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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #10 (September 26, 2006)

Placing a Google SketchUp Model in Google Earth

Bonnie Roskes
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:

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 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 View.

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 will work.

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 Terrain.

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 Model.

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 time.

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

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 for info on any of her books.


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