Applying Colors, Photos, Materials, and Textures

With colors, textures, and photos, you can add details that make a 3D model look realistic and complete:

  • Colors are like paint.
  • Textures add realistic materials, such as carpet, tile, grass, wood, glass, and anything else you can capture as a digital image.
  • Photos can be pinned to your model (or just a face within it).

In SketchUp’s Materials panel (Microsoft Windows) or Colors panel (macOS), you find predefined colors and textures, which you can edit. Or try mixing your own colors or creating a texture from a photo.

Tip: The color and texture materials not only add detail to model, but also enable you to swap one material for another with a click and to calculate what materials you need. For example, if you’re creating a precise model of something that you plan to build in real life, you can use the color and texture materials to determine details such as how much surface area you need to paint or how many square feet of tile you need. Adding Colors and Textures with Materials explains how to work with materials.

In SketchUp, texture materials are typically photos that are tiled on a face. However, you may want a single photo to cover a face instead. SketchUp gives you several options for doing so, all of which are explained in Sticking a Photo or Texture to a Face. Among those options is a pretty neat feature that enables you to snip an building image from Google Street View and import that image directly into your model — all without leaving SketchUp!

With the Match Photo feature, you can apply one or more photos to a 3D model’s faces or draw a model based on a photo. Match Photo is especially helpful if you’re modeling an existing structure that you can photograph. By matching photos to your model, you can show quite a bit of detail without having to create that yourself, and SketchUp can render a model with photos faster than one with lots of detailed geometry. Check out Matching a Photo to a Model (or a Model to a Photo) for detailed steps that explain how to use Match Photo.

To mix your own colors to simulate paint or to colorize a texture, you need to understand a bit about how SketchUp’s color pickers reflect the underlying technologies for digital colors. Mixing Colors in the Color Picker walks you through the basics.

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