The real advantage of SketchUp as a construction modeler is that it can quickly illustrate or animate any sequence of events from a piece-based assembly.  Notes and dimensions are easily added to exports and the results inserted into working documents, presentations, and email during an ongoing construction process.

Review Steps #1 and #2

#1.  Each piece begins as a box. Start with a rectangle, extrude it, then shape and modify the box to match the specifications for that piece.  When ready, group and name the results.  Make them SketchUp Components when you know there are going to be several identically scaled clones of the same piece.

#2Assemble the grouped objects using one of the many Inferences and Guidelines built into SketchUp.  Use the Move and Rotate tools to snap the pieces into position and the Control key to make copies as you build the model.

Once the construction model is assembled, it can be quickly staged for Export as a 2D Graphic or Animation using SketchUp’s File Menu.  Deconstruction for illustrations and animations are controlled by the SketchUp Outliner and Scenes.

The Outliner

Use the Outliner to nest the named groups into subassemblies that represent subcontracts or sequences that will be important to the processes you may want to illustrate.

Group the pieces by selecting them in the Outliner with the Shift or Control key.  The Shift key lets you select a series of pieces and the Control key allows you to pick and choose the pieces you want to be in the nested group.  Once selected, use the Make Group command in the Edit Menu and immediately name the new group.  A Shortcut key makes it possible to group objects by pressing a single key.

Once a group is formed in the Outliner, you can drag pieces in and out of that group, double click a name in the Outliner to edit that piece in the 3D model, or combine and reorganize several groups into more complex subassemblies.

Setting up the Scenes

Use the Orbit and Pan tools to position the camera angle.  Then select any piece or group in the Outliner to Hide or Unhide it and change its visibility for each Scene.

When ready, use the “ + “ symbol at the top of the Scenes Dialog Box to add a Scene along with the “Properties to save” with that Scene.  Scene names and descriptions help identify content in the Scene, and the “Include in animation” check box will schedule the Scene for export to an animation.  Transition and delay settings are found in SketchUp’s Model Info Dialog Box in the Window Menu.

Annotations and dimensions can be added to each Scene.  You can also capture or Export the Scenes as a 2D Graphic or Animation for further editing in a draw or image editing program, or insert them directly into a working document.

Controlling the visibility or motion of individual pieces in the subassembly is a little trickier, I’ll cover that next time.



Use a library.  Every piece only needs to be made once when it’s saved to a library.  This means after a couple of models, rapid assembly is possible because you simply drag and drop the pieces into the model from your own collection of construction materials.

Annotate the images.  Use a Draw program to edit and annotate exported graphics.  A free version is included in OpenOffice, or use any of the many free screen capture and image editors found at Only Freewares.  Faststone and PicPick are probably the easiest to use free programs for image captures and quick annotations.

Export animations.  You’ll find the Export Animation feature in the free version of Google SketchUp produces a pretty basic low-resolution animation.  Check out one of the many video capture programs found at Freeware Home when better results are important.  I use the free version of CamStudio for AVI movies and Wink for Flash animations.