Google Sketchup - Tutorial on 3D Modelling, Creating Scenes and Animations,using Photo Match, Placing Models in Google Earth

An Introductory Tutorial on 3D Modelling in Google SketchUp By Samarth Mahajan

SketchUp is a 3D modelling program marketed by Google and designed for architectural, civil, and mechanical engineers as well as filmmakers, game developers, and related professions. The program, which is designed for ease of use, allows placement of models within Google Earth.
One marked difference that a user will experience while using Google SketchUp is its ease of use. You can find tutorials made by Google to learn most of the tools in the toolbar which are mostly self-explanatory. This tutorial will introduce you to some of the most innovative and famous tools which make SketchUp special and complement it with the knowledge of SolidWorks and 3DS-Max.
This tutorial has the following parts:
  1. Make a model using Photo Match in SketchUp
  2. Place your model on Google Earth
  3. Creating scenes and animations in SketchUp

Using Photo Match to create models

Photo Match is a great tool for architects which helps you to create models using photos clicked from perspective views.
We will use the following photo to model a simple house along with textures:
Be sure to use the select, whenever you want to select a point, edge or anything inside SketchUp.

Importing the image:

  1. The first thing we need to do is to import the image. Go to file->import and find the image House.jpg provided along with this tutorial to import it into SketchUp.
  2. When you import this image into SketchUp, be sure to check the Use as New Mapped Photo option.

Adjusting the axes:

When you import the image you will see the following scene:
These red and green bars (two each) signify your x and y axes and the blue line signifies the z-axis which is perpendicular to the x-y plane. You will need to adjust the both the red handles  parallel to two edges on one face to align the x-axis with the image and same with the green handles. One should zoom  at will to focus on the bars so that they align precisely with the given line. This is shown in the following four screenshots:

  1. Aligning the first green handle to one line along a face signifying y-axis.
  2. Aligning the second green handle to a line parallel to the first line along the same face signifying y-axis.

  1. Aligning the first red handle to one line along a face signifying x-axis.
  2. Aligning the second red handle to a line parallel to the first line along the same face signifying x-axis.

Defining the origin:

  1. Now move the yellow pointer  to a meaningful place in your image to define your origin.

Scaling the axes:

  1. Once you have defined the axes and origin, you can scroll across any of the axes to scale the co-ordinate system. See the human figure that is provided since the start of the exercise to see what size is ok for your model. You can enter exact figures too during a step, but as this tutorial is just to get you started with SketchUp we will work on a bit of instinct. Once you have scaled the axes, you can get rid of the human figure by selecting it using the select tool and pressing delete.

Refining the axes:

  1. After scaling, if the blue bar is not exactly meeting with the vertical edge of the building, then the green or red handles should be adjusted accordingly to get the best match.

Finishing the match:

  1. Once all this is done, click on done to finish the match on the photo match toolbar.

Modelling the house:

  1. Now we are ready to start with the real modelling part. Click the pencil tool  and start from origin. Trace a face of the house as shown in the figure.
  2. Use the push-pull tool  to extrude this rectangle backwards, as far as the house goes in the image.

When you use the orbit tool , you will notice that the image vanishes from the scene, you can see the model that has been created up to this point.

When you click back on the scene tab that has been created for you i.e. house you get back to the photomatch view.

  1. Now use the pencil tool  to sketch as shown in the figure:

Be sure to sketch only from edges that you have created when you started from origin. Starting from anywhere in the space will land you nowhere! Also trace it by following the axes’ direction only which will be shown by dotted lines when you draw lines. This is how your sketch should look:

We drew the rectangles first because it is easier to define planes and then work on these planes to create inclined lines rather than directly tracing the edges from an image.

  1. Now you can follow the edges of the house from the picture.
  2. Orbit the model and remove all the extra edges by using the eraser tool.
  3. Use the push-pull tool  on the new surface you created and push it as far back as your building goes. (To use push-pull simply go over a surface until it shows a dotted texture and then click and move towards the direction in which you want to extrude/cut.)

On orbiting  you may find that the face of the surface is not there.

  1. To close this face just use the pencil tool  and retrace the edges of that surface to close it.

Adding texture to the model:

  1. Click on the Project textures from photo option in the photomatch toolbar to apply the texture from the image to the model. On orbiting  you see that your house has taken the texture of the image:

Thus we see that photo match is a great tool which can help you create models as good as real world buildings without much effort.

Now we will place this model on Planet Earth!

Placing a model in Google Earth

When you are done with your model, click the Preview Model in Google Earth button. SketchUp dedicates default co-ordinates to your model. On my system I got this:
You can change the default position by going into the file->Geo-location->Add Location... menu.
Also, as your model gets placed in the temporary places, you can right click your model in Google Earth’s sidebar and change the view settings as shown in the following snapshots. The view settings define from what location and what distance/orientation the camera projects on your model in Google Earth.

Animation in SketchUp

As I have told in the beginning animation and modelling in SketchUp are so much easier as compared to other softwares.
Back to the model that we created in the first exercise.

Creating scenes

Whenever you create a scene in SketchUp, the scene is stored as a frame in a new tab.
  1. To create a scene, go to View->Animation->Add Scene and a new scene will be created.
  2. Now use the orbit tool to change the orientation of the model in Scene 2 and create a new scene by following the same procedure. A Scene 3 will be created which will have the model in the new orientation.
  3. When you right click on the scene tab, you will see an option of Play Animation.

Click on it and see SketchUp interpolate between the scenes you provided to it! Animation is just that easy in this under-estimated software.
Some useful tips:
  1. To make surfaces you need to make a closed loop of edges and remove the edges that are inside the surface.
  2. When starting to model by photo matching start drawing from origin.
  3. To make further edges start only from the edges which you have already made starting from origin. DO NOT START FROM A RANDOM POINT.
  4. To further practise photo-matching, use uncropped photos taken from perspective view.


This tutorial aims to provide you the inspiration to learn and the flavour of SketchUp. Google Training is an awesome resource to learn each and every tool of SketchUp. For beginners and architects this is a great software to start modelling with its innovative tools like push-pull and follow me tools, ability to work with groups and components as well as photo matching and geo-locationing.