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Vertex Color/Attribute Edit Design
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Pablo Dobarro (pablodp606)
Nov 27 2019, 12:08 AM
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This task lists and details all tasks related to the design of a Sculpt/Vertex painting mode and a attribute edit mode.

Vertex Colors Project Description

Sculpt/Paint Mode

By adding the MVertCol datalayer we can reuse the sculpt mode code to support painting functionality inside Blender.

This painting mode is intended to be an artistic painting mode with support for all tools and workflows designed for this task. Texturing, illustration and concept art uses cases fall into this category. This does not mean that other modes with other uses cases should not have brush tools or painting functionality.

This functionality is accesible inside the current Sculpt Mode to support features and workflows that could take advantage of sculpting and painting at the same time, as well as sharing common features instead of implementing a painting and a sculpting version of the same thing.


Paint Brush

Implementation of Blender´s main painting brush in Sculpt/Vertex paint

The behavior of this brush is most likely going to be used as a reference to implement 2D and 3D painting. The goal should be to support the same brush presets in all paint modes, so the implementation in the different paint modes should match.

Brush paint properties

Density noise

Density is a factor that controls how many elements inside the brush radius are going to be painted. This adds extra detail to the stroke without needing to add a texture. Useful for simulating pencils or organic mix brushes.

This works by hashing the pseudorandom values before applying the paint to each element (in this case, hashing the vertex index + brush position). Some other painting apps have the density seed fixed per stroke instead of per sample. We can add an option to support both.


Opacity controls the alpha of the painting color (it is currently called strength in the UI, so it should be renamed for painting modes).

Flow controls how many brush samples are needed to reach the opacity alpha value. This is often explained as “how much paint the brush applies”.

To support that, the PBVH needs extra compositing buffers to mix the paint from the current stroke on top of the original colors.

Wet Mix/Persistence

This controls how much paint is picked from the surface and added to the brush color while painting. This is essential to support proper brush color blending while painting.

Falloff hardness

Hardness should be the main property to control the brush fall off. The current Falloff panel should be hidden in the UI as an advanced brush option as changing that curve breaks the intended behavior of the brushes.

Furthermore,Hardness is a linear property and it can be mapped to pressure or tilt, which is a basic behavior of any painting software.

As it is implemented now, hardness shifts the falloff interval towards the edges of the brush.

Some features in the sculpt and paint modes are already coded with a hard coded hardness value, so we need to replace it with the brush property.

Procedural tip shape

The functionality of this feature is implemented in brush_test_cube and it is shared with the sculpt Clay Strips brush. It allows to change the brush tip shape between a square and a circle.

Tip shape rotation

The paint brush should support tip rake rotation. The implementation is identical to the clay strip brush.

We can also support locking the initial rotation in screen space. This is useful for creating inking and lineart brushes with non uniform scaled tip shapes. The initial rotation can be controlled by another brush property.

This feature is more important in 2D paint than in 3D paint, so I need to investigate a correct way to implement it.

Tip shape scale

This is achieved by scaling the brush local space matrix. Exposing one axis as a brush property is enough as you should be able to set the rotation.

We can also look at using the brush tip scale to adjust the brush spacing accordingly, but it is not absolutely necessary.

Default brush presets

As the new brush with all the new painting properties is flexible enough to create brushes for different purposes, we may want to ship Blender with a small set of default brushes (like Grease Pencil).

We may need feedback from texture artist and illustrators to design a set that fits most users needs.

Brush input curves

Until we have the functions branch merged and the new brush input system in master, all brushes should come with a default input curve hard coded to get the correct behavior (this is something that was done during the 2.82 development in the sculpt brushes).

As part of this task, it may be needed to add extra flags to map pressure to some of the new attributes, similar to how we are now enabling pressure/size and pressure/strength. This flags won’t let users modify the curves.

After adding the new node based brush input system, all these attributes should be exposed to the node network and users would be able to choose how they want to map them to the pen pressure/tilt

Color Mix Modes

Add all the color mix modes available in Blender to the paint brush. The implementation is straightforward.

Paint Brush UI

We need to decide were to add the new brush properties in the UI. Properties like hardness should be easily accesible, both for sculpting and painting.

