Google SketchUp

SketchUp editing image of castle

[Updated 5/15/13 with new list of plugins]

SketchUp is a great tool for doing 3D design.  It has a very low learning curve and can be used to create accurate designs.  Moreover, there are many plug-ins for use with the app to increase functionality and interoperability.


SketchUp is available for download from their site, but it is also available on the computers in the Technology Learning Center located on the 3rd floor of Boatwright Library.


There are many sources for tutorials for using SketchUp.  The best video tutorials are the official ones originally from Google and now maintained by Trimble (visit ).  Also, there are tutorial files that can be opened in SketchUp and walk you through learning various skills.  They are available through the 3D Warehouse (visit ).  The University of Richmond subscribes to Atomic Learning tutorials for its community; however, those tutorials are only up to SketchUp version 7 (visit ).


The plug-ins that are installed and are recommended for greatly increasing the utility of SketchUp include:

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5 Responses to Google SketchUp

  1. Matt Donley says:

    I’m curious, how exactly do you interface your Makerbot with Google Sketchup? Do you have to export the model to another piece of software? I have been interested in getting a 3D printer myself, and have been looking at the RepRap, Makerbot, and also just considered a small CNC Router. How has the MakerBot worked out for you so far?

  2. Fred says:

    Matt, thanks. That is very timely as we will be making some posts about how we do things based on our learning. The Makerbot uses STL files so if I want to export from SketchUp, I need to use an STL export plugin (see a and b below). There is nothing in the ReplicatorG software for the Makerbot that ensures a design will print well so I have some rules-of-the-thumb and do some iterations back and forth between SketchUp and ReplicatorG. Additionally, I don’t have to print out too many experimental jobs because I use Pleasant3D CAD to visualize the “gcode” code that would be sent to the printer to do a quick reality check on how well something will print. Also, I use SketchUp Pro so I will use the solid tools a lot along with the Solid Inspector plugin ( ) and Fix Solid plugin ( ). Separately, if you want to use designs from Thingiverse where everyone shares the STL files but only some share there CAD files, I use a STL importer plugin for SketchUp as well (see c below).

    Hope that helps.
    Fred Hagemeister

    STL Exporting from SketchUp
    (a) One tool from CADspan and works well as long as you create a free account with their company that is needed each time you use the tool. It also has nice tools for working with solid objects that are otherwise only included in Google SketchUp Pro. Visit for more information.
    (b) Another tool is free and requires no account registrations; however, it lacks those tools for solids that CADspan has. Visit for more information. Please note that we have found it easier to install and use the .RB version of the plugin rather than using the method that mentions the .RBZ file.

    STL Importing to SketchUp
    (c) Jim Foltz has an STL importer plugin at

  3. I really have no idea when it comes to 3D modeling but more and more it seems to creep into my line of work (graphic and web design), even photoshop has implemented 3D into it’s latest versions. Add to this the media is chock full or articles on 3D printing and 3D printing devices so tell me is sketchup really the best place to start learning or is there a better tool?

    • Fred says:

      Thanks for the comment. 3D continues to stretch it’s boundaries. I don’t think it will kill 2D but it will continue to trend towards ubiquity. My university has not jumped onto Adobe Creative Cloud yet so I have only read about the recent addition of supporting 3D model file formats to Photoshop.

      I learned basic AutoCAD 15+ years ago but left it behind awhile back. So in the modern 3D design world, I was raised on SketchUp. It is a really good tool at the free level, but really needs the pro level to work with 3D printing well. Even then, the 3D tools are good for adding 3D shapes together or finding overlaps, but they are not good for editing mesh surfaces or for ensuring a 3D model is printable. For a 3D model to be printable, it must be manifold meaning it has well-defined shells or surfaces that do not have gaps between the faces. There are some plug-ins that will fix that (my post that you commented on has all the plugins that we strongly suggest people using SketchUp adopt ( ). SketchUp has a really low learning curve when all is said and done and the amount and quality of video tutorials is amazing. As a designer, I’m thinking you may get torn, i.e., I would say start with SketchUp, but it doesn’t have the visual power of Photoshop without plugins; however, Photoshop doesn’t have the ease of use for working with 3D models. So there are commercial SketchUp plugins that do better photorealistic rendering, etc. For 3D printing, advanced needs usually take some people away from SketchUp and toward a more serious CAD app. Adobe Inventor is really good. At UR, we will soon begin using Spaceclaim as it is cheap for academics and has a little higher learning curve than Sketchup but is very similar and has the power of real CAD apps. There are also free/low cost apps like Netfabb and Rhino 3D.

      Another approach to take might be to use a web-based tool like tinkercad to get started and then decide whether it seems like you would then prefer keeping it simple (SketchUp) or whether you want a lot more tools (Inventor, etc.).

  4. Awesome post! I love the recommended plugin section. I didn’t know there was even a plugin to export to dxf.

    I have a list of 5 essential plugins on my site. Of my 5 it looks like only one is covered on your list (or have different names).

    I highly recommend Flatten, Weld, Remove Lonely Vertices, & Joint Push Pull

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