by Jose Paredes, June 28, 2017

Custom Materials and Appearances in Autodesk Inventor

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Making sure that the visualization of your model is as close as possible to the real thing is an important tool when displaying your models to customers. Creating a custom appearance for your models can be a powerful tool that can be shared with your team. More importantly, having customizable materials to ensure correct physical properties can be generated as well. Simulations are entirely reliant on such information, and a slight error in material properties can cause tons of headache and warranty issues for an organization. Inventor has an integrated materials library with hundreds of materials, but also has a quick and streamlined way to create custom materials and appearances libraries to fit the needs of you and your team.

How Do I Do it?

The first thing you want to do when customizing your materials library is create a new library in which you can keep the materials you will be using. The reason we create a new library even though we can edit our Inventor Material Library is because you generally want to use it as a source for your custom materials. Editing the built-in library can cause confusion, as well as discrepancies between you and your workgroup.

When in a part or assembly you can see the material and appearance drop down menus at the top of your screen. From there you can open the Material Browser where we will create our custom library.


The default location for your material libraries is “%PUBLICDOCUMENTS%AutodeskInventor %RELEASE%Design DataMaterials”, this is the recommended location to save your custom libraries unless you have a different location that you will use to share it with your team. If you are sharing a custom library with your team you can place it on a network drive that is available to all of them, this will allow you to point your Inventor to that location and have access to it. Once you have your new library you can create a material by clicking the icon located on the bottom left hand corner of the Material Browser. When editing the material, you can input the information that will be associated with it, including the default appearance for the material when used and the physical properties that are applied to it.


Another way that a material can be created is by basing it off a material that is similar to it in appearance or physical properties by “duplicating” a material. With this method, you can get as close as you can to your final material without having to input the physical properties manually or digging through your materials to transfer the properties. You can usually do this if you have a material in mind that will be close to your desired outcome but will need some tweaks. You can add this material to your Document Materials by double clicking on it in your Inventor Library. Once in your document materials you can right-click on it and duplicate it, this will give create a new material with the same name and a “(1)” in front of it showing that it is not the original. The name of the duplicate can then be changed to match the name that you had in mind.


If you created a material and know there is a material appearance that you would like it to have, you can search through your libraries and apply that appearance to your new material. In the appearance tab, you can see that there are two arrows facing the opposite way. Clicking these arrows brings up the Asset Browser, which shows your current libraries and the material appearances available for them. Once here, you can search for your desired appearance and then double click it to apply it to your current material. If you created a new material instead of duplicating it then this is the only way to get the metal options that the rest of the metal materials have available to them as shown below. The same process can be followed for your physical properties if there is a material that you want to base it off, the options available in this case stay the same.


With the default appearance set for your material, it will always show up that way whenever the material is used. But what if there is a different color that your company wants the material to show up as in some cases or if there is a relief pattern that only appears when the material is being used for certain parts? You can create appearances that can be applied to your materials in these situations. This is called an appearance override, and this will hold onto the part or assembly even when the material is changed. In the image below you can see the location of the Appearance Browser button and the button that clears out any overrides that you have applied to your part. When creating your custom appearance, you can choose the type of material that it will be applied to, and like we saw earlier the material type affects the options that you have available to edit.


In Conclusion…

Customizing your materials and appearances allows you to display your models in a way that benefits your business and customers by showing them a model that looks as close as possible to the final product. Doing this ensures that simulations can be completed with the most accurate physical properties, thus reducing warranty issues and time to market.

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