Maintain Appearances When Applying Materials in SOLIDWORKS

Maintain Appearances When Applying Materials in SOLIDWORKS
Posted in: Mechanical Design
July 20, 2016

So you just finished an awesome design that took you quite a bit of time to model, and you are feeling pretty proud of it. You immediately begin to apply some appearances to the part to really bring it to life. This stage normally take a considerable amount of time if you don’t have just one preset appearance to apply. Some designs have dozens, or even hundreds of individual appearances, most of which need to be modified in order to be the perfect color or radiance. Well, by the time you get through the appearances to make your part look just right, you have spent a good chunk of your time on this model.

That’s usually right about the time I realize I forgot to apply a material to this part so that I can get an approximate weight. No big deal, that’s why SOLIDWORKS comes with a fully loaded library of materials so you can use them for measurements and simulations. So, you navigate over to the design tree, right click on the material and select Edit Material. Then you choose the perfect material and hit Apply.


If you did, you just witnessed part of your beautiful appearances disappear, or be replaced rather. That is because when you apply a material, by default it will also apply an appearance to match that material to the part.

As you can see, appearances which are applied to specific faces or features will override the part level appearance. In fact, the appearance application toolbar that pops up when you apply an appearance reveals the order of layers. The lowest layer for an appearance is the part itself, followed by body, feature, and face. (Right to left in the image below) This basically means that an appearance on a face will show over all other appearances and so on down the list.

However, your customized part appearance is gone now since it was replaced by the material appearance. Sure we can reapply it, but why when there is an easier fix? Start by taking a step back and hitting the undo button so you can get that beautiful appearance back on there.

Now let’s reapply that material the correct way this time. Right Click on the material in the tree and choose Edit Material again. Navigate to the material you want, but this time don’t hit the Apply button just yet. First, go to the Appearance tab from the material library.

This will show you what that boring appearance will look like. However, it also gives us the opportunity to not apply a new appearance. We do this by deselecting the checkbox next to Apply Appearance of:…

With that unchecked, it is safe to apply the material. Easy, right? Now you don’t have to worry about following a strict process of applying materials before appearances. Go forth and design beautiful models in SOLIDWORKS, use custom appearances, and apply materials freely.

July 20, 2016
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Dwight Livingston
November 12, 2020
Yes, I been doing that. What about material favorites? How do you keep them from applying a new appearance? Thanks Dwight
Tyler Braginton
November 20, 2020
Hello Dwight. Thanks for reading my article. The trick I use to ensure my Favorites materials do not apply an undesired appearance is to modify them to remove the appearance properties before saving them to my Favorites. The easiest way to do this is make a copy of the material and then from the Appearance tab shown above you can uncheck the "Apply appearance of..." option and apply the "Use custom material optical properties". Save this copied material to your favorites list and it will never override your appearances again.
July 16, 2021
Is tehre a way to set this to default? I do not want material apperiances applied and would like to apply materials from my favorites without all the extra clicking.

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