SketchUp is a popular tool used to create 3D models on a computer. It’s immensely useful for everything from furniture design through to house plans, room design, garden design and much more. If you can visualise it in 3D you can probably create it in SketchUp. In this SketchUp tutorial for beginners I’ll take you through the absolute basics. By the end of it you should be confident enough to make your own drawings.

I’m using a PC for this but the controls are very similar on Mac so it shouldn’t make any difference what operating system you use. I’m also using SketchUp in metric but you can choose whether to use a metric or imperial units when you first load the program. You can also change it in the drawing options (Window -> Model Info -> Units).

SketchUp Tutorial Part 1 – Getting Started with SketchUp

I’ll get you started for free – if you enjoy this and want to take things further you can join the Member Zone for a bunch of extra easy-to-follow tutorials.

In Part 1 I’ll give you a basic overview of how SketchUp works, show you the controls along with some of the most important shortcut keys. SketchUp is MUCH easier to use with shortcut keys so have a pen and paper handy to take some notes.

Useful SketchUp shortcut keys

These shortcut keys are the most commonly used tools in SketchUp. These are based on the PC version but as far as I’m aware it’s all pretty similar on Mac:

  • Mouse wheel – Zoom in / out
  • Space bar – pointer tool mode
  • Click & drag left to the right – select what’s in the box
  • Click & drag right to the left – select anything the box touches
  • Ctrl+Z – Undo (you’ll use this a lot!)
  • Ctrl+Y – Re-do
  • O – Orbit tool
  • H – Hand tool
  • R – Rectangle tool
  • P – Push / pull
  • M – Move tool

Whenever you create a shape in SketchUp if you start typing numbers this will immediately give the shape dimensions. You’ll see this in the bottom right corner of the screen in the ‘Measurements’ box. We’ll cover this in more detail later on.

Is SketchUp free for commercial use?

SketchUp has changed hands between Google and Trimble several times over the years. As such different versions have different licence agreements. SketchUp version 8 is very old but free for commercial use. If you join the member zone there’s a bit more information about how to download it.

There are various versions that are free for non-commercial use but I find version 8 does everything I need. Unfortunately SketchUp has gone heavily down the cloud route but version 8 is a normal stand-alone install. Since it’s so old things such as the 3D Warehouse don’t work. The 3D Warehouse allows you to download pre-made models and import them in to your drawing. If you’re drawing everything from scratch you won’t need this. There are a handful of pre-built models built in to version 8. If you want to make use of the 3D Warehouse you’ll need to use a later version.

If you’ve enjoyed Part 1 you can join the Member Zone to access the rest of this series. I’ll take you through more easy-to-follow videos and by the end of the series you should be confident enough to create your own home designs, floor plans, furniture designs and much more.

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SketchUp Tutorial Part 2 – Copying and Rotating Objects

SketchUp tutorial for beginners - copying and rotating objects

In this article I’m covering copying objects, rotating things and giving you an ultra-quick way of creating draft objects that might not need dimensioned. As mentioned in the video, I don’t want to start you on dimensions quite yet – you need to be totally confident with the various shortcut keys first. Remember, please keep a pad and pen handy to write down more shortcut keys. Trust me, you’ll need them!

SketchUp Tutorial Part 3 – Dimensions

SketchUp tutorial for beginners - dimensions and creating wood cutting plans

In this article we’re making a start on using dimensions to create accurate scale models – I’ll also get you started on creating a basic linked wood cutting plan, useful if you’re going to make the thing you’ve designed. Remember, please keep a pad and pen handy to write down shortcut keys. They’ll be easier to remember if you write them down. Also make sure you’ve watched parts 1 & 2 first.

Sketchup Tutorial Part 4 – Layers and Hiding Things

SketchUp Tutorial Videos

As you start working with more and more complex models you’ll run in to situations where you can’t work on one part since another part is in the road. This is where hiding things and unhiding things can really help, along with using layers. I’m also covering off Components vs Groups and very briefly touching on the Scale tool and Materials. Another long one so take a break half way through! As usual, make sure you’ve watched parts 1-3 first.

SketchUp Tutorial Part 5 – Room design & floor plans

SketchUp Floor Plans

In this episode I’m going to show you how I go about making 3D room designs from 2D floorplans. This is really handy if you already have 2D plans to work from, whether it’s a new build or an older house where the estate agent has already done floorplans for Rightmove etc. These can be used to create 3D designs for anything from a single room to an entire house – and it’s VERY quick once you know how to do it.

SketchUp Extras – Real-world scenarios

It’s all very well following tutorials but it’s much easier to understand the full capabilities of a program like SketchUp if you see it being used for real life projects. Here are a few articles and videos where you can see designs evolving in real time:

Initial design changes for our house extension

SketchUp Design Changes

In this video we’re working in real time through initial design changes for our house extension plans. You can hear and watch us discussing various design changes. This was in preparation for the extension of a 3 bedroom semi-detached house so that we could visualise the completed project.

More house extension design changes

Final Extension Plans

Needless to say we went through a LOT of design iterations. We thought this was our final extension plans but as you’ll find out we’re not quite there yet!

Even more final-final SketchUp floor plans

More new plans!

Eventually we settled on this design – our final final house extension plans.

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