The example on the right is a classic Craftsman bungalow in the village of Florida, NY. Windows were typically one over one, double-hung. Where more light was wanted, they were used in groups of two, three or more.

The bay window just left of the porch is not typical. As many Craftsman bungalows were designed and built by their owners, atypical details are so common they are almost part of the style.

Classic Craftsman bungalow


Edges to Rubies The Complete SketchUp Tutorial


simple house with edge deleted

Chapter One: Edges and Faces

If you've viewed Google's excellent videos on basic SketchUp principles you can skip rapidly through this chapter, skimming, not reading. If you are picking commands off the toolbar (break that bad habit fast!) pay close attention to the keyboard shortcuts. (They're not like other products that use Ctrl+? for this and Ctrl+Shift+? for that. SketchUp is your friend, not your master.)

This is the only chapter that's not built around modeling our carriage house. Here we'll get SketchUp's foundational ideas: edges and faces. We'll use the key viewing tools, some fundamental modeling tools and we'll master their keyboard shortcuts.

Master keyboard shortcuts? Is there a lot of memorizing? Well, here's a sample. The keyboard shortcut for the Line tool is "L". The shortcuts for the Rectangle and Circle tools: "R" and "C". "L" for Line; "C" for Circle and "R" for Rectangle. It's going to be tough, but I think you can handle it. What do you suppose the shortcut for the Arc tool will be. (Check your answer: click the word Draw on SketchUp's menubar. Warning: if you are reading this, you are looking at your browser's window. "Draw" is on SketchUp's menubar.) Now let's get to work.

Definition: "Ctrl+X" is shorthand notation meaning "hold a Ctrl key down and tap "x". Do not use a capital letter. On the rare occasion that a capital letter is required we will say "Ctrl+Shift+X". If you have a Mac, your Option key is equivalent to the PC's Ctrl key.

The standard File/New (which you get by Ctrl+N or by starting SketchUp) features a Google dude, Sang, a real Google software engineer, in the current SketchUp 7. Sang was a) selected for a high honor, or b) standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know which.

Sang carrying camera in Airshow! movie.  

When you get to the Airshow! movie (Chapter 16) you'll see Sang starring as our videographer. He climbs over three flights of stairs (without railings) carrying the video camera. For his trouble, he gets ... No. You'll just have to wait. Airshow!'s a good little movie. Poor Sang.

As long as Sang's here, let's use him to get acquainted with the three basic viewing tools: Hand, Zoom and Orbit.

I assume that you have SketchUp as it was first installed. Check your View menu's Toolbars item. You should have the Getting Started toolbar. If you don't have it, select it and unselect any others. No Sang? Window/Components. Choose the Select tab and scroll down just past half way. Click him to import him; another click places him in your model.

hand tool icon Hand Tool

The Hand tool grabs your whatever and drags it around. Grab the Hand tool by tapping its keyboard shortcut, H. (I will always capitalize the shortcut letter. It is almost always the first letter of the tool's name.) With the Hand tool, drag Sang around the screen. Keep dragging poor Sang until you are convinced that he's thoroughly shaken.

I once watched someone read this tutorial without actually using the tools. She assumed that would be faster. She found out that it was really a waste of time. When she started using the tools, she started learning SketchUp.

It's not really called the Hand tool, by the way. But it's a hand in the toolbars; its mouse cursor is a hand; its keyboard shortcut is "H"—not the first letter of its official name. If you stumble across the official name, do your best to forget it.

zoom tool icon Zooming In and Out

If you have a scroll wheel mouse, this couldn't be easier. Push the wheel away from you and you zoom out. Pull the wheel toward you and you zoom in. It feels like you are pushing Sang away or pulling him toward you.

The bad news is that you will not always have a scroll wheel mouse. Or you'll have one like mine that doesn't work in SketchUp. You'll need to use the Zoom tool. Z is the keyboard shortcut for the Zoom tool.

Tap Z. Drag from high to low. You zoomed out. Guess which way drags in. Try it.

Use the Hand tool to drag Sang to the side. Zoom in and you lose Sang. Zoom back out to get him back. Double-click Sang with the Zoom tool. That centers him. He won't get lost when you zoom in. Try it. Whenever there is a particular detail that you want to examine more closely, double-click it with the Zoom tool before you zoom in.

You'll zoom in and out hundreds of times as you learn SketchUp; thousands of times as you use SketchUp. Best practice: use the mouse middle wheel to zoom. Use the Zoom tool if you don't have a working middle wheel.

