7 Tips Before You Get Started with SketchUp Free – I’m gonna show you the essential things you need to know before getting started in SketchUp Free. We’ll cover how to access SketchUp Free, the right way to use the drawing, editing, and navigation tools and how to avoid the common frustrating mistakes that will cause you to struggle and waste a ton of time when you’re new to SketchUp.
7 Tips Before You Get Started with SketchUp Free
So whether you’re a hobbyist looking to model something for fun, or design professional looking to try out the free version of SketchUp to see if the software is right for you, make sure to pay attention to all seven critical tips to know before getting started with SketchUp Free. But before we dive into the list, there are a couple of things we need to go over. First and foremost, in this article, we’ll be using SketchUp Free, which is a web-based application.
Meaning it runs within your web browser like Chrome or Safari, and you’ll need to be connected to the internet in order to use it. This is different from SketchUp Pro, which is a more traditional desktop application. We have another version of this video for getting started with SketchUp Pro if you’re using that version and not SketchUp Free.
Next, let’s talk about how to launch SketchUp Free so we can get started.
1, let’s head to app.sketchup.com in a web browser.
Once signed in, if it’s your first time using SketchUp Free, you’ll be greeted with a welcome screen that allows you to start modeling or take a tour.
We can skip the tour for now since we’ll be covering what you need to know in this article. And click Start modeling. If you’ve already tried out SketchUp Free on your own before finding this article, when you sign in, you’ll see a list of all your saved projects. Let’s go to Create new and start a new file. Note that you’re able to select whatever unit measurements you prefer.
SketchUp Free will open to a screen called the drawing window. It’s the 3D space where you’ll create your 3D models. There’s a tan colored ground plan that stretches off in all directions to the horizon and a blue colored sky above the horizon. There’s also a person there to serve as a scale figure, giving you an idea of the size of things you draw compared to a human. The last thing you’ll notice are the red, green, and blue axes.
These are the three different dimensions for your 3D model, and we’ll get into more about that later.
For now, the thing we’re gonna do is go ahead and delete the person since we don’t need them there for the fundamentals we’re gonna cover in this article. To do that, we can right-click on the person and pick the option for Erase. If you don’t have a right-click option, you can hold down the Control key on your keyboard and click on your left mouse button to get to the same menu. All right, now we have a blank canvas in SketchUp Free, and we’re ready to dive into our list, starting with number one, start in 2D.
As you’ve already seen, SketchUp Free starts you in a 3D view and most tutorials you’ll find online start you off in the same 3D view. But here’s the problem. Starting in 3D is like forcing you to jump into the deep end before you know how to swim. You’ll be more likely to get frustrated and quit. And even if you stick with it, you can end up with a bunch of bad habits that slow you down over the long run.
I recommend a different approach. Switch to a top-down or 2D view. To do that, click on the Scenes Panel on the right, and then click on the middle rooftop icon as a shortcut to jump to a top-down view. This starts you off in calmer waters, allowing you to focus on learning the fundamentals and developing good habits that will pay off later. Now, a quick thing I wanted to mention.
If you’re looking to try SketchUp Free using now with the idea that you’ll move to Pro later, just be aware that the interfaces do look different between the two, such as where you’ll find certain tools, options, and settings. So there will be a bit of a learning curve if you go from one to the other. But the good news is the primary tools and features generally work the same in both versions.
All right, you’ve got your file set up in a top-down 2D view and now you’re ready for the next tip.
Number 2, use the right mouse.
And one thing I always stress at the beginning of our learning is how important it is to use the right mouse.
What does that mean? Well, SketchUp is designed to be used with a three-button scroll wheel mouse, meaning a mouse that has a left button, a right button, plus a center scroll wheel that can be rolled and clicked on. When you’re new to SketchUp, you might be tempted to see if you can get away with using only your trackpad, but that would be a mistake.
Imagine trying to put together a piece of furniture with hundreds of screws and using only one of these true. True, you could struggle through it and eventually get the job done, but your life would be so much easier if you use the right tool for the job. So do yourself a favor and get yourself a three-button scroll wheel mouse. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one, and your future self will definitely thank you. Thanks, man.
You’ve got yourself the right mouse. The first thing you’ll probably wanna do is use it to give this article a like. Then, you’re ready for the next tip.
Number 3, learn to draw the right way.
When you draw in SketchUp free, all the geometry you create consists of three things: endpoints, edges, and faces. Let’s see what that looks like in practice. Grab your three-button scroll wheel mouse and make sure you’re in a top-down view. Then click on the pencil icon on the left. You’ll see there are actually two tools underneath it.
