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In my previous tutorials on adding materials to SketchUp and editing materials in SketchUp you would have gained knowledge on how to grow your materials libraries. But an often overlooked feature of SketchUp is the ability to create custom library locations outside of SketchUp default library locations.

In this tutorial we will focus on creating custom libraries in SketchUp that allow you to easily manage your assets and speed up your workflow. Understanding how these custom libraries are created and located will make transitioning to newer versions of SketchUp a walk in the park!

Setting up your Folder Structure in SketchUp

We all know the drill. You download a file and it sits in your downloads folder eventually forgotten about. Or you lump all those lovely models, textures and styles you gather over time into the default C/User/Program Files/SketchUp..... location and things quickly become a mess. Then SketchUp go and release a sparkly new version and the whole process repeats itself again.

Fear's my take on how to properly setup custom library locations for SketchUp that will make life easy! Structuring SketchUp's file system from the beginning is the best way to keep a firm grip on your assets, become more productive and build something that is futureproof.....almost!

Below you can see the folder structure I use for SketchUp. There's 10 folders of which 7 play an essential role in .

typical folder structure for SketchUp libraries

These 'magnificent 7' folders are the backbone of SketchUp's custom libraries...

  • Models
  • Components
  • Materials
  • Styles
  • Texture Images
  • Watermarks
  • Export Models

The remaining folders are ones I add that facilitate other features in SketchUp that I like to keep in the same area. There is no hard and fast rule on the naming convention of the folder but it does help to keep them somewhat familiar with SketchUp's suggestions.

Creating the Custom Library links in SketchUp

Now that we have our folder structure in place it is time to let SketchUp know. With SketchUp open go to Window > Preferences > File to see the magnificent 7! In this example I will walk you through setting up a custom Material Library but the process is the same for each.

SketchUp File Preferences dialog

Above you can see the Preferences dialog with the File tab picked. This will then show the dialog that allows you to add those earlier created folders as custom library locations.

Go ahead an click the folder icon next to the Materials slot, navigate to your custom Materials folder and click OK.

Assigning the custom Materials folder location in SketchUp

Repeat for the remaining folders to now have SketchUp primed for total asset management.

Adding Collections to the Custom Library

Typically you will download SketchUp Material collections in a compressed format that will need to be extracted or uncompressed. There are built in tools in your Operating System that handle this or you can download numerous free utilities that cover different compression formats.

Below you can see a .zip folder of the Paving Pack that you can download from the Shop. Extract the folder and keep the folder hierachy in place.

Zipped folder and uncompressed folder

In this case I have extracted the into a folder named the same. My extraction software of choice is 7zip and it provides and option to extract the compressed files into a folder of the same name.

Delving inside this extracted folder you will see a bunch of files with the extension .skm. This is what SketchUp uses when you convert images into materials.

.skm is the file format for SketchUp materials

What you need to do is add this folder to your custom library location so the final path would be path/to/folder/Materials/suc-paving-full/ with the .skm files within that folder.

adding .skm files to SketchUp custom folders

Adding Custom Material Coolection to SketchUp

Now you can use the Details button in the Materials Browser to Open a collection... and navigate to your newly added library. You now can access te library at any time using Open a collection... or if you want it to be part of the Materials Browser on start up choose Add collection to favourites..

adding material collections to SketchUp

Remember earlier where I mentioned .skm files contained some hidden secrets? In the next tutorial we will show you how to add some extra flair to your material previews to make them a bit different!

changing materials previews in SketchUp