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How do I Design My Own Plans in Google Sketchup?

March 17, 2011 |
posted by Ana White
How do I Design My Own Plans in Google Sketchup?

Probably the most frequent question I get is "What program do you use to design plans?"

I'm so thrilled to tell you that I use Google Sketchup, a free program that is powerful and easy to use.  In step 1, I give directions on downloading.

And then that question is usually followed by how can I learn to use Google Sketchup?  There are thousands of tutorials and videos online to help you learn, and I hope you take a second to browse through these tutorials.  But I wanted to put together a super simple tutorial that can take someone from not knowing what program I use to designing a simple plan in the shortest amount of time.  I hope this tutorial accomplishes just that.

Step 1: Download Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup is a free CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) program that is both easy to use and amazingly powerful.  I downloaded Sketchup for the first time last year and am still learning new things about it.  Go to http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/download/ and click the big blue button and download Sketchup 8.  Extract and install Google Sketchup on your hard drive.  Open up Sketchup 8.

Google Sketchup Tutorial Choosing Template

Step 2: Choose a Template

This step isn't super important, but you want to make sure that you are working in the correct dimensional system.   Click on Choose Template. Select Plan View - Feet and Inches. Click on Start Using Sketchup. Later on, we'll discuss customizing the template to fit your needs.  But I'm just going to get you drawing in this tutorial.  NOTE: If you are in the metric system, you will need to select Millimeters and adjust my instructions accordingly.

Step 3: Tweaking the Template

Now we gotta get the work environment set up for drawing.  From the drop down menu at the top, select Window > Model Info

Still part of Tweaking the Template

Select Units from the left menu, and then select Fractional from the Format Menu.  Close the window, and you are now drawing in inches.

Speaking of which . . . what should we draw?  How about this one? Simple enough.

Step 4: Drawing a Rectangle

The default view is the top view, so we are looking down on the project.  After examining the desired project, it looks like it's made of 1x12s and is 36" high.  Think like you are building the furniture for reals and draw in those same steps.  So let's start with the sides.  Click the Rectangle Tool (shortcut is to hit the R key).  Then click the rectangle tool on the crosshairs in the center of the program.  Expand the rectangle out, but don't click.  Instead, type your dimensions, followed by enter.  Dimensions should be typed comma seperated, no space between dimensions.  You can either use decimal (.75,11.5) or fractional (3/4,11 1/2).  Notice with fractional, there is a space between whole numbers and fractions.

Step 5: Pulling a Rectangle into a Board

We've got the board end, now we just need to make that board the desired length.  This is a really cool feature of Google Sketchup.  Select the Push/Pull tool or Press P for the short key.  Click on the face of the rectangle and pull it toward you. Don't click.  Instead, type in the number 36 and hit enter. Now you have a 1x12 that is 36" long!

Step 6: Orbit Project

The orbit tool (circled above) is a tool that will turn your 3D project in all directions.  Click on it and turn your project so that you are looking at it straight on instead of a top view.  You can orbit your project at any time, and zoom in and out by scrolling your mouse or clicking on the magnifying glass.  The shortkey for orbit is the O key.

Step 7: Making the Board a Component

Each board in your project needs to be a component.  If not, Sketchup thinks you are still editing the board, and will merge boards and things get messy.  Don't worry, you can still edit components by double clicking them.  So press the space bar to get back to your selector tool.  With an arrow for you pointer, double click the board until all sides are selected, as shown in the diagram above.  Hit the G key and press enter. NOTE: You can name your component, for example, this one might be named 1x12 side board.  Now your board is it's own component.

Step 8: Make the Shelf

That wasn't so bad, eh?  Now we just gotta draw the shelves in the same manner.  Start by drawing a rectangle (R Key) starting at the bottom corner of the side board that is 11 1/2" x 3/4", and draw the rectangle on the shelf, not on the ground beside the shelf.  Then pull (P Key) that rectangle out 40.5 and press enter. Then double click the shelf until all edges are selected and make it a component (G Key). Shelf is done!

