Make Ideas Real with SketchUp

3D Printing & Imaging Workshop

There are a lot of makers who really like SketchUp’s approach to 3D modeling. Personally, I think it’s a great way to get kids hooked on the idea of designing physical shapes that they may or may not fabricate with the laser cutter or 3D printer. While it may take a bit to get the hang of  scale and accuracy, once you have these habits down, your designs are repeatable with a variety of CNC tools and many different materials. The program is fairly customizable in many ways. There are some really useful plugins, as seen in this list maintained by MakerBlock.

By looking around on Thingiverse and in the MAKE Flickr pool, you can see that SketchUp is a fairly popular tool for many of us looking to bring our ideas onto this side of the computer screen. The Make Ideas Real with SketchUp project is looking for examples of things that have been designed with SketchUp and brought into the world. The folks at SketchUp are gathering stories about how people are using the program to design the things they make.

What have you designed with SketchUp for making? Are there techniques that you’ve developed that make the program better, easier or more accurate? Share your SketchUp tips, tricks and projects in the comments below.

18 thoughts on “Make Ideas Real with SketchUp

  1. Andrew Craven says:

    Where before I would draw diagrams before starting a project (like plans, sections, details, or isometric sketches), now I just model in SketchUp.  Its essential in working out the conflicts of a design before actually starting construction.  I then keep SU handy during the work to verify measurements and so forth.

  2. Halfvast Conspirator says:

    I modeled my timber frame house addition — kitchen, bedroom, bathroom — in great detail to evaluate various options and to get a good visual and human factors interaction, shipped the model off to the timber framer who tweaked it just a bit in their CAD program, then cut all the timbers on their CNC machine.  My builder used that model to cut the SIPs, the whole thing went up in a few days and was accurate to about 1/8″ over the whole structure.

    Amazing stuff.

  3. chris hallahan says:

    I used SketchUp to design our companies non-perishable food sculpture entry. It was a lenticuar mosaic of the Philadelphia Phillies Logo in two different colors made from 1080 boxes of Jell-O on a base of 54 cases of water and skirt of 110 boxes of pasta. The mosaic design used just the fronts and backs of just two different flavors of Jell-O and the the use of SketchUp was to make sure the design would fit and be viewable in the required area and that all of the leveling boards were designed, cut and ready for the day of the build. see attached pics. video of the build is on youtube at

  4. Anonymous says:

    I love SU!  I’m trained in AUTOCAD Civil 3D, but use SU at home.  So far I have used it to design an elevated clubhouse for my kids (; a room addition on the house (never built); a skin-on-frame canoe; longboards for 3 kids (inspired by Make!); any number of smaller projects never actually built.  I only wish I could access the full set of printing tools without paying for a full license.

  5. Gopal Shah says:

    Hey guys,

    Gopal here from the SketchUp team. Chris — thanks for posting this! As you probably know, the SketchUp team are all big fans of MAKE. (See us at Maker Faire 2011:

    Just a plug to encourage all the SketchUp Makers out there to contribute to our Make Ideas Real project by sharing projects started in SketchUp:

    We’re going to build an awesome gallery of SketchUp users soon. More info here:

  6. Per Johan Groland says:


    We are using SketchUp together with EagleUP and Eagle PCB to make 3D renderings of our PCB designs before production.

    It is very helpful for visualization of how the final product will look, and helps us determine component placement (especially if we’ve placed components too close together). It also gives a good indication of how readable the silk screen is.

    EagleUP is highly recommended!

    Have a look at this blog post for more information:

    Some more images here:

  7. Graham Browning says:

    While Sketchup has potential, I would have to say after having used real bona-fide Autodesk products, like AutoCAD, Mechanical Desktop, and 3DS Max, as well as Rhinoceros, Sketchup feels childish and runs poorly. In my technological design class it is not uncommon to hear people cursing Sketchup, or its many error messages (or bug splats). Overall, I’d say its appeal lies in the 3D warehouse exclusively.

  8. Anonymous says:

    We see skechup as a great tool for our small business.  It allows our customer service team to help another person envision what they are buying  Because sketchup is free it also opens the opportunity for the customer to actually design something with our components and see what it will look like before they make their purchase.  Not as many people take advantage of this because of the technical barrier, but some do.  

    Here are some of the sketchup projects on our site

    And here is a complete library of sketchup parts that we’ve put on our site for them to use.

    Sketchup is a fantastic tool.. we love it!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m a fan of the non-realistic environments some people make, such as what Keith Levene has been doing:

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