3D Level Design: Unity Basics & Shortcuts


In this article, we will cover some of the Unity Scene tools, camera movements and prefabs to help you build levels faster.

Scene Tools

We will go through each of these tools, but the shortcuts to each of these are…

Hand Tool = Q

Move Tool = W

Rotate Tool = E

Scale Tool = R

Rect Tool = T

Move, Rotate or Scale = Y

Hand Tool

The hand tool allows you pan around the scene when holding left clicking.

Move Tool

The move tool can move objects on the 3-axis. The move tool defaults to float values for precise movement, which can lead to gaps when you want everything to be uniformed. Holding down Control or Command while using the move tool will make the objects move incrementally.

Rotate Tool

The rotate tool allows you to rotate an object around 3-axis with float values. Holding Control or Command will rotate the object incrementally.

Scale Tool

The scale tool allows you to change the size of an object on a specific axis. Holding the Control or Command key will scale it incrementally.

Rect Tool

The rectangle tool allows you to resize and move rectangle objects.

Move, Rotate or Scale Tool

The move, rotate or scale tool allows you to use all 3 of those tools at the same time. Again, holding Control or Command will change things incrementally.


Duplicating assets can speed up level design when using modular environmental assets. You make duplicates by either right clicking and selecting Duplicate or using shortcut Ctrl + D or Command + D.

Selecting Multiple Objects

In the hierarchy, you can mass select objects by holding down Shift and selecting the start and end of the objects you want to mass select.

When you mass select, the objects need to be in sequential order in the hierarchy which can lead to some objects being selecting that are not wanted. In deselecting these objects, while keeping the mass selection, you will want to hold Control or Command while click on the objects you want to deselect.

You can also reselect objects while holding Control or Command and clicking on the object.

This is extremely helpful when you duplicate a group of specific objects and move, rotate, or scale them together. When you are selecting multiple objects you need to be using the Move Tool.

Rotating Objects

When rotating objects, the default setting is to have the object Pivot around the corner of the object. This is helpful when you need to rotating multiple objects to face a different direction.

You can have objects rotate around the Center of a group of objects instead of the individual corners of the objects.

In the example above, the group of 3 tiles are being rotated around the center tile.


Creating Prefabs

Using pre-existing objects and modifying them by adding to them. This creates variety in your level design and when you make them prefabs, you can easily add them to your scene.

Create a Prefabs folder in the project folder and you will drag the modify object to the folder. This will give you a message of creating an Original Prefab. This Prefab will replace existing objects to add variety to the scene.

Since the prefab was created in the game scene it has inherited its Transform values when we made it a prefab. We will need to reset the Transform values in the Prefab window, so when it replaces a different object in the scene it will take those Transform values instead.

Now that the prefab is setup, we can select the object we want to replace with it and make it the child of it. This will ensure it takes the Transform values of the tile we are going to replace. Then we un-parent it and delete the tile we want to replace, so we are only left with the prefab.

Modifying Prefabs

In the Prefab window, you can make changes to the prefab and

those changes will automatically update all of the prefabs in the scene.

Unpacking Prefabs

A prefab can be helpful template for other variant prefabs, but will need to be unpacked.

If you try to change a prefab in the hierarchy, it will ask you to make changes in the Prefab window. If changes are made in the Prefab window, will make those changes to existing prefabs.

We do not want to revise the current prefab, but create a new one using the current prefab as a template. Left click on the Prefab and select Unpack Prefab.

This will no longer make it a prefab and you can swap out the pieces as needed. Now, you can rename it and make this variant a new prefab.

Prefab Override

If there is a prefab in the scene that needs to be adjusted and those adjustments to need to be applied to all existing and future prefabs, you can use prefab override to make those changes permanent.

Vertex Snapping

Vertex snapping is a life, time and sanity saving tool that allows you to grab a vertex of an object and easily connect it to another game objects vertex. This helps you to correctly align objects and prevent gaps between game objects. To use vertex snapping, hold down V and left click/hold on the vertex you want to move. Next, while still holding left click, drag to the other vertex you want to connect and release.

Camera Movement

Camera Gimbal

In the scene view, there is a camera gimbal that allows you to switch between perspective and isometric view and move around the X, Y & Z axis in 90˚ increments to get Top, Right, Bottom and Left views of the game objects.

You can switch between perspective and isometric views by click on the white cube of the gimbal.

perspective view: mimics what the human eye perceives, so objects appear smaller the further away they are from the viewer

isometric view: are parallel projections, which means objects remain at the same size, no matter how far away they are.

First Person Controls

In you want to move the camera around freely, you can enter first person mode. While hold down the right mouse, you control the movement of the camera. Still holding down the right mouse, you can use the W,S,A,D keys to move Forward, Back, Left, Right and Q,E keys to move Up and Down.


If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out.

Focus on Item

A scene can get crowded with numerous objects and you want to focus on a certain object without having to scroll around. If you select the object in the scene or hierarchy and press “F”, the camera focus on the object selected.



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