Step 9: Other Side

Something I've learned is it's best to not redraw components, because if you copy components, when you edit one of the components, all of the copies are also edited.  Since the sides are identical in this project, Press the Space Bar to get the selector tool and Click on the Side to select it. Press CTRL-C to copy the side and CTRL-V to paste it. When you paste, you will automatically toggle to the Move tool.  Move the second side in place, snapping to the corner of the bottom. If you don't get it on the first try, don't despair, you can move again.  You can even orbit and zoom in, then toggle back to the select tool and select the side, toggle to the move tool and move the side in place.  Take your time, the only super important part is making sure your corners are lined up right (just like you need to do when building).

Step 10: Placing Shelves

Copy and paste the bottom shelf to the top as shown in the diagram.  For the middle shelf, you will need to place it in the center.  Select the Tape Tool (T Key) and use it just like a tape measure.  Click on the bottom inside corner of the side as shown above and measure upward along the side of the board in a straight line. Don't click.  Instead, type 17 5/8 and press enter. You should see a guide point. Copy and paste a shelf to this guide point.

Step 11: Dividers

In the same way as you drew the sides and shelves, draw a cubby divider, make it a component, and place it inside the shelves.  Copy and paste three more as shown above.  The dividers will be spaced 13" apart. CHEAT: Draw a cubby by drawing a rectangle on the inside of the side, between the shelves.  Then pull that rectangle out 3/4 to get your divider.  Make it a component and select the move tool.  Move the component along the shelf, but don't click or press enter.  Instead, type in 13 and press enter.

TIP: You can select more than one shelf at a time by holding down the Shift Key as you select.

Step 12: Drawing Trim

Now draw a 1x2 as shown above and make it a component.  Copy and paste the rest of the trim in place.

Step 13: Hiding Guide Points and Axes

Now let's make it pretty.  Simply select View and click Axes and Guides to uncheck and the guide points and Axes will disappear.

Step 14: Materials and Color

You can easily color each component by selecting the bucket tool (B Key). The materials menu will automatically appear, or you can select Windows > Materials and the Materials Menu will appear.  Select the desired color from the menu and then click on the component to fill it.

Step 15: Dimensions

You can find dimensions for building by simply selecting the Dimension Tool from the Tools Menu or pressing the D Shortkey.  You can delete dimensions by pressing the space bar to get to the selector tool, selecting the dimensions and pressing delete.

Step 16: Exporting Diagrams

Now that you've drawn your project, you might want to print it out or export it as a graphic to share with others.  You can publish your plans directly to Ana White.com using this easy form. Size your window and zoom and orbit your project to what you want exported.  Google Sketchup is going to export what you see in the window, so size appropriately.  You can select File > Export > 2D Graphic for a image graphic or you can Print to take the project to your saw.

If you would like to separate out your steps into individual drawings, you can build your project in layers, and then simple hide and display layers.  For a small simple project like this one, I simply save it, then delete boards.  Then I go CTRL-Z to undo the deletes after exporting the graphics.  Not the right way, but sometimes it just makes sense to not deal with layers.

I hope you have fun with Google Sketchup.  But most of all, I hope you take an opportunity to share your plans with others.  It is true, giving is better than getting, and I can promise, the joy of seeing my hard work help others is worth more than what I might ever have made trying to sell plans.  Can't wait to see your designs, and please, make some noise if you want to see more Sketchup Tutorials.  We've only barely touched on what you can do in Sketchup.

Google Sketchup

First let me say that I just found this website through a friend and I dont know where this website has been all my life lol!! 
So I downloaded the sketchup but instead of having a white screen after I followed the directions posted on here I have a screen that looks like it is grass then sky...like to make a building!  I just figured out how to make it so that when I make a rectangle it doesnt go all haywire but a plain white background would be better lol!!  So if anyone has any tips I would really appreciate it!!

posted by PinkLondon (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-03-17 21:06
dan-k's picture

Sketchup has different templates.

Go to Window - Preferences - Template
I use the Product Design and Woodworking template
Also it helps to set the snap length
Go to Window - Model Info - Units
There you can adjust the precision (try 1/16" or 1/8") and set the snap length to something useful.
There is a ton of info out there on getting started with sketchup.   Don't be afraid to experiment.

posted by dan-k | on Thu, 2011-03-17 21:22
Ana White's picture

Change Style

This is an easy fix.  When you start Google Sketchup, it will give you a startup screen.  Select a work environment that is feet/inches and has no background.  (See step 2 above)

But if you are already in Google Sketchup, simply click on Windows->Styles and then select a Default Style of Engineering.  Should do the trick.  And let me also say thank you for finding and being a part of our site!

posted by Ana White | on Thu, 2011-03-17 21:15

Just FYI, the password

Just FYI, the password prompts are caused by an image link in the preceding comment (13942) that is apparently supposed to be to http://ana-white.com/themes/analytic/images/scratch/change-styles.jpg but the URL uses FTP instead of HTTP, so it's prompting everyone for an FTP username and password. Looks as though it's just an accidental copy-paste, not some kind of attempted hack.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-03-11 15:00
PinkLondon's picture

Thank you!

