More Basic Sketchup Construction Tips and Tools

Following our recent trip around the Sketchup Make software, here are a few more tools you can use to make better models.

In this article we cover using guides, snapping cursors, reference points and other built-in tools to help you make cleaner, more precise models.

Initially, Sketchup Make seems like a weird way to make things in 3D. It can be, but if you allow it to help you, things get a lot easier. For example, there are lots of built in guides to help you make shapes more accurately.

Draw a rectangle. Then use the push pull tool to extrude it into a solid. Hover along the edge of the box, and you will see the cursor snaps to various points along the edge, end points, on edge points and midpoints. Using these snapped points makes for greater precision when drawing what have to be precise shapes.

Hover the cursor over a corner and you see the end point.


Hover the cursor along any edge and you see the edge point.


And hover around the middle and you see the mid point.


Also, when drawing lines (and using the move tool), you can use built-in axis guides to show you where the axes are.

For example, when drawing a line, you can search for and find the x and y axes (side to side and forward and backward in red and green) and the z axis (up and down in blue) before you draw. This way you can make a clean line down an axis freehand.

Use the pencil tool to draw a line. Find the mid point on the edge, and click once to start the line. Go along the middle of the surface, and the line at some point will turn red. This is the centre line.


Now either plant a point in the middle or go along the edge at right angles to the red axis, and the line will turn green. This is the axis parallel to the edge.


Or take the cursor upwards until the line turns blue, and you are rising above the surface in the up/down axis.


It helps the alignment of your lines if you know exactly where the axes are.

When you make shapes in addition to the initial shapes, sometimes you get extra edges you don’t need, like the one below between the two boxes.


If you should ever have additional edges you don’t need and you want to make the faces continuous, use the eraser to “heal the surface” as they call it in Sketchup speak.


A good way to align surfaces you are moving to other existing surfaces is to let Sketchup know which edges and surfaces are of interest to you, and it will align them for you automatically.

Make a rectangle on the side of the box you made earlier.


Use the push pull tool to make a slot in the box.


Now draw another rectangle in the side a little further over.


Use the push pull tool to make another slot.

When you get to where you want the slot to end, take the cursor over to the end of the other slot, and the end of the new slot will be automatically aligned.


This works in a number of drawing tools. Hover over a reference point. Usually a black dot will be displayed for a moment signifying Sketchup has noticed your reference point. Then draw and there will be a noticeable snap point where you should begin to draw.

In this way you can align any number of repetitive drawing actions against previous actions.

And finally, if you know the dimensions of the object you are trying to draw, you can just type it in.

Begin to draw a line, them type in the length, like 10’ (shorthand for 10 feet), and the line snaps to that real world length. If you want a square you are drawing to be exactly 10 inches square, for example, just start to draw the square and type 10”, 10”.


The shape will automatically be drawn for you to exactly 10×10 inches.


You don’t have to click the cursor on the dimensions bar at the bottom right; the program will understand what you mean when you start to type in the figures.

Sketchup has a lot of guides and tools built in to help you make precise machine-like drawings without special skills or other tools.

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

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