can accelerate the creative process in a number of ways. In order to use the assembly tools effectively, you'll first need to understand what Scope is in Modeler, and how Modeler understands the scene.

The scene and scene objects

The scene is a container that holds everything you create in Modeler. When you create a new scene, it isn't empty - Modeler automatically creates a layer so that you can immediately start placing clay. So when you create a new scene, Modeler sees it like this:

The Layer is a "Scene object", which just means that it's something that can exist inside the scene. There are a couple of other types of scene object:

  • Groups
  • Linked layers - don't worry about these for now.

Just like the scene, groups act like containers that can hold other things - they can even hold other groups. So, we could create a group of layers, or a group of groups and layers. Here's how that could look to Modeler:

  • Scene
    • Group 1
      • Layer 1
      • Layer 2
    • Group 2
      • Layer 3
      • Layer 4 
    • Group 3
      • Layer 5
      • Group 4
        • Layer 6
        • Layer 7

Now you know the basics of how Modeler sees the scene, it's time to see how this is related to scope and scoping.


Scope is how Modeler understands what you are looking at in the scene hierarchy. If you've already used Modeler to do some sculpting, you have been using scope without realizing it. Above, we said that Modeler automatically creates a layer when you make a new scene, well Modeler also scopes you into that layer.

When you are scoped into a scene object - like a layer - you are able to modify the contents of that object. 

  • Layers hold clay, so when you are scoped into a layer, you can modify the clay in that layer.
  • Groups hold other scene objects. So, when you are scoped into a group you can modify the scene objects that the group is holding.

There is only one special case when it comes to layers - to use the Clay tool, you have to be scoped into a single layer. This is because Modeler needs to know which layer you are adding the clay to. If multiple layers are in scope, then Modeler doesn't know which layer the clay should be added to. Instead, if you try to use the Clay tool while you aren't scoped into a single layer, Modeler will create a new layer at your current scope level for you to add clay.

We can update the scene diagram to include scope. With scope, this is how Modeler understands the scene:

  • Scene
    • Layer 1

In this case, you can see that scope is limited to Layer 1. This means you can only change things inside Layer 1. For example, you can use tools from the Palette to modify the contents of Layer 1, but you can't do things like move the layer. To do that you need to scope out:

  • Scene
    • Layer 1

This is how Modeler understands the scene when you scope out. Scoping out means moving up one layer in the hierarchy. When you scope out, more things are in scope - just like when you zoom out with a camera, more things are visible.

Scope works with groups in the same way. You can scope into a group to control the things within that group, or you can scope out of a group to move the group as a whole.

  • Scene
    • Group 1
      • Layer 1
      • Layer 2
      • Layer 3
    • Group 2
      • Group 3
        • Layer 4
        • Layer 5
      • Layer 6

The animation above starts at scene scope. Then we scope into Group 1, then Layer 2.

  • At scene scope, Group 1 and Group 2 are in scope, so it's possible to move Group 1 or Group 2 around the scene. You can also use tools to modify any clay in the scene, since all layers are in scope when you are at scene scope.
  • When we scope into Group 1, then Layer 1, Layer 2, and Layer 3 are in scope, so it's possible to move them each of them individually, or modify them with tools from the Palette.
  • When we scope into Layer 2, then only the contents of Layer 2 are in scope, so we can't move Layer 2 around, but we can modify the clay. We can also add clay with the Clay tool, since we are scoped into a single layer.

Put it into practice

Now you have a basic idea of how Modeler understands scene objects and scope, it's time to learn how to use this knowledge in practice. Below, we'll go through the steps to create a scene with a hierarchy, navigate through the hierarchy with scope, and use basic scene assembly tools to make a composition.

Start by launching Modeler and creating a new scene.

💻 Refer to the scope panel to see your current scope. In the case above, you start scoped into layer 1, and can scope out to scene scope.

We're going to make a hand. To begin, place some clay with the clay tool inside Layer 1 and flatten it a little to make a palm.

Next, we'll create a finger. First, we'll create a layers for each joint of the finger, and then we'll group them so that we can move the finger as a whole.