OK!!  Perfect!!  Both ways worked!!  Thank you guys so much!  I wasnt expecting a reply back so fast!!!  I will definatly experiment and see what kind of 'trouble' I can start to sketch up lol!!  And no problem for being a part of the site!!  thank you for making this site!!  It is a GREAT place!  It is the perfect place for every 'do-it-yourself-er'!!!

posted by PinkLondon | on Thu, 2011-03-17 23:04
ACraftyCauldron's picture

You read my mind!

Ana - Thank you SO much for posting this!  I'm not intimidated by programs, but always feel I need a good jumping off point.  This is perfect!  BTW - I LOVE the drop down box on the home page!!!

The road to success is always under construction.

posted by ACraftyCauldron | on Fri, 2011-03-18 14:40

Here are some other resources

Here are some other resources for learning Sketchup



posted by Richard (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-03-31 09:14

do you happen to have sketch

do you happen to have sketch up files somewhere on your site that we can download and customize?

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-04-14 20:40
aria_dia's picture

I was thinking the same

I was thinking the same thing, it would make my life SO much easier for making things larger/smaller

posted by aria_dia | on Mon, 2011-05-16 03:13

ready made component parts

they have pre-made components of many many objects here on the google sketchup site http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/cldetails?mid=e4c5f9469b0b38abb7d...

there are many other items ready made there, but this set is pertinent to home projects.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Wed, 2011-11-02 14:13

Copying in less steps

Here is a shortcut I use:

Instead of doing a copy/paste/move to duplicate components, I pick the "move" command and find a specific point (like a corner or a midpoint) to move it from. I click/hold on that point, then hold down the "ctrl" key. This makes a copy which I can then drag to an exact reference point (like the midpoint/corner) of another component. Less steps, and I can copy directly along an axis in alignment with the original component.

posted by hbacingmama | on Sat, 2011-07-23 18:58

Do you use a different

Do you use a different program to show you how to get the optimal usage out of a sheet of plywood/mdf?


posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-08-07 18:24

When you say, "don't click,"

When you say, "don't click," I think what you really mean is something entirely different, namely: "Keep holding the mouse button down" or "don't release the mouse button yet."

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sun, 2011-09-25 21:09

sketch up

Actually you can release the mouse button and then type your dimensions as long as you don't click on anything else first. just type your measurements and the numbers are changed in the dimension box then hit ENTER to finalize the change.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Thu, 2011-11-24 01:25
Jodieth's picture

So many programs

Thank you for this information. Technology is about to drive this 50 year old, (feel like 30) woman crazy. My husband doesn't know how to do anything. Will this program work on my mac computer? I am wanting to make a wall of cabinets and big sturdy table coming out from it for my two sewing machines and serger. I have found my expensive bought sewing cabinet from 18 years ago, just doesn't cut it. I use my room for crafting too. It does not have to be fancy.

posted by Jodieth | on Sun, 2011-10-02 18:01
claydowling's picture

Sketchup availability

It's available for Mac, Windows and Linux. I've used it on Mac and Windows.

posted by claydowling | on Sun, 2011-10-02 21:17

Thanks so much for this

Thanks so much for this simple tutorial. This will make it much easier to keep backup plans for stuff that I decide to make.

posted by gregmasciola | on Wed, 2011-10-19 17:30
east fork spring's picture



posted by east fork spring | on Wed, 2011-11-09 17:31
east fork spring's picture



posted by east fork spring | on Wed, 2011-11-09 17:29
east fork spring's picture

Three Pointers for New Users of Sketchup

Nice tutorial, Ana.  I wish I'd had this when I first started using Sketchup!  I'd like to share with you guys what I consider to be the three essentials to have in your pocket when you're a new Sketchupper.  Apologies in advance for the long comment... 


