How to use appearance hierarchy in SOLIDWORKS

Article by TriMech Solutions, LLC updated November 10, 2022


Appearances can be viewed by creation order, alphabetically, or by hierarchy in SOLIDWORKS. Hierarchy can be a very informative option, because you can see how each level appears. If you add something to the part, then add something to just one face, the face takes priority, but the part color is not overwritten completely. If you remove the face color, the part color will still be there, and you can go back to it by removing the higher priority appearances.

It is common to change the appearance of components and parts to make it easy to tell them apart when used in an assembly, or to replicate the real-world coloring or texture that a finished product with look like.

change appearance of components and parts

Another use for appearances is for highlighting different processes, or features. It might be helpful to highlight the cuts of a feature. Changing the fillets or other features that might need to be suppressed for FEA analysis or future machine would be another place to change color.

highlight different processes

Even another use could be troubleshooting. Change the color of a face on a loft to help find artifact edges.

change color of face

Understanding the different uses of appearances helps us know how we want to use them. But what if we want to use all of them at once? To apply multiple appearances, we can use the concept of Hierarchy to ‘layer’ one appearance on top of another, without losing information.

Here is an example of how we can do that.

First, we will want to change the appearance tab from the default History setting to Hierarchy.

change appearance tab to hierarchy in SOLIDWORKS

This file already has an appearance applied to the Part level.

file has appearance applied

Let us add another appearance that we can apply to just the fillet features on this part. Right-click and add appearances. Clear any selections that might already be in the Selected Geometry box. Set the selection filter to Features.

select features box

Preselect the color that you want.

preselect color

Now we can pick the fillet features on the part to affect their appearance.

pick fillet features

If we review the Display Hierarchy now, we will see the Feature appearance for the fillet is ABOVE the Part appearance.

review display hierarchy

That means if we remove this appearance now, the Part level color will still be there, and the fillets will return to the Part color.

Using the same technique, I will apply colors on the Face level to color the cut faces blue.

apply colors to face level

The Face color being above the Feature color in hierarchy means that if I change the face of one of the fillets, I will see the Face level color.

face color above feature color

When I remove the Face level color completely but right-clicking and picking Remove Appearance from the Appearances Tree, the Fillet goes back to being the Feature color.

remove face level color

Hopefully, this has given some helpful tips on how to apply appearances at different levels. Now go out and color your parts!

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TriMech Solutions, LLC

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. Javelin became a subsidiary of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.