Blender add-ons review — BoxCutter and Hard Ops [$] (2024)


By Metin Seven on Add-ons, Review

3D modeling is generally divided into two main categories: organic modeling — fluid, natural shapes like the human body — and hard-surface modeling: models with predominantly clean-cut, geometric shapes, mostly man-made, such as electronics, mechanical objects, furniture, etcetera. Two Blender add-ons have gained an impressive reputation in the world of hard-surface modeling: BoxCutter and Hard Ops. BlenderNation takes a close look at both add-ons in an in-depth review.

BoxCutter and Hard Ops are both actively developed by TeamC, led by Jerry Perkins, also known as Masterxeon1001. Usually, the most interesting tools come from developers who create great artwork as well. This is certainly the case here, as Jerry is a very skilled, experienced hard-surface modeler. A link to his Artstation portfolio is included among the links at the bottom of the review, and is an impressive showcase of the possibilities of BoxCutter and Hard Ops.

A detailed hard-surface model by Jerry 'Masterxeon1001' Perkins, created using BoxCutter and Hard Ops

BoxCutter introduction

Essentially, BoxCutter is very talented in cutting into objects, in lots of different ways. BoxCutter is dedicated to making Boolean operations — subtracting, adding or intersecting mesh volumes — as accessible as possible.

To start BoxCutter, you can activate the dedicated Toolbar button or press the default BoxCutter keyboard shortcut Alt + W.

Once activated, you can access BoxCutter functions in multiple ways: using the top toolbar, using the Tool Settings ('N' key panel), or using a special pop-up menu that is activated using the 'D' key.

You can start cutting into the default Blender cube right away by clicking and dragging on a side, releasing the mouse-button to start digging into the mesh, then clicking again to finish the cut.

Interactive adjustment gizmos

Once a cut has been established, you've got the option of easily adjusting the cutter using an interactive gizmo with control points for things like height, bevel width and more.

BoxCutter offers interactively adjustable gizmos

Custom cutter shapes

Different kinds of cutting shapes are available, such as circle and freeform drawing. You can even sample a piece of the mesh or assign a custom mesh to use as a cutter.

Using custom cutter shapes in BoxCutter

While the visual cutting guide is active, you can activate additional tools, such as the Bevel tool, by pressing 'B'. Handles appear to adjust the cutting volume, and it all works on the fly. Complex hard-surface objects can be established in very little time.

BoxCutter works fully non-destructive. Every cutter object remains intact and can be revisited and manipulated at any time, until you decide to apply all modifiers and start working on the result.

Here's an informative video by Rachel Frick, covering the basics of BoxCutter:

Hard Ops introduction

Hard Ops is a modal toolkit to ease the creation of hard-surface models, where 'modal' means that most of the functionality is available as easy, visually oriented tools while you're working in the viewport.

Hard Ops makes use of Blender's modifiers and other built-in tools and functions. It does not have its own custom Booleans or other custom-coded algorithms. The advantage of this is that the non-destructive modifier-based output of Hard Ops is easily adjustable because you're already familiar with the native modifier settings.

The Hard Ops menu is activated by pressing the 'Q' key, and the most-used Hard Ops functions are Sharpen and Bevel. Sharpen auto-marks an object's sharp edges to prepare them for proper beveling, and Bevel adds a Bevel modifier with adjustable settings. Because of the modal nature of Hard Ops, every tool you activate is adjustable in real-time in the viewport.

Easily add and adjust bevels using Hard Ops

Hard Ops also eases adding and interactively adjusting a range of other modifiers, directly in the viewport.

Add modifiers like Array in a fast, modal way

A typical modal Hard Ops workflow

Hard Ops assists you in different Blender creation modes. Even Sculpt Mode has a useful Hard Ops menu.

Hard Ops even offers a convenient menu in Sculpt Mode

Smart Shapes

One of the many tools Hard Ops offers are the Smart Shapes: base objects that are cleverly constructed using a range of modifiers. Once placed, a Smart Shape can be interactively modified in the viewport using visual handles. Smart shapes work perfectly together with the BoxCutter add-on, keeping everything you add and cut completely non-destructive, with viewport controls for interactive adjustments.

