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Getting Started with SketchUp : Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

This guide will walk you through the basics of using SketchUp. Follow the steps in this guide to build and decorate a Library study room.

Preparing Your Workspace

Preparing Your Workspace

Create Your Model

Open SketchUp and create a new model. SketchUp offers a bunch of templates. “Simple / inches” is generally a good model to start with. But since we’re creating a model from a floor plan, start with “Plan View / inches.” If this isn’t in your start up window, click More templates to find it.

Get to Know the Interface

There are four main sections in the Windows interface:

  • Toolbar. By default this is located at the top of the screen, and has the basic tools you will need to create a model. You can also open a larger toolbar by going to View > Toolbars and checking Large Tool Set.
  • Default Tray. The Windows interface uses the Default Tray on the right side of the interface, and this is where you will find many of the tools you’ll need to create metadata and make design choices for your model. The Mac interface does not have the Default Tray, but these trays are available under the Windows menu. You can open and stack your trays as you work.
  • Drawing Area. This is where you will work on your model. The Simple templates include a figure to help give you a sense of scale as you’re working on your model.
  • Status Bar. In the large middle section of the Status Bar, SketchUp will give you brief descriptions and instructions for the tool you are currently using. On the far right section of the Status Bar, there is a Measurement box. This will tell you the dimensions of the shape you’re drawing as you’re drawing it.


There are three axes that you should use to keep your lines plumb (perfectly vertical and perpendicular) and corners at 90°. When you’re drawing a line, it will change to match the color of the relevant axis when it is perfectly in line with the access (you want this to happen).


SketchUp has a variety of camera views to help you look at and navigate around your model. To change your camera view, use the Camera menu. The Camera > Standard Views menu has views to get you started, but you can also move through your model using the Pan and Orbit tools.


There is also a cool tool called the Instructor. It’s in the Default Tray on Windows. When you open it, it has a little gif and basic instructions on using whatever tool you have selected. There’s also a link to SketchUp’s help section for more detailed instructions.

Get to know the tools

These are some of the more commonly used tools, with their keyboard shortcut in parentheses. To see what they look like, refer to the Quick Reference Cards linked below.

  • Select (spacebar). Select objects.
  • Navigation tools
    • Orbit (O). The orbit tool lets you move around your model in 360
    • Pan (P). The pan tool lets you move back and forth across the current view of your model.
    • Zoom (Z).
  • Drawing tools
    • Line (L). Draw single lines. Click once to start the line, then drag your mouse and click again to end the line. 
    • Rectangle (R). Draw a rectangle. Click once to place one corner, then drag your mouse out and click again to end the rectangle.
    • Circle (C). Draw a circle. Click once to place the center of the circle, then drag your mouse out and click to make the circle.
    • Offset (F). This isn't strictly a drawing tool, but it lets you make a larger or smaller version of a shape in relation to the original shape (like you're making a frame or something).
    • Push/Pull (P). Turn your shapes into 3D models. Click a face to select it, then pull or push it to make it 3D.
  • Moving and Resizing Tools
    • Move (M). Move an object.
    • Rotate (Q). Rotate an object along different axes.
    • Scale (S). Resize an object.
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