Placing a SketchUp 7 model in Google Earth

Watch the video.

To give a SketchUp model a precise location in Google Earth:
  1. Open SketchUp.
  2. Open Google Earth.

    Note: For best performance, make sure SketchUp is running before you start Google Earth; otherwise, SketchUp might run slowly.

  3. In Google Earth, turn on 3D terrain. To do this, select the 'Terrain' check box in the Layers list on the left side of the screen.

  4. Tip: To ensure that the vertical position of SketchUp models you place in Google Earth is correct, set the Google Earth elevation exaggeration to '1.' In Google Earth, choose Tools › Options › 3DView › Terrain Quality and set 'Elevation Exaggeration' = 1. (On a Mac, choose Google Earth › Preferences › 3DView › Terrain Quality).

  5. In Google Earth, use the navigation tools to frame a top-down view of the location where you want to place your model.

    Tip: To get the best-possible image quality, make sure you're zoomed in as far as you can be. Frame only as much land as you need to build your model.

    Tip: To make sure you're looking straight down at the ground, press 'R' on your keyboard. Your camera will move to a top-down view, and your view will rotate so that North is at the top of your screen.

    Tip: At this point, it's a good idea to make sure the 3D Buildings layer (on the left side of your screen) is turned off.

  6. In SketchUp, choose Tools › Google Earth › Get Current View to import the section of terrain (and satellite imagery) that you framed in Google Earth in Step 3. A flat, black-and-white 'snapshot' appears in the center of your SketchUp file.

    Tip: You can also use the Get Current View button to import a snapshot from Google Earth.

    Note: The black-and-white Google Earth snapshot is used only for accurately positioning your model. It isn't re-exported to Google Earth with the rest of your model.

    Note: The latitude and longitude found in the SketchUp Model Info dialog box will always refer to the center of the Google Earth view. Moving the axes has no bearing on the latitude and longitude of your models.

  7. In SketchUp, build a model on top of the Google Earth snapshot you imported in Step 4.

    Note: You can also import a Google Earth snapshot into a SketchUp file with an existing model. In this case, use the Move, Rotate and Scale tools to accurately position your existing model on the Google Earth snapshot.

    Note: You can also place a model from a separate SketchUp file into the file with the Google Earth snapshot.

  8. In SketchUp, choose Tools › Google Earth › Toggle Terrain to view the 3D version of your Google Earth snapshot. If the terrain in your snapshot is not flat, it appears as a 3D, sloped surface that reflects the 3D terrain in Google Earth.

    Note: When you import a Google Earth snapshot, two versions are actually added to your SketchUp file. The first is a flat surface that's easier to work with as you build or laterally position your model. The second is a 3D surface that you use to adjust the vertical position of your model. You can switch between the two versions of the Google Earth snapshot by choosing Tools › Google Earth › Toggle Terrain or by using the Toggle Terrain button.

  9. In SketchUp, use the Move tool to adjust your model's vertical position relative to the 3D Google Earth snapshot. Your model should not be floating above the terrain, nor should it be sunken too far into the ground.

    Tip: To 'lock' the Move tool so that you can only move in the vertical (blue) direction, press either the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key on your keyboard.

    Tip: If something you're trying to move in the blue direction won't move in that direction, it might be glued. To unglue it, right-click on it and choose Unglue.

    Note: If you're unable to get your model to sit on the Google Earth snapshot without having it float or be sunken too far underground, you might consider adding material to the bottom of your model. The terrain in Google Earth is not 100% accurate, so some adjustment of models in SketchUp is necessary to make them appear correct when they're viewed in Google Earth.

  10. In SketchUp, choose Tools › Google Earth › Place Model to export your model to Google Earth. Google Earth becomes your active application, and your model appears on the terrain in the location you specified using the Google Earth snapshot.

    Note: You can also use the Place Model button to export your model to Google Earth.

    Note: If you're having trouble seeing your model in Google Earth, please take a look at this troubleshooting article for help.

    Note: At this point, the model you've placed in Google Earth is visible only on your computer - no one else can see it. To share it with other people, you have at least two options:
    • You can save it as a Google Earth KMZ file that you can email or otherwise send directly to other people.
    • You can upload it to the 3D Warehouse (english only), where anyone you specify can download it onto their computer. If you want your model to appear by default in the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth (so that it's automatically visible to everyone in the world), this is the approach you need to take.