Drag and Drop Tools

Drag and Drop Tools

Since I’m riding the Python boat, before I get back to some more Python in Houdini, I wanted to throw out this tip for those wanting to create custom tools and to further wet your appetite a little bit. After all, this is how it all starts. Let me show how easy it is to just drag and drop tools on to your shelves.

Shelf Tools

The preferred way to create reusable tools in Houdini is by creating an HDA or Houdini Digital Asset. Oooh! Fancy! But what if you just need a temporary thing. Something rough that is just meant for you. I have plenty of these rough tools for personal use that will not see the light of day outside my workstation. I know what they do and they get the job done. They are just not polished enough for public consumption.

Maybe you just need to save the tool while you polish up things and create an HDA down the road. Whatever the case may be, it’s another example of Houdini’s flexibility. The best part about it is you don’t necessarily need to write your own tools with code from scratch!

We will keep things basic for the sake of simplicity but keep in mind that you can get fairly complex with these tools. For example, all the tools in the Houdini shelves are Python scripts that create and adjust parameters on nodes for you. They are automatic or convenience tools to a certain extent. Some even ask for user input. We will not be getting into the advanced functionality here in order to keep it short since I want to go catch some re-runs of The Price is Right with Bob Barker on TV.

It’s Magic!

Here’s the deal. Suppose you have a node tree setup you want to be able to reproduce quickly at the click of a button. Maybe a tool on your shelf that you can click away at until your finger falls off. Well, let me show you how easy it is. How to create the tool, not how your finger falls off.

Drag and Drop Tools
Cool Tools


First thing you want to do is create a new shelf. A dialog will pop up with some options. Make sure you save it to a new file to avoid polluting the default shelf set. Name it something descriptive like the-twilight-zone.

Create a new shelf.


Now, select the node that contains your node tree. You either need to go up to Scene level or create a subnetwork of the nodes that make up your setup. You can do that by selecting all your nodes and pressing Shift-c or clicking on the icon of the open box in your network pane.

Select the node and drag and drop it on your new shelf. Next, grab a big straw and go drink some beer. You are done!

Drag and Drop node to shelf.




Editing The Tool

Actually, one last thing. You may want to right-click on the tool and select Edit Tool… and change the Save to location to point to the new shelf you created and possibly giving the tool a descriptive name under the Label field.

You can give your tool a bunch of options such as in what context the tool appears in or assigning hotkeys. I’ll cover this in another post where we will create a custom tool using Python. I have to go now, The Price is Right just started!



I am a motion designer & developer based out of South Florida. When not designing or animating pixels, I wrangle some code. If all else fails, I watch Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, or Three's Company reruns.