SketchUp for Beginners

It's not hard to create simple three-dimensional objects and buildings with SketchUp software. Here's a simple introduction with lots of links to learn more.

There are lots objects and buildings you can import into your sketch, or you create your own. SketchUp software is mostly easy to learn and makes a great first step before you move into more complicated software like Blender (for making characters and movies, as well as objects) and CAD (computer-aided design) software used professionally.

This article introduces the software and provides links where you can learn more. Links to download the software and watch tutorials are at the bottom of this article.

What is SketchUp?

It’s software that lets you use your computer to create models of objects and buildings in three dimensions. When you download SketchUp, they let you use the full Pro version for 8 hours before the software changes to the free version. However, there’s lots of functionality in the free version. And there are a number of great tutorials.

How does SketchUp Work?

When you start the software, first pick a template from the Welcome screen. The main differences between templates are the default units of measure SketchUp will use for your drawing, meters or inches. Another difference between templates is the starting view for your drawing, from the top or the side.

Here’s a tutorial to explain how to get started using the navigation to how to create your first object, a house:

Notice all the action revolves around a central point on the computer screen. This is a point of reference you use to place and size your objects. Also notice how the different menu and tool bar options are clear and easy to figure out by clicking around.

I especially like the push/pull extrusion tool that lets you take a flat rectangle and instantly turn it into a three dimensional object. Saves a lot of tedious time spent drawing lines and aligning the lines.

Once you’re familiar with the basics, explore the software. Here are some examples to show how the software is used:

If you’re wondering, Google originally owned SketchUp then sold the company to its current owner, Trimble Navigation.

Finally, if you have time and want to see the full power of SketchUp Pro, and how it is used by a professional architect, watch this video:

From watching some or all of these videos, it is clear teachers and students could begin by picking a simple table or object to create then evolve into more complex objects and then buildings. You also could use the push/pull extrude tool to create a simple house then repeat the process by building the frames and adding plywood, as shown in the tiny house video.

Another key skill is learning to organize parts of your models to different layers, for example, a house might have a layer for the outside walls, frame studs, floor, roof, and so on. Splitting a model into layers makes it easy to check your work and update your model as needed.

No matter how you begin, this software rewards clicking around. There are lots of tutorials to watch. The only hard part is which object to create first.

Additional Information

SketchUp is available in two versions, free and Pro. For teachers and students, the free version has enough functionality to get started, learn the software, and have fun. The Pro version is not required unless you really want (or need) to dive deeply into the software.

If you do outgrow the free version, you might want to compare SketchUp Pro with Blender (a free open source 3D software tool) or CAD software, both of which are high end professional software. There are other professional 3D software tools to consider, as well.

In addition to the SketchUp Video channel on YouTube, there are a number of other videos online, including one that shows how to turn a SketchUp model into a printed 3D object. Links are below.

Definitely SketchUp is simple enough to appeal to people who don’t like programming but want to play with computer software in fun useful ways. Creating three-dimensional models also happens to be a skill you can use to get paid work if you master the software.

Learn More

Download Sketchup


SketchUp for Education K-12

SketchUp Video on YouTube

SketchUp School

Master SketchUp


SketchUp Plugins

SketchUp Artists

3D Printing from SketchUp

How to Draw a Tiny House with SketchUp


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

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