Clipping in Blender

What is Clipping in Blender?

Clipping is a method of making certain parts of a scene in Blender invisible without actually deleting them. The idea is like this: imagine you had a magic flat piece of glass held towards you and just in front of an object. There are some objects in front of the glass (between you and the object of interest). This magic piece of glass has a unique ability – everything between you and the glass becomes totally transparent. You can see right through them as if they weren’t there. Now, this glass is even more magic – you can move it backwards so that it actually goes through the middle of the object. Its power is still there – everything between you and the glass sheet is invisible. Anything behind the sheet can be seen. This is what clipping is – the glass is called the clipping plane – it’s flat and perpendicular to your line of sight. There are actually two clipping planes—one in the front and one at the back. The back one has similar magic powers, but it works the other way around. Everything behind the rear clipping plane becomes transparent.

Clipping is a concept well known in nearly all 3D and CAD programs. Anything in front of the front plane is invisible, and anything behind the rear clipping plane is also hidden from view. Clipping is usually used in rendering, particularly in cutaway drawings where you want to see the outer container and also a view inside. For an example of a cutaway drawing, see this article. Clipping planes are also sometimes used in modelling when you want to quickly look at many objects in the middle distance through a preset camera or if you want to look inside a solid enclosed object that you can’t hide.

Let’s consider the following drawing of a Cube with a small Cylinder inside it. This is a picture of the 3D viewport in Object mode :

Front clipping plane is perpendicular to the viewing direction

Notice – even the grid gets clipped. Everything in front of the clipping plane is invisible.

The actual position of the clipping plane is set by:

  • How close your eyepoint is. If you zoom in, you effectively move closer, and the planes move back away from you, thereby clipping the image further back. If you zoom out, the opposite happens – the clipping plane moves forward to maintain a constant clipping distance. The object obviously stays put – you are only zooming, not moving the object.
  • That constant clipping distance is set in the View tab of the “N” menu:
The front clipping plane distance is set in the Clip Start parameter box

Now let’s add a second cube exactly the same size as the first – viz., 2M in length and place it 5M behind the first cube:

The rear cube is 5M on the Y axis behind the front cube

Now we adjust the Clip End value to 4M larger than the Clip Start value and we see that the rear cube is getting clipped from the back:

We set the Clip End distance to 4000mm more than the Clip Start distance
The result of the clipping of the End Clip plane with the rear cube being clipped from behind.

And if we reduce the Clip End value by another 900mm to 12377mm we isolate the front cube entirely:

The rear cube is now completely clipped away

Clipping in Camera View

In a camera view these clipping settings have absolutely no effect.

Why?

When rendering a scene, we might want different clipping planes set for each camera, so Blender allows for this in a very logical way. When the camera object is selected, we can define specific clipping planes for each camera in the Object Data Properties tabObject Data Properties tab when the camera object is selected. A different camera has a different Object Data Properties tab:

Object Data Properties panel for each individual camera

The Clip Start and Clip End method of setting the clipping planes is the same as discussed for the Viewport Clipping. The only difference is that the two values are set in the Object Data Properties tab of the camera instead of in the View panel of the “N” menu.

A Clipping Plane Gotcha

Sometimes a strange artifact shows it’s ugly face, which, is NOT caused by a poor mesh:

The shading on the rear top edge seems to be weird.
The corresponding Clip Start and Clip End settings.

Now if we change the position of the Clip Start Plane:

The shading artifact is reduced with these settings:
The Clip Start distance is 10x further away

The artifact is less, but not gone. Now let’s try moving the front plane still further away from the viewer or camera:

Now the artifact has gone with this distance:
The clipping distance is increased again.

Another Clipping Plane Gotcha

Sometimes the object(s) in your scene just disappear.

The first thing you do is check that they have not been hidden by toggling or by typing and Alt key.

If that doesn’t work try pressing to zoom up the selected object.

If that doesn’t work then you want to take a look at the Clip End setting. Increase it by 10-fold and your object will probably appear:

Increase the Clip End distance

These two “gotchas” tend to happen when you have recently changed your units and unit scale.

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