Zoom Extents. The name's a mouthful. The keyboard combination is Shift+Z. Zoom Sang into the far distance, then press Shift+Z. (As they are keyboard neighbors, the combination is easy to type with one hand.) Got it? Double-click Sang's running shoes into the center of the screen. Zoom in until you have a screenful of foot. Then Shift+Z. I never really learned to like Zoom Extents, but Shift+Z is one of my best friends. On the Camera menu, you'll see Ctrl+Shift+E as the keyboard shortcut. Shift+Z is far easier.

orbit tool icon Orbit Tool

Zoom and Hand are simple, straightforward tools. Orbit is not. Grab the Orbit tool (keyboard O) and try it out. Sang is a 2D figure. If you orbit from left to right you will see the axes move. Sang stands still. If you orbit from low to high, you can turn Sang upside down. We'll go back to the Orbit tool after you've built a 3D house.

Sang with axes.  

For now, Orbit until your axes are similar to the ones to the left.

Select tool icon, a plain arrow pointer The Select Tool

You will use the Select tool more often than any other. On the Getting Started toolbar, it's got the first row all to itself. Since it is used most often, it has a special keyboard shortcut: the spacebar. It makes great sense to assign the tool you'll use most often to the thing that's easiest to type.

Sang's played his part in your education. Now he's in the way. Spacebar up the Select tool. Click Sang and press Delete. Now we're ready to get to work.

Getting to Work

We're going to do things the right way. No more clicking an icon on the toolbar when there's a better way. Assign one hand to the mouse, the other hand to the keyboard.

The author, mouse in left hand, keyboard under right This is your tutor in position for sketching up. Hands a bit more than shoulder-width apart. Mouse in one. Keyboard centered on the other. (I used to leave the keyboard in the center. No more.)

Get a comfortable two-handed position. Tap R on the keyboard. Voila! Your cursor is suddenly showing the rectangle tool ( Rectangle tool cursor, a pencil with an adjacent rectangle ).

If you didn't get a Rectangle cursor this will tell you why. If you did get a Rectangle cursor, you were lucky. This will tell you what to do next time you don't get your chosen tool.

When you use your browser (even a simple page down) focus is switched from SketchUp to your browser. Your keyboard clicks are all handed to your browser. You have put your mouse cursor back over SketchUp and it is obvious to everyone and everything that you want to continue sketching up, but SketchUp needs a click to give it focus. When SketchUp is ignoring you, give it a click. It needs focus.

If you haven't done so, give SketchUp focus and tap R for the Rectangle tool. Click someplace. Move the mouse and watch the rectangle stretch out. Click another place and you have a rectangle. To be more exact, you have four edges and a face.

Before we get too far, two secrets of the universe. Every tool, while you are using it, treats the Esc key as your command: "Stop. I didn't want to do that. Put it back the way it was!" After a command is complete, Ctrl+Z is "undo" the last operation. It will undo everything back to your last Save.

Now let's be more precise.

Inferences for Precise Work

Definition: "Click" means left-click. "Right-click" will be specified as required. If you are a lefty with keys reversed these will be backwards. Sorry.

Press Ctrl+N for another file. Leave that finger over the N. Sketchup will ask "Do you want to save changes to Untitled?". Tap "n" to say "No". Instead of selecting the Google dude with the selection tool, right-click him. Then click Erase (or press Delete). Gone again.

Axes: (AX ees) the plural of axis. We are doing 3D modeling, not splitting firewood.

This time I want a rectangle drawn from the origin. That's the point where the red, green and blue axes meet. (Move your mouse cursor well away from the origin for the moment.) You'll note that the axes don't just meet there; they change from positive (solid lines) to negative (dotted lines) at the origin. Move your mouse toward the origin. A great thing happens when you get close. SketchUp "infers" that you want to place your pointer at the origin. A dot appears:

Rectangle tool with inference dot at origin  

A tooltip also appears explaining the reason for SketchUp's inference. In this case, it says, "Origin". If you click here, you are selecting location [0,0,0]. (Not "someplace near [0,0,0].")

Definition: "inference" or "inference point" is the dot that SketchUp gives you when it infers an intention on your part. I say "inference". You think "dot".

Now drag out a medium-sized rectangle.

Edges and Faces

Rectangle with selected face 

Tap the spacebar to get the selection tool. Then click inside your rectangle. Your face goes from solid to speckled to indicate that it is selected.

