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When adding colors and textures — collectively referred to in SketchUp as materials — to your model, there’s really only one place you need to look, and one tool you need to use — the Materials dialog box and the Paint Bucket tool, respectively.

The Materials dialog box

To open the Materials dialog box (or Colors dialog box on the Mac), choose Window, Materials. The Materials dialog box is radically different in the Windows and Mac versions of SketchUp, but that’s okay — they do basically the same thing.

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In SketchUp, you can choose from two kinds of materials to apply to the faces in your model:

  • Colors: These are simple — colors are always solid colors. You can’t have gradients (where one color fades into another), but you can pretty much make any color you want.

  • Textures: Basically, a SketchUp texture is a tiny image — a photograph, really — that gets tiled over and over to cover the face you apply it to. If you paint a face with, say, a brick texture, what you’re really doing is telling SketchUp to cover the surface with however many “brick photo” tiles it takes to do the job. The preview image you see in the Materials dialog box is actually a picture of a single texture image tile.

    SketchUp comes with a whole bunch of textures, and you can always go online and choose from thousands more available for sale. And if that’s still not enough, you can make your own.

On the Mac, you have to click the little brick icon in the Materials dialog box to see the textures libraries that ship with SketchUp; it’s the drop-down list next to the little house icon.

The following facts about SketchUp materials are also handy to know as you work with them:

  • Materials can be translucent. Sliding the Opacity slider makes the material you’ve selected more or less translucent, which makes seeing through windows in your model a lot easier.

  • Textures can have transparent areas. If you take a look at the materials in the Fencing library, you’ll notice that a lot of them look kind of strange; they have areas of black that don’t seem right. These black areas are areas of transparency: When you paint a face with one of these textures, you can see through the areas that look black.

  • You can edit materials, and even make your own. It’s a pretty advanced use of SketchUp, but you should at least know it’s possible.

There’s actually a third thing (besides colors and textures) you can apply to the faces in your models: photos. In fact, photo-texturing is an incredibly important part of some SketchUp workflows — especially those that relate to building models for Google Earth.

The Paint Bucket tool

The Paint Bucket tool looks just like a bucket of paint. Activating it automatically opens the Materials dialog box so it’s handy. Here’s everything you need to know about the Paint Bucket tool:

  • You fill it by clicking in the Materials dialog box. Just click a material to load your bucket and then click the face you want to paint. It’s as simple as that.

  • Holding down the Alt key (Command on a Mac) switches to the Sample tool. With the Sample tool, you can click any face in your model to load your Paint Bucket with that face’s material. Release the Alt key to revert to the Paint Bucket tool.

  • Holding down the Shift key paints all similar faces. If you hold down Shift when you click to paint a face, all faces in your model that match the one you click are painted, too. If things don’t turn out the way you want, just choose Edit, Undo to go back a step.

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