Using Layers in Google SketchUp 8 - dummies

Using Layers in Google SketchUp 8

By Aidan Chopra

Layers in Google SketchUp are different from layers in most other graphics programs, and that’s confusing for lots of people. SketchUp isn’t a 2D program; it’s a 3D program. So how can it have layers? How can objects in three-dimensional space be layered on top of each other so that things on higher layers appear in front of things on lower ones? In short, they can’t — it’s impossible.

So what are SketchUp layers for? Layers control visibility. Use them to gather particular kinds of geometry so that you can easily turn it on (make it visible) and turn it off (make it invisible) when you need to. That said, layers don’t work the same way as groups and components; your edges and faces aren’t isolated from other parts of your model, which can cause major confusion if you’re not careful.

You can find the Layers dialog box on the Window menu. It’s a pretty simple piece of machinery. Here’s what everything does:


  • Add Layer: Clicking this button adds a new layer to your SketchUp file.

  • Delete Layer: Click this button to delete the currently selected layer. If anything is on the layer you’re trying to delete, SketchUp asks what you want to do with it; choose an option and select Delete.

  • Layer Options flyout menu: This contains the following useful options:

    • Purge: When you choose Purge, SketchUp deletes all the layers that don’t contain geometry. This is a handy way to keep your file neat and tidy.

    • Color by Layer: Notice how each layer in the list has a little material swatch next to it? Choosing Color by Layer temporarily changes all the colors in your SketchUp model to match the colors (or textures) assigned to each layer. To see what’s on each layer, this is the way to go.

  • Layers list: This is a list of all the layers in your SketchUp file. You need to know about these three columns:

    • Name: Double-click a layer’s name to edit it. Giving your layers meaningful names is a good way to quickly find what you want.

    • Visible: This check box is the heart and soul of the Layers dialog box. When it’s selected, the geometry on that layer is visible; when the check box isn’t selected, the layer’s geometry isn’t visible.

    • Color: You can choose which material (color or texture) to assign to each layer by clicking the Color swatch.