Unifying Sculpt mode and Edit mode: Pros and Cons.

(If this was discussed before please let me know, I did search in the forums but didn’t find a discussion about this subject.)

I started using Sculpt mode and Multires recently and felt really surprised about how easy it makes it for the artist to achieve nice results on organic models, and it feels even more exciting when thinking on the upcoming retopology tools.

When I started using it I felt Sculpt Mode very similar to Edit Mode, in a way that both are about manually modifying objects’ vertexes. So I started to think if it was possible to merge both modes.

The way I imagine it is treating Sculpt as a tool in Edit mode instead of a Mode itself. The same way we use Retopo and everything starts to get snapped to other objects’ surfaces until we turn it off, we would turn on Sculpt tool and it would have the same behaviour it has now until we turn it off.

The usage would be exactly the same as the Sculpt mode now, the shortcuts too, and if we want to have the same feel when sculpting, without vertexes, edges or faces being drawn, a “Shaded draw” could be added in Edit mode:


Some benefits I see:

  • Masks can be assigned selecting faces/vertexes in an “Edit mode style”.
  • Those masks could be saved in vertex groups.
  • Simplified workflow, everything is in one Mode.
  • Some tools from Sculpt mode are very handy in Edit mode (i.e. “painted” smoothing)

Wanted to know the opinion of people more experienced than me in sculpting, to know if this is viable, may feel comfortable, useful… and to discuss the pros and cons, and maybe find solutions for the different problems that may appear.

(Don’t know if this is the appropriate place to make this post, thought on posting it on Blenderstorm directly, but since I don’t have yet a complete idea, also not sure if it is viable, and don’t have much experience with sculpting, wanted to discuss it with experienced people first. Let me know if it should go directly to Blenderstorm)


Hmm, the same could be said of merging it with the 3d paint mode, giving painted masks, unifying painting displacment and colour/material properties. etc.

I’d much rather it was tied to the paint tools more closely than to the edit tools, especially if we can make more complex brushes, paint to displacement and/or normals and spec…

With the new GLSL stuff going on in the Apricot branch this could lead to layered image based displacement etc… authored as now in sculpt mode…

I hope that all made sense!

I like both ideas merge them all into a special Freehand mode. While maintaining the traditional separate ones.

that would be awesome

Now let me say this, really the only difference between edit and sculpt from interface standpoint is the cursor. (that I can think of anyway)

Soooo… let’s see, how about just placing a sculpt manipulator right in there with the translate, rotate, and scale drop down. Than you can ctrl+shift into sculpt brush?

Maybe move the multi-mesh into the transform properties area; you know it wouldn’t be too horrible if subsurf, mirror, and multimesh were all embedded into each object’s transform properties window as opposed to the modifier drop down.

but that’s just me

Really I’d like to eliminate all or most of the modes. I think that is actually planned for 2.50. It makes no sense to have the different modes.

Now let me say this, really the only difference between edit and sculpt from interface standpoint is the cursor.
Add as many multires levels to a cube until you can still sculpt and rotate the view without much lag. Now go into edit mode. Which works faster?

(hint: edit mode starts to lag a lot more)

There is more under the hood than you can see from the UI alone.

That’s true, Sulpt mode is significantly faster. Maybe from a technical point of view this is not viable. Hopefully BMesh could help with performance ?..

In case this were technically possible, I like Michael’s idea about merging texture paint too. A brush that automatically paints skin colors, sculpted displacement, and normal map for very small details, all at the same time, sounds nice.

I would change from my first post idea a couple of things. For instance instead of a “Shaded draw” I would add an “Object selection mode”. That place in the header is for Selection Modes and not for Drawing modes, and an Object Selection Mode I think would be useful, besides keeping the actual sculpting feel, to select different separated geometry in the actual object.
And rather than implementing it like Retopo, I think it would be better to implement it as “Selection painting” (BKEY twice) from Edit mode. I mean for instance, in Edit mode a hotkey for Draw Sculpt tool, another hotkey for Smooth Sculpt tool, leaving each tool with RMB.


Just thought I would chime in on the technical issues here…

Edit mode is much heavier in terms of memory usage than sculpt mode is. This is because Edit Mode allows you to change the topology of the mesh, and therefore
has more complex data structures. In contrast sculpt mode is simply modifying
vertex data ‘in place’. I’m not sure if there is a good way to merge the two.


Something I have noticed in terms of memory usage too, I work on a laptop most of the time so anything that would make sculpt mode more memory hungry would suck for me and others with not so powerful pcs,

Thanks Briggs for the technical remarks.

Edit mode is much heavier in terms of memory usage than sculpt mode is
Maybe this is an obvious question but just to clear it up for non-technicals like me… would it significantly affect performance as it affects memory usage? (using BMesh)

thanks again…


Is there even a way to combine all the modes and their options together and still make workflow efficient and without a very cluttered UI?

Is anybody uses sculpt tool for serious (commercial quality) work here?

I’m not using it for serious work, but I’ll give my opinion anyway. I think it would be good to allow these modes to be combined, not merged. That is, paint and sculpt could work with or without editmode, so that editmode tools can be used for masking. How to deal with hotkey conflicts I’m not sure, I suppose the paint and sculpt ones could take priority.

I believe this can actually be done with roughly the same speed and memory, if the new multires is used. Then the actual editmode mesh is small (and easier to edit, who wants to do selection on a million polygons anyway?), and the final high poly mesh uses the same representation as in sculpt/object mode. That’s in theory since it would require internal changes, and not every high poly mesh uses multires, but still I think this could work well.

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That sounds really good.

Also if it were possible to tell the new Multires modifier how many levels we want to send to Edit mode, the amount of
detail/memory-usage/performance would be decided by the users according to their needs and hardware capabilities. Maybe 2 or 3 levels will do for most cases.

EDIT: the idea would be sending all levels to this new “combined mode” but only make editable as in actual Edit mode those levels indicated in the Multires modifier. All other levels would be available for sculpting.