Sketchup (formerly Google Sketchup) is 3D modeling software that’s easy to use and has an extensive database of user-created models available for download. You can use it to sketch (or import) models to assist with all kinds of projects—furniture building, video game creation, 3D printing, interior design, and whatever else you can think of.

What Is Sketchup?

SketchUp is an intuitive 3D modeling application that lets you create and edit 2D and 3D models with a patented “Push and Pull” method. The Push and Pull tool allows designers to extrude any flat surface into 3D shapes. All you have to do is click an object and then start pulling it until you like what you see.

SketchUp is a program used for a wide range of 3D modeling projects like architectural, interior design, landscape architecture, and video game design, to name a few of its uses.

The program includes drawing layout functionality, surface rendering, and supports third-party plugins from the Extension Warehouse. The app has a wide range of applications, including in the worlds of architecture, interior design, landscaping, and video game design. Sketchup has also found success with people who want to create, share, or download 3D models for use with 3D printers.

Sketchup was created in 1999 by @Last Software. In 2006, Google acquired SketchUp after @Last Software created a plugin for Google Earth that caught the eye of the tech giant. In 2012, Trimble Navigation (now Trimble Inc.) acquired Sketchup from Google and expanded the app by launching a new website that hosts plugins and extensions.

What Are the Different Versions of Sketchup?

SketchUp comes in three different versions to suit different needs:

  • SketchUp Make: SketchUp Make is a freeware version that you can download after signing up for a free account. Make is free-to-use for home, personal and educational use and it begins with a free 30-day trial of SketchUp Pro. Although Make is no longer updated following the November 2017 release, you can still download the installer to use on your computer.
  • SketchUp Pro: SketchUp Pro ($695) is the premium version of the software. It contains added functionality like the ability to import and export different file formats, access to a 2D documentation software, layout tools, and a Style Builder that lets you create custom edge styles for models.
  • SketchUp Free: The successor to Make, SketchUp Free was released in November 2017 as a web-based application. To use it, you must sign up for a free Timble ID with a valid email address. SketchUp Free lacks a lot of the features Pro has, but if you’re just building and viewing 3D models for personal use (or looking for something that can print to your 3D printer), this is a great place to start.

Hit Up the Sketchup 3D Warehouse

Now that you’ve got SketchUp installed it’s time to get started by searching through the 3D Warehouse, where you can view and download pretty much anything ever created on the platform.

3D Warehouse is a database of user-created models available for anyone to access. Just head on over to their website and start searching through the seemingly endless warehouse of models. I wasn’t joking when I said you could find pretty much anything on here. They have everything from simple buildings to an entire medieval city!

Here are a few interesting things you can find using the Warehouse:

That’s just an eclectic selection, but you can find models to help with whatever project you’ve got going.

How Do I Use Sketchup?

Once you’ve registered for a Timble ID and opened either the desktop web-based app, you’re ready to get started with your first model.

I’ll be using the web-based application as this is the direction Timble is heading for free users, but functionality between either version is the same if you’re a free subscriber.

Upon opening the application, you’re greeted with your first model, Josh. Josh enjoys long walks in the mountains, playing soccer, kickball, disc golf, and well… any sport or backyard game out there. He’s just a placeholder, and you can get rid of him if you want. Or leave him around and enjoy his company.

From the toolbar on the lefthand side, you can click on any of these three tools to start drawing a model of your own. You can use the pencil to draw lines, the arc tool to make arc/circles, and the square tool to make squares.

If drawing isn’t your thing, then you can always head over to the 3D Warehouse and import a model that already exists. On the righthand toolbar, click the “Objects” button (three blocks) and then click the 3D Warehouse button at the top. Type in the description of a model for which to search and then click on the object you want to import.

If you already have a model file on your computer, you can drag-and-drop it into the window to achieve the same results.

Depending on the size of the model, it may take a moment to load. Afterward, all you have to do is position the object, and you’re ready to work with it.

While the free version does lack some features, you’re still able to export any model into either PNG or STL format by clicking the folder at the top of the window, clicking “Export,” and then choosing whichever format you prefer.

Now that you have the basics down and know what kinds of things there are in the warehouse, you’ll be able to start working on some models of your own and uploading them for everyone else to enjoy.

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Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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