Beginners Guide to 3D Modelling with Sketchup

Beginners Guide to 3D Modelling with Sketchup

Sketchup Make is a free vector drawing CAD and 3D software (the little brother of their premium product Sketchup Pro).

Sketchup is not the sort of program you would use to make animation or organic shapes. It is basically a CAD program specialising in rigid body objects: buildings, tools, device cases and the like.

In this article, potentially the first of a series, we show you how to get up and running with making models in 3D using Sketchup Make.

Getting Started

To get started with Sketchup, you first have to download and install it. Go here for details. Starting the program for the first time, you will be encouraged to buy the premium product, but of course, choose the free options.

Once you start the program, you need to choose a template. The template selects the kind of design you want to make and the units of measurement you will be using.


Pick the “Architectural Design” template which is measured in feet and inches.

The default scene features a person at normal size so you can design your object in scale. Select it and delete it if you find it distracting. As a quick example of the basic steps, let’s build a giant Sketchup logo.

Rotating the View

We should take a moment to talk about looking around the view. To view the working area, you have a few important controls assigned to the mouse, most of which centre around the middle mouse button (or scroll wheel).

To zoom, just operate the scroll wheel on the mouse. To rotate around the work area, press the scroll wheel like a button, hold it down and move the mouse.

To pan from side to side and up and down, hold the “Shift” key and hold the scroll wheel down and move the mouse around.

Start Drawing

To start, make a flat square. Using the Rectangle Tool, draw a square on the floor. Click once with the left mouse button for the top left corner and stretch the box out down and click on the bottom right corner to make a square.


It doesn’t matter what size it is because you can change that for extra precision in a moment. Look at the bottom-right of the screen as you draw. And you see the dimensions of the box you drew separated by commas.


If you click in this field you can select and retype the dimensions. Type:


And press Return. This makes the box twelve feet square.


Make it 3D

Now we need to pop this box out in three dimensions.

Select the push pull tool, and select the square you just drew. Now moving the mouse raises or lowers the box extruding the box out into 3D.


As before, either raise it to the 10″ mark while watching the field at the bottom right of the screen or raise it to any height and type the precise measurement in afterwards.


Now that we have the perfect cube, we need to do the square cutouts which form the logo. We do this by drawing new squares on the top surface of the box we just made and pushing them down. First draw a new rectangle on the top of the box.


Select it with the push/pull tool, and push it down about three inches.

Make another smaller box on the top of the new step you just made.


Select it with the push tool, and push that down about another three inches.


We have now made the Sketchup logo. Now you know how to make 3D shapes and edit them. Feel free to play with these techniques.

Note: Here’s a tip: remember for extra precision you can zoom right into small areas while you work on them. Don’t try to do everything in a full view.

Save your work in a convenient place on your computer.


So that’s the basics of Sketchup. You can freehand it all, but the genius of Sketchup is how it allows you to make precision objects because it is in essence a proper CAD tool.

In a future article we’ll cover how to get a bit more precision in your objects and how the cursors snap to parts of your existing objects to help you make precision adjustments. We’ll also cover in another article how to make buildings from a plan.

If you have any questions about Sketchup, please let us know in the comments below.

Phil South
Phil South

Phil South has been writing about tech subjects for over 30 years. Starting out with Your Sinclair magazine in the 80s, and then MacUser and Computer Shopper. He's designed user interfaces for groundbreaking music software, been the technical editor on film making and visual effects books for Elsevier, and helped create the MTE YouTube Channel. He lives and works in South Wales, UK.

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