Geo-Locating Your SketchUp Model

By Aidan Chopra

SketchUp is the only 3D modeling tool to be granted full access to Google’s massive storehouse of geo-wonderfulness — that’s what happens when you spend six years as a full-fledged member of the Google stable.

Follow these steps to add a geo-location snapshot to your SketchUp file:

  1. Make sure you’re online.

    All Google’s geo-data is stored on its far-flung servers; if you don’t have an Internet connection, you can’t use the geo-data.

  2. Open the SketchUp file you want to geo-locate.

    You can add a geo-location snapshot to your model anytime as you work on it. If you haven’t started modeling yet, it’s perfectly okay to add a geo-location to an empty file.

  3. Choose File→Geo-Location→Add Location from the menu bar.

    A new window that you may recognize opens: It’s a simplified version of Google Maps.

  4. Find the area where you want your model to be located.

    You can type an address into the search bar in the upper-left corner if you like. You can also just use your mouse or the controls on the left side of the window to navigate around. Scroll your mouse wheel to zoom; click and drag to pan.

    When you’re zoomed in close enough, you see a white, 1 km x 1 km square: This is the largest snapshot you can import all at once. That’s still a very big area, so you probably want to keep zooming.

  5. Click the Select Region button to display a cropping rectangle.

  6. Drag the blue pins to specify the precise corners of your geo-location snapshot, as shown.

    image0.jpg

    Try to frame an area that’s just big enough to provide a base for your model. Importing too much terrain data can bog down your computer. You can always bring in more terrain data later.

  7. Click the Grab button to add a geo-location to your SketchUp file.

    The separate window closes, and a big, colorful rectangle appears in the middle of your model. That’s your new geo-location snapshot.

  8. If you’re geo-locating a model you’ve built already, move it into position on the snapshot.

    Use the Move tool (and maybe the Rotate tool) to pick up your model and place it where it belongs. You’re not done yet, though — you still need to make sure your model is vertically situated on the terrain. Follow these steps to do just that:

    1. Choose File→Geo-location→Show Terrain to switch to the 3D version of your geo-location snapshot.

    2. Select everything you want to move and use the Move tool to start moving; tap the up- or down-arrow key to constrain your move to the blue axis.

    3. Sink your model into the terrain until it sits properly — avoid the dreaded floating model syndrome at all costs.

If you want to import another snapshot into SketchUp, you can. SketchUp automatically tiles all the snapshots you take to form a patchwork in your model. This feature is super-handy if you find that you didn’t get everything you needed the first time.