Welcome to All3DP´s SketchUp 3D Printing Tutorial for Beginners. Learn how to make your first 3D model for 3D printing.
SketchUp first came to the spotlight after winning the DigitalCAD Community Choice Award by Digital Media Net at its first trade show. It’s a perfect example of a mix of both simplicity and quality. Since then, the software has been a great help to a lot of users due to its user-friendly interface and short learning time.
This SketchUp tutorial for 3D printing beginners will help you understand the basics. And we will build a simple 3D object while you learn the basic commands, tools, and all the technical know-how to help you visualize your ideas for 3D printing.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Lesson 1: The Basic Concepts
In the first lesson of this SketchUp tutorial for 3D printing beginners, you learn to install SketchUp and the basic concepts.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 1.1: Install
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.1.A: Downloading and Installing
1. To download SketchUp, go to https://www.sketchup.com/download and follow the steps. Fill in the necessary information.
2. After downloading the file, go to your Downloads folder and locate the file.
3. Right-click the installer and select Run as Administrator, follow the steps for installation.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.1.B: SketchUp Make or SketchUp Pro?
Both versions are the same when it comes to basic commands and tools for modeling. SketchUp Make is ideal for beginners while SketchUp Pro is for advanced users. The former provides all the commands you can use for 3D modeling, and the latter provides additional functions like printing in scale or exporting/importing to/from CAD software.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 1.2: Preparing the Workspace
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.2.A: Selecting the appropriate template
SketchUp allows you to select the workspace you want to use from a window that appears when you open the application.
The window shows three tabs: Learn, License, and Template. The Template tab displays a list of different presets to select from. They depend on the type of model you will be doing.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.2.B: What to use
The presets/templates vary in backgrounds and edge styles – which only affects the visual aspect of your model (i.e. background color and line thickness), type of model to be done (i.e. landscaping, interiors etc.) and measurement systems (English or Metric). I recommend that you explore these templates, but for now, let us use the Simple Template – Meters.
Click the template and then the button Start using SketchUp on the lower right side of the window. I recommend you check the box on the lower left side that says Always show on startup, as this will enable you to select any template every time you open the application.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 1.3: Basic tools
The developers took the time to invest in developing a user-friendly workspace for this software. The tools in SketchUp are fairly easy to familiarize with. It almost feels like you are drawing on a piece of paper.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.3.A: The Toolbars
SketchUp has a lot of commands and tools that you can select from. On your first SketchUp workspace, you will see default toolbars on the upper part of your screen.
1. Click View > Toolbars.
A window will appear with a list of toolbars. For this tutorial, we will use the Large Tool Set. This toolbar contains most of the tools you need to build a 3D model/object.
2. Check the Large Tool Set. I recommend you uncheck the other toolbars to avoid confusion.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.3.B: The Axis
SketchUp utilizes the Red, Green, and Blue axes in the workspace like any other 3D software. This allows you to view your work from different angles. Also, SketchUp has a snapping feature that helps you align your lines or models along the different axes.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.3.C: Basic 2D drawing commands
1. To draw a line, first click the pencil symbol on the toolbar or simply press L on your keyboard.
2. Click anywhere on your screen to assign the first point.
3. Drag the mouse to the desired location of the second point and click.
4. To specify the length (in this case I entered 5), simply type the value right after Step 2 and press Enter.
As you have already noticed, you can align any line to the Red, Green, or Blue axis of the workspace.
1. To draw a rectangle/square, first click the Rectangle icon on the left beside the pencil symbol or simply press R on your keyboard.
2. Click the desired location to assign the first corner of your rectangle/square.
3. Drag the mouse to the desired location for the opposite corner and click.
You can also enter the length and width of your rectangle/square:
* Enter the values after Step 2 and hit Enter on your keyboard.
* This part is a bit tricky. The first value you enter corresponds to the length/width along the Red axis and the second value corresponds to the length/width along the Green Enter both the values separated by a comma “,” and press Enter (i.e. 4, 4).
