How does one learn Sketchup?

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Forum topic by Don46 posted 07-30-2009 01:46 AM 6644 views 5 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 4051 days

07-30-2009 01:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sketchup learning

I usually fairly adept at learning new software but I cannot seem to get started with Sketchup. How did some of you get a handle on this when you were starting. Is there an article I can read, a good video tutorial I can use, or a dvid I might buy that you know to be useful that can get me up and running.

Sketchup appears to be a marvelous tool for drawing new projects, estimating material needs, etc. I have it downloaded and have tried to get into it, but I just get frustrated.

One question: I am using a track ball mouse and I wonder if that is making me more clumsy with the cursor.
I welcome your advice.

Many thanks Don

-- --Don, Folly Beach, SC

29 replies so far

View LesB's profile


2151 posts in 3892 days

#1 posted 07-30-2009 01:51 AM

Sketch up is not easy. I finally bought a book (Sketchup, the Missing Manual) and I’m still struggling with it. It is not intutitative; especially if you are use to Mac applications. It makes Microsoft software seem simple (-;
There are some on line tutorials that might help you get started but I think it would be very hard to get good at it without a reference book or some instruction.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4388 days

#2 posted 07-30-2009 01:57 AM

Don, some people take to it like a fish to water. Personally I took to it like a cat to water. I’ve tried a few times and could not do it. However there are plenty of tutorials here on LumberJocks and I’m sure you’ll find good information from a search.

-- Working at Woodworking

View a1Jim's profile


117688 posts in 4026 days

#3 posted 07-30-2009 02:32 AM

Not somthing I’ve been able to make work for me yet.

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 4010 days

#4 posted 07-30-2009 04:07 AM

DaveR helped me a lot with his videos and a few phone calls. He has to be one of the best if not the best SketchUP practitioners.

-- Joe

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4667 days

#5 posted 07-30-2009 04:49 AM

Every time I decide to give it another go, I get frustrated in short order. Russel’s “cat to water” comment sums it up pretty well. Even though I’m fairly adept at spreadsheets, databases, and even Photoshop, something about Sketchup just doesn’t click for me. I suppose it is a lack of patiece to take the time to learn from the ground up. I just want to take the mouse and start drawing. Doesn’t work that way. :-(

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4098 days

#6 posted 07-30-2009 05:55 AM

here is a good start on youtube

checkout the rest of the videos there, and do a search on “sketchup tutorial” on youtube and google.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Jack Barnhill's profile

Jack Barnhill

366 posts in 3815 days

#7 posted 07-30-2009 06:31 AM

It took me several years and several attempts with several different 3D packages including Sketchup before it started making sense to me. TurboCAD was the one that started making sense to me but I soon realized that TC wasn’t widely accepted and so switched again to Sketchup and it finally clicked. I’m trying to learn the finer points of Sketchup as quickly as I can and DaveR has been a big help in doing that.

Dave has put together many great tutorials and references here and on the FWW website. They have been very helpful as were the tutorials on YouTube and Purplev said.

Best regards,

P.S. I have tried the trackball and really liked it for Office-type applications but the 3-button mouse works far better for me on Sketchup. Unlike Dave, I prefer the wireless mouse. I don’t like having to drag the “tail” (cord) around and the resistance when it gets hung up on something on the desk.

-- Best regards, Jack -- I may not be good, but I'm slow --

View Tomw's profile


102 posts in 3677 days

#8 posted 07-30-2009 06:35 AM

This 8-part tutorial from Joe Zeh is tailored for woodworkers. It takes a while to get through, but when you’re done you’ll have a good working knowledge of the main tools, as well as a grasp of layers and scenes, which is crucial for avoiding frustration and keeping parts organized. You’ll also have a buildable model of a very nice small table.

-- Tom

View lew's profile


12821 posts in 4204 days

#9 posted 07-30-2009 04:32 PM

Accept DaveR’s help!!

