Play video Sketchup Learn About a Great 3D Tool

Google Sketchup is a free, yet powerful 3D design tool. Whether you are on a general art course or more specialist area, you can use Sketchup to visualise your ideas. It can also be used for ideas generation and exploring 3D possibilities in a quick and simple way.

Why use Sketchup?

The main incentive for using Sketchup is that it is quite a powerful 3D design tool that is free. It is a great stepping stone to more powerful industry standard CAD tools. Later on in your studies or in a professional career, you might be expected to use 3D computer design software, but jumping straight into learning those can be really daunting. If you see Sketchup as a stepping stone to those, the learning can feel much easier as the fundamentals of the software are the same.
Sketchup lets you produce interesting designs and objects and feel motivated and excited about the possibilities. It is extremely intuitive in comparison to other CAD environments. You can easily pick up the basics and start creating interesting and complex shapes within a small amount of time. Other CAD workspaces are full of buttons, windows and control panels that put beginners off.
There are so many resources to help teachers, students and developers. Here are a few of those:
3D Warehouse: The 3D warehouse has endless amounts of objects, buildings and other resources to use in your own designs or to manipulate:

Video Tutorials: A huge selection of detailed video tutorials that teachers can use to develop their skills or students can use to learn independently.

Plugins: A vast network of resources that extend the power of Sketchup called Plug-ins. Google keeps a collection of these at:

Community: A space dedicated to supporting the use of Google Sketchup with interesting case studies, galleries and resources:

Will Sketchup be Useful for Me?

It doesn’t matter if you are following a design course and need to produce digital prototypes of functional products or if you are doing a fine art sculpture project, you can produce inventive and creative images and designs using Sketchup.
Feedback from Universities about students’ portfolios is extremely positive when they see students that break the mould of normal workflow processes and try something new. Here are some ideas of how different groups of you could benefit from trying Sketchup:

  • Graphic design students could use Sketchup’s 3D lettering ability to create dynamic typography.
  • Fashion students could try making constructed textiles garments or accessories.
  • Painting students could use Sketchup in an experimental way to create abstract and complex shapes.
  • Theatre design, animation or moving image students could design sets.
  • Media students could design 3D logos or games environments.
  • Sculpture students could visualise what their work might look like in public spaces.

Sketchup Learn About a Great 3D Tool

Starting out with Sketchup

This lesson was designed to help students get to grips with some basic 3D development processes. It uses a free download from Google that students can download at home and develop their skills further.

Aim: use Sketchup as a design tool

  • Outline the process of creating 3D shapes
  • Operate at least 5 tools in Sketchup
  • Produce a 3D CAD light
  • Review production process

After opening Sketchup it will ask you to select a template and measurement format: select Beginning training template in Millimetres.


Learning Movement:

SketchUp uses a 3D coordinate system whereby points in space are identified by position along three drawing axes: plus or minus X (Red), Y (Green), and Z (Blue) Minus being Dotted! You can rotate the space you are in using the Orbit tool.

Task 1:

  • Use the Get Models button to download a light from Google 3D Warehouse
  • Notice that the object has blue lines all around it. These mean that you have to Explode it before you can change individual parts, click on Edit > Component – Explode. You may have to do this several times.
  • Use the Paint Bucket tool to add textures and colours to the object. Try adjusting some of the proportions by using the Push/Pull tool
  • Export the image as a Jpeg and print.


Task 2:

  • Start a new document in Sketchup.
  • Draw a square.
  • Open the large tool set.
  • Use the pencil to add lines to your object, you can then select these areas and delete those parts individually to create new shapes.
  • Draw a square and then intersect it and delete part of it.
  • Use the push pull tool to make it 3 dimensional
  • Add more dimensions to the object and include at least 1 curve
  • Add different colours to different sides
  • Get screen grabs from 3 different angles


Task 3:

  • Download a Lightbulb from Google and Explode the object several times until it allows you to manipulate the actual object.
  • Push and pull and move segments until you are happy.
  • Add colours to different areas.
  • Export and print.


Task 4: New light

  • Open the light bulb file and draw objects around it to generate a light shade.
  • Review production process.

Sketchup Learn About a Great 3D Tool

Want to learn more?

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Editor for Pearson Portfolio.