We may need to reconsider how the top bar is organized in Sculpt Mode, as currently it does not make much sense. Often the most important properties of the brush are hidden under a popover.

Color smooth brush

Simple color smoothing function, similar to the current mask smooth. It can be included as part of the main paint brush when pressing shift or as a separate tool.

Liquify tool

This brush tool should move the vertex colors without displacing the geometry. I need to check how to implement it, but it could be similar to the Slide/Relax brush.

Color filter

The color filter is a tool that modifies all colors in the sculpt at once taking the sculpt mask into account. The implementation is exactly the same as the current mesh filter, so all extra modifications needed to support this are already in Blender (FilterCache, filter fully masked nodes)

Color fill

We may consider adding the color fill functionality to the color filter instead of adding a separate fill color operator. The main advantage is that users will be able to control the intensity of the fill in real time, because in sculpt mode the redo panel is not available. We need to add a color property to Sculpt to support this (similar to the Texture or Gravity Object datablock)

Texture color filter

Exact same implementation than the Mesh texture filter but for colors instead of for displacement. This needs a texture datablock to be in Sculpt, similar to the gravity object.

We may want to consider this later as it uses the old Texture datablock and nodes, which is currently deprecated.

Color editing filters

This is the standard set of color editing operations on colors, also available in Cycles/EEVEE and in the compositor. Most of these operators are already coded for MLoopCol and can be easily ported to the color filter.

Gradient tool

The gradient tool is almost identical to the color filter. The main differences are the input code (this tool needs the direction of the cursor movement) and the functions that are used to modify the colors.

It includes the basic types of gradients that are supported in most graphic editing software.

It also supports snapping to 90 degree angles and it takes the sculpt mask into account.

Top bar color ramp UI design

If we render the current color ramp template in the top bar in a single row it does not look nice (it usually needs 3 rows). We may want to improve this, but it does not affect the functionality of the feature.

Gradient types

All gradient types work the same, they just use a different geometry operation to determine the gradient (Distance to plane, distance, angle…)

Radial gradient

Gradient based on the distance to the initial position

Linear gradient

Gradient based in the distance to a plane

Circular gradient

Gradient based on the angle difference between the mouse drag vector and the initial position - vertex position vector.

Active vertex color picker

The painting sample_color operator should pick the color of the active vertex and assign in to the brush (or to the UnifiedPaintSettings color)instead of picking the shaded color from the viewport.


Brush management

This task needs the asset manager in master in order to start.

Brush engine preview generator

This needs the new input system on top of the asset manager in order to start. The idea is to generate brush previews based on the parameters of the new brush engine and use them in the asset manager.

Asset manager global brush palette

After merging the asset manager, all brushes should be accesible from a single place, changing the tool automatically when you select a brush preset.

Import/export brushes

We need to decide how are we going to store, export and import brushes. This is an asset manager related task.


Import/Export support for the vertex colors layers. We need to check which formats and use cases support this.

In the meanwhile we can use the vertex colors/attributes conversion operators to get the colors in an out or Blender

Sculpt mode integration

This describes different task that can be done to create new tools and workflows that can be done after supporting sculpting and painting in the same mode.

Sculpt + Paint at the same time

This feature is useful when creating concept art. As all the painting functionality shares the same code as sculpt mode, this is easy to support.

Paint capability

We need to add an extra paint capability to the brushes to enable only the sculpt brushes that make sense for painting (for example, it does not make sense that the pose brush applies paint).

Undo support

We need to add a SCULP\_UNDO\_COORD\_COLOR flag to support storing the undo data for coordinates and colors at the same time. Internally, this is just calling both coord and color store functions in the same node undo push.

Sculpt mask integration

When painting, the sculpt mask and all the tools to edit it (mask filter, mask expand, box and lasso selections) can provide the same functionality as selections in other painting software, so we don’t need to code another selection system for painting.

Mask by color operator

Simple operator that mask all similar colors to the active vertex color.

Mask expand by color

The current mask expand supports two modes (topology and curvature). We can turn this operator property into an enum and add a mask expand color mode that calculates the mask expand factors based on the color differences. After this change, this operator should provide the same functionality of the “magic wand” or “smart selection” in other painting softwares.

