google sketchup review - graphics for diy

elphaba_gwMay 21, 2006

If you are a professional landscaper or designer, I recommend that you not waste your time reading the info below. BUT if you are a resourceful DIY'er and want to try out a REALLY new software product, read on.

Wanted to tell those who might not be aware that google has recently come out with new graphics software that is free (for now at least) called Google Sketchup. I found it on Apparently it is also available from

I'm not recommending this for the professionals. But it is great for us DIY'ers who want something fairly quick to show our contractors (and spouses and friends) while you're trying to decide what you want.

I needed something to draw my property along with the hardscapes. We are in the final stages of a major fencing project that is quite expensive (for us) and wanted to get dimensions right as well as design as well as instructions for the installer.

This program worked great. After about a day and a half of tweaking around and getting to know how this software works, I came up with numerous drawings. Here is the basic one of our property before any fencing and before lots more has been added I've made several more with a variety of possible fence and gate placements (in the front and other places).

I'm still learning but wanted to get the word out in case there is a time limit on this being free. By the way, free wasn't really my highest priority. I was willing to pay up to $100 but didn't want to get into the "photoshop" price range or REAL Cad pricerange (can be "thousands"). I was mainly interested in it being at least somewhat intuitive without requiring a huge learning curve (i.e. a training class or a couple of weeks struggling...)

Also, wanted to evaluate first. I must have looked at at least 10 different CAD applications and none gave me the ability (easily or that I could find in a reasonable amount of time) to input dimensions or draw a simple rectangle quickly. LOVE this software.


1. Cheap - i.e. free

2. Fairly intuitive (IMO)

3. 2D AND 3D (I haven't learned much about 3D yet).

4. the 3D tutorial looks fantastic (but as I said above, I haven't used it yet)


1. - Measuring can be a bit tricky, it says it does diagrams to scale and I've come close but getting everything exactly to scale looks like it may be more of a challenge than the average DIY'er cares about.

2 - Not sure I like some of the inflexible rules about placing text. I've found a work-a-round but it's a bit cludgey.

3 - Not sure it can be exported to do jpg graphics. I have a nice little free software package called "pdfCreator" which I used to print from google sketchup directly to a pdf file, hence the reason that the link of my diagram above is to a pdf file (you'll need Acrobat Reader - free from to be able to read). Converting to jpg may be something I just haven't learned yet but their info page does not include jpg for export. It says:

"Export models in 3DS, DWG, DXF, OBJ, XSI, VRML, and FBX file formats"

4 - Does require a bit of computer expertise, at least if you really want something fairly quick. I have a computer background so it is hard for me to be objective. I could be wrong but I also don't want to send some people down the path of working on this with too high of expectations if they are a newbie with computers.

For example, I figured out how to do 2D with the following settings which I didn't find anywhere (exactly stated as a setup for 2D) in the help section (might have been there, who knows):

a. Camera setting - first click "standard", then "top"

b. Camera setting - unclick "perspective"

c. View - unclick "axes"

5 - Doesn't have any icons for plants (or any other icons) that you can drag and drop. But there I have hope that the software can be adapted for this purpose. There IS the ability to "build" components. I suspect you could build an entire library of plants, trees, etc and then choose from your library when you want to include one but I haven't gone down that path yet. I'm certain I will at the rate I'm going (eventually). Building the library isn't going to be something that is quick.

I'm also posting this on the Landscaping forum. (Can you tell I'm excited? This is REALLY fun!)

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I just took a look at this, very interesting! Can you import pictures of your own (like your house and add plants, other buildings etc)? Or do you just have to draw or sketch them from within the program. Thanks for the link.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 4:20PM
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online google sketchup help

I've extracted the following notes:
"SketchUp allows you to import 2D raster images, including JPEG and BMP, for placement within your model Import a file using the Import menu item in the File menu."

"SketchUp allows you to import 3D models, such as DWG and DXF CAD files, for placement within your model."

"SketchUp allows you to import 3D Studio (3DS) files. Import a file using the Import menu item in the File menu.:

Me here again:
Also, I see instructions in the Help file for importing DEM, KMZ/KML, and SHP formats too.

I don't see anything else such as PDF or plain text or Microsoft Wod. But could be there, I just don't see it doing a quick look thru.

Here is a link that might be useful: Online Google Sketchup Help

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 8:53PM
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Someone on the landscaping design forum tried this and said he could export to jpg. I took a second look and noticed in the file "pull-down" menu, the "import" selection option will allow you to browse and select a jpg file.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 12:15AM
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That must be this one?

I DL'd it but there it sits? I better install before it gets moldy?
Thanks for the write-up.

Here is a little of the notice of what I had gotten before and didn't go any further with it.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 2:55AM
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bummer...I still have Windows 98 and says it only works on Windows 2000 and XP..... :(

sound pretty awesome though

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 1:35PM
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Thanks for the post Elphaba. I am just getting ready to renovate my kitchen and this should really help.

I can tell you have a computer (engineering?) background by your use of cludgy (kludgy) ... I spent nearly 20 years with a large computer company (HP n Compaq née DEC) and learned that word very early on. Still use it today when needed. :-)


    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 8:48PM
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