He is super knowledgeable and so very generous with his time. He taught me stuff in an hour that I had been fretting with for months and showed me things I couldn’t find in any book.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Don46's profile


44 posts in 4051 days

#10 posted 07-31-2009 02:38 AM

Many thanks for these helpful responses. I am going to back up and take another run at this. I worked some this morning on basic drawing skills. I used the introductory videos at the sketchup site, which were helpful. I think I will get a regular mouse and see if that doesn’t work better, but I seem to get the basic concept of drawing shapes in two dimensions, adding a third dimension, and according to the size.

I think where I am having trouble is understanding the concept of a project and its parts. Let’s say I’m doing a book shelf. I want a drawing of the plan and a cutlist (I’ve installed Cutlist 4)
I don’t understand whether I’m wanting to draw a box with openings defining the shelves, or are each of the two sides, top and bottom and shelves all “components” to be drawn separately.
I appreciate Dave R’s offer to help and will take him up on that. First, I need to work a little more on the basics so that I know the questions to ask!


-- --Don, Folly Beach, SC

View Don46's profile


44 posts in 4051 days

#11 posted 07-31-2009 02:56 AM

Dave, if you could answer that, then I’ll set aside time and call you. I appreciate your help.

-- --Don, Folly Beach, SC

View Mauritius's profile


96 posts in 3675 days

#12 posted 07-31-2009 03:25 AM

Ahh, finally! Thanks for this thread. I’m a professional computer geek by day and I have to say that sketchup has left me drooling maniacally on my keyboard more than once. I’m glad I’m not alone at least, and now that I’ve found DaveR’s blogs and the rest of the links here I have a place to start. I’ve used CAD programs in the past without problems, and I’m a big fan of any piece of software Google puts out, but for some reason sketchup just wasn’t making sense. I like using computers for things that actually save me time and teach me new stuff, but like all the rest of you, if it’s a pain and a waste of time…I’d rather be making sawdust.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 3013 days

#13 posted 12-30-2012 12:41 AM

So I’m trying to teach myself sketchup, but am struggling. I really don’t want to sit and watch videos and try and watch. What I’d like is step by step written with screen shots that I can do each step as go along. This was how I learned photoshop years ago and am looking for the same, but all I can seem to do is find videos. Does anyone know if there are any online resources (free!) that can help me? If not I can try the videos, I just know what type of learning works best for me. Thanks.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View bondogaposis's profile


5489 posts in 2800 days

#14 posted 12-30-2012 12:47 AM

Here is a good resource.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JAAune's profile


1866 posts in 2766 days

#15 posted 12-30-2012 01:22 AM

I learned the program very informally by playing with the tools and making basic stuff. The extrude tool was probably the one I would consider the most important one and I just made lines and extruded shapes to get used to it. After getting one tool down I’d play around with another one until I could create models of stuff I wished to make.

When my drawings got advanced I’d encounter things I couldn’t do then I’d talk to people and search via Google until I found a method or plugin that would get the job done.

Regarding a questioned posed above…

Don, everything needs to be broken down into the most basic parts to get the greatest benefit out of Sketchup. You’ll want to do every aspect of engineering for the project in the drawing rather than waiting until after you start cutting wood.

Here’s a couple screenshots of one of my finished drawings.

Nearly every item is modeled individually in that drawing down to the pivot pins for the kneelers. Besides the above two views, that drawing has about 20 additional scenes showing dimensions and details on the more complex components. I didn’t go as far as putting screws in there but I did make 2d representations for some of them when I needed to figure out what sizes to use. The seat is modeled as a single component even though the actual piece required edge gluing 2-3 boards to get the needed width.

That drawing allowed me to figure out exactly how to shape each part and the sequence of machining operations to use. I didn’t start the project until I thought I had resolved every issue. In reality, I only succeeded in resolving about 90% of the process through Sketchup but the problems encountered while building the pew were minor and easily fixed.

Basically the idea is to model the major parts of the project then start adding details until you are confident that you know exactly how to build it and that the joinery will work as intended.

-- See my work at and

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