1. To draw a circle, first click the icon below the rectangle icon or simply press C on your keyboard.
2. Click the desired point to assign the midpoint of your circle.
3. Drag the cursor anywhere on the screen to make the circle and then click.
4. To specify the radius (i.e. radius = 2), simply enter the value right after Step 2 and press Enter.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 1.4: Movement Controls
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.4.A: Pan
1. To use Pan, click the icon or simply press H on your keyboard.
2. Click to set the origin, hold the mouse button and just drag. This will allow you to move your view.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 1.4.B: Orbit
1. To use Orbit, click the icon on the toolbar or simply press O on your keyboard.
2. Click anywhere, hold and drag to rotate the whole view.
3. You can also use the mouse wheel to Orbit.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 1.5: Saving
To save your work, click File > Save or simply press Ctrl + S on your keyboard. Enter the filename and select the directory you want your file to saved in.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Lesson 2: Building Your First 3D Object and Moving Objects
In lesson 2 of this Sketchup tutorial for 3D printing beginners, you learn how to build your first 3D object and moving objects.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 2.1: Making your first object
Here you see the 2D shapes you created in Lesson 1:
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.1.A: Converting 2D Shapes to 3D Objects
Making your first 3D Object (the Cylinder) in SketchUp
First zoom in on the circle using your mouse wheel button.
Click the Push/Pull icon on the toolbar or press P on your keyboard.
Hover your mouse cursor over the plane of the circle.
When you see the plane highlighted (i.e., when the plane shows a dotted texture on it), click on it and simply drag it upwards. Click the left mouse button again to set the height of your cylinder. Or type the height after the first click.
You will then see the shaped converted into a cylinder. Congratulations! You have created your first 3D object.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.1.B: Converting your Square/Rectangle to a 3D object
You can do this by repeating the steps from above on your square or rectangle.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 2.2: Dimensions and measuring
This feature in SketchUp is very useful especially in presentations if you want to show the dimensions of your model or check the accuracy of your model.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.2.A: Dimension tool
This tool allows you to set the dimensions of your model.
To use this tool, click the Dimension icon on the toolbar.
2. Next: Either click the starting point and then the end point of the line you want to measure. Or simply click the line.
3. Drag the cursor perpendicularly with respect to the line. When you reach the desired offset distance, click the left mouse button again.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.2.B: Tape Measure Tool
This tool can also be used in two ways.
First is to check for dimensions:
To check for dimensions, click the Tape Measure Tool icon on the toolbar.
Use your left mouse button to click on the start and end point of the line you want to measure. You can see the dimensions on the Measurement toolbar on the lower right side of your SketchUp screen.
Second is to mark distances:
To use this feature, repeat Step 1 above and click the line to which you want to measure the offset.
Drag the cursor or extend the dashed line to the distance you want the mark to be set or simply enter the offset distance.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.2.C: Protractor tool
This tool can be used to measure or mark angles.
To use this tool click the Protractor icon on the toolbar.
Left-click the point where you want the angle’s vertex to be set.
You can also set to what axis you want the mark-up to face by using Left-click + Hold until you the Protractor icon changes color according to the axis. In this case, I recommend you use the Blue axis so the mark-up will be placed on the tip of the cube.
After Step 2, click the line where you want the base/reference line of your angle to be set.
Enter the value of the angle that you want to be marked-up.
You will then see the dashed line on the surface of the cube.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 2.3: Moving objects
This tool is very easy to use:
Select first the object you want to move. Do this by Left-click + Hold + Drag to completely select the object. Do this on the cube.
Click the Move tool or press M on your keyboard.
Click the selected object and drag.
Click again when you reached the desired location.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 2.4: Moving single and multiple objects
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.4.A: Single objects
Perform Step 1 to 3 from above.
Press Ctrl on your keyboard to create a copy of the model.
Left-click again to place the copied model to the desired location.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 2.4.B: Multiple objects
Repeat Step 1 to 5
Enter an asterisk (*) and then the number of copies you want to produce and hit Enter.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Lesson 3: Basic Model Editing
In lesson 3 of this SketchUp tutorial for 3D printing beginners, you learn the basics of editing a 3D model.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 3.1: Erase tool
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 3.1.A: Basic Eraser
This tool works like a basic eraser: It erases lines or planes you have created. There are two ways to use this tool:
1. First is to click on the Eraser tool on the toolbar.
2. Once the eraser icon appears, click on the lines you want to erase.
Or, simply click on any line or plane that you want to erase and hit Delete on your keyboard.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 3.1.B: Advanced Eraser
This tool is used when you want to eliminate/hide corner lines on your model to achieve a smoother corner termination.
1. For this part, you still need to use the eraser tool. Hence, click the Eraser tool on the toolbar.
2. Once the eraser icon appears, use Shift + Left Mouse Button to erase/hide the lines.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 3.2: Text
This tool allows you to calculate areas of planes, place labels, or 3D texts for presentations, i.e. signages.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 3.2.A: 2D Text
This tool can be used to calculate areas of planes that you have created or place callouts or labels on your model for emphasis/detail.
