AECBytes Architecture Engineering Construction Newsletters  

AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #21 (August 22, 2007)

Using Layers and Scenes for Design Exploration in Google SketchUp

Bonnie Roskes
Independent Writer and Consultant

In this tutorial, we will create two versions of the same room. The two rooms will have different wall and floor materials.

Before creating any objects, open the Layers window (Window > Layers) and create two additional layers called "Room 1" and "Room 2." This is done by clicking the + icon and assigning a layer name.

Create a floor and two walls, and use the Materials window to add some color or texture.

Select the floor and walls and group them (Edit > Make Group). This is because we will place the two identical rooms in the same spot, and grouping prevents the two sets of walls and floors from sticking to each other.

Make a Copy of the group. Then edit the second group (double-click a group to edit it) and change the wall and floor materials.

The next step is to place each group on one of the layers created in the first step. Right-click on one group and select Entity Info. Set its Layer to "Room 1."

Do the same for the second group, placing on the layer "Room 2."

Move one group so that it coincides exactly with the other group.

Place some furniture components in the room.

You can now use the Layers window to switch between rooms. Uncheck the Visible box for "Room 1" and only "Room 2" is visible.

Reverse the layer visibility to see the other room.

This is easy, but there's an easier way to switch between rooms.

Use the Layers window to make sure only "Room 1" is displayed. Then open the Scenes window. Before creating a new scene, uncheck Camera Location. Then use the + icon to create the scene "Room 1."

For the next scene, use the Layers window to display only "Room 2," and create a second scene called "Room 2."

The tabs for the two scenes appear at the top of the Google SketchUp window. Click the tabs to switch between the rooms.

Because Camera Location was not saved with the scene, you can orbit around the room as you like to view the room from any angle. You can then switch scenes to see how the floor and walls look from the current angle. The Hidden Geometry option in the Scenes window enables you to do this—the scene remembers what objects were not displayed when the scene was created.

This method can be used to explore multiple options for any design. For a kitchen, you can try out a few different countertops or backsplashes. For a living room, you can place two sets of furniture in different locations to explore room layout. For exterior work, you can even place landscaping components on different layers to try out a few gardens.

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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