When I first started using Sketchup, it took me an eternity to do the simplest drawings.  I relied on the tool box for my navigational needs (orbit, zoom, pan,etc).  I hate to think of all the hours I wasted not knowing how to navigate.  Here's the lowdown:

If you don't have a mouse with a scroll wheel, stop what you're doing and go get one.  Not later.  Now.  Seriously.  I got mine at a yard sale for a quarter.  It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to have a scroll wheel.

To zoom in, place your cursor over the part of your model you'd like to zoom so Sketchup knows what to center in on.  Roll the scroll wheel down to zoom out, up to zoom in.  

To orbit around your model, simply click and hold your scroll wheel while you move your mouse around.  Orbit to your heart's content!

Use the pan tool exactly as you do the orbit tool, but hold down the shift key with your free hand while you do it.

Happy navigating!



What initially prompted me to post was the "don't click" comment a few entries above.  It touches on one of the three things I consider to be absolutely essential to the use of Sketchup.  (Sorry, guest poster of "don't click", but you're leading new users down the wrong path!  Ana's tutorial verbage is just fine.)  

Sketchup lets you draw and edit in two ways. You can use the click-drag-release or the click-move-click (or enter) method. The click-drag-release method is the one you're probably familiar with, since that's the traditional way of navigating many popular programs. While it may be second nature, I recommend you work to break the dragging habit if you plan on using Sketchup with any real degree of accuracy.

The option to click-move-click is one of the things that makes Sketchup a great program. While drawing, you're less likely to "drop" lines if you use click-move-click. You also free up your mouse and your mouse hand to exert more precise control over whichever tool you're using while the operation is in progress.

Say you want to move a component to a point on the other side of the model. Using click-drag, you better hope you already have a good close-up view of your end point at the correct angle, or your move will likely turn into several moves. Click-move allows you orbit and pan within your project, as well as enter values into the measurement box, all mid-operation. All before you commit a change. Pretty neat, huh?



With out some level of accuracy, your models aren't as useful as they could be.  That's where the measurement box comes in. 

The measurement box is at the bottom right of your Sketchup window.  It can be used to: make a line a certain length, draw a rectangle a certain size, push/pull a face a certain distance, change the number of sides in a polygon, move something a given distance, rotate something a certain number of degrees, make a certain number of copies, divide into a certain amount of segments, and change your field of view.

A common misconception is that you have to actually select this box before entering a value.  Don't.  Wherever your cursor is, whatever you're doing, just start typing,  the measurement box is all ears. 

The box is context sensitive, so what it controls depends on what you are doing.  Drawing a line?  The box controls the length.  Rotating an obect?  The box controls the angle.  You get the picture.

As long as "inches" is your default unit of measure, you don't even have to tell Sketchup that when you input 11 it means you want 11 inches.  It knows.  If you want 11 feet, though, you'll need to input as 11'.

You can use the box during or after an operation.  Just press the enter key after you type your info for the box.  You can even chage your mind.  As long as you haven't done anything else since you hit enter, just input a new value.  Type, enter, repeat as necessary!

Again, sorry about the extra long comment.  I just get excited when I'm telling someone new about Sketchup.  Hope this helps someone! 

posted by east fork spring | on Wed, 2011-11-09 17:19
east fork spring's picture



posted by east fork spring | on Wed, 2011-11-09 17:26

Great Work!

to "east fork spring" -Thanks for the very informative info! These kind of things are of great help when your new to the idea! I used to use AutoCAD-3D, and there are some similarities, but there are lots of differences too! So its great to have some one share their knowledge where they can!

to "Ana White" -Thanks for every thing you do on here! Because of your great knowledge that you share All the time, people like my self have benefited greatly from it! Great tutorial! Every now and then, I had to figure out how you did a step, but caught on quick! I feel much better about using it now! Learning that I had to select "Make a Component" after each board, really made a difference! lol

posted by greghorrocks (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-11-26 05:45

angled peice

How you make a piece with an angle on it like the legs to the benchwright table plans. they have a little slope in them but I cannot figure out how to make an object do that is sketch up.

posted by WesleyJack (not verified) | on Sat, 2011-12-10 13:21
Ed Becnel's picture

Create 3D PDFs from Sketchup!