1. To use this tool, click the Text icon on the toolbar.
2. Once the icon appears, click on the plane where you want to measure the area.
3. When an icon showing the value of the area appears, extend it to the desired location and click.
4. Click anywhere to finalize the location.
1. To use this tool follow Step 1-3 above.
2. After Step 3, simply input the label you want and click to finalize.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – 3.2.B: 3D Text
This tool can be used to place 3D embossed text on your model, i.e. for signage.
1. To use this tool, click on the 3D Text icon on the toolbar.
2. A window will open displaying the settings for the tool.
3. You can then choose which font to use, size of the text and the width or extrusion. For this tutorial, use this setting:
4. After you input the settings, click Place and place the text to where you want it to be displayed. For this tutorial, place it on the side of the cube.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 3.3: Basic cut feature
This tool allows you to cut or eliminate a section or a whole part of your model. To show you how to use this tool, we use the cylinder.
1. Click on the Line tool on the toolbar.
2. For this tutorial, make a line on three points on the surface of the cylinder. First, from any point on the edge on the top surface of the cylinder. Second, a point to the center and third, a point across that aligns to the red axis.
3. Click on the Push/Pull tool on the toolbar
4. Click on one-half of the top surface of the cylinder and push it downwards to create the cut and click to finalize.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 3.4: Advance Push/Pull: “Follow Me”
This feature in SketchUp allows you to create a model that follows a path that you set. This tool is quite tricky, it might require some patience.
To show you how to use this tool, we use the cube. You will create a roof gutter-like feature on the top sides of the cube:
1. First you need to create a pattern to which you can apply the feature. For this tutorial, create a simple rectangle with one of its corners attached to one corner of the cube.
2. After creating the rectangle, press the Spacebar on your keyboard and select the four (4) lines surrounding the top plane/surface of the cube. To do this, use Ctrl + Left Mouse Button to select multiple lines. This will be the path.
3. The selected lines will serve as the path for our gutter. After selecting the lines, click the Follow Me icon on the toolbar.
4. Once the icon appears, click on the surface of the mini rectangle you created. It will automatically follow the path you have selected.
Note: You can use this tool to follow any pattern you want using any shape you desire. The path does not have to be closed or end on the starting point. But paths should be connected and/or should not have any disconnected joints in between the start and the end of it. Otherwise, the tool will not work accordingly.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Lesson 4: Advanced Modeling Tools
In lesson 4 of this SketchUp 3D tutorial for 3D printing beginners, you learn how to use the advanced modeling tools.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 4.1: Creating solids
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Grouping
This tool in SketchUp allows you to create solids and helps prevent unwanted editing. To create solids, you need to convert the 3D models into groups or components. In this part of the tutorial, we will focus on grouping since components are a bit more complicated – we’ll tackle components in part 5.
1. Open the file you created in part 3 tutorial.
2. To create a group, select the model you want to convert and click the Right Mouse Button to open the Model Options window, and click Create Group. Use this feature on both the cylinder and the rectangular box.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 4.2: Advance Cut Feature
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Subtract
This tool is used to cut portions of your model using other models. For this tutorial, we will use the cylinder and the rectangular box.
1. First go to View > Toolbars > Solid Tools. It will make the Solid Tools toolbar appear in your workspace.
2. To show you how to use this feature: First intersect the cylinder using the rectangular box or vice versa.
3. Move the rectangular box towards the cylinder. Connect its corner to the center of the cylinder.
4. To cut the rectangular box using the cylinder: First click the Subtract icon on the Solid Tools toolbar.
5. To subtract the cylinder from the rectangular box, first click the cylinder.
6. Then click the second model, i.e. the cylinder.
After which you can then see the rectangular subtracted by the cylinder quadrant.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 4.3: Scaling
This tool allows you to adjust your model accordingly or to the desired scale.
1. To use this tool, select your model first and press S on your keyboard. It will show you the different scaling points you can use.
2. For this tutorial, we will scale our model down while maintaining the ratio and proportion of our rectangular box. This is called uniform scaling. To do this: Click on one of the eight corner points of the rectangular box.
3. Drag the corner diagonally to the desired scale value or fill in the desired value, which you can see on the lower right corner of the window. For this tutorial, type 0.50 which means you will be scaling your model down to 50%.
SketchU for 3D Printing – Step 4.4: Advanced Maneuvering
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Rotating an Object
This feature is very useful when you experience orientation issues. It is when you have your model facing the opposite/wrong direction.