Press the Delete key and your face is gone. The edges remain, although if they are on the axes, they'll be hard or impossible to see. If that's the case, lets try again. Ctrl+A selects all entities (edges, faces and everything else in SketchUp models). The Delete key deletes all selected. Ctrl+A and then Delete is a poor substitute for File/New (or Ctrl+N), but it will do for now. (More on this, much more, coming later.)

Rectangle without a face 

Drag out a new Rectangle (the R is capitalized to remind you that this starts by tapping the R key on the keyboard). This time, go from somewhere left of the origin to somewhere right of the origin, not on the axes. Spacebar for the selection tool, mouse click the face and keyboard click Delete and you'll have something like what you see to the left.

Redrawing a line to restore the face 

How do your get the face back? Redraw any Line that's part of the set of bounding edges. (What key would you tap to get the Line tool? If you don't remember, make a guess.) As your Line tool approaches any corner, it will snap to the "Endpoint" inferences. Click one end point, then another and your face is restored. The picture to the left is a single click away from restoring the face.

One more experiment and then we'll jump into 3D. Spacebar up the selection tool. Select a line. Press Delete. Bang! The line is gone. (Stuffy, but more precise, the "edge" is gone.) The face is gone, too. There is no such thing as a face that is not bound by closed edges. To be more exact, closed and coplanar edges. They all have to be in a single plane. (The Rectangle tool always draws in a single plane.)

Fixing the damage? Again, grab the Line tool and draw a new line (edge) where the old one was. Connecting bounding edges recreates the face.

Edges and Faces in 3D

I started using AutoCAD. Got a book with a 30-day free trial version. In a month I decided that this was drafting software, not designing software. Then I tried the free version of Design Workshop. This was real designing software! I paid $500 to upgrade to DWPro. DWPro was the leading design software when @Last Software was founded. @Last was convinced that it could do much better than DWPro. They were right.

SketchUp was @Last's product. Google worked with @Last to get 3D models for Google Earth. They got along well. Google bought @Last. I eventually tried SketchUp. I waited much too long before trying SketchUp. @Last was totally right.

Push/pulling into 3D 

Grab the Pushpull tool (again, make a shrewd guess about which key to tap) and wave it over your rectangle. You'll see that it selects your face. Click and then move the tool up. Your 2D rectangle grows into 3D reality!.

After you use the PushPull tool, make a habit of immediately tapping the spacebar to return to the Select tool. You can do a lot of damage by making unintended pushes and pulls. Here I want you to get a little idea. Tap P and then move the tool over all three faces of your rectangle. Note that it selects the face it is over. Go ahead and give them all some pushes and pulls.

Midpoint to midpoint lines 

Grab the Line tool and slide it along the top edges. When you get near the midpoint, you'll see a blue "Midpoint" inference appear. I used these to add the two lines you see on the left.

You won't always get a "Midpoint" inference. If you don't get one, some point on edge near the midpoint is close enough for now.

Rectangle with triangular bits pushed and pulled 

A push on one side and a pull on the other—just for fun! End each with a click.
Circular push in center 

On your own, try to approximate the circular push in the center of the object to the left. If you get it on your own you can skip the next paragraph.

Circles are drawn with the Circle tool, grabbed by tapping a C. One click specifies the center of the circle. Moving out or in makes the circle larger or smaller. A second click tells the Circle tool you're done. P gets the Pushpull tool back. Click the circular face and pull down a bit. Another click tells Pushpull that you're done.

Drawing a House

Over the next chapters, we'll be modeling this carriage house:

carriage house with upstairs apartment, Craftsman style

Look through those big windows. You're looking at the interior. Here's a view of the upstairs apartment.

upstairs apartment, roof and walls removed to show interior

I designed this back in my DWPro days. It went with a Craftsman-style house. The wide roof overhangs are pure Craftsman. The use of structural elements as decorative elements is pure Craftsman. The blue over white with brown wood is also typically Craftsman. In many ways, this is straight out of 1910.

On the other hand, those four-foot-square casement windows are not Craftsman. A one over one double hung window, 18" to 24" wide and twice that in height would be authentic. Use two, side-by-side, to get more light. I like my casement windows. (In Craftsman architecture, breaking the rules is completely authentic.) The bit of stained glass at the top is very Craftsman. And the two-car-garage ground floor? Maybe a two-carriage ground floor, although Ford was making Model Ts then.

But let's start with a simpler house.

Rectangle with line drawn to pull up into a roof 

Start by drawing a Rectangle and Pushpulling it into 3D. Then use the Line tool to connect the opposite midpoints, as you see to the left. (If that red line is the street, this will become either a Craftsman bungalow or a Cape Cod home. Both are gable-ended designs.)