Non-destructively combining Hard Ops Smart Shapes with BoxCutter

Easy viewport configuration

A fine hard-surface model needs a matching presentation. Hard Ops also provides in that area, with a convenient Eevee viewport rendering menu.

Show off your hard-surface model with a high-quality Eevee rendering preset

Comprehensive documentation

One of the many strong points of both Hard Ops and BoxCutter is the extensive documentation, filled with clarifying images and instructive animated GIFs. Every bit of help is easily accessible from within Blender. The BoxCutter and Hard Ops add-ons are also surrounded by a lively user community, sharing creations in a dedicated Facebook group and Discord channel.

All help you need can be accessed from one convenient Blender menu


If you're into hard-surface modeling and love a flexible, powerful, visual way of modeling, a purchase of BoxCutter and/or Hard Ops (the combination pack is recommended) will not disappoint you.


3d modeling add-ons addons Blender boxcutter hard ops hard surface hardops hardsurface Review

Blender add-ons review — BoxCutter and Hard Ops [$] (2024)


What is hard ops in Blender? ›

Hardops is made for hard surface modeling and extensively use boolean and bevel, resulting in a lot of ngons. If your object gonna be broken, deformed, animated, it is mandatory to do retopology and remove all the ngons that gonna be part of this deformation / animation.

Is Hard Ops and Box Cutter worth it? ›

It depends on how often the newbie will be using Blender. If they plan on using it frequently, then it may be worth it to invest in an OPS machine box cutter for extra precision and accuracy.

What is the weakness of Blender? ›

Weak organizing/team work possibilities. Lack of proper layer system. Very limited GUI customizing. Lack of GPU selection for render.

Can a box cutter do damage? ›

It's hard to believe that something so small as a box cutter can cause serious – even permanent – damage. Here's how to prevent it from happening to you. There's a very good chance that, wherever you are, there's a box cutter of some sort nearby.

What's the difference between Stanley Knife & box cutter? ›

The main difference between a utility knife and a box cutter is their use and what they can cut. A utility knife is more of a multi-purpose tool that can cut everything from wood to food. Box cutters are mainly used for cutting boxes, tape, plastic strips, etc.

Can box cutters cut cardboard? ›

Traditional box cutters expose the blade up to an inch, which can go right through the cardboard and straight to the contents. Worry no more! This will not happen with Slice box cutters, pen cutters, the Mini Cutter, or the Manual Carton Cutter.

What do hardops do? ›

Hard Ops is a Hard Surface toolkit for Blender aimed at the enhancement of workflows concerning hard surface and boolean behavior.

How do I open the Hardops menu? ›

Pressing Q will bring up the Hard Ops Q menu. The first options will always be dependent on context most of the time.

What is Blender boxcutter? ›

Boxcutter is a Blender 3d plugin for concept design utilizing on screen drawing and hotkeys.

How do I activate Boxcutter? ›

Activate BoxCutter

Alt + W is the hotkey of boxcutter and can be useful for starting it and getting the topbar to show.

What does hard surface mean in Blender? ›

Hard-surface modeling is a 3D modeling technique used to create machines, vehicles, weapons, and any non-living objects with hard and static surfaces. Most man-made objects in our everyday surroundings would be categorized as hard-surface objects.

What does solidify do in Blender? ›

The Solidify modifier takes the surface of any mesh and adds depth, thickness to it.

Is Blender the hardest software to learn? ›

Blender can be a challenging software to master, especially for beginners. However, it's important to remember that with patience and practice, anyone can overcome these hurdles and become proficient in using Blender. Don't let the initial difficulties discourage you; embrace them as part of the learning process.

Is Blender harder than solidworks? ›

When assessing the two solutions, reviewers found SOLIDWORKS easier to use. However, Blender is easier to set up and administer. Reviewers also preferred doing business with Blender overall.

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