The Impact of SOLIDWORKS Image Quality on File Size

Article by Jim Peltier, CSWE updated September 27, 2016


One of the many interesting things I’ve learned at Javelin is the effect that the SOLIDWORKS Image Quality setting has on file size. I had always assumed that it would have an impact on overall performance; but I never would have thought it would have such an impact on the file size. Of course, the effect it can have varies wildly across files, so I decided to look at 4 basic shapes: A cube, a cylinder, a sphere, and a torus.

Cylinder, Torus, Sphere, and Cube

Cylinder, Torus, Sphere, and Cube

To adjust the image quality I selected ToolsOptions, then click the Document Properties tab, selected Image Quality from the list on the left. Then I saved all 4 files with the Image Quality slider in the nominal position taking note of the file sizes.

Adjusting SOLIDWORKS Image Quality image quality in Document Properties

Adjusting SOLIDWORKS image quality in Document Properties

Then I adjusted the slider all the way to the left (the lowest setting), rebuilt and saved again and took note of the file sizes.

Image Quality Low

Image Quality Low

Then I adjusted the slider all the way into the red on the right (Highest) and rebuilt, saved, and recorded the file sizes.

Image Quality High

Image Quality High

These are the SOLIDWORKS file size results:

Model Normal Low High
Cube 54kb 54kb 54kb
Cylinder 49kb 49kb 59kb
Sphere 83kb 70kb 1131kb
Torus 110kb 88kb 2198kb


I noticed that on the cube, which has only flat surfaces, the file size was completely unaffected by the SOLIDWORKS Image Quality setting. I also noticed that more curved shapes, such as the torus or sphere, there was a significant impact to file size (13-20x). This is due to the number of triangles required to create the surfaces. The cube requires 12 triangles (2 per face), regardless of the image quality.

If you were making a sphere from triangles, the quality setting makes a big difference between low (where you might have 20 triangles and have an icosahedron), or a higher setting (with thousands of triangles forming a near perfect sphere). This Triangle Count is what is causing the file size to be so large, but there is a way to bypass this effect on file size:

Save Tessellation

Save Tessellation

If you clear the checkbox for “Save tessellation with part document” then the image quality slider will have no impact on file size. Here are the results:

Model Normal Low High No Tess
Cube 54kb 54kb 54kb 51kb
Cylinder 49kb 49kb 59kb 46kb
Sphere 83kb 70kb 1131kb 62kb
Torus 110kb 88kb 2198kb 79kb


Keep in mind that this is a Document Property, meaning it is file-specific. This also means that I can set it up correctly in a part template.

Also of note, this setting can be accessed by the SOLIDWORKS API. Which means that you could create a macro that would run through archived files; and adjust this slider to the lowest setting.

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Jim Peltier, CSWE

Jim has been using SolidWorks since 2001, and has spent most of that time working in the design of industrial automated manufacturing equipment. He has been working as an Applications Expert at Javelin Technologies in Oakville, Ontario since July 2012 and is a Certified SolidWorks Expert (CSWE).