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How to Draw 3D Objects Using SketchUp

Eugene is a qualified control/instrumentation engineer Bsc (Eng) and has worked as a developer of electronics & software for SCADA systems.

A 3D image of a switch designed in Google SketchUp

A 3D image of a switch designed in Google SketchUp

SketchUp: A Simple 3D Modeling CAD Package

There are several 3D CAD software applications available for high-end, detailed design in the area of engineering and architecture. High-powered software comes with a corresponding price tag, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Examples of 3D CAD software are AutoCAD, Solid Works, and Solid Edge. SketchUp is a free software package that can be upgraded to the pro version (SketchUp Pro) for about $600.

Versions of SketchUp

There are several versions of SketchUp:

  • SketchUp Pro, a desktop product that is licensed for use on professional projects. A 30-day free trial is available.
  • SketchUp Free, an online only product that is free of charge and can be used for home, personal and educational use.
  • SketchUp Make, a desktop product that is also free of charge and can be used for home, personal and educational use.
  • SketchUp 8 and earlier versions, free to use for both personal and commercial use. However, they don't have the same capabilities of later versions. You can download version 8 from

SketchUp 8 is perfectly adequate for simple 3D design of images, diagrams, and graphics for websites and can be used free of charge for home, personal and educational use.

While Google bought the company @Last Software, which originally developed SketchUp, the application is currently owned by Trimble Navigation.

Glossary of Terms in SketchUp

CAD: Computer-Aided Design. The use of computers and software to create a virtual design. The design could be as simple as a schematic drawing of an electrical circuit or PCB layout or a more sophisticated 3D model of a building or animated model of a machine. A CAD design can be easily modified compared to a traditional pencil or pen and ink drawing, or a real-world 3D prototype.

3D Modeling: The process of creating a virtual 3-dimensional object within a software package.

Rendering: Adding colors and textures to the surface faces of a 3D object.

Wire Frame: A technique for creating and displaying 3D objects using frameworks of lines. Wireframe images display quicker than rendered images, which were important before the days of fast computer systems and graphics cards.

Ray Tracing: Creating photo-realistic images by simulating the effects of interactions of light rays with objects in a virtual scene.

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A wire frame image

A wire frame image

Designing a Switch: Start With 2D and Extrude

In the video below, I draw a rocker switch.

The design involves drawing primitive 2D shapes initially, and then "pushing" and "pulling" to extrude the shape into a 3D solid.

Once the shape is created, it can be exported to a JPG file.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Eugene Brennan


Mary Wickison from USA on November 05, 2017:

I love the fact that it looks so easy to create those models and can think of many uses for it.

To get a commercial license, to sell the designs is quite expensive though.

Eugene Brennan (author) from Ireland on June 29, 2014:

Yes it's quite useful for basic 3D CAD. It doesn't have the sophistication of Solid Works or similar fancy packages but is useful for creating graphics for websites.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 29, 2014:

This is a very interesting article and the tool is fantastic. I still don't know what to use it for, but I always see it being used on shows like Flip This House, so it's nice to know that the tool is accessible and free.

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