How to Change the Transparency of a Material

Reference Number: KB-00097 Last Updated: 02-18-2015 12:37 PM

The information in this article applies to:

Chief Architect Premier or Chief Architect Interiors or Chief Architect Lite


My landscaping plan includes a water feature and I would like to be able to see through the water to the bottom of the pool.  How can I edit a library material so that it can be seen through?


Most of the materials in the library are set up to be opaque, so that they appear totally solid.  In some situations, though, transparency can be a helpful attribute.

In order to make changes to a material, though, it must first be copied into an unlocked library.

To make a copy of a library material

  1. Open a plan in which you would like to change the transparency of a material.

  2. Select Library> Library Browser  from the menu to open the Library Browser.

  3. Browse to a material in the Materials library category that you would like to make transparent.

    • A selection of water materials can be found at Materials> Landscaping> Water.

  4. Right-click on the material and select Copy  from the menu that displays.

  5. Scroll in the Library Browser to find the unlocked library User Catalog.

    In Chief Architect X3, use My Library.

    In Chief Architect X1, use User Libraries.

  6. Right-click on the unlocked library and select Paste from the menu.  A copy of the selected material will now be found in this library. 

To change the transparency of a material

  1. Right-click on the material copied into My Library in the steps above and select Open  from the menu.

  2. In the Define Material dialog: 

    In Chief Architect X3 and newer: 


    • If necessary, change the name of the material and replace it with something short and descriptive. 

    • On the Properties tab, change the Material Class from its default of "Transparent" to "General Material".

      Transparent is a material class limited for a specific purpose. Transpar­ent materials are not diffusive, specular, rough, or emissive, but do allow you to specify how light bends when passing through the material

      Index of Refraction controls how much light bends when it passes through the material. A value of 1 is the lowest possi­ble value and produces no light bending. Only available for Transparent materials.

    • Use the Transparency slide bar, or type a value in the edit box, to adjust the material's level of transparency.

      Transparency controls how opaque or transparent a material is. Most materials are opaque while some materials, such as glass, are partially transparent. In some situations, materials with transparency can slow down rendering speed.

      A transparency of 0%, with the slider all of the way to the left, is completely opaque.

      For the purposes of this example, we have set our modified water material to 60%.

    • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes to this new material.

  3. In Chief Architect X2 and prior:


    • At the top of the dialog, delete the name of the material and replace it with a short, descriptive name.

    • On the Render tab, click the radio button beside Advanced, then use the Transparency slide bar or type a value in the edit box to adjust the material's level of transparency.  A value of 0 will create a completely opaque material that cannot be seen through, 100 will be totally transparent and cannot be seen in 3D views. 

    • Click OK to close the dialog and apply your changes to this new material.

  4. When you apply this customized material to an object, it will display either partial or total transparency in 3D views.


You can also add new materials to the library.  To learn how, see How to create a new material.