1. First select the model you want to rotate and press Q on your keyboard.
2. You can then select which axis you want your model to rotate. For this tutorial, use the blue axis.
3. Click on the center of the top surface of the rectangular box to set your axis.
4. Extend your cursor towards the green or red axis to select the baseline of rotation. For this tutorial, use the green axis as the baseline, which is along the longer side of the model. When you see the green line, click to set the baseline.
5. Rotate the model to the desired direction or simply input an angle value. In this case, enter 30°.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Lesson 5: Advanced Features
You are close to the end of this SketchUp 3D tutorial for 3D printing beginners. In lesson 5, you will learn some advanced features that are very useful for 3D modeling and presentations.
SketchUp 3D for Printing – Step 5.1: Paint Bucket tool
This feature in SketchUp allows you apply color or different material finishes on your model.
1. To use this tool, click the Paint Bucket icon on the toolbar or simply press B on your keyboard. This will open the material window in SketchUp.
2. For this tutorial, you will use the cube. Select Colors Named from the subfolders displayed on the material window and click 0062_OliveDrab.
3. Once the Paint Bucket icon appears, click on the surface, you want to apply the selected material to.
You now have applied a material on your model. Do this for the rest of the model if desired.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 5.2: Component feature
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Understanding Components
The component feature is one way of converting your 3D object into a solid model. If you plan to have multiple similar objects in your model, convert one to a component and use it to make multiple similar objects. This way, you will only need to edit one object, and the changes will apply to all similar components.
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Converting an object to a component
1. First select the entire object you want to convert. In this case: the cube. Upon selecting the whole object (including the 3D text), you will notice that the 3D text is already in a group state. This is an automatic feature of the 3D text tool. We will include the 3D text in the cube component.
2. Right-click the selection and select Make Component from the drop-down menu.
3. A window will then appear which shows the properties of the component you want to make. Rename the component to “Model 2” and click Create.
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Editing components
1. Now you have a component. Create three copies of it and do some editing. Do this by applying Step 4 on the 2. part of this tutorial.
2. Double-click the center component to edit it.
3. Click the 3D text “CUBE” and press Delete on your keyboard. You can see that the 3D text on the other two cube components have also been deleted.
This feature is very useful when you have multiple similar objects. You don’t have to edit all of them one by one. The changes made on one component will also be applied to all similar components.
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Make Unique feature.
Having similar components is very advantageous when you are editing multiple objects, but this can also be difficult when you want a single or some components to be a bit or slightly different from the others. The “Make Unique” feature will allow you to edit a similar component w/o editing the others in the process.
1. Select the component in the middle and right-click to open the drop-down menu.
2. Select Make Unique. You now have a component that is different from the two.
3. Double-click to edit the component.
4. Use the Push/Pull tool to pull the gutter up to make it taller. See how the two other components are not affected by the changes.
SketchUp for 3D Printing: Lesson 6 – Saving and Exporting
The basic features in SketchUp do not provide a 3D printable file format. However, SketchUp has a free extension which converts your files to a 3D printing file format. In lesson 6 of this SketchUp tutorial, you learn how to use it.
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 6.1: Download and install the extension
SketchUp for 3D Printing: SketchUp 2013 or higher
1. Go to Window > Extension Warehouse to open the Extension Warehouse window.
2. You will need to sign in using your Google account
3. Go to the search bar and type in “SketchUp STL”
4. You will see a list of extensions that can convert SKP files to 3D printable. Click on the search option SketchUp STL by SketchUp Team and click Install
5. Wait for the installation to finish and close the Extension Warehouse window.
SketchUp for 3D Printing: SketchUp 8 or earlier
1. Open your web browser and use this link to search for the extension: https://extensions.sketchup.com/en/content/sketchup-stl
2. Sign in using your Google account and click Download.
3. After downloading the file, go to your SketchUp application and select Preferences > Extensions.
4. Select Install Extension
5. Locate the downloaded file and click Ok
SketchUp for 3D Printing – Step 6.2: Export to STL
We are finally nearing the end of our tutorial. After installing the extensions, exporting the model to STL will be a walk in the park. Before you can export an object to STL, you should first make the object solid. You can convert the object to a group or a component. For this part we will use the cube model in the middle.
1. First select the component on the middle.
2. Go to File > Export to STL
3. You will then see the STL Export Options window. Check the Export selected geometry only option.
4. Select Meters for the Export unit since we are using meters on our model
5. Use Binary for the File format, for a smaller file size.
6. Click on Export and save your file to a desired location.
Congratulations on completing our SketchUp Tutorial for 3D Printing Beginners!
License: The text of "SketchUp for 3D Printing: A Tutorial for Beginners" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.