To create the first joint:

  1. Scope out of Layer 1, so that you're at scene scope
    1. 💻Click Scope out in the scope panel, or use shortcut alt + s.
    2. 🥽Pull down on the support hand joystick.
  2. Open the Actions menu
    1. 💻Right click anywhere in the scene.
    2. 🥽Open the Palette with the bottom button on the support controller. Then swipe right with the tool hand joystick.
  3. Use the add layer option in the Actions menu.  

    💻You can also use shortcut ctrl + n to quickly create a new layer.
  4. When you create the new layer, you are automatically scoped into it. Use the Clay tool to create a cylinder that will act like the first joint of a finger.

The Actions menu holds many of the controls that you can use to manage your scene objects, such as adding layers, grouping existing layers or changing resolution.

With the first joint created, we need to finish the rest of the finger. We could follow the process above to create the other two joints, but it's much faster to just duplicate and move Layer 2 to create the other joints.

To duplicate and move Layer 2:

  1. Scope out so that you're at scene scope.
  2. Open the Palette and select the Select tool.
  3. Under Copy Actions, click the Duplicate option.
  4. With the Select tool selected, hover the cursor over the clay in Layer 2 to highlight it. Click, or pull the tool hand trigger, to select Layer 2.
  5. Move the layer.
    1. 💻Use the gizmo to position the layer.
    2. 🥽You can either move the layer freely or use the gizmo.
  6. Notice that the original Layer 2 is still there. This is because we activated the Duplicate Copy Action. You can toggle the Duplicate Copy Action off if you want to move or scale any of the layers in your scene.

You can repeat the actions above to create the third joint of the finger. 

Now it's time to group the layers that make up the finger so that we can manipulate them together easily.

To group the finger:

  1. Use the Select tool to select the layers you want to group.
    1. 💻Shift + click layers to add them to your selection.
    2. 🥽If you select another layer while you already have one selected, the new layer will be added to your selection. To deselect all layers, hold your cursor away from clay and pull the tool hand trigger.
  2. Open the Actions menu.
  3. Select the Group option.

Notice that when you hover over the any of the finger layers with the Select tool, the whole finger is highlighted. This shows that the layers are grouped.

In the diagram below you can see how at scene scope, you can change Layer 1, or you can modify Group 1, but you can't individually control Layer 2, 3, or 4. To modify individual joints of the finger, you need to scope into Group 1.

Next, we can create the other fingers. We can use the duplication trick that we covered earlier to make this process quick and easy.

Just like before:

  1. Open the Palette and select the Select tool.
  2. Under Copy Actions, click the Duplicate option.
  3. Select the finger group.
  4. Position the new finger.

There is another type of copy action - linked duplicate. Linked duplicate acts like duplicate, except it creates a connection between the original scene object and the duplicate. This connection or link means that any change you make to the clay in either scene object will be reflected in the other.

Try using linked duplicate instead of the standard duplicate copy action to create a finger. If you scope into the duplicated finger and then try moving a joint, the original finger will be affected the same way.

You can repeat the steps above to create the remaining two fingers, but the thumb may be a little tricky. Thumbs are laid out a little differently than fingers, so we need to modify the individual layers inside the thumb group.

To do this you can scope into the thumb group:

  1. Equip the Select tool from the Palette
  2. Scope into the thumb group.
    1. 💻 Select the thumb group and then use shortcut s, or tap Scope In on the Scope Panel.
    2. 🥽 Hover the cursor over the thumb group and move the support hand joystick upwards.
  3. Now you can use the select tool to reposition the individual joints of the thumb.

At the end of this process, you should have a hand that looks something like the image below, but more importantly you have a hierarchy of groups and layers so that you can modify the hand quickly and easily.

Of course, this is a quite basic hand. But by following this process it's possible to quickly make and pose models. You could use this technique to create a full body where every bone has a layer, and layers are grouped into things like arms, legs, torso etc. Following this technique makes it very quick to pose and work with complex structures like anatomy. Combined with the power of the duplicate copy action, it's possible to make large scenes with many complex sculpts very quickly.

Art examples

The scenes below by Theis Haagh Jakobsen are a perfect example of the workflow outlined above to create posable creatures.

In this piece, the locusts are all duplicates of a hierarchy. Some locusts have been posed by transforming groups and layers to add more dynamism.

All of the zombies in this scene are the same base sculpts with layers and groups transformed to create unique poses. Some have also had clothing added after posing to make them even more unique.