Automask by color

The automasking code supports enabling multiple automasking operations. We can create another automasking modes that assigns mask values automatically based on the color difference of the active vertex when the stroke started. This can be useful when sculpting across painted ¨materials¨.

Remesh support

One of the main features of this paint mode is that you can sculpt on models with colors without using UV. This allows to keep the topology dynamic using the remeshers.

Voxel remesh Reprojection

This will add the “Preserver paint colors” option to the Voxel remesher. All vertex colors layers are recreated and colors are transferred using the nearest vertex color from the previous mesh. This is also how the “preserve sculpt mask” option works.

This function can be also added to Quadriflow, but it does not make much sense as Quadriflow is supposed to be used with Multires.

Quadrilfow reprojection to multires

Quadriflow remesh should produces a base mesh with the sculpt detail projected to the appropriate Multires level. This is currently not implemented as the current Multires modifier is not enabled for sculpting.

After enabling Multires and implementing this feature, it should also support vertex color reprojection.

Multires support

We need to check the status and roadmap of Multires before tackling these tasks. If sculpting multires is not fully functional, it does not make sense to add color features to it.

Multires color data layer

A datalayer needs to be added to support vertex colors in Multires, similar to how the Sculpt Mask works.

This also needs all necessary updates to Multires to support vertex colors in the grids.

Multires level propagation

Color values need to be propagated across levels without creating artifacts.

Multires texture baking

After finishing these task, Sculpt/Vertex paint mode will be a more advance painting more than Texture paint and some users will want to use it as the main painting mode. Until we design and update texture paint to support all these painting features it would be nice to have some baking functionality to be able to work on texture colors by converting them to vertex colors. Sculpt mode can easily work with 17M vertices + duplicates on Multires, so supporting painting a baked 4K texture on vertex colors seems like a reasonable use case.


Workbench vertex color rendering
PBVH Rendering

Sculpt PBVH rendering support for regular meshes (PBVH\_FACES). We also need to add support for PBVH\_GRIDS if we want to support Multires.

Object Mode rendering

Regular workbench vertex color rendering for the rest of the modes. This should be enabled when enabling the vertex color mode in the Shading popover

EEVEE/Cycles vertex color node

Vertex Colors layers should be accesible with the Vertex Color node to render in Cycles/EEVEE.

Color management

Vertex colors are stored as floats in scene linear color soace as defined by the OpenColorIO configuration. By default this would be a linear color space with sRGB chromaticities. This is the same color space as for example material colors. That means these colors can be used as is for rendering without any color space transformation.

Note that by convention old vertex colors are stored in scene linear color space with the sRGB transform used for compressing them to bytes. This transform should be considered purely a compression and has no semantic meaning.

Attribute Edit Mode

Attribute Edit is intended to be a mode to modify and visualize any kind of data stored in mesh elements. Some use cases for it could be:

  • Editing IDs on face corners to modulate materials in a shader
  • Painting velocity vectors on vertices to guide a particle system
  • Editing the weights of a rig
  • Editing per face colors for low poly models without using textures
  • Setting custom values on edges for a motion graphics animation
  • Modifying mesh values for procedural modeling

Some of these task could use a brush, but they don’t need a brush with artistic painting functionality. It does not make sense to edit the weights of a rig with a brush with wet paint and density noise.

Furthermore, these task could take advantage of a mode with more control and precision tools than an artistic painting mode, like precise elements selection and data editing, controlled value interpolation…

The plan is to use the current Vertex Paint mode as a base implementation for this mode and start adding all necessary features during multiple releases. It already has quite some work done because most users were using it with these use cases in mind.

This task is not as detailed as the Sculpt/Paint mode, but it should be enough to have an idea of its purpose, use cases and design goal.


Simple brush tools

The current Blender brush functionality is enough to support this kind of painting, if we consider painting changing the values of elements that are inside the cursor radius. We can reuse the current brush code for that.

