Unreal Engine 5: Transform Actors (Location, Rotation and Scale)

This blog post will teach you everything you need to know to transform an actor in Unreal Engine 5, from beginner to advanced levels. Transforming an actor simply means changing the location, rotation, or scale of an object in your level.

Knowing how to transform actors will be an essential skill to master when creating and designing your levels and maps in Unreal. It’s not a difficult skill to learn, but the more you practice it, the better your precision and speed will be when transforming actors.

So let’s get started!

How do you transform an object in Unreal Engine?

For the first method, we will use the simplest and most precise method of object transformation in Unreal Engine. To get started, simply left-click an asset in your level or in the Outliner.

Look in the details panel for a section called Transform, which has four options: location, rotation, scale, and mobility. For the time being, we will ignore mobility because it is mostly used for lights and blueprints.

Unreal Engine Transform Details Panel

I closed the details panel, how do I reopen it?

Tip: If you don’t see the Details panel, just select “Window” in the top navigation bar, and select the “Details” tab. Use this panel to view and edit properties of the selected object.

How to change location, rotation and scale

Each of the three transform properties has three numerical input fields. Every input relates to an axis: the X axis is always red, the Y axis is always green, and the z axis is always blue.

  • Location: Use it to move the selected object in a single direction. If you’re a beginner, try entering a slightly different value in one of the axes and watch how the object reacts. A value of 0 in the three input fields will result in your object being moved to the center of your level. If you lose sight of your object, remember that you can always find it by pressing the F key.

Unreal Units

Tip: The default measuring unit in Unreal Engine 5 is 1 cm. This means that one Unreal Unit, abbreviated as ‘uu’ equals one centimeter or 0.39 inches. The size of the Unreal Unit can be changed in the Editor Preferences by searching “Measuring Tool Units“. Explore Teacharthub’s guide on Scale and Measurement in Unreal Engine for more details.

  • Rotation: Some of the most common rotation values in 3D graphics and game development are: 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees. They are frequently used because they create angles that are easy to work with and neatly align with geometric shapes. Just enter one of these values into one of the axes and observe how the object rotates.
  • Scale: This parameter allows you to make your object smaller or larger. For example, a value of 2 on the X, Y, and Z axes will double the size of your object. A value of 0.5 will reduce the object to half its current size. However, keep in mind that inputting different values in the three axes will distort the object.

Transform tips and tricks:

Unreal Engine transform tips and tricks
  • Tip 1 – Drag left or right: Place the mouse over a value and a double arrow symbol will appear; now drag to the left or right to change the value.
  • Tip 2 – Restore values: To restore the default values, click the arrow on the right side of the panel.
  • Tip 3 – Lock scale: Pressing the Lock Scale icon locks all 3 Scale fields. When the X, Y, and Z axes are locked, their values change together, ensuring consistent scaling and preventing distortion.
  • Tip 4 – Location type: To switch between relative and global location types, click the arrow next to location, rotation, or scale. If you’re not sure what this means, keep reading because I’ll explain it later in the article.
  • Tip 5 – Copy values: Right-click anywhere within the transform section to open a copy and paste menu. This is extremely useful for copying values to multiple objects.
  • Tip 6 – Multiple values: If you select multiple actors with different Location or Rotation values, the input fields will show ‘Multiple Values’ instead of numbers. In this situation, if you input a number, it will replace that value for all selected Actors. Be aware that this could lead to the Actors overlapping.
  • Tip 7 – Math: You can do simple math in the numeric input fields. Just use + to add, – to subtract, / to divide, and * to multiply. For instance, in the location field, type +100 at the end of a number, like 300+100, and you’ll see the value become 400.

Interactive Transformation (Level Viewport)

It’s extremely useful to be able to input precise values to change the position, rotation, and size of objects in the level. However, there will be times when you wish for more creative freedom. That’s when the Gizmo comes in handy.

What is a Gizmo?

