I have been teaching SketchUp for over seven years, both live and online. Students new to SketchUp struggle with a set of problems that are very similar in nature and can be characterized by one of the following questions. Over the years I have developed some tools to help students through these problems. In some cases the tools are a free plugin to help avoid the problem altogether. Sometimes the answer is a set of recommendations on how to use SketchUp. And sometimes I point readers to a series of free or paid videos demonstrating how to do something. For each of these questions I am going to point you to a tool, and if I don’t have a tool of my own I will point you to a set provided by the SketchUp community. I hope you find the SketchUp help you need!
When I draw parts they get connected. How do I get them apart?
You are a victim of the sticky nature of SketchUp. When you draw in SketchUp you use primitives (edges, faces and points). When a primitive touches another “unprotected” primitive they stick together and won’t separate. This, it turns out, is both good and bad. You need to manage the bad. I have developed 6 simple rules to guide beginners on how to do this. They are creatively called … drum roll please … 6 Rules for Modeling in SketchUp.
What is the difference between groups and components?
To really understand the answer to this question you need to understand 3-D mathematics, matrix algebra and SketchUp coding. Rather than send everyday users down that route, I have provided a simplified answer in my Tools, Components & Dialog Boxes video, approximately 13 minutes in.
When should I use groups and when should I use components?
The simple answer is there is never a need to use groups and I highly recommend you don’t. Use a component as soon as primitives form a 3-D shape. Again, see the Tools, Components & Dialog Boxes video, approximately 13 minutes in, for an explanation.
What is the difference between the free version and the Pro version?
There are significant and important differences between the free (now called Make) and Pro versions of SketchUp. The SketchUp Pro license permits its use in revenue generation while SketchUp Make does not. SketchUp Pro comes with some added features and two more applications. SketchUp Pro gives you the ability to design components that have parameters called dynamic components. Dynamic components can be used in SketchUp Make, but cannot be created in SketchUp Make. There are also 5 additional tools in SketchUp Pro that make creating components more efficient than using the edit/intersect faces tool. These tools are additional solids tools. SketchUp Pro has added import and export features that make it easy to share models between other professional applications such as AutoCAD. Lastly, SketchUp Pro comes with a 2-D drawing application called LayOut and an application for creating custom styles and pens called Style Builder.
Do I need the Pro version?
If you are a hobbyist woodworker who does not generate revenue through your woodworking, SketchUp Make is all you need. If, on the other hand, you intend to sell your creations you must purchase a SketchUp Pro license to use SketchUp in their design.
How do I print to scale in SketchUp?
It is always possible to print to scale from SketchUp (Make or Pro). However, doing so is tricky due to what I believe is a shortcoming – bordering on bug – in SketchUp. See Printing To Scale With SketchUp Make & SketchUp Pro 2013. This technique works for SketchUp 2014 also.
Where do I get the _____ plugin?
Readers frequently ask where to get a specific plugin or alternatively, “Is there a plugin for SketchUp that does ……?” In addition to teaching the SketchUp, I also write plugins that help woodworkers specifically and SketchUp modelers in general. Check my Chiefwoodwork’s Blog on occasion for those. Recently I updated all my plugins and you can find them at SketchUp 2014–Tools Updated For SketchUp 2014 Compatibility.
Finally, from SketchUp 2014 you can use the Extensions Warehouse tool to access the Extensions Warehouse store. Also, check out the sketchUcation SketchUp Plugins Store. Many of the plugin tools in these stores are free.
Sometimes my components are missing edges or faces. To see them I have to make unrelated layers visible. What am I doing wrong?
This is a very common problem that plagues people new to SketchUp. Chapter 8 of “Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers” covers this in detail. In addition, I have a tool designed to help the woodworker avoid this problem, called “Layers Management Tool.” You can get it from the SketchUp 2014 – Tools Updated For SketchUp 2014 Compatibility page.
I follow your suggestion to use the model’s current components to define a new component but I can’t get a face on my new component. What am I doing wrong?
Almost always, when you can’t get a face to appear within a perimeter of edges there is one of two reasons. First, the edges are not coplanar. Remember from high school geometry that from any three points, or from two intersecting or parallel lines, you can form a plane. A corollary is also true: You cannot form a face from edges or points that do not lie on the same plane.
The second reason you may have this problem is that the edges do not actually connect to form a perimeter. Look very closely at your edge connections by zooming in a lot. Both of these reasons often exist because the user either didn’t pay close enough attention to the inference engine’s tool tips or the “enable length snapping” box is checked in the Units page of the Model Info dialog box. Be sure this is always unchecked. See Installing & Setting Up SketchUp.
Where can I get more SketchUp help, as a woodworker?
- Robert Lang has been offering SketchUp help here on the Popular Woodworking blog for many years. Start with the “SketchUp Tutorials” section.
- Chiefwoodworker’s Blog – This is my blog site. See the right hand column under “Chief’s Tutorials” or click on the image in the left hand column under “Chief’s AW Blog.” You can also use the search box to search for a topic.
- SketchUp with Joe Zeh – This is my American Woodworker blog site where you will find numerous videos on SketchUp.
- Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers – This is a 390-minute video segmented into nine chapters. This video is intended for those just starting out with SketchUp. It is available in DVD or download formats.
- Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers – This is a 240-minute video segmented into eight chapters. This video is intended as a follow-on to Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers and deals with modeling components which have complex curves. It is available in DVD or download formats.