Value interpolation tool

This tool could produce controllable interpolations of an attribute between two mesh elements following the mesh topology. For example:

    • Select the base of a cone and assign the value of one
  • Select the top vertex of the cone and assign 0
  • Let the tool generate the rest of the values across the cone surface
Mesh elements selection

Attribute paint should provide tools for selecting mesh elements and assign values directly to them. This provides much more control than a brush. This could be useful when working with low poly models, where you want to assign values like armature weights in a precise way.

Mesh element masking

We can support a basic masking functionality for the brush that supports all mesh elements (not only vertices like the Sculpt/Paint mask). This can make easier some painting task.


Data conversion operators

Attribute edit mode should provide a set of conversion tools to convert data between elements and other Blender data layers when possible. For example:

  • Convert a per vertex attribute to a per face corner attribute
  • Convert a per edge attribute to a vertex attribute averaging the values
  • Generate material slots from an ID attribute stored on faces
  • Generate an editable 2D vector attribute from an UV layer
Per face corner color data to sculpt/vertex color data

This is a specific case of a conversion operator. Other conversion operators can be added in the future as we support more attribute types.

Internal attribute conversion

We need to identify what element/attribute type conversion combinations are more frequent and design how they can work (usually averaging the values). For example

  • Converting an attribute from face corners to faces by averaging the values of all the face corners in the face
  • Converting from vertex to edges by averaging the value of the two vertices of the edge
  • Converting from vertex to face corners assigning the same vale of the vertex to all the face corners that use that vertex
Topology symmetry

We could support editing operations with symmetry based on the mesh topology instead of mirroring the XYZ axis.

Attribute data type selection

The use should be able to choose what kind of data he/she wants to edit and in which mesh element that data should be stored. For example

  • A float factor stored on faces
  • A vector stored on vertices
  • A color stored on face corners (Current supported MLoopCol)

All tools should be aware of the data type of the layer and behave accordingly.


It should be possible to import and export meshes with different attributes in mesh elements. We need to check format compatibility.


Attribute edit overlay

As we can make assumptions that the attributes are colors, we need to render a configurable overlay to display the data in an appropriate way.

Attribute rendering mode selector

The attribute rendering overlay should provide and UI to choose which rendering mode the user wants to render the data. This should include tools like a gradient editor, rendering two attributes at the same time, render vectors and randomly generated ID maps.

EEVEE/Cycles attribute node

The current attribute nodes exposes MLoopCol and UVs to the render, which are both loop attributes. We need to investigate how to expose face, vertex and edge values.

Development Plan

I recommend that the main priority for merging and reviewing the patches should be getting the full version of the paint brush to master as soon as possible, even with a temporally incomplete painting workflow. The design decisions on parameters, default values and behavior are really hard to get right, it would me nice to have as much artist feedback as possible. We will continue making changes to the brush during the release cycle to ship Blender with a proper implementation, defaults and presets.

Datalayers and Paint Brush

As it is possible that the design of the brush will be reused for texture painting, this is a critical task. In order to achieve this, these are the task that the first patch should contain:

  • MVertCol datalayer and PBVH undo support to implement the brush.
  • Paint brush (with all paint properties)
  • Workbench vertex color rendering: PBVH color rendering
  • Active vertex color picker

In order to create small test projects to test the brush more extensively, it would be also recommended to include:

  • Remesh reprojection support
  • Workbench object mode rendering: Object mode rendering
  • Cycles/EEVEE vertex color node

With that set of features merged, we should be in a good place to start creating vertex paint projects.

Note that the naming (Sculpt vertex colors vs vertex colors) won´t be final when merging this patch. This is to avoid duplicating the length of the patch with a huge name of line changes that won’t make any difference on what we should be doing at that stage.


After merging the first patch, we can create another patch that includes only the renaming of the current code functions and UI. By doing this, we reduce the amount of lines changed in the first patch and we will have more time to decide the final naming of the datalayer to make it less confusing for the users.

  • Sculpt Vertex Colors -> Vertex Colors
  • Vertex Colors -> Attributes


  • Sculpt Vertex Colors -> Sculpt Colors
  • Vertex Colors -> Attributes

After this patch, we should have stablished the difference between Painting and Attribute editing described in this patch. Vertex Paint/Vertex colors will became Attribute Edit and it will have the exact same functionality, with is a subset of the Attribute Edit mode.


