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Drawing Basic Shapes

Many models start with basic shapes. In SketchUp, the shape tools help you draw rectangles, circles, and polygons. You find these tools on the Getting Started toolbar, the Drawing toolbar, and the Large Tool Set toolbar.

Table of Contents
  1. Drawing a rectangle or square
  2. Drawing a rotated rectangle
  3. Drawing a circle or ellipse
  4. Drawing a polygon
  5. Editing shapes

Drawing a rectangle or square

In SketchUp, you can draw rectangles pretty much anywhere:

  • On the ground plane
  • On a vertical plane
  • On existing faces
  • Separate from existing geometry (aligned to an axes plane)
  • Inferenced from existing geometry

To draw a rectangle with the Rectangle tool, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Rectangle tool () from the toolbar or press the R key. The cursor changes to a pencil with a rectangle.

    Tip: To start over at any point during these steps, press Esc.
  2. Click to set the first corner point of the rectangle. To align the plane of your rectangle with a specific drawing axis or other geometry, hold down the arrow key that corresponds your desired alignment, as explained later in this section.
  3. Move the cursor diagonally to find the desired size and shape for your rectangle. To draw the rectangle with precise dimensions, use the Measurements box, which at this point displays your rectangle’s dimensions as you move the cursor. To help you place the rectangle in relation to the drawing axes or other geometry, SketchUp’s inference engine displays on-screen cues. When the inference you need appears, move to Step 4. Both the Measurements box and the Rectangle tool inferences are explained a little later in this section.
  4. Click again to set the second corner point of the rectangle. Your shape appears with a face, as shown in the following figure.
In SketchUp, many 3D models begin with a basic rectangle

As you draw a rectangle, the Measurements box helps you model precisely as follows:

  • Set the length and width. Type a length value, a comma, a width value, and then press Enter. For example, type 8‘,20’ and press Enter. If you type only a number or numbers, SketchUp uses the current document units setting. You can also override the document units setting by specifying imperial (such as 1’6") or metric (such as 3.652m) units.
  • Specify only a length or width. If you enter a value and a comma (3‘,), the new value is applied to the first dimension, and the second dimension doesn’t change. Similarly, if you type a comma and then a value (,3’), only the second dimension changes.
  • Change the rectangle’s position with negative numbers. If you enter a negative value (–24, –24), SketchUp applies that value in a direction opposite to the one that you indicated while drawing.

Tip: You don’t need to click in the Measurements box before you type a value. As you draw, the Measurements box is waiting for you to type precise measurements if you choose to do so. Also, until you select another tool or draw another rectangle, you can use the Measurements box to change a rectangle’s dimensions as many times as you like.

Note: If you're using a non-English keyboard, use a comma to indicate the decimal place and a semi-colon to separate the dimensions. For example, you might enter two sides of a rectangle as: 7,6m;4,3m

As you move your cursor with the Rectangle tool selected, the SketchUp inference engine displays the following cues:

  • Square: When the rectangle’s proportions are a perfect square, you see blue dots and the Square ScreenTip appear. See Callout 1.
  • Golden section: A golden section is a rectangle in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side is a golden ratio. When a rectangle is a golden section, blue dots and the Golden Section Screen tip appear. See Callout 2.
When you draw a rectangle in SketchUp, the inference engine tells you when your rectangle is a square or golden section

Need to align a rectangle’s plane with a drawing axis or other geometry? The arrow keys can help, as explained in the following table.

Modifier Key Locks a Rectangle’s Plane So It Aligns With … How It Looks On-Screen
Left arrow Green axis
Up arrow Blue axis
Right arrow Red axis
Down arrow Inferenced geometry

In the video, you can see these features of the Rectangle tool in action.

Drawing a rotated rectangle

The Rotated Rectangle Tool can come in handy when you need to draw a rectangle that doesn’t line up with SketchUp's default red, green, or blue axes. Like the Rectangle Tool, the Rotated Rectangle tool enables you to create precise rectangles and squares and displays inferences to help you as you draw.

To create a rotated rectangle, follow these steps:

  1. On the toolbar, from the Shape Tools menu, select the Rotated Rectangle tool (). Or select Draw > Shapes > Rotated Rectangle from the menu bar.
  2. Click once to set the first corner of your rectangle.To align the plane of your rotated rectangle with a specific drawing axis or other geometry, hold down the arrow key that corresponds your desired alignment, as explained later in this section.
  3. Move your cursor around the protractor to set the direction of the first edge.
  4. Click to set second corner.
  5. Move your cursor to set the length and angle of the second edge. Experiment with this behavior a bit to get the hang of it. You can always Undo and try again.
  6. Click to set third and final corner.

The follwoing GIF demonstrates how to create create a precise rotated rectangle.

