How are you managing your Autodesk materials?

Jun 15, 2016

An often overlooked feature in the Autodesk design suites is the ability to save materials in an external library file. Autodesk material library files have an ADSKLIB extension and can be stored anywhere on your machine or network server. They are easy to create directly in Autodesk authoring applications like Revit, AutoCAD and 3ds Max. Once you have an ADSKLIB file, you can share it with other members of your project team to ensure a consistent palette of materials throughout the project or even entire organization. Here we’ll outline the steps to create one in Revit. But the process would be similar in the other software packages in the Autodesk suites. More importantly, a library created in one application can be shared and used by other applications. So even a library created in Revit, can easily be shared with AutoCAD or Max uses and vice-versa!

To start, access the Material Browser in Revit (on the Manage tab). Near the top, just below the search field, ensure that you are seeing the library pane by clicking the small icon to display it.

Click the icon to show the materials pane

Click the icon to show the materials pane

At the bottom of the dialog are three icons. The first two are drop-down icons to create and open libraries and create and duplicate materials. To create a new library, from the first one, click the drop-down and then choose: Create New Library.

Create a new Material Library

Create a new Material Library

Browse to a location where you want to store the new library and give it a name. It will now appear on the list. You can begin placing materials in this library, or optionally you can right-click to create categories. If you plan to add many materials to the library, categories can help keep it organized.

Right-click to create categories

Right-click to create categories

To add materials to it, just drag and drop from the Project Materials pane directly above. You can drag directly onto the library folder, or into any of the categories if you created them. Selecting the library will display all contained materials and selecting a category will show only the materials within that category.

Drag and drop to add materials to the library

Drag and drop to add materials to the library

While you are working on the library, it will display a small pencil icon next to it. This indicates that it is currently locked while you edit. To finish, you need to release the library. Do this by right-clicking on the library and then choose: Release Library.

Release the library to finish

Release the library to finish

Once you have released the library, it is available for anyone else to access in any Autodesk application that supports the ADSKLIB file format. If you want to see the process described here in detail and see how to load the and use the library in AutoCAD, check out this week’s tip in Revit Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting.

Revit: Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting by Paul F. Aubin
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3 Responses to How are you managing your Autodesk materials?

  1. Phyllis Robbins says:

    The one “gotcha” we discovered with material libraries (and we do use them) is that surface patterns and cut patterns do not come along for the ride. It does not follow the material even if the fill pattern is correctly defined in the model. For this reason, we have had better luck with “Materials Models.” We can then use Transfer Project Standards to bring both the render material and the pattern into a new model.

    • Paul F. Aubin says:

      Hi Phyllis:
      Yes, this troubles me too. But it seems that the matlib files only support those features which are universal to all Autodesk products. So the Revit only stuff is not included sadly.

  2. Anthony Bowden says:

    Nice post, Paul. And good reply, Phyllis.

    This is one of those things I had been aware of, but had forgotten due to lack of use. It was good to read about this again.
    I used to maintain a Material Model too in the past but I found it was an additional thing to maintain as well as my Material Library file.

    Applying a new material to an item such as a table in the source project, and then copying and pasting to the target project works well.

    However updating an existing material can be a challenge. Copying an item to a new empty project file and then using Transfer Project Standards does seem to work for me most of the time. Usually I get the Duplicate Types dialog box where I select Overwrite and the material updates. This is good. But in my current file this dialog does not appear and the material is not updated. Do you know why this might be the case please?

    Thanking you in advance.

    Anthony.

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