SketchUp Basics with Daniel Tal
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SketchUp Basics with Daniel Tal

Jan 10, 2014
Video Length:  1:15
Presented By:  Daniel Tal

This 1-hour session reviews how SketchUp can be used for Site Design. Landscape Architect and author, Daniel Tal provides an overview of SketchUp tools, capabilities and methods. Daniel includes an overview of basic tools and resources that viewers can use to follow up and learn SketchUp on their own. This webinar demonstrates how to build a simple site plan and focuses on important tools that new SketchUp users will need to learn to model their own projects.

Daniel touches on a few advanced features such as terrain modeling and ruby scripts, as well as several take aways ideal for new users including models and guides.  Download a pdf of Daniel Tal's SketchUp Basics Cheat Sheet by clicking the button below.  

For more tutorials on SketchUp from Daniel Tal, visit his website,


0:00 – 6:40: Intro

6:41 – 9:13: How to Learn SketchUp / Resources

9:14 – 10:38: Left Brain vs. Right Brain

10:39 – 11:54: 2D Plan Sketching (in order to achieve left brain to right brain shift)

11:55 – 12:37: SketchUp Basics Cheat Sheet

12:38 – 13:49: Daniel Tal’s SketchUp Book / Models

13:49 – 14:27: Table of Contents

14:28 – 1:15:24: SketchUp Demo

Simple Concepts (14:33)

  • Turning on layers to see vegetation (14:52)
  • “2DFaceMe” vegetation (available online for free) (15:05)
    • Note: It's important for SketchUp beginners to start with these basic, 2-dimensional, “wafer-thin” vegetation models rather than more advanced 3D models.
  • Navigation feature (16:40)
    • Note: Daniel recommends NOT using the navigation tools in the SketchUp panel (Orbit, Pan, Zoom ExtentsZoom). Instead, he recommends using the mouse to navigate. (17:22)
      • Why? It allows more freedom in navigation (17:48)
    • Using the mouse to navigate in SketchUp (18:01)
      • Orbiting (holding down the middle mouse wheel and moving the mouse accordingly) (18:05)
      • Zooming (rolling the middle mouse wheel forward and backward to zoom in and out, respectively) (18:09)
      • Panning (holding down the middle mouse wheel while holding down the SHIFT key) (18:12)
      • “Point and Shoot” capability (zooming in by pointing and clicking the mouse at the intended zoom point) (18:33)
  • HOW to navigate around a model (19:03)
    • DON’T: work with the model off to the side and zoomed excessively out (19:05)
    • DO: When working on a particular object/portion of a model, CENTER that object/portion on the screen and look at it from an upward angle (19:16)
    • Proper navigation around a model (19:36)
      • Note: Remember to be constantly moving around your model, rather than taking a static view. (19:45)

Basic Tools (20:24)