    The following steps walk you through the process of creating rotated rectangles precisely:

  1. Drawing the first edge: Before you click to set the first corner, you can press an arrow key to lock the first edge to a plane. Or after you click once to set the first corner of a rotated rectangle, move your mouse cursor around the screen. You will see the corner stay in place and an edge will remain attached to your mouse cursor. You can also click and drag the first click to set the baseline. See “Setting the baseline” below for more information. Note that you have precise control over the length and the direction of the first edge.
    1. Inferencing: Move your mouse cursor so that the first edge parallels one of the default axes directions: red, green, or blue; the edge will turn red, green, or blue. Press and hold the Shift key and the edge will turn thicker. The edge will now only draw along that default axes direction. Alternatively, you can also press the Right Arrow key to lock the edge to the red axes, the Left Arrow key to lock the green axes, and the Up Arrow key to lock the blue axes. Other standard inferences, such as parallel or perpendicular edges, are also accessible when drawing the first edge.
    2. Setting the baseline: Pressing the Alt key (Microsoft Windows) or the Command key (Mac OS X) initially does two things: lock the drawing plane and create a baseline that shows the direction of the first edge at the time you lock the baseline. If you keep the first edge on the baseline, you can press and hold the Shift key to lock the edge to the baseline. Press the Alt key (Microsoft Windows) or the Command key (Mac OS X) to reset the baseline. This is especially helpful if you need to lock the first edge to a specific direction.
    3. Setting the angle or length: Before you click a second time to complete the edge, you can type the exact angle, length, or both in the Measurements Toolbar and press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X).
      Note: Typing the Angle is only available after you set the baseline - initially you can only define the length.
      For example to set the angle to 45 degrees, type 45, . Notice the empty value after the comma.
      Note: If you type the angle in the Measurements Toolbar, this will lock the direction of the rectangle. Tap the Shift key to unlock.
      Likewise, to set the distance to ten feet, type ,10'. Again, notice the empty value before the comma. Finally, to set the angle and the length, enter the degrees first, then a comma, then the length of the edge. For example, 45,10' would create a 45 degree angle that is ten feet long.
  2. Drawing the second edge: After you set the length and direction of the first edge of a rotated rectangle, you can draw a second edge which will draw the completed rectangle.
    1. Setting the angle or width: Move your mouse around after you set the first edge. The outline of a rectangle will be connected to your mouse cursor with additional guides that indicate the drawing plane and angle. Look at the Measurements Toolbar, and you will notice both an angle and a distance. To set a precise angle and distance, type the angle followed by a comma then type the length of the second edge. For example, typing 90, 5' will draw a rectangle that is perpendicular to the plane of the first edge and five feet long. Press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X). Just like when you set the first edge, you can type just the angle or the width with empty values before/after the comma.
      Note: If you type the angle in the Measurements Toolbar, this will lock the direction of the rectangle. Tap the Shift key to unlock.
    2. Setting the baseline: Just like when you draw the first edge, you can reset the baseline by pressing the Alt key (Microsoft Windows) or Command key (Mac OS X).
    3. Inferencing: Just like drawing the first edge, you can move your mouse cursor so that the second edge parallels one of the default axes directions: red, green, or blue; the edge will turn red, green, or blue. Press and hold the Shift key and the edge will turn thicker. The edge will now only draw along that default axes direction. Alternatively, you can also press the Right Arrow key to lock the edge to the red axes, the Left Arrow key to lock the green axes, and the Up Arrow key to lock the blue axes. Other standard inferences, such as parallel or perpendicular edges, are also accessible when drawing the second edge.
      Note: Both the Square and Golden Section inferences are also available to rotated rectangles.
Note: if you're using a non-English keyboard, you'll want to use a comma to indicate the decimal place and a semi-colon to separate the values in Measurements Toolbar. For example, you might enter the angle and length of the second edge as 43,2;8,2m to get an angle that’s 43,2 degrees and 8,2 meters long.

Drawing a circle or ellipse

Before you draw a circle, it’s helpful to understand how SketchUp creates circle entities:

  • Circle entities have a radius and connect multiple line segments.
  • These segments act as a single line in that they can define the edge of a face and divide a face. Additionally, selecting one segment selects the entire circle entity.
  • SketchUp’s inference engine still sees the segments in the circle. So, if you hover your mouse around the circumference of the circle entity, you’ll see endpoint and midpoint inferences.

To draw a circle, follow these steps:

  1. On the toolbar, select the Circle tool () from the drop-down menu next to the Rectangle tool. Or press the C key. The cursor changes to a pencil with a circle, and the Measurements box indicates the default number of sides: 24, as shown in the figure. To change the number of sides, you can type a value now or wait until after you’re done drawing the circle.

  2. Click to place the center point of the circle. To align the plane of your circle with a specific drawing axis or other geometry, hold down the arrow key that corresponds your desired alignment, as explained later in this section.The Measurements box changes to display the circle’s radius. You can type a radius value now or immediately after you draw the circle.
  3. Move the cursor out from the center point to define the circle’s radius. As you move the cursor, the radius value is displayed dynamically in the Measurements box. Press Esc at any point to start over.
  4. Click to finish the circle. SketchUp creates a circle-shaped face, as shown in the figure.