House with roof pulled up 

Ready for the Move tool? Yes, you tap M to get it. With the Move tool, click that center line near its center, then move parallel to the blue axis. This will pull up a roof. A second click tells the Move tool you're done.

That little house has no roof overhangs. It's definitely a Cape Cod.

Malformed house 

That second "I'm done" click is important. Forget it and you could end up with the malformed house on the left. The Move tool is powerful, but I'm always happier when I've made the second click and then tapped the spacebar to put it away.

What do you do about horrible mistakes? Pressing Esc before the second click tells every tool, "Stop! Put that back the way it was!" After the second click, Ctrl+Z will undo. Frequent File/Save (Ctrl+S) is always a good idea.

It's Not Solid

Your nice, solid-looking, 3D house is not one little bit solid. Remember that deleting an edge deletes the faces that depend on it? Here's one edge gone.

removing an edge removes two faces 

Here I've deleted the edge where the roof meets the front of the house. Half the roof is gone and the front of the house has disappeared. Try it yourself. Select the edge with the Select tool and press Delete.

As you might guess, redrawing the edge will fix the problem. But look at the way the house above is positioned. The near front-roof corner is almost perfectly aligned with the edge between the floor and the back of the house. Drawing a Line to that spot is a gamble.

orbit moves a corner off by itself 

You see to the left how a slight orbit now has both corners quite happily by themselves. SketchUp will have no trouble doing its inferencing thing. Get your own house turned so that the corners you want to connect are not mixed with other edges or end points. Then Line from one to the other. House repair was never simpler.

Single-, Double- and Triple-Click Selections

This is the last topic in this chapter, and it's the last topic that will be considered outside of an actual, "How do I model this?" context. It's simple, too. If you forget it (as I do) you will have disastrous results. You will learn to love Ctrl+Z.

Single-Clicking a Face

Spacebar for the Select tool. Click on a face in your house. The face is selected.

Double-Clicking a Face

house with just an end wall and some edges 

Use the Select tool to double-click on a face in your house. The face and its surrounding edges are selected. Double-click an end wall on your house. Then press Delete.

This is not a pretty picture. Ctrl+Z to the rescue!

Triple-Clicking a Face

With the Select tool, triple-clicking selects all faces and edges that touch each other. Sometimes this is exactly what you want. Sometimes it's a problem. (It's a problem that groups and components solve, but we'll get there later.)

an ill-considered move of a point destroys house 

I want to move my house. If the red axis is the street, it's much too close. So I tap M, approach the house and SketchUp guesses an inference point at the corner of the roof. I click and move. SketchUp moves the point, updates all the edges that end at that point and all the faces bound by those edges. Result: the horrible mess you see here.

Numerous horrible messes are avoided with one simple rule. When moving, grab the bottom of any object. And make friends with your triple-click.

house well back from the street 

Here I triple-clicked to select the whole house. Then I moved it, by choosing a bottom point with the Move tool. As you see, everything is selected, but the street is no where to be seen. Try it yourself.

Moves parallel to the green axis show you a green line. Moves parallel to the red axis show a red line. Moves parallel to the blue axis are ill-advised if you are moving a house.

A hint. Moves often work best if you work one axis at a time. Move a bit on the green axis. End that move; start another; move a bit on the red axis.

Orbit, Encore

Now that you have a 3D house you can try the Orbit tool again. Orbit from left to right (or right to left). Orbit from low to high (or high to low).

Orbit makes sense, the documentation says, if you realize that your model is fixed. You are moving the camera that looks at your model. I could never wrap my brain around that one. If it makes a good mental model for you, go with it.

view from under the house 

Orbit from low to high and you will be looking under your house.

There is another mental model that works for me. If you Orbit low in the screen, its very much like you are grabbing your model by the low front portion, and turning the model. Try it. You may like it.

Final note: press and hold the Shift key while orbiting and you change from Orbit to Hand. Release the Shift to return to Orbit.

This ends our first chapter. You've learned about the most common modeling and viewing tools. (I hope you're working with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the mouse. Laptop? Invest in a mouse if you'll be doing some sketching up.) Next we'll start right in on our carriage house, laying the foundation.

If you've forgot (or skipped) the Introduction, the icons below are for previous chapter, contents and next chapter. If you haven't looked at the Table of Contents, now would be a good time to try. Each chapter has a Details option that gives you links to each major topic in the chapter.


simple house behind carriage house view of apartment contents carriage house basement