Google SketchUp Notes


This file is the result of my personal note-taking while learning SketchUp.  I am not an expert in SketchUp, nor is this a complete SketchUp tutorial, nor is it intended to be for everyone.  It may, however, be useful for people like me that don’t have patience to watch video tutorials and prefer to just dive into an application, figuring things out as they go.  Also, this is focused on drawing parts that will then be printed out as working drawings for construction.  SketchUp has many other facets not covered as they don’t particularly interest me.  This is a compilation of my notes, taken from various sources, many as direct cut/paste operations.  While I’ve made no attempt at individually citing each point (I hadn’t really intended to share this when I started), I have placed my sources at the end.  Note that this document may be updated as I learn more.


  • You can use the keyboard to enter very precise distances.  When you create a line, box, circle, etc., or are scaling, rotating, extruding, moving, etc., after the initial click you can type in any value, or values separated by a comma in the case of a box, via the keyboard.  If you don’t like that value, you can type another in, and again, over and over, until you like it.  Once you move to the next entity, you can still change things via the scale, move, or rotate tools, or sometimes the component info window.  Also, when typing in, it will assume the units defined by the model, but you can add whatever units you like just by typing them in (eg: 12mm even if the model is set to use meters).  You can view these numbers via the measurements toolbar.
  • Tools or other controls can operate differently depending if things are preselected.  The follow-me tool is a prime example.  There are some tools that work slightly differently from the pull down menus rather than the context (right-click) menu (like making components).
  • Context is important.  If you are editing a group or component, making it “the context,” then scaling, for example, will be on that group, not the whole model.  Components can contain components or groups, or vice-versa.  There does not appear to be a fixed limit on how far this nesting can go, but it can be computer intensive.
  • The status bar at the bottom often has useful information or hints about what to do next when using a tool.  The colours of various guides and the cursor dots have meaning as you draw.
  • There are many Ruby plugins for SketchUp that do a lot of very useful things.  SketchUp is not really complete without them.

Getting Started

  • In Window - Model Info, you can set many model defaults, like the units.
  • Draw a box in 2D, extrude a face into 3D.  Draw a line on a face to divide it and then extrude one of the faces away.  You are now editing a model in 3D.
  • Select a line and move it, notice how it distorts everything connected to it.
  • Undo - it’s very useful.
  • Select everything and make them a single component or group object.
  • Add a line connected to the above object.
  • Move the line, noting how the object does not distort.
  • Select the line and cut it.
  • Double-click the object with the select tool to edit it.
  • Paste in Place to put the line in the object.
  • Click outside the object edit frame to close editing on the object
  • The line is now part of the object group/component.
  • Open the Scene window and create a scene.
  • Orbit/Pan/Zoom around until the object looks like what you want.
  • Update the scene (right-click on the scene tab).
  • Print Preview, without setting extents to model.
That’s pretty much it, all the rest is detail.

Mouse Shortcuts

  • No matter the tool, the middle mouse button will orbit, shift middle will pan.
  • Double-clicking the middle mouse button on an entity will make it center on the screen, though not so easy to avoid zooming with a wheel/button while doing this.
  • Double-left-click on a face with the select tool will select the face and the lines that boarder it.
  • Triple-left-click with select tool will select all connected.
  • Select left-to-right will select anything fully in the box; selecting right-to-left will select anything touching the box/line.
  • Double-left-clicking will repeat the last operation.

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • There are very little by way of default keyboard shortcuts but it is very easy to add your own via the Windows - Preferences menu item.  Once you set things up, you can save them by exporting/importing your preference file.  I find it helpful to set the alt-arrows to predefined views, L to open the layers window (L again will collapse but not close it … I drop all the collapsed windows over-top each other on an unused area of the menu bar), C for components, I for info, etc...  
  • The arrow keys constrain drawing and movement to one of the three axes.  Up/Dn = blue, Left = green, Right = red
  • When selecting the shift key toggles (selects/deselects) each time you click on something. The cntrl key enables unconditional multiple select.  cntrl-shift select will always unselect.
  • cntrl-T deselects all, though it will not stop editing a group/component.  You can also just click on some empty space.
  • Use the extrude tool to quickly highlight faces to reverse or delete. Just hover the tool over the face (NO clicking) and using shortcut keys "D" = delete, "R" = reverse face to either delete them or reverse them.  The move tool will allow quick object deletes in a similar fashion.
  • Several tools remember the last used value [during that session] - Offset and PushPull are the main ones.
  • With scale, move, and rotate, typing in units (‘, cm, etc) will set to that value rather than adjusting by that value.
  • Many of the drawing tools have associated keyboard keys that enable constraints on the tool. The cntr key cause some tools to make copies automatically, for example.

