Pictures as Appearances with SOLIDWORKS

Article by TriMech Solutions, LLC updated February 28, 2023


For top notch marketing materials and visual effects, it is very useful to know how to use an image file as an appearance in SOLIDWORKS. This blog article will use SOLIDWORKS 2023 to demonstrate how to apply .jpeg image files as appearances for making a barn look more realistic. The process has become extremely simple. We will be starting with a simple part model of a barn with a gray appearance.

Step 1 – Find Images

Find or take pictures of the items you want to apply as an appearance and save.jpg file types (other file types work also, give it a shot with whatever you have). I took a screenshot of the example appearances from royalty free google image searches. If you want the appearance to work for a multiuser environment make sure the picture you want to use is saved where everyone has access to it. Then open your windows explorer and browse to the location you saved the image and leave it onscreen beside your SOLIDWORKS screen.

adding images

Step 2 – Drag and Drop

Yes, it really is that easy to apply the image. If we click on the file we want to apply and drag it over a face of the part we would like to apply it to, we will notice it says + Copy, when the mouse button is released a toolbar appears that will prompt us to apply the appearance at a certain level on the component we dropped it on. For these examples we will apply the appearance to the face as well as bodies of the “barn” part. The face and bodies don’t have to always have flat sides like in this example, we can apply appearances to any shape. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly the way you want it yet, we will be adjusting the mapping and some other options in the next step.

Step 3 – Mapping and Other Settings

To finish off this process we can make some adjustments to the appearance that was applied. To open this appearance to edit it, my favorite way is to simply click on the appearance you wish to edit in the graphics area. A toolbar should pop up that allows you to click a downward arrow near a juggling ball symbol.

editing grapics area

When this downward arrow is clicked it will show the hierarchy of appearances applied to what you clicked on. If we select the appearance that was applied to this face it will open an editor in the property manager that will allow us to change the mapping of this image, as well as other settings. If you want to remove appearances, this technique also works but simply click the red x next to the appearance you wish to remove. See the image below for the property manager that should appear on the left of your screen. (Note, I selected the advanced options at the very top setting).

advanced texture

The mapping tab allows you to adjust how the image appears on your face. Here is a link about how the mapping works: Appearances Mapping PropertyManager – 2023 – SOLIDWORKS Help, but you could also play around with the settings to figure them out with a hands on approach. See how I adjusted the settings in the image below:

adjusting image settings

After the images are all mapped appropriately, we can still control other things about them. Here I notice my colors aren’t as bright as I would hope for on the barn door, so I can go into the illumination tab across the top tabs and change the luminous intensity of the image to make the colors appear more vivid. (0.5 is a bright setting). There are a lot of other things that can be adjusted in here as well. Click in the graphics area after typing in a new value to preview the changes before you close the property manager.

 default textures


Appearances can easily be applied with drag and drop functionality throughout the SOLIDWORKS environment. It is also very easy to apply backgrounds in the same fashion and all of the preset files can be found from the juggling ball icon on the task panel. Dragging and dropping them into the background of the part can give an extra realistic effect. For more photorealistic rendering capability we highly recommend SOLIDWORKS Visualize, but as we saw it is pretty simple to add visual effects instead of just looking at boring gray 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.