  • Paint Bucket (20:35)
    • Painting/Coloring an object with the Paint Bucket (note: this tutorial is for the Paint Bucket for Windows computers; a separate tutorial for the Mac Paint Bucket is available online) (20:35)
      • Accessing the Paint Bucket in the Materials dialog box (20:38)
        • Choosing Paint Bucket colors from the Color menu (21:00)
    • Applying a color to an area in the model by clicking the color in the palette and then clicking the area to paint (21:06)                                                     
  • PushPull (21:10)
    • Extruding objects (pulling them out from 2D space to make them 3D) using the PushPull Tool (21:10)
      • DO: Apply color to a flat surface first, before extruding a 3D object; DON’T extrude the object first (21:10)
  • Applying color to all sides of an extruded object automatically by first painting the initial surface and then using the PushPull tool to extrude an already-painted object (21:30)
    •  Note: “Add color first, then extrude” is the fundamental method of working with SketchUp.                                                                  
  • Rectangle Tool (22:09)
    • Drawing a 2D rectangle (22:09)
    • Setting the dimensions of the rectangle by entering them in the Dimensions field (22:17)
    • Making a wall using this rectangle:
      • Applying a color to the 2D rectangle (22:27)
      • Extruding the rectangle using the PushPull tool (22:38)
      • Selecting the top surface of the wall by clicking with the mouse (22:47)
  • Offset Tool (22:50)
    • Selecting the surface (not the edges) of the top of the wall (22:59)
    • Extruding the top surface of the wall outward using the Offset Tool (23:05)
    • Applying color to the outwardly extruded surface (23:09)
    • Extruding the top surface upward using the PushPull tool (23:13)
    • Overview of wall (23:19)
  • Scale Tool (23:30)
    • Drawing another wall, then selecting the top surface with the Scale Tool (23:43)
    • Adjusting the scale and angles of the wall using the Scale tool (23:48)
    • Creating cantilevered walls on a planter using the Scale tool (24:00)
  • Identification/Location of the Primary Set of SketchUp Tools (24:32)
    • Quick overview/identification/location of the primary SketchUp tools: Drawing Tools (Square, Line, Arc), as well as the Modification Tools (Move, PushPull, Rotate, Scale, FollowMe, Offset) (24:40)
    • Demonstration of SketchUp Tools By modeling a set of steps (25:13)
      • Extruding individual steps manually using the PushPull tool (25:21)
      • Demonstration of memory built into PushPull and other SketchUp tools (double-clicking and extruding steps automatically to a preset height) (25:35)
      • Further demonstration of extruding, adjusting, etc. (26:15)         
  • Sandbox Tools (27:26)
    • Demonstration of creating terrain and grading using the Sandbox Tools (27:28)
    • Selecting edges/profile to grade using the Sandbox Tools (28:12)                                                                                                                           
  • MoveTool (29:00)
    • Overview of Move Tool as a tool that allows you to move, rotate, and copy (29:09)
    • Demonstration of copying and moving a tree using the Move Tool (29:33)
      • Creating an “instant” orchard using the Move Tool (29:57)
      • Creating equidistant space between several trees using the Move Tool (30:22)
    • Important point: When selecting objects to copy or move them, ALWAYS start at the bottom-most point, where it meets the ground (otherwise, the object can become buried in the ground in the model) (30:50)
    • Rotating objects using the Move Tool (selecting object, hovering over it, and rotating it by moving the crosshairs that appear) (31:50)

Extensions (AKA Plugins) (33:33)

  • Instant Roof Extension (33:53)
    • Selecting a surface, then extruding a roof by clicking Plugins > Instant Roof  Make Roof (34:04)
      • Selecting a predetermined roof style from the Roof Style? dialog box (34:24)
  • Extension Warehouse (34:55)
    • Accessing the Extension Warehouse by clicking Window > Extension Warehouse (35:10)
  • Land F/X Extension (free download) (35:25)
    • Installing theLand F/X extension (same process as installing other extensions) (35:33)
    • The Land F/X Toolbar (36:02)                                                           
  • Vali ArchitectsExtensions (purchasable download) (36:37)
    • Accessing the Instant Fence Railing extension by clickingPlugins >Vali Architects >Instant Fence Railing (36:47)
    • Creating a fence with the Instant Fence Railing extension (37:00)


Instant Site Plan Demonstration(37:48)

Terrain Modeling Demonstration (40:12)

Terrain Tools (41:47)

  • Sandbox Tools (42:07)
    • Creating a grid from scratch using the Sandbox Tools (42:13)
  • Artisan Tools(purchasable extension/plugin) (42:23)
    • Sculpting terrain using theArtisan Tools (42:33)
  • Tools on Surface (these tools work exactly like the SketchUp drawing tools, except they draw on terrain) (43:04)
    • Drawing a rectangle on terrain using the Line Tool in the Tools On Surface toolbar. (Note that the line conforms to the terrain in the model.) (43:20)
    • Extruding a rectangle drawn on terrain using the Joint PushPull Toolin theTools On Surface toolbar(43:33)
  • Instant Road Tools (43:54)
    • Grading roadways with the Instant Roads Tools (43:15)


AutoCAD-to-SketchUp Process(44:57)

  • Importing AutoCAD files into SketchUp by clicking File > Import (45:05)
  • Creating faces throughout an imported drawing using the CAD Cleanup tool, accessed by clicking Plugins > DynaSCAPE Tools > Run CAD Cleanup (All) (45:40)


Question: Does the Fence plugin also follow contours? (47:00)

Answer: Yes (see demonstration).


