The spin tool in Blender extrudes and rotates selected geometry around a pivot point. It causes the selected mesh to uniformly “spin” in the way we instruct it to. The Spin Tool serves an important role when 3D modeling in Blender.
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Here’s a five minute video on the Spin Tool or continue for instructions with images.
The Blender Spin Tool Explained
The spin tool extrudes geometry while simultaneously pivoting it. This can be used to get perfectly curved pipes and anything else you want to have turn or “spin” at a certain angle.
There are a number of settings that can be adjusted and all of them are covered below.
The spin tool can be activated in one of two ways. It can be activated from the Extrude Menu by using a shortcut. Or we can activate the spin tool from the toolbar on the left side of the 3D viewport.
Using the Spin Tool Hotkey
We activate the spin tool in edit mode by selecting a portion of the mesh, pressing “Alt + E” and then choosing “Spin” from the extrude menu.
Read on for more details on how to use and control the spin tool.
Using an Orthographic View (Recommended)
The spin tool is best used in an Orthographic View.
An orthographic view is a straight-on view from either the front, back, top, bottom or sides of an object.
In orthographic view there is no perspective so how far away an object is will not affect how large it appears in the viewport.
Watch the above video to learn orthographic views in 34 seconds!
Placing the 3D Cursor
Because the 3D cursor will act as the pivot point for spinning our geometry, we want to place it in approximately the right place before we start.
Imagine we will be spinning our geometry on a hinge. That hinge pivots wherever our 3D cursor is placed. We can adjust it later, but having it in the right place to begin is recommended. Here’s a post about using and moving the 3D cursor in Blender.
Run the Spin Operation
In orthographic view with the 3D cursor in the proper location, press “Alt + E” on the keyboard to open the extrude menu. Choose “spin” at the bottom of the menu.
Now the selected geometry will spin 360 degrees around the pivot point (3D cursor).
To control the settings of the spin tool, we open the operator panel which appears in the bottom left corner of the 3D viewport after we use the spin tool.
Spin Tool Angle Setting
By default, the spin will occur at 360° but we can adjust it with the angle setting in the operator panel. Below is what it looks like at 90 degrees.
Spin Tool Steps Setting
The steps setting controls how many segments will be extruded to complete the spin. A higher number of steps will create a smoother spin but will add more geometry. In the above example, 12 steps were used. Below are examples of different amounts of steps.
Adjusting the Spin Pivot Point
By default, the location of the 3D cursor is used as a pivot point for the spin tool in Blender. In the operator panel, the “Center” setting contains 3D coordinates of the pivot point. These can be adjusted along each axis.
No matter where we move the pivot point center to, the last extrusion is at the angle we put in the “angle” setting – in this case 90 degrees.
Adjust Spin Axis
The last setting in the operator panel is to adjust the axis of the spin. We can adjust how much the geometry rotates along the X, Y and Z axes.
Each axis can have a value between -1 and 1. Zero will be no rotation on the axis. 1 will be full rotation (as defined by the angle setting) and -1 will be full rotation in the opposite direction.
If an orthographic view is used and we only want to spin along one axis, no adjustments need to be made here. Two of the three axis settings will be zero.
If we want to have the spin rotate along more than one axis, we can adjust the settings. See an example in the next image.
Spin Tool “Use Duplicates”
In the operator panel for the spin tool, there is a box labeled “Use Duplicates” that is not checked by default. When this box is checked, each step of the spin will create an unconnected plane rather than the connected geometry in the examples above. Below is what it looks like when “Use Duplicates” is checked.
Spin Tool Auto Merge
In almost all cases, the auto merge box in the Spin Tool operator panel should remain checked. If the spin tool rotates 360 degrees, this will close the geometry at the end so it does not overlap. If this box is not checked duplicate geometry will be created at the starting / ending location of the spin.
Spin Tool Flip Normals
There is an option to have the normals flipped when using the spin tool. This can also be done separately at any point when modeling in Blender. If you want to reverse the direction of the normals when using the spin tool, check the box “Flip Normals.”
Blender Spin Tool in the Toolbar (With Gizmos)
There is a second way to use the spin tool that you may prefer (but I don’t). It’s using the spin tool found in the toolbar on the left of the 3D viewport. You toggle this toolbar open and closed with the keyboard shortcut “T.”
While in Edit Mode, scroll down on the toolbar until you find the spin tool. Its icon looks like a pie cut into slices.
The benefit of using this tool is that we can use it from any view. There is no need to be in an orthographic view using this method. The downside is (in my opinion) it is not as easy to use – but you may disagree.
When the spin tool is selected, some familiar settings appear at the top of the 3D viewport. The steps setting is where we tell Blender how many steps to use when extruding the geometry.
We will also notice a “gizmo” appear. In the above example, the Z axis is highlighted so there is a gizmo to rotate (spin) the geometry along the Z axis. We do so by selecting one of the “plus” symbols at either end of the gizmo and dragging it with our mouse.
Below is what it looks like when we grab a gizmo handle and start dragging.
As you see, the operator panel opens and more lines appear in the viewport to show how the geometry is spinning. When we lock in the spin operator, clicking again will create another spin operation. I find this way of using the spin tool to be fairly confusing.
I prefer to use the shortcut “Alt + E” as described earlier in this post.
That’s about all there is to know with the spin tool in Blender. It extrudes geometry a certain number of times and rotates it around a pivot point. The pivot point defaults to the location of the 3D cursor but everything about the spin tool can be altered in the operator panel.
If you really need more, here is a page from the Blender Manual about the spin tool.
I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to share it! Have a look around the site for more useful Blender tutorials and I also have a YouTube channel you might like. Stay Creative!
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