Getting started with Trimble Sketchup

Matt Donley Getting Started 16 Comments

So you’ve decided to give Sketchup a shot, and you want to learn how to create 3D models. Congratulations, I promise you will have a lot of fun using Sketchup, and it won’t take that long for you to learn how to get started. Sketchup has a very friendly interface and an intuitive navigation system so there’s not much of a learning curve.

Sketchup Tutorial For Beginners – Part One

In this video, I’ll introduce you to the basic tools and navigation in Sketchup. You’ll learn the Select tool, Move/Copy tool, Rectangle Tool, Line Tool, Move Tool, Orbit and Zoom, the Tape measure tool and the Push/Pull tool.

Tips for beginner modelers

For first time users, I recommend the following couple tips to make your Sketchup experience fun and rewarding.

1. Use the built in Sketchup instructor window

Sketchup Instructor WindowSketchup has a built in instruction guide that you can activate by going to Window —> Instructor. A little window will pop up that will show you valuable information about the tool you currently have selected. It even displays a little animation for a visual guide on what the tool does. It also tells you about alternate actions you can activate by pressing ctrl or shift. It’s a great resource, and will help you when trying to familiarize yourself with the different tools.

Even after many years of experience with Sketchup, I find I’ll open up the instructor window every once in a while, to remind myself of some random action you can perform with a certain tool.

2. Look for tutorials online

Try to find a tutorial on how to model something specific in Sketchup. Don’t be afraid to push the limits on what you think you can handle. You’ll find that you’ll enjoy the challenge, and you’ll pick up unique tips that can only be found by modeling something different.

There’s also a big difference in your motivation level when you choose to model something you’re actually interested in. We can’t just make models of square houses and expect to stay interested, right?

There are a ton of Sketchup resources online with tutorials and training. You can also find great information right here on I am constantly updating the site with new tutorials and tips. If you want to be updated when I add new content to the site or post a new video to Youtube, sign up for my newsletter.


3. Get involved

Check out the many Sketchup forums online. Start a conversation about something you’re having trouble with. There are so many people out there who are happy to help you with any problems you’re having with Sketchup. Including me! Send me and email and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. Try joining a 3D challenge to sharpen your skills or upload your models to the 3D warehouse and share them with others. It’s a great way to get feedback from your peers about your models.

The point is, interact with other people out there who use Sketchup too! It will help motivate you to continue learning and get better. Looking at other people’s models can provide inspiration for your next project.

Sketchup Tutorial for Beginners – Part Two

After you learn the basic tools in Sketchup, the next thing you should learn is how to use groups and components. Some people feel like this is a more advanced feature to learn, but I disagree. I think it’s the most important feature to learn and use in Sketchup. The challenge is that it’s not a simple concept to understand, so many people shy away from it. I am going to try to make it as easy to understand as possible, but you have to promise me that you will learn this and use it before giving up.

Groups & Components and the Outliner

When you create anything in Sketchup besides the most basic shape, you’ll want to use groups or components to isolate the geometry of the different parts of your model within Sketchup. If you haven’t noticed already, things tend to “stick together” in Sketchup. This can be pretty frustrating at times. The way to prevent this from happening is to select a collection of entities, and turn them into a group.

To make a group you right click and select “Make group.” In the Outliner window, you will be able to see your new group show up. It’s best to rename your groups to something that is descriptive. It’s all about staying organized. And don’t forget, you can make a group within a group.

This is really helpful when are making something like a birdhouse, for example. You can have each side of the birdhouse in it’s own group, but then once you finish the birdhouse you can select all of the parts of the birdhouse, and consolidate them into another group. Now you can just click once on the birdhouse, to select the entire thing.

There are so many other advantages to using groups and components. Watch this video to learn more.

Sketchup Tutorials for Beginners – Part Three

Coming Soon

In the final video for getting started with Sketchup, we will discover some of the presentation tools built in to Sketchup. We’ll look at some of the different styles you can use to make your model look different. The bucket tool allows you to “paint” the faces within your model. And the section tool gives you the ability to “cut” your model in half to take a look at a cross section. Once you learn these final tools, you’ll have a good start with Sketchup and can begin learning some advanced techniques.

About the Author

Matt Donley

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Matt has been creating SketchUp tutorials since 2012. After writing the book SketchUp to LayOut, he conducted the "Into to LayOut" seminar at the official SketchUp conference in Colorado. Matt writes about how to use SketchUp for design, construction and 3D printing.

Comments 16

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  1. maximus

    Hombre amigo!
    At last I fin’lly found a site that makes you wanna learn more about sketchup. Frankly I’ve been
    searching for a more comprehensive tutorial available but unfortunately it doesn’t give me any.
    Thanks to you bro! and to your clear voice. It’s purely comprehensive man.

  2. michael white

    I have been using Solidworks DWG editor for a couple of years. It works great for making 2D drawings of plates and things I use in my day job. However I have been getting into making drawings of items assembled and I decided to start with sketchup.

    1. Post
      Matt Donley

      I try to add more content on a weekly or biweekly schedule. Although, I haven’t updated the getting started page in a while. I should really try to finish this getting started series. Thanks for the encouragement, I’ll have to make it a point to get it finished.



    Having struggled tutored and more often untutored through various 2D and 3D software over the years, it was refreshing, interesting and enjoyable to see and hear the crisp quality and clarity of your beginner tutorials.
    Thanks aplenty Matt and dare we hope for more? ( :>}

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      Matt Donley

      Hi Amanda,

      Yes, you can draw in 2D if you like, add dimensions, annotations, and print it out on paper. Layout, however, is more suited for creating 2D drawings from your 3D model, and is included in Sketchup Pro.

  4. faola

    PLEASE if you would be so kind to make part 3 it would be the most wonderful thing since ever!!!
    Thank you some much for the past 2 lesson they were quite helpful and I actually understood!! *my mind was actually blown how simple it was*

  5. Candace

    Where is the last tutorial for finishing the shed? I can’t find it anywhere, not even on your website. I finished the fourth one and have my shed all framed out. You said that in the next video we would finish it. That next video seems to be MIA. How can I find it?

  6. Simon

    Thanks for the excellent videos: very clear, informative, and well presented. It is obvious that you put a lot of effort into making these. I look forward to part three!

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