Recently, Blender gained some new abilities related to manipulating custom normals. However, the UI to control these leave a lot to be desired.
- There's an almost empty Normals panel in Edit Mode Tool Properties, with very esoteric options. The contents of this are too obscure.
- There's a sub-menu in the Mesh Edit Mode menu. It's too hard to access conveniently, and mixes basic face orientation operators with the custom normals ones
- Enabling custom normals editing is confusing. You first have to enable Auto-Smooth manually
We want to improve this workflow and UI configuration. Here's how:
- Get rid of the Normals panel completely. The Face Strength settings are part of the operators now, and we can move the Normals Vector to the Item Transform panel in the Sidebar.
- We want to split the Custom Normals menu from the basic Face Orientation operators
- When using any of the custom normals operators, we can automatically add the Custom Split Normals Data. We do the same for UV editing and other related mesh data when invoking operators that require certain data layers to be enabled. This way users don't have to enable Auto-Smooth first.
- As for the normals menu itself, we can add a shortcut to open it more easily, and/or we could make it appear at the top level if custom normals are enabled.
Additionally, in a later release we could add a Normals tool in the toolbar, with tool properties to set the sub-tool. This could make it easier to 'paint' normal directions on the mesh.