You can hover over the tools to see what their names are, Line and Freehand. If you click on the arc, you’ll see four tools under it. And if you click on the rectangle, you’ll see five tools there as well.
Ignoring the 3D Text tool, these are the 10 basic drawing tools that will help you create the fundamental geometry you need in SketchUp free. Before we draw anything with these tools, there’s something you need to know.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use the mouse in SketchUp. The mistake most people make is that they’ll click and hold down on the left mouse button and drag the mouse and then let go of the button. Most of the tools don’t function properly this way.
Instead, here’s what you need to do. Click and let go of your left mouse button to start a tool operation, then move the mouse, then click and let go of your left mouse button again to end the tool operation.
With nearly every tool in SketchUp, this is the right way to use the mouse. And now that you know how to use the mouse, you can quickly learn how all the drawing tools work. Let’s pick a drawing tool and on our blank 2D canvas, practice using the mouse the correct way: clicking, letting go, clicking again, letting go. Some tools, the Line tool, Rectangle tool, Circle and Polygon need two clicks.
The 4, arc tools need three clicks.
Just try those eight tools. For now, you can ignore the Freehand and the Rotated Rectangle tools. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what the tools are doing at first, just free draw over and over again with each tool. And pay attention to the geometry that the tools help you create. Some are for creating edges; others create edges and faces.
Even curves are really just a series of straight edges. You should practice drawing in this way until you’ve ingrained using your mouse the right way and you feel pretty confident about what each tool helps you create. Once you’ve got the hang of the drawing tools, you’re ready for the next tip. Number four, understand stickiness.
When you create shapes in SketchUp free, the edges and endpoints stick to other edges and endpoints. This can be super helpful for modeling things quickly, such as overlapping shapes to create new ones. Let’s try it.
Pick the Rectangle tool and draw two rectangles overlapping one another. These rectangles have been merged together now or gotten stuck to one another. That means you can now pick the Eraser tool and click to erase the edges of the overlapping rectangles. The parts that got stuck together are left behind, and now you have a new shape.
We can also use stickiness to cut a hole in this shape.
Pick the Rectangle tool again, and let’s draw another rectangle on top of our shape. It’s now gotten stuck to the bigger shape. So rather than there being one big face, it’s been broken up into two faces. That allows you to right-click on the face of that smaller rectangle and pick the option for erase, and you’ve cut a hole. As helpful as stickiness can be for creating new shapes.
down the road, stickiness can also create the absolute most painful problems you’ll ever encounter in SketchUp, where objects you’re trying to edit end up stuck to other things in your model. Luckily, I’ve got you covered with the next tip.
Number 5, group almost everything.
For things that shouldn’t get stuck, you can protect them from other geometry by first turning them into a group. Grouped geometry won’t stick to anything else.
This is by far the biggest problem self-taught users run into. They model away without groups then end up with an uneditable mess. So group early and group often.
So, grouping helps you sidestep the potentially painful problem of things getting stuck to one another.
Let’s follow that up with another tip that will save you a ton of frustration.
Number 6, master the Move tool.
If there was a scoreboard for which tools caused you to make the most mistakes in SketchUp free, the Move tool would be the winner by a landslide. And we’re not just talking about the Move tool tripping up beginners here. SketchUp users of all levels get knocked off track in nearly every project when trying to use the Move tool.
For example, you’ll see people twist up their geometry when they had wanted to move a whole object, and you’ll see them sync objects into other objects. And then you’ll see all kinds of issues trying to move things in precise ways, whether it be centering something, creating an array of copies, or just fixing one of the other errors.
The mistakes can pile up pretty fast. So what’s the problem with the Move tool and how can you avoid it? Let’s go back to the fundamentals I discussed earlier.
Remember, SketchUp is all about creating, editing, and deleting endpoints, edges, and faces. Now the Move tool is only concerned with the editing part, specifically editing the position of those endpoints, edges, and faces. So if you use your mouse correctly, you can click and let go on an endpoint, an edge, or a face, then move the mouse to edit the position of that piece of geometry, and then click to complete the operation. This is great for moving pieces of geometry to get the shapes you need. Now, the biggest mistake you can and will make at this point is using the mouse incorrectly.
Remember, don’t click and drag. Read : 4 Easy Ways to Unfold Faces in SketchUp
Even if you get the Move tool to work this way, this bad habit will bite you down the road when you face more complicated situations. Of course, you can also move multiple edges and faces together at the same time. You just need to pre-select them with the Select tool. And then the same rules apply with the Move tool for editing the position of the selected geometry.
And if you wanna move a whole object, well, you can either pre-select all of the geometry before using the Move tool, or if you’ve made it into a group, then you can just use the Move tool to move the whole group together.
