Skp Aha! Moment


The other day I stumbled on a feature of SketchUp that I had long wished for, but didn't realize existed. I'm not sure when this feature was added to SketchUp. I'd like to think it was somewhat recently, and not that it's been right under my nose all these years. But whatever the case, it was a comically thrilling moment in the studio when I was trying to figure out how to make some linework stand out against a satellite image and, as if led by the Force, found the "color by material" option in the Styles Browser Edge Panel. Luckily my colleagues were around to share my glee, so at least I knew I wasn't alone in my nerdiness.


The funny thing is that I knew you could do this when the lines are part of an object that has faces. Faces, after all, are the things that you typically apply materials to in SketchUp. What I didn't realize was that you can also apply a material to a group that contains only one or more lines. I mean, I guess I knew you could do that, but I didn't know why you'd want to. Because it doesn't make any difference unless you have the "color by material" option selected in the Styles Browser Edge Panel!

Why is this such a big deal? Well. Here are a couple of images that compares the default all-black line style to lines-colored-by-material. You can see that the detail on the furniture (especially the chairs) is distractingly heavy in the all-black style. When the lines are colored by material, the furniture quiets down and it's possible to made the bullet path red!

But what really got me excited is that this feature makes it possible to diagram within SketchUp, improving SketchUp's utility as a presentation tool. Check it out. The image below is a screenshot directly out of SketchUp (as is the image at the top of the post)—no post-processing whatsoever. Profiles are turned on.

Things to do Around the Marquam Bridge

Ok, so it's not perfect. The corners don't meet cleanly, and curves are rendered as line segments. But it's still pretty neat. And now you, too, can wield the power of the "color by material" edge style option. Have fun!

Ady Leverette was a designer and a principal at Fat Pencil Studio between 2011 and 2018.