Although I haven't used it myself, you can create 3D PDFs from your Google Sketchup models using the RPS 3D PDF Exporter: http://www.renderplus.com/wk/RPS_3D_PDF_w.htm
There is a summary description on Sketchup's web-site at: http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/download/plugins.html

3D PDFs allow you to embed interactive 3D models in your PDF documents. You can rotate it and turn on/off individual parts of your model. I have had some exposure to this in my past work and I can say that it is a very useful descriptive tool. I highly recommend it.

posted by Ed Becnel | on Wed, 2011-12-28 12:41

How do I Design My Own Plans in Google Sketchup?

How do I Design My Own Plans in Google Sketchup?
Submitted by Ana White on Thu, 2011-03-17 17:18 is great. For some it hard to bring down the ideas or plans to papper and at time we have the idea/plan but do not have the time yet to do it. With this we can put the all the ideas/plans on paper first and can choose which we want to do first.

posted by woodtop | on Sun, 2012-01-15 21:10

Sketch up training

This site has a diy book on how to use Sketch up on sale for $9.00. http://store.finewoodworking.com/sketchup-guide-for-woodworkers-tim-kill...

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Sun, 2012-01-29 01:01

make money

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posted by make money online (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-01-30 09:42

Password prompt

EVERY TIME I COME TO THIS PAGE THERE IS A FTP PASSWORD PROMPT that annoys me to no end. Please find out why its doing it and make it stop!!!!

posted by Digerati (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-02-02 12:05



I would have a question about the edges. I have drown this shelf, and I'm really happy bacause it's really not that hard as it seems. One thing is not the same for me as here in the guide. The edges of my shelves are fragmanted. (like you draw a line in a paint software and the line is not horisontal or verical). Do you have any ideas, what is causing it?

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Tue, 2012-02-28 16:39

I desirable to put together a

I desirable to put together a 1Y0-A18 super human tutorial that can abide someone from not learned what announcement I use to designing a JN0-101 dolabriform design in the direct total of experience. I plan this tutorial accomplishes retributive that.

posted by Guest (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-03-01 02:35
missinfwb's picture

This prior post

This post just prior to this titled i desirable to put together a, keeps trying to get my password and user name to this site....BEWARE as I think that this is some type of problem. Everytime it appears on my screen it pops up asking for this info.. Ana.. I am worried about this.

posted by missinfwb | on Thu, 2012-03-01 05:37
birdsandsoap's picture

Saving files

Ana or somebody, I've got a question about sketchup plans. I built a bunkbed and designed it on sketchup, trying to get a step by step plan going and was wondering how you saved plan "photos." When you create a plan and save each "step" image, do you save them all in one file for the plan and upload them individually or what? I'm really glad I read your "delete boards from the final design and save" method. That sounds way easier. I've been building layer upon layer, which is drivng me a little nuts, and frankly I have a love/hate relationship with sketchup. I am still learning and I get so mad I want to throw the computer sometimes, lol. I cannot use the protractor to save my life!


posted by birdsandsoap | on Sun, 2012-05-06 02:48


I'm just starting out with Sketchup and have spent several hours just trying to draw a board to the dimensions I need. Somehow I stumbled upon this tutorial, and boy was I lucky. I followed your instructions and quickly had a board with the desired dimensions. Thank you so much for taking to the time to do this tutorial.

posted by Getterdun (not verified) | on Mon, 2012-08-27 19:51

Could you check the images please?

Hi Ana, Thanx so much for you tutorial, is great, but I can't see the images, could you check please if they can appear. Thanx again and God bless you for sharing this. Ines

posted by Ines (not verified) | on Sun, 2013-01-20 00:12

Thanks for such a nice and

Thanks for such a nice and small tutorial on google Sketchup. I am trying to use it for the first time today and it's not so easy for me but such articles as yours really help a lot. Please keep them coming!
Regards, Fred from WordPress Shopping Cart

posted by Fred999 | on Fri, 2013-04-26 09:20
ZestyZ's picture


Ok, as much as I love all of your designs, I haven't found one that meets all of my kids needs/wants, so I figured I would use the exact version of sketchup as you and make my own plans so I'd have a step by step instruction sheet and materials list. So I downloaded it and thought I'd build your shelf along with you as practice. Well, I must not be as bright as I thought because I can't even get through the second board!! I can not draw it perpendicular, only parallel! What am I doing wrong?? Help!

posted by ZestyZ | on Sat, 2013-10-19 14:39

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