Question: Any tips on preventing SketchUp from crashing when working with the large file size created by working with terrain? (48:45)

Answer: The most important way to prevent crashing is to always work in layers.

Demonstration on Using Layers (49:45)

  • Tip: While you're working in SketchUp, turning off as many layers as possible – especially vegetation layers – will maximize performance. (59:22)
  • Overview of Layer Manager tools on the Extension Warehouse (50:35)

Question: Tips on bringing in topo? (51:32)

Answer: (see demonstration).

  • Using the Simplify Contours tool (free extension), accessed by clicking Plugins > Simplify Contours (52:00)
    • Simplify Contours reduces the number of vertices brought in from AutoCAD, thereby making it easier to generate the contours (52:10)
    • 2 options for generating the topo:
      • Using the Sandbox toolbar to create a triangulated surface (52:27)
      • Using TopoShaper (free plugin, but not available on Extension Warehouse) to create a meshed surface (52:40)


Question: How does Civil 3D integrate with SketchUp? (54:15)

Answer: The two programs work together, but on a limited basis.


Question: How to create a layer in SketchUp? (56:11)

Answer: (see below)


  • Creating a layer (57:12)
    • Open the Layers dialog box by clicking Window > Layers.
    • Click the + (Plus) button.
    • Type a name for the layer.
    • Make the new layer active by clicking the radio button to the left of its name in the Layer list.
    • Any new importing, drawing, etc. will now take place in the active layer (while it is still active).


  • Finding out which layer contains a given object (57:56)
    • Open the Entity Info dialog box by clicking Window >Entity Info.
    • This dialog box will show which layer contains the selected object.
    • To move an object to another layer, select that object, open the Entity Info dialog box, and select a layer in the Layer: dropdown menu.


Question: What is the best way to simplify the final color scheme of a design? (59:58)

Answer: It depends. If you’re going to render, you’ll want textures.


Bonus Material

  • Combining SketchUp with PhotoShop (1:02:16)

  • Finding out statistics/properties of a SketchUp model(1:03:42)

    • Access the Model Info dialog box by clicking Window > Model Info.

      •  Click Statistics in the list.

        • This dialog box shows statistics such as the number of edges, faces, component instances, etc.

        • SketchUp 2013 Tip: In general, avoid exceeding 300,000 faces if possible (the better the graphics card you use, the larger models you can work with)


More on Importing AutoCAD models into SketchUp (1:05:05)

  • One option: The Land F/X plugin imports CAD files layer by layer.
  • Note: Importing .dwg files from AutoCAD requires SketchUp Pro.
  • Import AutoCAD files by clicking File > Import.
    • SelectAutoCAD Files (“.dwg.” .dxf) in the Files of Type menu.
    • Clean up a file by using plugins such as Extend Close Lines, Delete Short Lines, Make Faces, etc.
    • Add colors using the Paint Bucket Tool.
    • Import and edit AutoCAD blocks.

Avoiding Pitfalls With SketchUp (1:10:16)

  • REALLY understand how navigation works on SketchUp.
    • Learn to operate SketchUp with one hand on the mouse and one on the keyboard.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Research, talk to people, and find a variety of resources.
  • Use plugins.
  • Use SketchUp with AutoCAD, including importing .dwg files.

Other plugins and resources mentioned in the webinar:

• Extend Closed Lines & Delete Short Lines plugin
• Roof Line plugin by Vali Architects


Would you like to contact Daniel? Visit his website,, and email him at

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