Is there some way to set the location and scale of background images in the 3D view by dragging or using the mouse/3D cursor to align it, similar to AltMMB in Composite nodes?

Setting the location with the X and Y sliders can be quite difficult, especially since Shift seems to have no effect on those values.

  • $\begingroup$ For the background image offset values (same as any value), shift should make the value changes in .01 increments, alt in .005 and shift+alt in .001. These work for me even if I press the keys after starting to drag the mouse. $\endgroup$ – sambler Oct 16 '13 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ @sambler I never knew about Alt and Shift+Alt (perhaps because my WM was catching them :P) You are right, shift does affect it, but on most values shift seems to have a much larger effect. (adjusting by only .001 at a time) $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 16 '13 at 19:50

The empty is a good workaround.

However. Some graphics cards, for example the one in an Eeepc, get slow with either background images or empties, especially when you zoom in.

Then a UV-mapped plane is the best solution. There's even an addon to create such a plane on the fly: Import Images as Planes

enter image description here

As you can('t) see, three of the six images are invisible unless you look from the other sides.

The advantage of a mapped plane is that it's back side is transparent. So you can have one in the front and one in the back and your model inbetween while only the background plane and your model are visible.

From Haunt's trick bag:

if you want either a plane or an empty to scale easily to size, for example to calibrate side view and front view of a reference image, use the 3D-cursor for that. Adjust the left border of your reference, put the 3D Cursor there and scale around the cursor as pivot point. The left border will stay put and the right one can be precisely adjusted.

enter image description here

Disable selectability and renderability for the reference objects once you're done and put them on an extra layer to easily hide them without the need to select them.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 I think I personally am going to use empties (my GPU does not seem to have any problems), but great tip with the 3D cursor, that will speed things up a lot. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 15 '13 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Haunt_House, I think you are too quick to write off empty-images, just because Eeepc has trouble, These systems are very low end when it comes to graphics hardware. I think its unnecessarily biased to answer questions differently based on bad drivers and cheap hardware, especially since doing 3D graphics on an Eeepc is pushing it past its intended use (only my opinion - but if you intend to do 3D graphics and be able to use Blenders full feature set, you likely need something more powerful, even if sometimes you can get away with less). $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Oct 15 '13 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ Who writes them off? My first sentence is,"The empty is a good workaround". Find someone else to attack and accuse. Empties are good where they are good. The onesidedness of planes has other advantages. No method here is absolute. And I didn't state anything different. @gandalf3 If you don't need a full cage and you have a good card, then an empty is totally fine. Go for it (: $\endgroup$ – Haunt_House Oct 16 '13 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ideasman42 btw, do I understand your opinion right? Poor people that cannot afford a big machine shouldn't use Blender or at least be denied answers that suit them best? Critizing me for offering a solution to them is bad? And it's not as if I had deleted the other alternative. Fully blown projects arent the only way to use Blender, especially for people who are learning. And if you know how to make Empties onesided, please tell me. I always like to learn. $\endgroup$ – Haunt_House Oct 16 '13 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Haunt_House I'm not attacking or accusing, its just that for general question & answer, its fair to assume that someone has a system that meets the minimum system requirements (as described on blenders web site). You are also describing empty-images as the workaround, implying that they are a inferior solution when in fact this is exactly the intended purpose they resolve. $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Oct 16 '13 at 21:49

To the best of my knowledge, such functionality is not available out of the box. However, one other way would be to use an Empty with the Display type set to Image. Advantages are that you can move it just as you would any other object and adjust the opacity etc. Another advantage is that it displays in both Orthographic and Perspective view.

enter image description here

If you find it hindering you.. you can always just disable Viewport selection from the Outliner by clicking the arrow.

  • $\begingroup$ You could probably set up some drivers so that it copies the transforms of some object, like a regular empty. A pain to set up for sure, but an addon to do this would be fairly simple to write. $\endgroup$ – Greg Zaal Oct 15 '13 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @GregZaal Or maybe some modal operator to drag the background image around directly with the mouse? (no empty) $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 15 '13 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ I dont see why you would bother with drivers or modal operators, just drag the object around. - simple! $\endgroup$ – ideasman42 Oct 15 '13 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @ideasman42 I was thinking for dragging a background image, but by enabling X-Ray in Object > Display I can almost completely emulate a background image. (the only thing it can't do is make the empty render behind every object no matter what, I have to make sure it's actually moved behind everything) $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 16 '13 at 3:27

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