As an aspiring animator looking for a big break, it’s important to master one of the industry’s standard applications for 3D imaging. One of the most widely used software applications in the animation industry is Houdini. Houdini is a 3D animation software that offers a suite of tools to covers all the major areas of 3D production. This versatile 3D software offers a node-based, procedural approach to digital animation. It can be used in a host of applications including modeling, animation, dynamics, CG lighting, rendering, volumetrics, and compositing. The controls and settings offer a remarkable level of power and flexibility, which provide artists the utmost control.

Houdini is preferred by the biggest animation productions in the movie industry and has been used for hits like Disney’s Frozen and Zootopia, Rio, and Ant Bully.

Despite the extensive toolset and capabilities, Houdini has become more artist-friendly. So regardless if you’re new to Houdini or you simply want to dig deeper into the controls, yo9u’ll have a grand time exploring the program’s many tools. And with every upgrade, Houdini just keeps getting better.

It would speed up your workflow if you took some time mastering the tools that Houdini has to offer, including specific tasks related to character creation, rigging, and terrain generation, just to name a few. In this guide, we’ve compiled some of the best tips and tricks that would speed up and simplify your workflow using Houdini:

Assign a Letter for Cut Wires Mode Hotkey

Want to get your 3D art done in half the time? Take full advantage of Houdini’s many shortcuts! Disconnecting nodes, for instance, is time intensive and to make the job easier, you can tweak the Cut Wires Mode hotkey.

Y is set up as the key by default but this can be changed to another letter of your choice. For instance, you can change the Cut Wires Mode hotkey to X to disconnect modes much more quickly. To change the hotkey letter, go to (Edit > Hotkeys > Cut Wires Mode) and designate the letter of your choice.  

Automatic and Manual Cook Modes

Houdini is set to cook automatically, which is great for small to medium scenes. But for scenes that require heavy graphs and simulations, it’s better to set Houdini to Manual Cook mode. You have to set this manually or add a hotkey shortcut to save time.

If you’d like to designate a hotkey shortcut for the automatic or manual cook mode, go to Edit > Hotkeys > Update Mode. Change the Update mode from “Always” to “Never.”

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UV Texture Surface Operator

To add UVs along a curve, use the UV texture Surface Operator. To use this tool, set the texture type to “Rows and Columns.” Then, change the Attribute Class to “Point.” Using v@uv.x, you can access this tool to get the UV value of a point along a curve and it works for multiple curves in one go.


Want to add more objects to an already rigged character? Houdini’s GATOR tool is used for transferring weight and shape from one object to another. This tool is used to transfer a variety of attributes including textures, UVs, weight maps, and envelops between models. Using Houdini, transferring any of these attributes is made easier so you can amend an already rigged character quickly.

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Erosion Node

Houdini’s erosion mode is used for calculating hydraulic and thermal erosion over time to create realistic-looking terrains. You can also use this tool to add realism to a low terrain resolution. Just increase the terrain erosion then mix in other details for the basic shaping of the terrain. Add the smaller details on top. The erosion node can be used for an entire terrain generation process. Start with the low resolution for adding the dominant details then gradually increase the resolution as you add the smaller details on top.

Height Field Node

This node produces two 2D volume primitives: height and mask using a given resolution and initial value. The HeightField node can be used to create interesting details on a terrain. Use it in conjunction with different HeightField Noise function.

Channel Operators

CHOPs are tools that can be used to modify the timing of an animation without changing the shape of the animated object. You can also use this tool to distort geometry, combine curves to create new curves and visualize/organize the motion view.

Bone Capture Biharmonic

Houdini’s Bone Capture Biharmonic is a geometry node that captures weights on geometry and deforming. This is a great tool to use for quick character setup. It can handle the most complicated spots – elbows and knees – with relative ease. The deformations are smooth and they behave properly. Use this tool and you won’t have to use more weight painting, a rigging task that most artists find dull and repetitive.

Houdini recently rolled out a new update. Here’s a couple of tutorials for beginners:

Episode 1

Episode 2

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