Introduction to Sketchup

Creating 3D models with computer aided design (CAD) software is complicated, but an important digital technology skill. Sketchup is a fantastic tool that has a web-based interface that is free for students to use from home for a limited time. So let’s make use of it. This post will go through the basic tools and steps to create a 3D structure. Students are encouraged to experiment further.

Step 1 – Navigate to and sign in

When you navigate to the educational address you are prompted to sign in. You should use your own school account like you have been with Minecraft. Use this link or click the image below:

Use your school account to login.
Enter your school email address. It should have the ‘’ suffix
Remember passwords are case sensitive.

Step 2 – Take the tour and start modelling

There is a very short tour of the main areas of the main sketchup screen which is worth watching. Or if you remember working on this previously you can jump right in by going to the next step.

Tours are nice.

Step 3 – Click ‘Create New’

The ‘create new’ button gives you a few options with regard to the units and precision.

We will stick with the metric system using meters (metres)

Step 4 – Activate the instructor

The instructor panel gives you visual instructions about the currently selected tool. When you first start the ‘select’ tool is selected. You will see it’s the very top tool on the toolbar on the left side of the screen. The select tool allows you to select any of the element in your model. You can also select a group by dragging an area around one or more items.

The instructor panel is very helpful when you are getting started on a new complex tool like SketchUp.

Step 5 – Using the orbit tool to move and pan

The orbit tool helps you navigate within your 3D model. The keyboard shortcut is ‘o’ for orbit. When you first start there’s nothing there except the 2D man that looks like a scout leader. Use the orbit tool to practice moving around him. Most of the tools have several options which you will see expand when you click the tool. You will use the orbit tool a lot so have a play with it until you can move around and pan with confidence.

Hold shift to pan. Try it.

Step 6 – Using the rectangle tool

Ok, that’s enough moving around – let’s start creating something. Let’s start with drawing a rectangle on the ground (the red and green axis).

Select the rectangle tool from the toolbar or press ‘r’ on the keyboard.
Easy right?

Step 7 – Using the push/pull tool

Now we’re going to make this 2D rectangle become a 3D object with the magical push/pull tool. We will pull the rectangle out of the ground to make a 3D block.

Select the push/pull tool from the toolbar or press ‘p’ for the keyboard shortcut.
Notice the rectangle is filled with the dots when you hover over it? This indicates which shape you are going to affect.
Drag the rectangle upwards and you get … magic!
Use the orbit tool to look around your 3D structure. Practice panning too.

Step 8 – Using the line tool

Let’s make our rectangular prism a bit more interesting with the line tool. Select it from the toolbar or press ‘L’ on the keyboard.

The line tool shortcut is ‘L’ on the keyboard.
The first line splits our rectangle in half
The 2nd line splits the half into another half.
I’m seeing a big bento box.
Ok, now let’s push that bit down. Remember the push/pull tool?
We’ll pull that bit up…
Let’s orbit around our improved structure.

Step 9 – Using the paint bucket

Here’s the famous paint bucket tool again. This time we have more than just colours to experiment with. There are textures!

I chose this material you can try any of the different materials.
Don’t forget to paint the surfaces on the other side too.

Step 10 – Using the move tool

The move tool is a bit tricky. In sketchup you have to very careful with exactly which element you are trying to move so it’s best to use the select tool to select it first. In the following screenshots I draw a line across the top surface, select it, then use the move tool to pull it up vertically to form a gabled roof.

Use the line tool to draw a line down the middle of the roof. Make sure it touches both ends.
Click the select tool or press [spacebar] for a shortcut.
When you select the line it should turn blue as pictured.
Make sure the line is selected.
Carefully drag the line slowly upwards on the blue axis (vertical)
Repeat this process on the other roofs tops.
Give the roof a nice texture. I chose the corrugated steel.
Finally, let’s draw some rectangles on the walls to create windows.
You can use translucent glass so you can actually see through the windows.

Step 11 – Save your model

You can of course add more to your model, but it’s best to save before you spend too much time on it. As a web application it can glitch and crash and you wouldn’t want to loose hours of creative energy. You can take a screenshot as well, but saving the model is best. Click the ‘save’ button at the top of the screen.

I only had 1 option – hopefully you will have the same one
You can create a folder or just save it here. Make sure you give it a name that is descriptive.


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