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How To Delete a Material in Blender

So you’ve just started learning Blender, you’ve got your good old friend the default cube just sitting there as you begin to model it into something show-stopping. You’ve textured it through the use of materials, but what if you change your mind? What do you do with all these extra, outdated materials now?

To delete a material, select the object and go to the ‘Material Properties’ tab in the properties panel. Select the material to be deleted and click on the ‘x’ sign underneath to ‘Unlink data-block’ and remove the material from the object.

One of the most important steps in maintaining a user-friendly, efficient workflow while working in Blender is to stay organized, and it’s far too easy to get lost in mountains of unused materials with random duplicates cluttering your workspace. Hence, it remains crucial to quickly discard any outdated materials on-the-go, so let’s explore how to delete materials from specific faces, objects, or even from the entire blend file.

How To Remove a Material from an Object

Removing a material from an object can be done by following a few simple steps:

  • Select the object in the viewport and go to its Material Properties in the properties panel.
  • Find and select the material in the visible list.
  • Click on the X symbol right underneath to unlink the data-block. This will remove the material from the object. This leaves an empty material slot in the list where a new material can be created or selected.
  • To remove the material as well as the material slot, select the material in the list and press the ‘-’ symbol to the right of the list.

In this image you can see how pressing the X on the material leaves the material slot to be filled with an actual material.

In this case, we press the minus sign and delete the selected slot together with any material that might be present in it.

How To Completely Delete a Material from a Blend File

If none of the objects in a scene require a material, it can be completely deleted from the blend file altogether in two different ways:

Method 1: Purge Orphan Data

  • In the Outliner, search for the material name to find all objects using this material.
  • In the Material Properties tab, remove the material from each object by following the steps outlined above.
  • In the Outliner, change the Display Mode to Orphan Data, this will show all unused materials.
  • Right-click on the unused material and select Delete or click purge in the outliner header to remove all unused data.

Any unused materials (i.e. materials that are not assigned to any object) are automatically deleted from the blend file when the blind file is reloaded. Hence, the second method includes simply re-opening the file.

Method 2: Reloading File

  • In the Outliner, search for the material name to find all objects using this material.
  • In the Material Properties tab, remove the material from each object.
  • Save the file by pressing Ctrl+S
  • Reload the file by pressing Ctrl+Shift+O and selecting the file name from the top of the pop-up list.

How To Unassign a Material from a Face

If you assign multiple materials to an object, only the first added material is shown on every face of the mesh. But what if you’d like a different material for different faces on a mesh? This is once more an easy task which can be accomplished in a few steps.

  • Select an object with two or more materials attached and switch to Edit Mode by hitting Tab or selecting it from the Object Mode dropdown in the top left corner of the viewport.
  • Switch to Face Select Mode by hitting 3 on your keyboard or selecting the option from the Select Mode list in the top left corner.
  • Select the faces you would like to assign to a different material.
  • In the Material Properties tab, select the material to be assigned, and hit the Assign button underneath it while the previously mentioned faces are still selected.

In order to unassign the second material from the face, reselect the face and repeat the process, assigning the original material to it instead.

How to store a material that is not in use?

As mentioned above, any unused materials are automatically deleted once the file is refreshed or reopened. However, it is possible to save a material (despite it not being in use whatsoever) for any future use or reference.

To do so, simply select the required material in a slot and select the Fake User icon shown next to the name of the material (displayed as a small shield symbol) before removing it. This saves the material and prevents it from getting deleted upon refreshing or restarting the file at any later time.

How to store a material as an asset?

Ever since the release of Blender’s newest 3.0 version, the asset browser has been one of the most efficient ways of storing and duplicating assets for a much faster workflow. So, what is it?

The asset browser allows grouping and storing of different objects and materials (both of which come under the term ‘Assets’) so that they can be used in a drag-and-drop manner to be placed in a scene.

For example, a material stored in the asset browser can simply be dragged above an object and mesh, and it will be automatically added on in the Material Properties tab for use.

To mark a material as an asset, simply right-click on it and select Mark as Asset in the list menu.

To view all the materials marked as assets, follow these steps:

  1. Expand the timeline window or open a new window.
  2. Change Editor Type, found in the top-left corner of the window to Asset Browser. All assets, including materials, objects, and worlds should be visible here.
  3. To only show materials, select the filter option (the funnel icon in the top-right corner of the window) and unselect all options except Materials.
  4. Drag and drop a material from the asset browser onto an object to apply it.

How to remove a material from the asset browser

With the incredibly intuitive user interface of the new asset browser, it becomes notably easy to delete assets as well.

Simply right click on an available material in the browser and select Clear Asset. Once more, the option for Fake User can also be selected to clear the material but still keep it for future use.

Final Thoughts

Materials in Blender are a crucial part of creating anything from truly mesmerizing artworks to photorealistic product design or even colorful game artworks, and this further emphasizes the importance of keeping your materials organized and easy to use and reuse over and over again.

Developing a proper workflow when working with hundreds of different materials is certainly the key to your success.

Thanks for taking your time to go through this article, and remember: keep those materials organized!

Written by: Nabihah Zaheer

Editor & Publisher

Erik Selin
3D artist, writer, and owner of artisticrender.com

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