  5. (Optional) Until you select a new tool or draw a new circle, you can use the Measurements box to change the circle’s radius or the number of sides as follows:
    • To change the number of sides: Type a number and the letter S (for example, type 5s for 5 sides or 42s for 42 sides). Then press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X). Alternately, you can hold down the Ctrl key (Microsoft Windows) or the Option key (Mac OS X) while pressing the + or - to increase or decrease the number of sides, respectively. If you're using a French Canadian keyboard, hold down the Ctrl key (Microsoft Windows) and the +/= key to increase the segments. For Mac OS X, press Command and = to increase segments or - to decrease segments.
    • To change the radius: Type a number and a unit (if desired), such as 6”, 8’, 34cm, or 7m. Then press Enter or Return.

    • Tip: The Entity Info dialog box offers a handy way to edit the sides and radius values anytime. See Editing shapes later in this article for details.

To draw an ellipse or oval, follow these steps:

  1. Draw a circle with the Circle tool.
  2. Select the Scale tool ().
  3. Click the circle. A bounding box with eight green grips is displayed around the circle.
  4. Click one of the middle grips (not one of the corner grips) and move the mouse to pull the circle into an ellipse, as shown here.
  5. Click again when you’re done scaling the circle.

Drawing a polygon

You can create polygon entities with the Polygon tool. (No surprise there.) However, here are a few facts that you may not know about polygons, but that are handy to know as you draw them:

  • In SketchUp, a polygon has a radius and 3 or more sides. So the size of your polygon is measured from a center point, and the number of sides determines the type of polygon you draw. A pentagon as 5 sides; an octagon has 8 sides.
  • Polygon entities act as a single line in that they can define the edge of a face and also divide a face. Selecting one side of the polygon selects the entire polygon.
  • The SketchUp inference engine interprets each side of a polygon as a segment. As you hover your cursor over a polygon, you see endpoint, midpoint, and from point inferences.
  • You can draw polygons on faces or separate from existing geometry.

Follow these steps to draw a polygon:

  1. Select the Polygon tool () on the toolbar. The cursor changes to a pencil with a polygon. The Measurements box indicates the current number of sides. To change the number of sides in your polygon, you can type a number value now or wait until after you’re done drawing.
  2. Click to place the center point of the polygon. To align the plane of your polygon with a specific drawing axis or other geometry, hold down the arrow key that corresponds your desired alignment, as explained later in this section.The Measurements box changes to display the radius. You can type a radius value now or immediately after you draw the polygon.
  3. Move the cursor out from the center point to define the radius of your polygon. As you move the cursor, the radius value is displayed dynamically in the Measurements box. To specify the radius, type a value and press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X). You can also press Esc to start over.
  4. Click a second time to finish the polygon. Here, you see a 5-sided polygon.

  5. (Optional) Until you select a new tool or draw a new polygon, you can use the Measurements box to change the radius or the number of sides as follows:
    • To change the number of sides: Type a number and the letter S (for example, type 5s for 5 sides or 42s for 42 sides). Then press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X). Alternately, you can hold down the Ctrl key (Microsoft Windows) or the Option key (Mac OS X) while pressing the + or - to increase or decrease the number of sides, respectively. If you're using a French Canadian keyboard, hold down the Ctrl key (Microsoft Windows) and the +/= key to increase the segments. For Mac OS X, press Command and = to increase segments or - to decrease segments.
    • To change the radius: Type a number and a unit (if desired), such as 6”, 8’, 34cm, or 7m. Then press Enter or Return.

    Tip: Although the Polygon tool works similarly to the Circle tool, the difference between the tools becomes apparent when you push/pull a circle or polygon into a 3D shape. The circle’s edges look smooth, but a polygon’s edges show distinct sides, as shown here.

In this live-action video, you can see the Circle and Polygon tools demonstrate all their stunts.

Editing shapes

The Entity Info dialog box enables you to change a circle or polygon’s radius or sides anytime after you create the shape. Here’s how:

  1. Context-click an edge (not the face) of a circle or polygon that you want to edit.
  2. Select Entity Info from the context menu that appears, as shown here.
  3. In the Entity Info dialog box, click in the Radius or Segments box, change the value, and press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac). In the figure, the Radius is being edited. After you press Enter or Return, your shape immediately reflects your changes.

SketchUp doesn’t enable you to modify the width or length of a rectangle at anytime. If you’ve already selected another tool or drawn additional rectangles, you need to erase the rectangle you want to change and redraw it. See Drawing a rectangle for details. Or resize the rectangle with the Scale tool if you don't need to enter precise dimensions.

Of course, you can do much more than simply change a shape’s size. You can turn a 2D shape into a 3D shape with the Push/Pull tool. You can distort shapes with the Move tool or scale all or part of your model.

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