After merging the two initial patches, we can start merging the rest of the tools, in no particular order.

Gradient and Mesh Filter

The Gradient tool and the mesh filter code is almost identical, so it should be easier to review them at the same time. Also, both share some common code (color data in the filter cache)

Color Smooth Brush

This is just a copy of the regular smooth/mask smooth brush but that works on color data. Should be easy to review and merge.

Event Timeline

There are a very large number of changes, so older changes are hidden. Show Older Changes

Once the new Sculpt/Vertex paint mode is working, we can create a patch focusing only on the renaming:
Vertex Colors -> Attributes
Sculpt Vertex Colors -> Vertex Colors

For most of people, Vertex Color is referring to the attribute of asset used by game engine or render engine.
That is something visual not related to sculpting. I think that would be misleading to rename Sculpt Vertex Colors -> Vertex Colors.

I am OK with the idea to make vertex colors a type of attribute.
But IMO, it is less problematic to rename Sculpt Vertex Colors -> Sculpt Colors.

@ronan ducluzeau (zeauro) I think you are misunderstanding a bit. Vertex colors are not just for sculpt mode - you may paint them using the faster sculpt mode tools but they are still just vertex colors, which of course can be used in a game engine.

The attributes can be used for other things like mixing shaders or other data.

However, in general, this is also my main worry: having essentially the same functionality duplicated in two different ways, with quite subtle differences can be very confusing.

You guys have to do a lot of work inside and outside Blender to teach users that we will have two methods for working with Vertex Colors from now on, that's undeniable, e.g., a warning while importing like "Vertex Colors will store in Color Attribute!", options when exporting to select which data to export as Vertex Colors, and so on.

Nothing you haven't done before though.

Other options can be explored, like a way to work with both methods over the same data block "Vertex Colors". But I think it would be even more confusing (automatic conversion between modes would be neccesary when swithching to Scultp Mode hence involuntary data loss more likely), and harder to design and maintain from a developer perspective.

you may paint them using the faster sculpt mode tools but they are still just vertex colors, which of course can be used in a game engine.

There is no more game engine in Blender. So, basically, what you are saying is that colors painted in Sculpt Mode will be directly exported as vertex colors in .obj, .fbx, gltf file or used by render engine.
If it is not the case and one step of conversion is necessary to use those colors anywhere : that should not be called Vertex Colors.

I doubt that people only doing low poly stuff will use Brushes set to paint on high poly meshes.
If the way to paint vertex color of those low poly meshes is the attribute paint mode, UI should guide them to that mode.

For high poly meshes, people are used to talk about "poly painting".
Vertex Color painting on a sculpt is just a thing inside Blender. Other apps don't do that. That's why I think that calling that something else than "Vertex Colors" will not hurt.

If Sculpt Mode was the mode to paint vertex color on any kind of mesh, it should be renamed Sculpt Vertex Paint mode and there would be no discussion.
But that is not the case, design is talking about two modes for different cases.
So, in that case, IMO, best option is to avoid the word Vertex Color as a title, anywhere, and force user to look at manual or ask a question on a forum.
If User don't see Vertex Color in UI, he will search Vertex Color in manual.
If first line of chapter is : "There are two modes to paint Vertex Color" ; the thing will be clear for everyone.

There is no more game engine in Blender.

Doesn't matter - that is irrelevant to the use case of using Blender to author game assets.

So, basically, what you are saying is that colors painted in Sculpt Mode will be directly exported as vertex colors in .obj, .fbx, gltf file or used by render engine.

Yes of course, that would be the main point.

Untagging design tasks from specific releases, in general these should only be tagged with the relevant modules and listed on the module page.

Hi Pablo, this is actually a very clear and complete overview. I was looking into how to create phases (eg milestones) for this project where a milestone is useful, complete and as small as possible.

My suggestion for the approach of this project is to use the next milestones. It is close to what you already provide in the patch with some nuances.

Basic Vertex Painting

We have several corner cases that need the MLoopCol's to be rendered in the 3d viewport outside a paint mode. For example when using dynamic paint or modifiers. To don't limit the current workflows we should add a first version of the attribute overlay (minimum requirement only supporting colors, but ideally also supporting weights).

