How to Get Photo Texture with Online Imagery in SketchUp

By Aidan Chopra

Street View and SketchUp got wired together back in SketchUp 8; since then, you’ve been able to grab imagery from the former and use it in the latter. If your goal is to build photo-textured models of real-world buildings, you’re in luck.

A few years ago, Google undertook a Street View project to enhance Google Maps. The company built special photography units, strapped them onto the roofs of vehicles, and drove them down every public highway, street, and lane it could, snapping away.

Recently, Google has added imagery taken from specially equipped backpacks, tricycles, snowmobiles, museum trolleys, and even river rafts. The result is an immersive and spookily cool way to experience the outside world from the lazy comfort of your computer screen.

To use this feature, you must meet two important prerequisites:

  • Your model must be geo-located. You have to have already told SketchUp precisely where it is by adding a geo-location snapshot to your file.

  • Street View data must exist for the thing you’re trying to texture. Google has photographed an awful lot of places, but it’s always possible that wherever you’re working isn’t one of them.

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Follow these steps to paint a flat face in your model with Google Street View imagery:

  1. Select the face you want to paint with Street View imagery.

    Selecting a rectangle-shaped face helps. You see why in a couple steps.

  2. Choose Edit→Face→Get Photo Texture.

    The Photo Textures window pops up. If Street View data isn’t available for the location where you’re modeling, this is when you find out.

  3. Frame the imagery you want to use in the window:

    1. Click and drag to swivel the “camera.”

    2. Click the arrows superimposed on the photo to move up and down the street.

    3. Zoom in and out using the + and – buttons.

      If you need to, resize the whole window to get a better view.

  4. Click the Select Region button in the upper-right corner of the window.

    A rectangle with blue pins at the corners appears.

  5. Drag the blue pins to define an area to paint on the face you selected in Step 1.

    This is the fun part.

  6. Click the Grab button to paint the face you selected in Step 1 with the imagery you defined in Step 5.

  7. Close the Photo Textures window.