Background images - how to change their options without leaving Edit mode for the mesh object?

I’m using modeling with background images in 2.8.
To do that, I set the viewport to preset ortho view, then drag and drop image from the file browser onto the viewport, which is the same as adding it via Shift+A > Image > Background image / Reference image.
Then I add a mesh object, select it, enter Edit mode for it and start tracing an image.
However if at any point I need to see my image clearer (for example, making it more saturated / less saturated to see any certain places more clearly), what can I do to make that fast enough?
I know that I can exit Edit mode for the mesh object, select the image, go to the Properties editor > object data tab > empty > transparency to change the alpha value for the image, but that is extremely inefficient.

That was maybe one of the only useful things background images had in 2.7x - they were part of viewport (which was considered as downside for other reason) and so they weren’t an object which allowed user to open properties of viewport, set alpha value to something new and have the image become clearer or more dim, all in 1 or 2 clicks without leaving Edit mode of the mesh object being edited acording to that image.

For 2.8 - 2.9 however I didn’t find similar way, hence so far it looks like if background image itself is occluded with the mesh object geometry created according to the reference contained in that image, to move it quickly to the front or make it more saturated I only need to open that image either in separate Image editor in the Blender window or elsewhere other than Blender.

TL;DR So to summarize I wanted to know how to make background image in the viewport less / more saturated (what its Transparency value does) or bring it to front without leaving Edit mode of the mesh object being created according to that background image for faster editing.

Reference images are added as empty objects, just click the corresponding eye icon in the Outliner (where the scene objects are listed).
For more advanced features, check the Object Data Proprties tab of that empty object. There is also a transparency option there.

yeah, I know. My question is slightly different. I will provide an example and explain what I know I can do to achieve and what I’d like to have.
I have this mesh object in front of a background image:

I don’t see image clearly enough because of too high density of geometry of the mesh object. I want to bring that image to front to quickly see what I should create, then bring it back to see mesh geometry in front.
What I know I can do is:

  1. exit Edit mode of the mesh object;
  2. select the background image in the object mode
  3. in the Properties editor find the Object data tab (usually it’s on the modifiers tab) > change the slider for the Alpha value
  4. see how image looks, then turn everything back as otherwise I won’t see mesh object
  5. select mesh object, enter Edit mode. Continue editing

That’s just too long for an action of seeing how mesh should look like. This action must be repeated several hundred times when reproducing details of the object to make something look similar enough.

I was searching for a way to edit the background image (or anything added in viewport as background image) somehow while I’m in Edit mode of the mesh object.
I suppose this isn’t possible in 2.8 - 2.9. This was possible in 2.7x with all the downsides of the old background images implementation. It’s not that critical of course. It’s mostly convinience after all, but that’s kinda important when working too.

In this case you could duplicate the empty image and put it in front of the model, then you can just enable/disable it whenever needed. This way you will have the reference image both in front and behind the model.

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You can make a new area with the Properties editor and, with the Empty active, pin the editor. It’ll stay there showing the Empty’s properties regardless of your current selection or mode. The main downside is that when you’re not in object mode you won’t really be able to Undo any changes that you do to the Empty’s properties. That’s just one of those core shortcomings of Blender’s undo system.

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well, one more downside is that the new small editor with pinned empty properties will also take space on the screen. Downside regarding empty rotation isn’t critical for me. But yea, this should kinda work as a last resort, thanks.

interesting way, I guess it should work as a workaround, thanks.

Heh, if space is at a premium you could add some custom properties on the object that you’re editing and use those as drivers for the Empty’s properties. That way they’d be accessible via the N panel. Although I wouldn’t call that a pretty solution. :slight_smile:

yes, it doesn’t seem to be pretty but it’s interesting, thanks for that too. It would be indeed ideal to have those options editable from N panel in viewport

I suggest you map a hotkey to “VIEWPORT DISPLAY/IN FRONT”. I used F8 (since I didn’t see any other use for it).

This toggles the IN FRONT flag of the selected Object. Let me know if that works for you.


that’s looking interesting too, thanks. I was going to try to look into assigning several options from Viewport Display into one hotkey to have one key for them all.
However the downside of this way is the same as the one with changing transparency of the empty - I have to make several additional clicks to exit Edit mode of the mesh object, select empty, change that, select mesh object etc.

Another way I suddenly recalled is to use X-Ray with Alt+Z. It allows to quickly look at the image, then switch back to solid mode again with only one shortcut. It should work most of the time for this

Hmm, my test objects were lacking. If only there were an IN BACK option.