  • When drawing, scaling or moving anything once you have started to make a move you can release the cursor and type in the required value and press enter to finish.

  • Move Tricks:
    • Make a copy or array of copies while moving:
      • Move+ctrl to copy + typed 'dimension' + moves the copy by that 'dimension'.
      • Immediately typing 10x [or 10* or x10 or *10 !] will copy 10 times, at that dimension each time.
      • Alternatively immediately typing /10 will take the 'dimension' as the total distance and make 10 copies that are fitted into the distance, dividing the 'dimension' into 10 equal parts - great if you want to subdivide 7 3/16" into 3 parts.
  • Eraser Tricks:
    • Eraser+Ctrl 'softens' edges.
    • Eraser+Shift 'hides' edges.
    • Eraser+Ctrl+Shift unsoftens edges.
    • To 'unhide' edges you have to use Entity Info or right-click context-menu 'unhide'...
  • Scale Tricks:
    • Typing units (10mm, cm, etc) into the scale tool will set length to that measurement rather than scaling.
    • Cntl and Shift modify.
  • Paint Tricks:
    • Shift to paint all that match
    • Ctrl to paint all connected



Inference is about SketchUp trying to figure out what you want to do and the inference engine is why SketchUp is so easy to use.  However, it’s still a dumb computer program and sometimes it just can’t figure out what you want it to do.  Thus, it helps to understand some inference engine basics.
  • Display Aids while using tools:
    • Green dots = Endpoints
    • Red dots = On an edge
    • Cyan dots = Midpoints of edges
    • Blue dots = On a surface
    • Red line = X axis
    • Green line = Y axis
    • Blue line = Z axis
    • Magenta line = something is parallel or perpendicular to an edge.  Also, if drawing across a corner, the line or arc will change to this colour if the ends are an equal distance from the corner.

  • Using inference locking:

    • When using a tool that won’t infer what you want, rotating for example, find (or even temporarily draw) another object that will allow that inference.
    • Hold SHIFT to capture and lock that inference.
    • Then go back to the object you want to work with.
  • Drawing plane
    • if the ground covers most of the view then objects are drawn on the X/Y axis
    • if the sky covers most of the view then objects are drawn on the Z axis
  • When trying to snap to the center of a circle or arc, running the tool around the circumference will tell the inference engine what you want.


  • Layers are for hiding components in different scenes.
  • Conventional wisdom is to always draw on layer 0 then create components/groups and move them to other layers if desired.  This is because layer 0 is special in that components on other layers will always show layer 0 items if the other layer is shown.  Each item in a group or component has its own layer setting.  Thus, it is possible to put individual items on other layers and then hid it.  This will result in the component not showing those items on the hidden layer.


  • Scenes will print as pages of output.  Thus, scenes define the final paper report of the model.  It is very useful when you want a bunch of dimensioned parts to build from.  Simply make a scene for each page you want printed.  If you want the standard 3-view (top/front/side) 2D representation of a part on a single scene (page), then use the CADup plugin.
  • Layers are typically used to define what objects are shown on a given scene.
  • By selectively hiding objects, you can create two scenes that show doors, one open the other closed.  Simply have 2 instances of the same door component, both opened and closed, and hide the one you don’t want to see on each scene.  You could also use layers; open in one, closed in another; to set each scene.  You can also use a scalable dynamic door in one scene.  (Note: “Another Dynamic Door” from the warehouse is a good one)
  • If you create a scene, it will keep hidden objects set at the last update.  Thus, if you hide a bunch of objects to work on something but don’t update the scene, you can get back to only the hidden objects you want by simply re-choosing the scene.

Components and Groups

  • Both allow items to move together and not distort when attached feature (not in the component or group) are moved.
  • Both can be copied and pasted like anything else.
  • All instances of a component are the same.  If you edit one, all will change.  Groups are individual.
  • Components are available in the component library, can be saved as their own model, and can be shared by uploading to the SketchUp warehouse.
  • You can edit a component or group by double-left-clicking with the select tool, or via the right-click context menu.

Copy and Paste

  • The clipboard survives the undo function up to and including the entire model.
  • Under the Edit menu, there is a “Paste in Place” command that will paste the clipboard contents back where they were cut from.  It is very handy and deserves a keyboard shortcut.
  • If you draw something on a group/component that is closed, either because you forgot or because it allows you to draw without interacting with the group contents while still having the snaps work, you can cut these new items, open the group/component for editing, and Paste in Place.


