AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue
#10 (September 26, 2006)
Placing a Google SketchUp Model in Google Earth
Independent Writer and Consultant
In this example, we will create a simple model
in Google SketchUp, and place it in Google Earth.
Google SketchUp is the free version of the SketchUp
modeling application, and can be downloaded from
(Of course, this exercise will work for SketchUp
Pro users, too! If you use SketchUp Pro Version
5, and you don't have the Google Earth plugin,
you can download it here: http://www.sketchup.com/?section=downloads.)
Open SketchUp, and create a simple model. If
you don't want to create your own model, open
the Component Browser (Window
menu > Components). Find a
house or other building, and click its thumbnail.
Then click on the SketchUp window where you want
to place the model. It should be placed near the
intersection of the three axes.
In this example, the house was painted red, so
that it would stand out in Google Earth. You can
paint faces by opening the Material Browser
from the Window menu, clicking
on a paint thumbnail, and clicking the faces you
want to paint. If you are painting a component,
like the house above, click once on it to paint
the whole thing (only those component faces that
are defined as unpainted will take the new color).
Now open Google Earth. If you don't have it,
this application can be downloaded from http://earth.google.com/.
There are two paid versions available, but the
free version will work for this exercise.
The first step is to select the location for
your SketchUp model. In the Fly To
window, type San Francisco.
Press Enter, or click the Search
icon, and the globe spins and zooms to the center
of San Francisco.
Under Layers, you can set what
you want to see in Google Earth. Check Terrain,
Roads, 3D Buildings,
and Parks and Recreation Areas.
Pan in the NW direction until you see Jefferson
Square. You can pan, zoom, and tilt by using the
icons at the top right corner, but it's easier
to pan simply by pressing the left mouse button
and dragging the cursor.
This is a blank area where we can place the house
(though you probably would never actually get
a permit to build a house here!).
Zoom in to the NW corner of the park. (You can
zoom by using your scroll wheel.) The house will
go next to the large group of trees.
Return to SketchUp, and click Get Current
The view you set in Google Earth is brought into
SketchUp, with your house centered on it.
While still in SketchUp, move and rotate the
house to its correct location. Any empty space
You may have noticed that the imported Google
Earth view rectangle is flat, though you'd be
hard pressed to find any flat terrain in San Francisco.
To show the actual hilly terrain, click Toggle
Now the actual topography can be seen, and your
house probably no longer sits on the ground.
To situate the house correctly, select it and
Move it vertically (in the blue
direction), so that it is not embedded in the
ground. (You may want to modify the house itself
to give it a deeper foundation.)
To place the house in Google Earth, click Place
Return to Google Earth. The house appears, exactly
where you located it in SketchUp. To tilt the
ground plane, you can press the middle mouse button
and drag the cursor up or down.
In Google Earth, San Francisco already contains
some 3D buildings, which helps you to visualize
how your house fits in with the landscape. Chicago
and New York are other examples you can explore.
At this time, not all cities contain 3D building
data, but more buildings are being added all the
About the Author
Bonnie Roskes is the author of Google SketchUp 6: Basic and Advanced Exercises, which is her fifth release on SketchUp. Books on Version 7 will be released soon, including one for O’Reilly Media. She has also released a series of SketchUp design project books and geometry project books for kids in K-12, along with some free resources for teachers and parents. Info on these can be found at www.3dvinci.net.
Bonnie has also authored books on Piranesi and OneCNC, as well as reference manuals, user guides, and tutorials for other CAD applications. She has a BS and MS in structural engineering, and worked for several years in bridge design and analysis before moving to tech writing.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info on any of her books.
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