Controlling Visibility with Tags

2020 Notice:
SketchUp 2020 has changed some words, whenever you see us refer to “tags” you should make a note that they used to be called Layers. They still work the same, the name has been changed to clear up their purpose and remove confusion users experienced in previous versions.

Additionally, groups and components are now collectively referred to as objects. Again, they work the same but you might see “object” referenced and it’ll be good to remember that an object could be a group or it could be a component.

In SketchUp you’ll use Tags for classifying objects and controlling visibility. This article deals with using Tags for showing and hiding objects for model organization.

To work with SketchUp tags successfully, you need to understand the following concepts:

  • Every model has untagged, formerly known as “Layer0.” Untagged is the default tag, and you cannot delete it. Untagged is like a base layer on which you draw everything in your model. You add new tags only to control visibility.
  • An object controls the tag visibility of the entities that the object contains. So, to control visibility, associate only an object with a tag (not entities within that entity). Always draw individual entities with “untagged” selected and leave them there. When you associate the object with a tag, the entities within the object remain on untagged, where they belong.
  • Geometry is connected. Remember that, in SketchUp, tags don't isolate geometry. Groups and components do. Without groups and components, geometry in one tag is connected to geometry in every other tag.

When you apply these concepts to creating a 3D model that has tags to control visibility, the process looks like this:

  1. Draw everything on Untagged. If you're new to drawing in SketchUp, start with the article, Drawing Lines, Shapes, and 3D Objects.
  2. Organize sections of your model into groups or components. Grouping Geometry explains what groups are and how to create them. For an introduction to components, see Adding Premade Components and Dynamic Components; find out how to create your own components in Developing Components and Dynamic Components.
  3. Create a new tag.
  4. Associate only that object with that tag. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you have a tag for each object whose visibility you want to toggle on or off.
  5. Use the Tags panel to control the object's visibility.

To find out how to do Steps 3-5, keep reading this article.

Now that you understand the basic concepts, here's an example, that shows how tags control visibility. In the following figure, each group has been assigned to its own tag, and each tag appears in the Tags panel.

After the Visible checkbox for the Roof tag is deselected, the roof becomes hidden, and you can peer inside the second floor.

Almost everything you can do with tags happens in the Tags panel, which you open by selecting Window > Tags from the menu bar on the MacOS version or Window > Default Tray > Tags on Windows. Here's a quick rundown of what you can do in the Tags panel:

  • Add tags. Click the plus sign icon in the upper left, and a new tag appears in the list. Type a name for the tag and press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (MacOS).
  • Delete tags. Select a tag by clicking its name so it becomes highlighted. (The pencil icon to the right indicates the active tag, which is different from selecting a tag.) Then click the minus sign icon in the upper left. If you've assigned anything to the tag, SketchUp asks what you'd like to do with the tag’s contents: Move to Current Tag, Move to Default Tag, or Delete Contents. Select an option and click OK (Microsoft Windows) or Delete (MacOS). To delete all unused tags, click the Details arrow () and select Purge.
  • Name tags. When you create a tag, the default name is selected and ready for you to replace with a meaningful name. If you decide to rename a tag, simply double-click its name in the Tags panel and enter a new name.
  • Select the active tag. To the right of each tag’s name is a blank column, and the pencil icon indicates the active tag.
    Tip: Make sure that untagged is selected before you draw or edit any geometry.
  • Change a tag’s visibility. Every tag has an eye icon in the Visibility column. Deselect this icon to hide the tag, the icon will become blank. To display the tag again, select the icon.
  • Sort tag. When you click the Name or Visible column header, you sort the list of tags. Clicking the Name column sorts the list in ascending or descending order. Clicking the Visible column orders the list so that visible tags are sorted from the invisible ones.
  • Color geometry by tag color. Have you noticed the color squares next to each tag? When you click the Tags panel Details arrow () and select Color By Tag, SketchUp applies a color material to your model based on the tag color. In the following figure, you can see how the objects match their corresponding color swatch in the Tags panel. If you want to revert to your original materials, simply deselect Color By Tag. SketchUp selects a color when you create a tag, but you can change a tag's color by clicking the color swatch in the Tags panel and using the color picker that appears to select a new color. (For help with the color picker, see Mixing Colors in the Color Picker.)

One thing the Tags panel can't do is move an object to a new tag. After you create a group or component and set up your tag, you move an object to a tag as follows:

  1. Select the object in the drawing area.
  2. Context-click your selection and choose Entity Info.
  3. In the Entity Info panel that appears, you can do one of two things:
    1. Select a tag from the Tag drop-down list. Remember that you need to set up your tags before you can choose one from this list.
    2. You can type the name of a new Tag and hit Enter, this will create a new Tag and assign it to the selected object.

Watch the following video to see SketchUp's Tags feature in action. You also discover tips for cleaning up tags from imported CAD files and for using tags to improve SketchUp's performance when you're working on a large model. The video introduces SketchUp's Tags toolbar and why you need to be careful about the active tag if you use the toolbar.

Remember when watching SketchUp videos that they may refer to Layers instead of Tags. Older videos use the older name and won’t reflect the change in SketchUp 2020.