SketchUp and OpenGL

3D applications, such as SketchUp, require abundant system resources. Aside from having a fast CPU and large amounts of RAM, your video card and video card drivers must be 100% OpenGL compliant.

What is OpenGL?

OpenGL is the industry-standard, used in numerous software applications and games, to draw 3D geometry. Most Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X operating systems come with a software-based OpenGL driver. However, these drivers rely heavily on the CPU to perform the rendering calculations of OpenGL (a task that is not done efficiently by most CPUs).

Many video card manufacturers have also built cards that support the OpenGL standard. These cards perform the rendering calculations using a specialized chip called the Graphics Processing Unit or GPU (instead of relying on the CPU). These chips significantly enhance OpenGL performance upward of 3000 percent. This performance enhancement is known as Hardware Acceleration.

Hardware Acceleration

SketchUp will take advantage of hardware acceleration if your computer has a 100% OpenGL compatible video card.

Tip: If the Use Hardware Acceleration option is not available in SketchUp, verify that the control panel settings for your video card's device driver has hardware acceleration enabled (Microsoft Windows).


Unfortunately, only some 3D drivers in the consumer video card market are 100% OpenGL compatible and can use this feature (though many cards claim to be 100% OpenGL compatible). Most 3d drivers are designed for games, and are often not tested using other 3D programs. Consequently, incompatibility problems can occur requiring a fix from the video card manufacturer. Disable this option if you are having problems with the 3D rendering of your models or if your video card is not 100% OpenGL compatible and does not support hardware acceleration.

Note: Hardware Acceleration might only be available on your system for certain resolutions and color depths. Check the system settings for your video card to see if it supports hardware acceleration (using the Control Panel on Microsoft Windows or System Preferences on Macintosh OS X).


Note: We strongly recommend that you set your display colors to a 32-bit color depth (using Control panel > Display Properties) to ensure that your SketchUp model will render accurately when using hardware acceleration (Microsoft Windows).

We cannot control the quality of the OpenGL driver on your computer system. Video card device drivers are proprietary and are maintained solely by the manufacturer of the video card in your system. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that SketchUp will work with hardware acceleration on your system.

Compatibility Issues

OpenGL incompatibility is a significant system configuration issue leading to problems with SketchUp. Difficulties with Sketchup tools, performance, and rendering (such as mysterious graphics appearing on your screen) are usually the result of a video card not fully supporting OpenGL (despite claims by the manufacturer), an out-of-date video card driver, or incompatibility with 32-bit color depth. A temporary solution is to disable hardware acceleration in SketchUp while troubleshooting the problem.

Consult the Video Card Compatibility section of the Readme file (in the SketchUp installation directory) for additional details regarding compatibility issues for specific video cards.