IMO color management isn't a task, but something to be always aware of when handling colors and pixels. With recent changes done for MLoopCol color management will focus on how to store the colors of the tools. (Best to use floats and scene ref space)

The next bullets are taken from your design as they are needed for the basic functionality

  • Sculpt/Paint Mode
    • Rendering
  • Features
    • Sculpt Mode Integration
      • Sculpt + Paint at the same time
    • Tools
      • Paint Brush
        • Default Brush Presets
        • Brush Input Curves
        • Color Mix Modes
        • Paint Brush UI
  • Attribute Edit Mode
    • Features
      • Data conversion operators
        • Per face corner color data to sculpt/vertex color
    • Rendering
      • Attribute Edit Overlay (as described above)

As a clean up step we might want to rename files/functions etc so it source code matches the attribute/vertex color in the tools/ui.
Note that at the end of this milestone the Vertex colors should also be accessible in the import/export api.

Other Sculpt/Paint mode tasks

It seems that the rest of the Sculpt/Paint mode tasks are doable on a per feature basis based on priority/needs and your own planning.
Brush Management and Multires Support rely on other projects so we should place them out of scope for the time being.

Import Export

This could be dealt in coordination/co-development with the maintainer, they should help out with the details.

Attribute Edit Mode

As the attribute mode a bit unclear how it will eventually look like, but that could be detailed later.

Campbell Barton (campbellbarton) changed the status of subtask T73434: Weight Paint Overlay from Needs Triage to Confirmed.Feb 12 2020, 8:24 AM

I've created a separate task for geometry attributes in T76659: Geometry Attributes Design since this is a more general topic. I think an initial version as described in that task could be implemented in 2.90.

The way I see it is that sculpt vertex colors are a subset of the full list of attributes. For sculpting you'd want a list showing just the vertex colors, and for this there can be a Vertex Colors (or Paint Colors?) panel that shows the subset compatible with Sculpt & Paint mode. Legacy per-corner colors could also show in that list with a button to convert them to the new format. I would not auto convert them.

Mesh.vertex_colors could become a collection of attributes that has both per-vertex and per-corner color attributes, which would be used to populate the panel list.

The Vertex Color shading node could support both per-vertex and per-corner colors, and autocomplete would work fine if Mesh.vertex_colors includes both.

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Hi, just tested sculpt-dev build and the Paint (vertex) feature, the performance is amazing (I use Vertex Paint heavily on my 400k tris game ground model), but I found 2 issues which prevent me from using it as Vertex Paint mode replacement:

  1. no option to (quickly) mask & paint polygons (corners, not just vertices)... or at least I didn't find it. I think we really need something similar to those 2 simple masking buttons like in Vertex Paint for convenient painting workflow. Sync between selected polygons in Edit Mode and Sculpt / paint mask (like in Vertex Paint) would be also very useful
  2. there is a bug with Undo - it sometimes messes up vcols painting on unrelated polygons (most probably those corner-painted, I can investigate more if you want to)
  3. I can't assign X shortcut to Swap Colors, because Draw brush shortcut is overriding it

BTW is there any other place (DevTalk?) where I can provide the feedback?

Big thanks for anybody working on this game-changing performance improvement!

@Jan Kadeřábek (jendabek) Thanks for the feedback. The better place to share this would be on in the sculpt-paint-texture-module channel. Also I can recommend to download and test the "temp-sculpt-colors" branch on
That one is the most up to date version as far as I know that we are testing right now. We are aiming to release it for Blender 3.2 as an official feature so every bit of testing and feedback is valuable.

This task should be split up into smaller tasks or merged into existing tasks where applicable, and then closed.

I read through the design task and most points have by now been addressed.
The entire Vertex Color section is essentially done and can be archived. The inclusion of a Gradient Tool can be part of the Paint Mode project instead.

Some sculpt mode features that can be further discussed and added as separate tasks:

  • Automask by Color
  • Sculpt + Paint at the same time

Every other feature is already on another to-do task or done.

I will separate the section on Attribute Edit Mode into a separate design task, to be picked up at another point.