Sketchup Materials Editor on a Mac

Hi All~

I’ve been a Sketchup user for more than 10 years. I have recently switched from Windows to Mac and have found the materials editor in Sketchup to be very confusing compared to the Windows version. I know there are many posts about this and I think I’ve read most of them. The problem I can’t seem to figure out today is how to save a material that is in your model to an existing folder of custom materials that I’ve already created. For instance- I have a folder called ‘wood floors’ and I have a wood floor tiling texture that I’ve downloaded from the 3D Warehouse. I can’t figure out how to save this to my ‘Wood Floor’ folder. In Windows it was so easy. You have the option of opening a 2nd materials folder window by clicking the little ‘plus’ sign in the materials editor and drag the material from ‘home’ window to the other. I’ve read a few forum threads regarding the Mac materials editor but they are incomplete. Can someone please explain how to accomplish this? There are other mysteries regarding the Mac materials editor that I would love answered as well like how and when to use the eyedropper tool and what are all those squares to the right of the eyedropper??. I would like to officially put out a request for Aaron to make a Mac materials editor Skill Builder video demystifying this editor. Aaron uses a Mac exclusively and he is such a talented and patient instructor. Please Aaron!! Help us!!

Thanks in advance~


As you have surely read by now, the Materials Editor on Mac was created by tweaking the macOS Color Picker (the title still says “Colors” not “Materials”!). This is a standard facility used by any app that wants to let the user choose colors. Many of the SketchUp version’s peculiarities derive directly from the Color Picker. Those who have long familiarity with Color Picker feel comfortable with it. Those who are new to Mac find SketchUp’s Material Editor on Mac very confusing and quirky. In large part this is because of a cognitive dissonance: the Color Picker was designed to manage (duh!) colors, but it has been tweaked in SketchUp to also manage SketchUp Materials.

On the Mac, a folder of materials is called a “List” in the UI and the available lists (i.e. the folders known to SketchUp) can be chosen from the selection box to the right of the little house icon in the dialog. Unlike on Windows, there is no “secondary selection window” on the Mac version. So, you can’t simply drag a material from one list to another.

Assuming you have loaded the 3DW material into the model, the closest equivalent to the Windows way I know of is:

  • select the “In Model” list by clicking the little house icon
  • right-click the material you want to save and choose “Edit”. That will open a secondary pane for editing that material
  • select the list you want to save the material to
  • drag the sample box from the edit panel to the material list panel

There are other ways, but this one is reasonably simple to remember even if a bit clunky.

If, instead, you have saved a downloaded .skm material file outside SketchUp, you can locate the folder for your custom materials by looking at SketchUp->Preferences->Files. Each list will have a subfolder inside that one. You can copy the .skm to the appropriate subfolder. You will need to restart SketchUp before it sees the new material.

This is a frequent source of confusion because the visible eyedropper icon on the Mac Materials Editor isn’t equivalent to the one on the Windows version. That one at the bottom activates the macOS pixel color sampler. The cursor becomes a magnifying circle that you can move to any point on the screen (not just the SketchUp model view) and click to pick up the color from the screen pixel at that location. Because it is a macOS Color Picker tool, this eyedropper is completely unaware of SketchUp Materials.

The equivalent to the Windows Material sampler eyedropper is sort of hidden. The clue/hint is in the status bar at the bottom of the SketchUp window: when the paint bucket tool is active, press and hold the command key and the cursor will change to an eyedropper that works the same way as the one on Windows. When you click, it will set the SketchUp Material under the cursor to be active for painting other things in the model.

Those are the ColorPicker’s palette of remembered colors. The large square to the left shows the active Material being used by the paint bucket. The array of squares to the right are Materials the Picker is saving for you to reuse. These don’t have to be in the currently active list. You can save a Material or color to the palette by dragging it from the active Material box onto one of the palette squares. Then you can make it active at any time by simply clicking it, without needing to change to the list it came from.

The palette provides an alternative way to copy a Material to a different list: activate the Material, drag it into the palette, select the new list, drag from the palette into that list.

To remove a material from the palette, you can drag it to the Trash can (yeah, like that is obvious!).


Thanks slbaumgartner! That was a very thorough answer. I’m sure this thread will be of help to many Mac users out there! I guess Aaron doesn’t need to make a video now. Darn it. Well… he should anyway.