Layers, visibility, front/back etc


I’ve read the notes and some previous posts and I understand that layers in Sketchup don’t work like layers in a 2D editing program.

That said…I have two shapes on layer zero and in terms of how it appears on the screen, one is “behind” the other…and for editing/creating purposes I’d prefer they were the other way around. I’m using one shape as a reference template, it’s a jpg with a transparent background.

I’d rather not do this in another application as without substantial investment Sketchup is the only program that will give me the dimensional accuracy that I need for this operation.

Also, I don’t really want to create a real “Z plane” difference in the two images…so if Sketchup can “decide” that one is in front of the other - how do I persuade it to “reverse” this decision, in terms of the interface only, rather than a true dimenionsal difference within the model?



Set the face style to X-ray and put them in the same plane.


Ha! Answered my own question…in a roundabout way.

Styles => Defaults => Wireframe.

No fill = no problem!


Sorry DaveR, just seen your answer after I posted…same idea - thanks very much!


In short, you cannot. In SketchUp, what is behind and what in front is determined purely by their position in 3D space. Putting overlapping things on the same plane usually results in “z-fighting”, a flickering effect.


[details=General help on Layers (which was unsolicited and unappreciated by the OP,) is hereby rescinded due to his snotty attitude. May he wallow forever in the mire of continued ignorance. …][quote=“GreyArea, post:1, topic:47193”]
I’ve read the notes and some previous posts and I understand that layers in Sketchup don’t work like layers in a 2D editing program.

That said… I have two shapes on layer zero

No you don’t.

You have 2 objects (you call “shapes”) that have been set to use the display behaviors of “Layer0”.

Meaning, SketchUp does not have geometric layers. It uses groups and components to separate and organize geometry.[/details]

The forum readership should instead consult the online user guide:

SketchUp User Guide


It isn’t about what you name them - no great problem there. And @DanRathbun isn’t trying to be pedantic about your choice of what word you use for them.

But it’s about what ‘layer’ means in SU and how layers behave - which is quite different from many other drawing and CSD programs which use the same word for a different concept with different behaviors.

Component and groups are collections of geometric primitives in SU. One of a component’s (or group’s - which is a special sort of component) properties is what ‘layer’ controls its visibility. So a component isn’t ‘on’ a layer, and a layer is NOT a container for geometry or components. Nor does it separate geometric primitives with different layer properties - they will still ‘stick to each other’.


I always thought I was the geometric primitive… :slight_smile:

I already conceded the point about the layer…SU uses them differently, I get it. I’m still a novice at this - but to me they sound more like filters, allowing certain objects to be visible and others not - is that a fair description? Bad choice of name on SU’s part if so.

Yes, SU’s “sticky” geometry is quite a surprise for a new user like me; at first making groups or components was a pain…but I’ve long since forgiven it all that in favour of SU’s nanometre-level precision when working with shapes that are too complex for other programs and their “we have a square grid, so everything must conform” mentality. Sheesh. If all you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail.

Sorry if I was grumpy…it just seemed overkill, particularly when both DaveR and Anssi had already offered a working solution - though Anssi’s answer made me wonder…SU is making some sort of decision process over the apparent priority of one coplanar object over another…it may just be that the last added object goes “on top” (forgive me for sticking with my layman’s language)…but from my (limited) experience it does seem that certain objects are favoured, rather than just by order of creation.


I tend to ‘lock’ the background image and add a layer for it, to enable hiding later…

I then often utilise the z-fighting to trace shapes and color them with the background image to stop the z-fighting when done…

here a quick demo of what I mean…



[details=Dan’s offtopic response to insult by OP …][quote=“john_mcclenahan, post:8, topic:47193”]
But it’s about what ‘layer’ means in SU and how layers behave - which is quite different from many other drawing and CSD programs which use the same word for a different concept with different behaviors.

Exactly. Thank you John.

I was being general, as SketchUp is programmed in C++ and it has a Ruby extension API (both object oriented languages.) Everything is an object, or a derivative (called a subclass.)

I wasn’t taking issue with what you called them, … I was simply putting a reference TO what you called them in parenthesis, in my statement.

You will also find that we here, also refer to objects as an Entity (because they are, which is a direct subclass of Object,) or even more specific as a DrawingElement (which is the direct subclass of Entity.) All the primitives and the complex object classes, that you see in the model, are subclasses of DrawingElement.

But as a novice to SketchUp, all this information is not necessary for you to know, in order to model. So, do you now understand why I used the most basic designation for “your shapes” ?

