SketchUp is an easy, elegant 3D modeling program. Starting with basic shapes and forms, you can build anything from skyscrapers to 3D-printable product mockups. From a notion — a concept, an idea, whatever your little heart desires.
Since SketchUp uses polygons, rectangles, and 2D lines to build forms, it is not well-suited to construct organic materials: you will have a tough time constructing any figure with curved, irregular lines. Consider using a different CAD program to model landscapes, foliage, or characters.
When first opening the program, SketchUp will prompt you to pick a template. Templates allow you to choose the scale — in inches, feet, meters, or millimeters — of the project.
The select tool is the first item you will encounter on the SketchUp toolbar and is one of the most frequently use. It's on the far-left corner of the toolbar, and has the appearance of a black mouse cursor. This tool is used to select a single item or a set of items in your model, which is necessary to move, scale, or rotate it.
First select the tool's icon on the toolbar. Once your cursor has turned into a black arrow, you can then select an object in your model and manipulate it. Your model will be highlighted in blue when selected. You can also select multiple items by dragging a box around your desired items.
Once you have done so, press and hold Ctrl on your keyboard. A +/- symbol will appear next to your cursor. You can now double click on additional items to 'add' them to your selection. All selected items will be highlighted in blue.
The line tool allows you to draw 2 dimensional shapes. Go to the toolbar and select the pencil shaped icon. Next to this icon is an arrow which, when pressed, provides two dropdown items: 'Line' and 'Freehand.' With 'line' you can draw a straight arc between two set points. With 'freehand' you draw a custom, non-straight line between multiple points.
To create a traditional line, first select the line icon from the toolbar. Once you have done so, take your cursor and right click once on the virtual plane. After you created the initial plot point, pull your line out to the desired length by moving your cursor. When you are happy with the length, right click again to create the second and final plot point. Through the line tool you could create unique shapes, which will add to the beauty and individuality of your model.
Unlike the traditional lines, freehand lines are not straight, as they are made using many plot points. When drawing freehand lines, you must continually hold down the right mouse button, until you are content with the length and shape of your line. When you are happy with your line, release the right mouse button and your line will be complete. Freehand lines enable you to use your mouse like a traditional pencil, to create designs and even write.
To begin the actual modeling process, you will first need to use the shapes tool. This tool’s icon will be either a rectangle, circle, or polygon, with a red line crossing it diagonally. As the name indicates, this tool allows you to draw shapes, which you could use to build your 3D model.
To begin using this tool, first hover your cursor over the icon. You will notice an arrow next to it, and when you click on this arrow a drop-down option will appear. Here you can choose what type of shape you want to draw (circle, rectangle, or polygon). Once you have chosen the shape, you could then begin drawing. To do this, press down on the right mouse button and begin moving your cursor. As you move your cursor, your shape will grow and move in direction. When you are happy with your shape, release the right mouse button and your shape will be finished.
To convert your 2D shapes into 3D, use the push/pull tool. You will find this tool in the SketchUp toolbar as an icon of a cube with a red arrow in front of it. To use this tool, click on the icon once. When you have done so, your cursor should take on the appearance of the icon, indicating that you are in the push/pull mode. Move your cursor over the shape, and when it becomes highlighted in blue click and hold the right mouse button. You could then move your cursor up and down to turn your shape into a 3D object. When you are done, let go of the right mouse button and you will have effectively created your first 3D model.
If you are not happy with the placement of model you can move it using the move tool. To do so, go to the toolbar and click on the icon that looks like a lowercase “t”. When your cursor has taken the appearance of the icon, you could then hover your cursor over your shape, highlighting your desired shape in blue. When the shape is highlighted, right click once on your mouse and you could begin moving your shape with your cursor. When you are done moving the shape, right click again and your shape will remain in its new position.
NOTE: if you want to move your entire model instead of a single shape, you must first select all sides of the object, making the entire model highlighted. If this is not done and you only highlight one shape, then only that shape will move and your model will become distorted. To highlight the entire model, first use the select tool and double click on the model. When this is done the entire model should become highlighted in blue, demonstrating that the entire object has been selected. You could then use the move tool to relocate the entire model. This extra step is essential for the preservation of your model’s geometry.
To change the position of your model, use the rotate tool. This tool will enable you to rotate your 3D object 180 degrees from any angle. To use the tool, click on the icon that has two red arrows forming a circle. Once you click the icon, a 360-degree protractor will appear on your cursor. Place the protractor on one of the corners of your model and right click on that corner. SketchUp will use the indicated corner as the point of rotation. You can then use your cursor to reposition your object to the desired angle.
As with the move tool, you must highlight the entire model, using the select tool, to rotate the object. If you do not do so, the rotate tool will only identify one shape and your model will become distorted.
To change the size of your model, use the scale tool. Click on the icon shaped as a rectangle with a red arrow crossing it. When you do so, a red square will show up next to your cursor, indicating that you are in the scale mode. Hover your cursor over your model, and click on the shape you want to scale. If you want to scale your entire model you must first use the select tool to highlight the object. Once you have highlighted your shapes/model, right click once on your object and a yellow scale will appear. By clicking on the green points of this scale, you can adjust the size of your model.
After you finished your model, bring it to life by texturing it with the paint bucket tool. This tool will allow you to paint your model using SketchUp textures and make your own textures. When you click on the paint bucket icon the default tray will appear on the right side of your screen. The default tray contains all the SketchUp textures and is where you can edit the materials to make unique textures.
To paint your model using the SketchUp textures, go to the default tray (refer to the previous paragraph) and select the tab titled, “materials.” Here you will see several folders containing textures of varying types, including colors, metal, stone, and so on. Pick the texture with your model in mind. For example, if you are modeling a castle, you may want to use stone textures rather than a water texture. Once you have chosen your texture type, select the folder and then pick your texture. You can then go through your model and click on the shapes you want to paint.
If you want to change the size or color of the SketchUp texture, go to the “edit” tab. When you select the edit tab, a color wheel will appear, which you could use to manipulate the texture’s color. Below the color wheel is a “texture” tab, here you can change the texture’s dimensions and opacity.
What makes SketchUp unique, is its ability to integrate 3D modeling into geographic based projects. You can do this by geo-referencing your model in SketchUp and export it into Google Earth. This will allow you to see your model in its natural environment and better understand how it fits into the context of the greater world.