In part one of our series on free 3D programs, we looked at Google SketchUp. In today’s article, we’ll continue our tour of this free program and check out some of the features.

As you can see, both of them are structured in small sections, according to the action given for each button. Below you will find details about them.


These buttons allow you to:

–          Select a component, face or line; clicking and dragging from left to right will select everything INSIDE the selection rectangle, while from right to left will select everything the selection rectangle MEETS

–           Make a component by selecting multiple objects and group them; hold SHIFT while clicking objects to select multiple

–           Apply material (painting) a face, multiple objects or various components; hold SHIFT to paint all faces with one click

–           Erase a face, line, object or component – the eraser button


These buttons will let you draw basic shapes, like squares, circles, polygons and so on. They are the base from which you will start your 3D model.

–           Draw a square. Click wherever you want the first corner to be. Then release the mouse button and drag. As an alternative, you may insert the width and height from the keyboard for exact dimensions, separated by comma. Notice the planar face that appears, we will get back to it later.

–           Draw a circle. Click where you want to the center to be. Next, drag to the desired direction or insert the radius dimension from keyboard.


–             Draw a polygon. Use it the same way. Click to start (will set the center of the object) – drag (will set the dimension) – click (finish the shape). There is one difference, though. This command lets you specify the number of sides by typing a figure followed by “s” (without quotes). For example, typing 5s will let you draw a pentagon, 3s a triangle and so on.

–           Draw a line. A very useful command to draw irregular shapes. Three or more lines meeting each other will form a planar surface.

–           Draw curves. Allows you to create new surfaces by intersecting the arc with other existing surfaces.

–           Freehand tool – it does what it says. Free draw. Intersecting with other surfaces will create other (fantastic, freehand drawn) surfaces.


Now, these are the most used commands of Sketchup. Whether you click the toolbar buttons or use keyboard shortcuts, you will permanently need to work with these.

–           Move. Moves any selected line, side, object, component, surface you have in the model.

–           Rotate. No explanation needed, right?

–           Scale. Scales on horizontal, vertical or corner-to-corner the objects within your model.

–           Push/Pull. It pushes/pulls your 2D surfaces creating 3D volumes from them.


 –           Follow me. A special command that effectively “sculpts” the desired surface based on a second shape.

–           Offset. Creates a second round of edges based on the selected surface.


The following sets of buttons are rarely used.


Inserting text, drawing measurements, adding landmarks – these are commands that you most likely would use for professional architectural drawings,  However, for advanced architectural purposes there are other applications out there, far more complex, like Autocad and/or Archicad.

Moving the camera can easily be done with your mouse and SHIFT key:

–          The mouse wheel  will zoom in and out when you rotate it forward or backward;

–          Holding the mouse wheel pressed will orbit around the model;

–          Holding the mouse wheel AND the SHIFT key will pan the window horizontally and vertically.

Now that you know how to use this gorgeous application, go ahead and explore. I’m sure you will find it amazing. There is, however, one thing that Sketchup does not do. It doesn’t have the ability to transform your 3D model into a photorealistic image. For this, you will have to use external stand-alone applications or especially designed plug-ins. Then, you will be able to do this…


Originally created with Sketchup, rendered with IDX Renditioner. If you would like to know more about renderers and how they work, feel free to leave comments and ask questions.

~ Adrian