10 SketchUp Hacks That Will Turn You Into a SketchUp Ninja


10 hacks that will unlock your SketchUp potential. I’m back again with another list of SketchUp tips and tricks. I’d like to reiterate a few because of how integral they are to SketchUp as a program. Regardless, take this list as some suggestions to quicken and improve your workflow, as well as make SketchUp easier for you. SketchUp is a very simple yet prodigiously powerful program. Whether you are a first time user, or experienced modeler – there’s always room to learn new things. So take into account some of these tips and incorporate them into your everyday use of SketchUp While the vast majority of our content on Landscape Architects Network is FREE (and always will be), the following is premium content exclusively for our VIP Subscribers. Support our mission by signing up below to access the rest of this article and so much more.

 10 SketchUp Hacks

1. Extensions Are Your Best Friends I want to state how important extensions are for SketchUp. There is a massive community behind SketchUp providing new, updated, and free extensions continuously. Some even higher quality ones are paid for. Regardless, they turn SketchUp from a strong program to a robust program. As famed modeler Daniel Tal once told me, SketchUp is a smart phone and extensions are the apps. Here are a few extensions I use every day that are absolutely essential. Also, aside from the Extension Warehouse, don’t forget to use the SketchUCation apps as well as Smustard.

  • Weld –  – An extension that simply binds two lines together, extremely simple yet useful.
  • Selection Toys –  – Massively helps the issue of making selections in SketchUp. Has helped with a lot of my headaches.
  • S4U Make Face –  – I use this extension most when importing CAD drawings. Making 3D models using this extensions makes life much more easy.
  • CLF Scale & Rotate Multiple –  – This makes making convincing planting in models a breeze. Turns a boring looking “forest”, into something truly pleasing to the eye.
  • InstantRoof –  – An amazing extension that makes beautiful roofs for your houses. It turns a standard looking rectangle into an elegant house. This is a paid extension and sadly I cannot afford it, but I’ve seen it in use and I know how great it is.

An example of CLF Scale & Rotate multiple. With one click, see the before and after. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

2. Styles While not used very often, styles are an aspect in SketchUp that can be great for different looks. SketchUp comes with a wide selection that can be used for different looks. I will often use some fine pen style, use it to trace, and render over. To get a hand colored look on top of a 3D model. You can access it by window>styles

I printed out the super fine pen style, traced over, and then colored over. A much nicer look than a standard model.

3. Photo-Realistic Renders Other tools that can be used in SketchUp are photorealistic render programs. Some include Twilight, shaderlight, Podium, and Vray. Each one offers a different learning curve and price point, but each has the potential to produce amazing renders from simple sketchup. In the past I have used these programs to turn a simple looking 3D model into something that can be used for a final print. WATCH: Examples from the program Shaderlight, a great program. 4. Make Your Own 2D Face Me Trees One of the biggest frustrations I deal with in SketchUp as a landscape architect student is the lack of plant species in the 3D Warehouse. I want to have site specific plant specie that is suitable for the site, and it’s hard to get that precise with free vegetation textures. But, if you’re in an office – or anyone with a decent camera, it’s easy to make your own.

Quick guide to making your own vegetation textures. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

First Import the image of your tree, – TIF and PNGs are the best with them being cut out already. Rotate the image 90 degrees, to make it stand upright. Explode the image, then make it a component, and make sure the always face me option is checked. You can hide the square border by using the hide tool, and it’s a good idea to change the axis to the middle of the image. And there you have your perfect, site specific tree texture. Related Articles:

5. Mirror An Object One simple task that isn’t exactly intuitive in SketchUp is mirroring objects. It’s actually done with the scale tool. Simply highlight your object, turn on scale, move it a tiny bit along the axis you want to mirror it off, and type in -1. Your object will automatically mirror itself.


Quick guide to mirroring an object

6. Use Shift + Mouse 3 To Pan I’m a very big believer in that if you’re not using hotkeys, you’re wasting your time. One of the most commonly done things in SketchUp is simply looking around. It is known that you use Mouse 3 (clicking on the scroll wheel of your mouse) to orbit, which is quickly and easily accessible. But panning, moving left/right/ect can be a hassle, but there’s a quick way to pan. Simple using the orbit (mouse 3), and holding shift down. Now looking around has never been easier. 7. Use Your Computer To Select Colors Of Textures One fantastic feature is using the eye dropper tool to pick colors from anywhere on your computer (including outside of SketchUp). All you need to do it bring up the materials tool (B), select a certain material, and then go to the edit tab. Select the eye dropper tool with the little computer on it, and then click anywhere on your screen to select that color!

Quick guide to mirroring an object

8. Ways To Speed Up SketchUp & Prevent Crashing One of the main issues with SketchUp is the lag that can happen as your models start getting huge. SketchUp can bog down, and then even worse, crash. But, there’re many ways to alleviate this. First off, turn off your shadows until the very end (view>shadows), this will help SketchUp’s processing a lot. Next, make sure to only use 3D model vegetation when absolutely necessary. 2D always face me components help your model in that they’re much more lighter and won’t slow down your computer. Lastly, use layers, try to stay as organized as you should in Photoshop. When using layers, turn off things that you don’t need to see. It will free up processing power on your computer immensely.

Even just turning off the shadows on this model sped up my computer a tiny bit. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

9. Make Section View Using SketchUp This is one method I use constantly for projects in the studio. SketchUp is great for making isometric and projected views, but it’s great when you can use it for a to scale section like from CAD. All you have to do is go to camera and make sure “parallel projection” is selected, and then go to standard views and choose which view you would like.

Here I applied the directions above, and even changed the styles settings to make it look more like a CAD drawing. Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

10. Use The Large Toolset This is another restate, but this is something so simple that will make your life so much easier. Having the large toolset opens up all of your options,. The worst thing is when you want to rotate or scale something, and you don’t know how to get to it. To get to the large toolset all you need to do is view>toolbars…>large tool set.

See the difference in the amount of tools you have at your fingertips? Image credit: Kevin J. Pfeiffer

Apply These SketchUp Hacks

I hope this new list of SketchUp hacks will help you further in your 3D modeling endeavors. SketchUp is such a great program, which if utilized correctly, can unleash wonderful things for your clients and professors. So try your best to apply these tips to become a better SketchUp user. Recommended Reading:

Article by Kevin J. Pfeiffer Return to Homepage 

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