In 3D graphics, a “gizmo” is like a special tool that helps you move, rotate, or change the size of objects more easily. It’s like a set of handles or buttons that you can click on and move with your mouse. These handles show up on the screen and let you change things in a simple and visual way, without having to type in numbers. So, instead of saying “move this object 10 units to the right,” you can just click on the gizmo and drag it to where you want it to go. It’s a handy tool that makes working with 3D stuff easier!

Figure 1: There is always a reference to the X, Y, and Z axes in the bottom left corner of the level viewport.

How to transform objects in the level viewport?

Now that you understand what a gizmo is, let’s use it!

Figure 2: Click on one of the three arrows (each one represents an axis: X, Y, Z) and then move the mouse in the direction of the arrow you’ve selected. The object you have selected should move along.

To select two axes at the same time, click on the small box in the center. Alternatively, you can move the object in any direction by clicking on the white ball in the center.

Figure 3: Selecting one of these four buttons will cause the gizmo to behave differently. To change the buttons without having to click on them, simply press the spacebar on the keyboard.

  • Select (Q)
  • Translate (W): Changing the position of an object is done by using the 3 arrows to move it within your level.
  • Rotate (E): Select the red arc to rotate the object in the x axis, the green arc in the Y axis, or the blue arc in the z axis.
  • Scale (R): This one is nearly identical to the translation tool. Instead of arrows, you’ll now see cubes. Drag one of the cubes to scale the object along the desired axis, or simply click on the white cube in the center to maintain the proportions.

How to simultaneously move, rotate and scale a Static Mesh?

Constantly manually changing an object’s rotation, scale, and location can be exhausting.

Instead, head over to the Modeling Mode (SHIFT+5) and choose XForm in the Transform section.

With this option selected, a new gizmo will show up on the selected mesh, letting you move, rotate, and scale all at once. It’s a super useful tool!

How to use it:

  • A: Cycles through Transform modes.
  • Middle-mouse-drag on gizmo to reposition it. Or enable “Set Pivot Mode”.
  • S: Toggles Set Pivot Mode.
  • Hold CTRL while dragging to snap/align.
  • D: Toggles Snap Drag Mode.
  • W/E: Cycle through Snap Drag Source and Rotation types.

Don’t forget to click “Complete” when you’re finished.

Unreal Engine Modeling Mode XForm

Relative and local location types

When you’re transforming actors, you can decide how they move.

Here you have two choices (Figure 4):

  • World space: This is like moving things along the world’s directions. If you move something up, it goes straight up like the whole world is your guide.
  • Local space: This is like things have their own special rules for moving. If you move something up, it might go at an angle, not just straight up.
Relative and local location types

By default, the Unreal engine makes objects to move in the world location. You can, however, change this. Click on the Globe icon (Figure 4) to move things at the angle of the object. To go back, simply click the same icon again.

Surface Snapping

Snapping (Figure 5) is a tool that allows you to easily position an Actor by making it fit with a grid or another object. When you activate snapping, the Actor will quickly move to specific locations when you move it around.

This ensures that the actors blend in with the ground or other surfaces. Surface snapping may be enabled from the Level Viewport toolbar by selecting the Surface Snapping button and ticking the Surface Snapping option.

  • Rotate to Surface Normal: When this option is enabled, actors will automatically rotate to match the alignment of the surface they’re connected to.
  • Surface Offset: You can adjust the distance between the Actor and the surface it snaps to using the Surface Offset setting.

Grid Snapping

Finally, in the Figure 6, you’ll see the grid snapping choices.

  • The first icon lets you change the grid size from 1 to 10,000.
  • The second icon helps you align things with the grid when rotating.
  • The third one lets you pick a scale snap value.

If you want to turn off the grid snap, click on the icon instead of the numeric value, and it will turn gray. A gray background means it’s off, while a blue background means it’s on.

Official Documentation

Learn more about transforming actors

Transform tips & tricks:

How to Mirror Objects (X, Y, Z)

Unreal Engine Mirror Modeling Icon

Blueprints Transform:

Set Relative and World Transform

Unreal Engine Roadmap