SketchUp’s Drafting Tools

By Aidan Chopra

Here’s some good news: You don’t need many tools to draft a 2D plan in SketchUp. The figure shows the basic toolbar; everything you need is right there:

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  • Line tool: You use the Line tool (which looks like a pencil) to draw edges, which are one of the two basic building blocks of SketchUp models. Fundamentally, you click to start drawing an edge and click again to finish it.

  • Eraser tool: Use the Eraser to erase edges. Keep in mind that you can’t use the Eraser to delete faces, though erasing one of the edges that defines a face automatically erases that face, too. You can use the Eraser in two ways:

    • Clicking: Click edges to erase them one at a time.

    • Dragging: Click and drag over edges to erase them; this is faster if you have lots of edges you want to erase.

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  • Circle tool: You’ll find the Circle tool hiding under Rectangle on the Getting Started toolbar. Drawing circles in SketchUp is pretty easy: Click once to define the center and again to define a point on the circle (which also defines the radius). To enter a precise radius, just draw a circle, type a radius, and press Enter.

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  • Arc tools: As of version 2014, SketchUp has three tools for making arcs (it used to have only one). Here they are, in order:

    • 2-Point Arc: This is the arc-making tool that’s familiar to longtime SketchUp modelers. To use this tool, click once to define one end, again to define the other end, and a third time to define the bulge,or how much the arc sticks out.

      If you want, you can type a radius after you draw your arc by entering the radius, the units, and the letter r. If you want an arc with a radius of 4 feet, draw it however big, type 4’r, and press Enter.

    • Arc: This tool behaves the way you probably expect: To use it, click once to define the center point, again to define the first endpoint, and a third time to finish the arc. The result is an arc made of straight-edge segments.

    • Pie: The Pie tool is exactly the same as the Arc tool, but with a useful twist. It yields a pie-shaped face and all three of its perimeter edges.

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  • Offset tool: The Offset tool helps you draw edges that are a constant distance apart from edges that already exist in your model. Using Offset on the shape lets you create another shape that’s exactly 6 inches bigger all the way around (middle image), or 6 inches smaller all the way around (right image). Offsetting edges is a useful way to create things like doorways and window trim.

    You can use Offset in two ways; for both ways you click once to start offsetting and again to stop:

    • Click a face to offset all its edges. If nothing is selected, clicking a face with the Offset tool lets you offset all that face’s edges by a constant amount.

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    • Preselect one or more coplanar (on the same plane) edges and then use Offset. If you have selected edges, you can use Offset on just those edges; this comes in handy for drawing things like door frames and balconies.

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  • Tape Measure tool: The Tape Measure does a bunch of things. To measure a distance, click any two points in your model. The distance readout is in the Measurements box, in the lower-right corner of your modeling window. You can also use it to size a model and to create guides.