Modeling with SketchUp’s Scale Tool

By Aidan Chopra

Real heroes are rarely obvious. The Scale tool is the single most misunderstood member of SketchUp’s mercifully limited toolkit. New modelers assume that Scale is for resizing things in your model. That’s technically true, but most folks only use it to resize whole objects; the real power of Scale happens when you use it on parts of objects to change their shape.

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The basic principle of this technique is pretty simple: You select the geometry (edges and faces) in your model that you want to resize, activate the Scale tool, and go to town.

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Here’s a list of steps, just so it’s crystal clear.

  1. Select the part of your model that you want to scale.

    Use the Select tool to do this.

  2. Activate the Scale tool by choosing Tools→Scale.

    You can also make Scale active by clicking its button on the toolbar or by pressing the S key on your keyboard. After you activate Scale, the geometry you selected in Step 1 should be enclosed in a box of little green cubes, or grips.

  3. Click a grip and then move your mouse to start scaling your selected geometry.

    Keep reading for the lowdown on the different grips.

  4. When you’re finished scaling, click again to stop.

Here are a few more things you should know about Scale:

  • Use different grips to scale different ways. Which grip (the little green boxes that appear when you activate the Scale tool) you use determines how your geometry scales:

    • Corner grips scale proportionally — nothing gets distorted when you use them.

    • Edge and side grips distort your geometry as you scale — use them to squeeze what you’re scaling.

  • Hold down the Shift key to scale proportionally. This happens automatically if you’re using one of the corner grips, but not if you’re using any others. If you don’t want to distort what you’re scaling, hold down Shift.

  • Hold down the Ctrl key (Option on a Mac) to scale about the center of your selection.

  • Type a scaling factor to scale accurately. To scale by 50 percent, type 0.5. Typing 3.57 scales your geometry by 357 percent, and typing 1.0 doesn’t scale it at all. Take a look at Chapter 2 to read more about using numbers while you work.

  • Type a specific measurement. If you know the final dimension you’re trying to achieve with the Scale tool, you can type it in, followed but the units. To scale a 4-foot box until it’s 10 feet wide, type 10′.

  • Which grips appear depend on what you’re scaling.

    • Most of the time, you see a scaling box enclosed by 26 green grips.

    • If you’re scaling flat, coplanar geometry (faces and edges that all lie on the same plane) and that plane is perfectly aligned with one of the major planes in your model, you get a rectangle consisting of 8 grips instead of a box with 26.

    • If what you’re scaling is a Dynamic Component, you may see anywhere from 0 to all 26 grips; it depends on how the builder set up the component.

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  • You can’t make a copy while you scale. Both the Move and Rotate tools let you make copies by holding down a button on your keyboard while you’re using them, but Scale doesn’t work this way, unfortunately. If you need to make a scaled copy, try this instead:

    1. Select the geometry that you want to scale and copy, and then make it into a group.

    2. Choose Edit→Copy from the menu bar and then choose Edit→Paste in Place from the menu bar.

    3. Scale the copied group as you would anything else.