  • When drawing lines that need to be the same length as other lines that are parallel or perpendicular, after you have started the line place the cursor on the endpoint you wish to match and the inference engine will then snap to it, parallel to it or perpendicular to it.

Circles, Arc, and Tapers

  • You can edit the diameter of circles and arcs by typing in changes in the entity window. The circle or arc must be the only item selected.  You can make tapers this way by adjusting one of the circle-ends of a cylinder.
  • If you are trying to find the center of an arc or circle run the cursor along the edge of the circle. That tells the inference engine what you need and it will then snap to the centre of the circle.
  • When you select the circle tool the default number of segments used to create the circle is 24. You may at that time enter any other amount greater than 2 on the keyboard and press enter. That will become the new default for circles for the rest of the session. This also applies separately to the arc tool. A moment of thought and it becomes clear that this allows you to make any regular polygon from a triangle on up.


  • When rotating, if your mouse pointer is inside the rotation indicator, it will snap.
  • You can distort objects by using the rotate tool on an ungrouped and unselected object.
  • If you select a face you can rotate that face and edges of that face. You can use that to twist everything connected to that face.
  • The copy 10x (number x) command also works with the rotate tool to make polar arrays.


  • When using the push/pull (extrude) tool you can reference it to any other surface or edge that the cursor can reach in the entire drawing area. That will instantly snap the extrude to that length.
  • The push/pull tool may be used on any face that isn't a smoothed surface. If the face is smoothed it must be un-smoothed first.
  • If any face is made exactly coincident with another face both will be deleted. This is useful when making holes.
  • When pushing faces if the ctrl key is tapped the original face will remain in place and a new face will be created that is moved.

Tape Measure

  • It will make guides/points if it shows ‘+’.  Toggle this with the cntrl key.
  • Starting from along a line will make a parallel infinite guide.
  • Starting from an end-point will make a line to a guide point in the mouse direction.
  • Use the construction line tool to set up snap lines in advance. It has a few nice features. The first time you set up a snap line you type in the length from the keyboard and press enter. The line moves to that position. Subsequent uses of the tool will automatically snap to that previous value which make setting up more similar snap lines trivial.
  • Scale with Tape Measure by measuring a line and then typing in a value.  It will prompt to scale the whole model.  If editing a group or component, it will prompt to scale that.


  • While moving the movement may be constrained by the arrow keys.
  • If you don’t want shapes touching an object you want to move to deform, make them a group first.
  • If nothing is selected before choosing the move tool, it will pre-select as you move over an object.
  • The move tool, with nothing selected, makes a handy quick-delete tool.  Just let things get pre-selected and then hit delete.  No clicking necessary.
  • Accurately position by grabbing end-points or corners that can be snapped to other features or construction points.
  • Within a shape, individual lines may be selected. If the line is then grabbed at the centre point it will deform the object along constraints that you choose and/or along constraints that don't required new lines to be created. For example, a cube may be deformed to any prism.  You can also adjust the length of a beam that includes features on the end by selecting all the features that make up the end and moving that along the beam length.
  • Grabbing a vertice will deform the object and the sides that meet at the vertice.
  • Selecting and moving faces will deform the object accordingly.
  • When moving, if any edges or faces become coincident it will become a single edge or face.


  • Arrays are made by using the move tool or the rotate tool to make the first copy. Once it is made you type in the number of additional copies followed by the letter x ( example 200x) and it will make linear or polar arrays automatically. The value includes the first copy you made but not the original.

Lathing via the Follow-Me Tool

  1. Create a 2D circle.
  2. Create a 2D profile that is perpendicular to this circle.  If it is touching the circle, the result will be a cup, if it is not touching, the result will be a solid or pipe.
  3. If the profile extends to the center of the circle, the cylinder will be solid.  If not, it will be a pipe.
  4. Select the circle (outer line, not the face).
  5. Chose the follow-me tool.
  6. Click on the profile face.
  7. SketchUp should now automatically create a cylinder with the profile specified.
  8. You can delete the circle if desired.
Note that if you take 2 perpendicular circles with coincident centers and lathe one about the other the result will be a sphere.