Again, practice these things in a simple 2D drawing first until they become second nature. Now, moving the right stuff is only half the battle, but what about moving it to exactly where you want it to go? For example, what if you wanted to move one group so that it’s touching another but not overlapping it? It goes back to the fundamentals again.
When you click with your mouse to begin to move, SketchUp sees that you’re clicking on a very specific coordinate. So when you click the second time to end the move, SketchUp sees that you’ve clicked on a second specific coordinate and says, “Ah, OK, gotcha. You wanna put exactly where you clicked on it, point A, onto exactly where you clicked on it, point B.
If you click somewhere random to start with, it will be impossible to move things to exactly where you want. But for example, a great idea would be to click on the edge of the first group and then click on the edge of the second group.
That way, you know those edges are touching perfectly. This works for matching up corners or even midpoints for centering. Of course, the Move tool gets much harder to use in 3D space. But if you put in the time and practice to understand these core concepts into 2D template first, you’ll avoid struggling trying to move things later. Speaking of 3D space, let’s talk about the best way to go from 2D to 3D.
Number 7, navigate like a pro.
So far, we’ve been drawing 2D shapes, but really, we’ve been in 3D space all along. We’ve just been in a top-down view and have been drawing and editing on one flat plane. And while there’s still more that you should learn and practice in 2D first, if you’re like most of my students, you won’t be able to help but navigate into the world of 3D.
By navigate, I mean, use SketchUp’s navigation tools to zoom, pan, and orbit around in 3D space.
But here’s the problem. When you’re new to SketchUp free, navigating around the model can feel awkward and disorienting. And since our brains don’t like when things feel difficult, without even being aware of it, you’ll immediately start compensating to avoid the discomfort.
Which means that you’ll create bad habits that slow you down, not only as a beginner, but even as you become more proficient in SketchUp. Most of your time in SketchUp is actually spent navigating to a better view to accomplish the next thing you’re trying to do.
So being able to navigate well is one of the most important things you can invest time into learning and practicing. So what’s the best way to navigate, and how do you avoid picking up bad habits? There’s actually an incredibly simple trick that will make navigating around your SketchUp model a breeze. But for the trick to make sense, we first need to cover the basics.
While in your 2D template, you can zoom, pan, and orbit your virtual camera in 3D space to get different views of your model.
And while there are tools on your tool bar for zoom, pan, and orbit, you should never pick them. That’s because you can access those tools directly from your three-button scroll wheel mouse. Rolling your mouse wheel forward will zoom in, and rolling it backward will zoom out. Notice that it matters where you point the cursor. So you’ll zoom towards or away from the point that your cursor is hovering over.
Now, if you press down on your center mouse wheel like a button, you will see that your cursor turns into the orbit tool. With the mouse wheel button held down, move your mouse around and you’re orbiting your camera around your model. And if you need to pan your camera over to get a better view of the model, while pressing the center mouse wheel to orbit, also press and hold down on the Shift key on your keyboard.
Your cursor will turn into a hand, which is the Pan tool. Move your mouse to pan your view, then let go of the mouse wheel and Shift key when you’re done.
Okay, so what’s the trick to more efficiently navigating around your model? I can explain it to you best by giving you a challenge. Try this. First, draw a rectangle. Now, try to orbit 360 degrees around the rectangle.
Go ahead, pause read this article and go try it out. If you’re like most people that are new to SketchUp free, you’ll start off okay. But then you’ll run out of room as your cursor gets to the edge of the screen before you’ve even gotten 20% around the rectangle. And you might even get disoriented while orbiting as your brain tries to figure out another way to get around the rectangle. Now let’s try it again, only this time, here’s the trick, make small or incremental orbits.
Start with your cursor in the middle of the screen and orbit directly up, just a small amount.
Then let go, move your mouse back to the center of the screen and repeat, and repeat again, and again, and repeat as many times as it takes to get 360 degrees around the rectangle. It feels a little clunky at first, but once you have it down, you can gradually begin to speed up the process. And before you know it, you’ll be just like the experts who are constantly making hundreds of tiny zooms, tiny orbits, and tiny pans to zero in on what they need to see better.
Being able to get where you need to go in the model makes using SketchUp so much easier.
All right, so now that you’ve made it through the list of all seven critical tips to know before getting started with SketchUp Free, what next? I recommend for read more article in this web. Until next time, happy sketching.
And did you learn something new in this 7 Tips Before You Get Started with SketchUp Free article? Do me a speedy spare and tell us which tip you liked “the world’s largest” in the comments below right now.