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Node Tools Prototype


These are the uses cases we tried to address.

  • As an asset creator I want my assets to be easy to use so that people want to use them.
  • As a set dresser I want to use assets without caring too much about what they do internally so that I can get my job done faster.

A potential solution is to let asset creators combine their node groups with corresponding tools and ship them to users together. We call these tools "node tools" (although sometimes they my be referred to as "asset tools" below). We set out to create a simple prototype to get a better idea of how the user experience could feel like.


The prototype allows a node group to expose names for vertex groups that it wants to use and their default value.

A new panel in the 3D view sidebar shows the inputs of a geometry node group used by the active object. Those are the same settings that are available in the modifier panel as well. Furthermore, it shows buttons for all the different vertex groups that the node group would like to use. Clicking on one of the buttons switches the object to weight paint mode and sets up a weight group with the correct name. This way, the user can start drawing immediately, without having to worry about setting things up.

See T86395 for a video of how the system can be used.


Even though the prototype is very basic, it showed very well how powerful this concept of attaching tools to node groups can be. It made it significantly easier to use a geometry node group asset, because one did not have to figure out how to setup everything correctly.

Some misc topics that came up during discussions:

  • Should the buttons be part of the tool shelf on the left? It makes sense given the fact that they are "tools". However, there are also quite different from other tools we already have. For example, currently tools are mode specific, they don't just switch the mode an object is in. Also, existing tools can be enabled and disabled. It might not be possible to allow this for all kinds of tools. Especially, when a "tool" is just an operator that does some setup work on the underlying object.
  • Is this idea of tool specific to node groups or can the concept be extended to more general "asset tools"?
  • What other tools would be useful? Widgets that control certain node group inputs?
  • How customizable should these tools be? Should it be possible to define a custom tool using Python? If yes, how would the Python code and the tool be packaged up? Should it just be an addon? How to deal with API breakages when Python code is part of an asset that is linked/appended into many projects?
  • How does this fit into a greater attribute pipeline that spans from an attribute edit (paint) mode, over geometry nodes to rendering?