Rounding Edges

  • Rounding the edges is easy on one face:
    • draw an arc on a perpendicular face
    • select the target face (double-click to select the lines around it)
    • use the Follow Me tool to carry the perpendicular arc around the face.
    • however, if you then try to round a perpendicular face, it won’t work the way you would expect, say, a router bit to double-profile.
  • Rounding perpendicular faces:
    • The manual way:
      • start by making groups or components that match the profile you want:
        • draw a circle with the desired radius
        • extrude it into a cylinder
        • divide the circle into 4 quadrants
        • copy and paste it 3 times
        • on each of the 4 copies, extrude away 3 of the 4 segments
        • group each quarter-round
        • select all 4 groups, copy and paste 2 times
        • rotate each of the 2 groups around an axis
        • the result will be 12 groups, representing all possible corners in 3D
        • you can then export these to a component and separate model if you want.  You can build up selections the way you would a router bit collection
      • Apply the profile to the corners:
        • on each corner, paste a copy of the profile group that matches
        • explode the profile and the target
        • select all (triple-left-clicking with the select tool will do it)
        • in the context menu, use Intersect Faces - Model
        • use the eraser tool to remove everything not wanted
        • the result will be rounded corners, including the perpendicular intersects, where desired
    • There is a plugin called RoundCorner that is suppose to do this automatically (and more) but it won’t load in SketchUp running under wine (at least on my computer).  However, the above technique allows custom profiles if desired.


  • You can turn off viewing component axis indicators in the Windows - Model Info - Components dialog.  These get turned on by the Align_2D plugin.
  • If you use one of the ‘Engineering’ styles in a scene, you can get a white background.  This will make for better dimension printouts.


  • Each surface has 2 faces, an outside and an inside.  They need to be kept that way, especially if you plan on exporting the model to some other application.  
  • Inside faces are blue (by default) and sometimes during editing they can wind up on the outside.  
  • You can flip the face by selecting the face and hitting ‘R’ to reverse it.  There is also an Align Faces tool you can use if there are a lot of them.
  • the Entity Info window SketchUp puts a "solid" in front of the group's name to indicate, when an object is indeed solid.


  • Internal faces will produce invisible edges on a surface to be smoothed. Deleting internal faces will remove those external edges so the area may be smoothed.
  • Smoothing is a visual effect only. It doesn't change the underlying geometry. As a result, shadows cast by a smoothed surface will reflect the actual geometry, not the smoothed appearance.

Dynamic Components

  • Only the Pro version can create dynamic components
  • The free version can use and interact with dynamic components
  • Some dynamic components are scalable
  • You can take a simple dynamic door from the warehouse and scale/rotate/flip to work as any door.  “Another Dynamic Door” is a good door to work with as it’s very simple and works.

Useful Plugins


Stock routine, adds two commands under Tools - Utilities:
  • Create face:
    Select the contiguous edges where you want a face and then select this tool.  It will create the face.
  • Query tool:
    Displays information on anything you hover over.


Exports to CAD
  • from: http://www.guitar-list.com/download-software/convert-sketchup-skp-files-dxf-or-stl

Unfold Tool

Unfolds surfaces for paper or sheetmetal work.  Located in Plugins - Unfold Tool.  Select tool, left-click on a face, then another connected face.  It will flatten the joint between the two.  Repeat until you have a flat sheet.
  • from: http://sketchuptips.blogspot.com/2007/08/plugin-unfoldrb.html

Rotate 90

Rotates the selected object 90 degrees around the Z axis.  Select a group/component and then Context Menu - Rotate 90 around Z.
  • from: http://rhin.crai.archi.fr/rld/plugin_details.php?id=345


Gives a high degree of control over moving a group/component, including set to origin and Zero on Z axis.  Has many other options.  Plugins - Mover2 for the dialog box.

Get Dimensions

Returns the dimensions of a selected object.  Select object then Plugins - Get Dimensions.
  • From: http://rhin.crai.archi.fr/rld/plugin_details.php?id=158

Joint Push/Pull

Variations on the Extrude tool that can work with multiple faces.  It has its own toolbar as well as being under the Tools - Joint Push Pull, and in the context menu.  It has 3 variations:
  • Normal  - same as Extrude tool.
  • Joint - Works like extrude tool except it will leave faces at edges.
  • Vector - Will extrude at an angle to selected face.
  • from: http://forums.sketchucation.com/viewtopic.php?f=323&t=6708

Point At Center

Default in SketchUp install - via ContextMenu plugin.  Adds Point At Center to context menu when a circle or arc is selected.  Adds a construction point.
  • from:  just move it from the Examples folder

Construction Line Tool

Create construction lines the same way you draw regular lines (instead of using the tape measure tool).  Has a toolbar as well as being under Draw - Construction Line
  • from:  http://sketchuptips.blogspot.com/2008/02/plugin-construction-line-tool.html

Selection Memory

Creates a calculator like memory for selections.  Options are:
  • MS = memory set
  • MR = memory recall
  • M+ = memory add
  • M- = memory subtract
Has its own toolbar.
  • from: http://sketchuptips.blogspot.com/2008/01/plugin-selection-memory.html