I’ve now been forced to be pedantic, in order to show that I previously wasn’t !

Yes, a fair description. I often refer to them functionally as “shared display property sheets”.

Yep. We’ve discussed this “to death” previously. A mask or visard are other names, some of us have suggested. (But changing will require a massive edit project for the online help content, as well as video tutorials.)

Well, the first word in the topic title was “Layers”,… you made an incorrect statement concerning them.
Because of this, I attempted to teach you something important and fundamental about SketchUp layers. I even included links that you should read from the [online SketchUp User Guide] ( (but none have been clicked as yet.)

In response, you insult me and quibble over the meaning of the word “shapes” (which actually no one would dispute.)

Now, I’m the grumpy one !

But it will not happen again, as I will not offer you any more help.
(You are now on my “mute” list, so the system will no longer show me your posts or topics as “New”.)[/details]


I realise you’re no longer listening Dan, but you offered “help” I didn’t ask for, whilst at the same time not delivering anything to solve the problem at hand. It’s like refusing to throw a drowning man a lifebelt whilst simultaneously lecturing him on his failure to learn to swim twenty years ago.

DaveR, Anssi; I thank you again for the lifebelt :-), it was put to good use.

john - interesting about the Z-fighting…but I didn’t see any at all - perhaps because I have my camera in parallel projection mode as I was working entirely in 2D for this project?

<i>Dan's offtopic response to continued insults by OP, ...</i>

I wasn’t going to, but I forgot to also mute the topic thread, and it popped back to the top of my unread list. (Did that.)

This is a public forum, a public topic thread, in which all posts are for the benefit of all readers who may also need help on the same topic.
… shows you have not yet earned the read guidelines badge. (hint, hint)

On the contrary. You indicated by your words (in the second sentence) that you misunderstood what SketchUp layers do, despite an opening statement that you “had read the notes”, etc. Ie, you made the incorrect assumption that entities exist ON layers, and that you should be able to change the z-order of layers to force one to render atop another.

I pointed out the root flaw in your thinking. (Not just for your benefit, but for any “newbs” that came along and might read your statements as fact, when they were untrue.)

This served to add to what Anssi had said, not detract from it.

And again I included helpful links in the user guide at the end of that post.

How totally bombastic and untrue.
Once again an insult! Saying what I did is like I’d stand and watch someone drown, is just too much.

The analogy is much more like you standing ankle deep in mire, about to slog towards the deep depths of the swamp, and I walk up a extend a branch to help you out, and you slap it away and say, “I didn’t ask for your help! I know where I’m going.”

Well, I know where you’re headed also… frustration regarding layers and groups.

Congratulations. You’ve been here less than 48 hours, created one topic, and after more than 8 years helping people on the SketchUp forums, … you’ve earned a place with only a handful of other people who (IMO) do not deserve the time or help of the forum volunteers. Not if you are going to treat us this way.

I hereby rescind the previous “so called unsolicited” help.


You checked me out it seems, thought I’d do the same. Clicked the first post of yours and;

“His main problem is using incorrect terminology, which translates to English poorly”

Followed by

“Then he demands instant success without any study, and gets nasty when we attempt to point him toward prepared instructions.”

Then finally;
“If it will be like this, I might as well go get a helpdesk job where I can at least be paid to be abused.”

Since this is your “top reply” I’ll hazard a guess the number of people on your list is not as small as you make out.

I didn’t insult you. I used hyperbole and simile (not even metaphor, which would have been “you are” rather than “that is like”). You may have taken offence, but for some people that can be almost a career choice.

Still I shall learn from this experience. I shall deem you an “object”, definitely part of a “primitives” collection and assign you to a layer that does not permit you to be visible.

Now, sir, you have been insulted.


That new information explains it all.
There’s no “reason” for SketchUp to reveal Z-fighting is going on when panning and zooming. Only when orbiting from current view.
I don’t know how to controle which shape’s face will be “on top”, meaning which one will be displayed.
I tried rotating the drawing axes with no luck.
I also tried drawing one shape’s face (grouped circle), then the other (grouped rectangle) and in different order. The rectangle wins both times, overlaying the circle’s face. Decreasing the rectangles size to less than the circles area didn’t help either.
Orbit slightly and save a scene where the other is “on top”.

Wire Frame may help, as having been suggested above.

You may try different layers,
Create two special layers: Location Terrain and Location Snapshot. —> this activates the Toggle Terrain button
Assign this button operation to a shortcut key.
Assign Location Terrain layer to your background group
The shortcut key will toggle your terrain on/off.

Just an idea


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