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Color by Layer

A hidden gem in the Visualizer 1.1 Update is support for SketchUp's Color by Layer feature. The official docs might seem a bit dry, but a let us demonstrate its useful power with a few simple pictures, such as these two axonometric views of the same Frank Gehry house shown in the banner photo above:

Gehry House with Regular Materials ShownRegular Material Colors
Gehry House with Color by LayerColor by Layer

Using Color by Layer, we can quickly switch between views showing the usual textured materials, or a pure-color view that purely shows off the space, light, and form of this Gehry design. Using layer colors like this is much like using SketchUp's built-in "monochrome" feature, but with the added advantage of retaining all transparent surfaces, like the lattice across the second-floor facade here. We also gain the luxury of being able to choose your color -- or colors.

Compare the basic opaque monochrome view of this house to see what we mean:

Opaque 'Monochrome' in SketchUp SketchUp Monochrome
Color by Layer in VisualizerColor by Layer
Visualizer with Standard MaterialsStandard Colors

In the layer-colored image, we've set Layer 0 to be a near-white, while the ground and external concrete have been grouped into a second layer, and the layer's color set to tan. Using various layer colors lets you quickly differentiate between different aspects of your design, whether it be multiple buildings on a site, different stages of construction, or any other attribute you need to express clearly.


SketchUp's layer menu has its own dialog, found under the "Window" menu. Each layer has a color swatch that can be found on the right hand side of the menu. To enable coloring by layer, press the little extended menu on the upper right (red arrow), and just select "Color by layer" (green arrow).

Because of the way SketchUp manages layer colors, it's important that objects in extra layers be grouped -- otherwise Visualizer may think the objects are in Layer 0. Also, if you alter the layer color while Visualizer is running, you'll need to hit Visualizer's "sync" control to ensure that your changes are seen immediately.

Layer Color in Visualizer - Larger Version