Moves all selected items to same 2D plane.  Available under Tools - Align 2D.  Note that this tool enables component axis display.  You can turn it back off with Windows - Model Info - Components dialog.
  • from: http://rhin.crai.archi.fr/rld/plugin_details.php?id=12


Used to generate 2D representations of components or groups.  Good for creating dimensioned drawings.  Available under Tools - CADup.
  • from: http://forums.sketchucation.com/viewtopic.php?f=323&t=35096&sid=222dae16db08381719efab02a0ce7bb4


  1. Make sure the origin area of your drawing is clear.  This is where CADup will place its output.
  2. Select and copy the items you want flattened in this particular view.
  3. Paste them in an empty area.
  4. Explode all items, repeat until there is nothing left to explode.  This is not necessary if you are only dealing with a single component or group and there are no sub-components or groups nested inside it.
  5. Make the items a group (selected).
  6. Run the CADup tool.  It will create a 2D object at the origin (hint, use the top view).
  7. Delete the group created.
  8. Select this object - and edit it.
  9. Move or delete the items in it as desired.
  10. Dimension as required.
  11. Move dimensions into individual CADup groups such that they can be moved to make a better printout.
  12. Define a scene for each component group you want printed.


Unexplodes a circle.  Located under the plugins menu.
from: http://www.smustard.com/script/Weld

My Install

This is just what I do.  It’s not meant to be some definitive standard.  Also, I run Ubuntu Linux so I’m running SketchUp under WINE.  It seems fine, though there are a few odd bits.  Current version, when I last updated this, was SketchUp v8 standard (not Pro).

Installing and Running Under WINE

  • After installing WINE, download both Google Sketchup and the SketchyPhysics plugin (if desired).  Right-click on the files and “run under wine”.  Point SketchyPhysics to the right plugin folder.
  • bug 14045: If you get the error "SketchUp was unable to initialize OpenGL!, run regedit (from the terminal type: wine regedit), open [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Google\SketchUp8\GLConfig\Display], and change "HW_OK" to 1.
    • This is from:  http://wiki.winehq.org/GoogleSketchup
  • SketchyPhysics bug:
    Error Loading File SketchyPhysics.rb undefined method `file_loaded?' for main: Object”
  • Printing issue:  I get a blank page unless I “enable high accuracy HLR” in the print window.  I’m printing to PDF file typically.  Also, I can’t get the export 2D graphics to work at all.
  • I also have an issue with an old HP printer that won’t print dimension numbers.  Something about the font that I’ve not figured out.  The workaround for this is to print to PDF, import the PDF into the GIMP as images (not layers), and then print each page there.  That works fine as the text gets converted to graphics.
  • Display update issue.  On another system, I ran into an issue where the display would not update until the next command.  This is a problem.  
    There are now 2 solutions to this:
  • Solution 1: Starting with the following command line:
    vblank_mode=0  wine "/home/fixerdave/.wine/dosdevices/c:/Program Files/Google/Google SketchUp 8/SketchUp.exe"
    (source: gmharris http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=11980351#post11980351)
    To use the above in a launcher you need to (same as below) create a file somewhere in the path with the above as contents, make it executable, and then point the launcher (type = application) at that file.
  • Solution 2: A startup script as follows:  
    (source: an anonymous comment on ubuntu-linux-sketchup-using-wine)
#! /bin/bash
# Uses xrefresh launched repeatedly using watch within an iconified xterm
# to force Google Sketchup to redraw every 0.3 seconds...
# Stores the PID and kills the xterm on exit from Sketchup!
# Note that I needed to install xterm as well
xterm -iconic -title "Sketchup Refresher (xterm)" -e "watch -n 0.3 xrefresh -geometry 1x1+500+500" & watchPID=$!
echo $watchPID
env WINEPREFIX="/home/username/.wine" wine "/home/username/.wine/dosdevices/c:/Program Files (x86)/Google/Google SketchUp 8/SketchUp.exe"
kill $watchPID
Use as follows:

    • Create a text file with the above lines.
    • In Properties for this file, mark it as executable
    • In System - Preferences - Main Menu, create a new launcher that points to this file.
It’s not pretty, but it works well enough as of Mint 15 and SketchUp v8

  • Scene update crashes:
    • Turning off - Use Scene Thumbnails resolves this.

My Preferences:

  • Install SketchyPhysics - disable until needed.
  • Install standard plugins.
  • Import preferences file.
  • Enable Toolbars:
    • Large toolset
    • Measurements
    • Standard
  • Move Measurements and all plugin toolbars to top