Ben Colclough

3D Game Development

Use Pure Ref to Organize Your Reference Images


I find reference images indispensible for virtually every model or texture I create. Reference images give you inspiration and help you achieve realism. I'll often collect dozens or even hundreds of images when making a model or level. When you have so many images, it's important to organize them, and the best way I've found to do that is with the program PureRef.


I used to use the default Windows photo viewer, but that becomes pretty clumsy if you want to study multiple images at once. PureRef lays out all your images on canvas which you can easily navigate. Just drag images from Windows Explorer onto the canvas.

Another feature I really like is that you can tell the PureRef canvas to stay on top of all the other open windows, even when you take focus off the program. Just right click on the canvas to bring up the menu for that option and more.

Quick Controls

  • Left Mouse to select and move images.
  • Middle Mouse + Drag to translate the canvas.
  • Right Click + Drag to move entire canvas.
  • Scroll Wheel to zoom in/out.
  • Double Left Click to focus image.

Pro Tips

  • Ctrl + Left Drag to rotate an image. Ctrl + Shift + Left Drag to contrain rotation to 45 degree increments.
  • A couple of times I deleted an image from a folder, but still had it in PureRef and wanted it back. Press Ctrl + Shift + I to export an image to a folder of your choice.
  • PureRef can get slow if you have hundreds of images on a single canvas. Especially if the images are large. You might want to split your references into multiple PureRef scenes as you deem appropriate.
  • Press Alt + PrtScr to capture a screenshot of a single window then Ctrl + V to paste it into PureRef. Useful for quickly comparing changes you've made with your work.
  • You can drag images directly from your internet browser into PureRef. Doesn't always work with some sites such as Flickr.