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Importing and Exporting Image Files

In SketchUp, images can help your model come to life on-screen. You can import images to create custom textures that you apply to faces in your 3D model. And you can export images to share a model with friends, clients, or colleagues or perhaps in an online portfolio of your work.

Most of the details about importing images is covered in Creating a 3D Model, but this article outlines all the ways you import images and directs you to the pertinent details.

You can work with images in an array of file formats. In the following table, you find an overview of the raster versus vector images that SketchUp supports. Later in this article, you find a more detailed explanation of the differences between raster and vector files and tips for when to choose among the possible file types.

Image Format Raster or Vector? Can Import into SketchUp Can Export from SketchUp
JPEG Raster Yes Yes
PNG Raster Yes Yes
TIFF Raster Yes Yes
BMP Raster Yes Yes
PSD Raster Yes Yes
TGA Raster Yes No
EPix Raster No 2015 and older only
PDF Vector No only
EPS Vector Convert to CAD format only

Last but not least, you find detailed steps that walk you through the process and options for exporting raster and vector images in SketchUp or SketchUp Pro.

Table of Contents
  1. Importing images
  2. Understanding raster and vector images and their file formats
  3. Exporting a raster image
  4. Exporting a PDF or EPS vector image

Importing images

In SketchUp, you can import images in a few different ways, depending on how you want to use them in your model. Check the following articles for details:

To manage file sizes and image quality, follow these tips:

  • Size images no larger than 1024 x 1024 pixels. That’s the maximum size of an image that can be imported into SketchUp. If you use an image that exceeds the maximum, SketchUp automatically downsizes the file using a medium-quality sampling mechanism. However, your image looks better if you size the photo yourself in an image-editing program like Adobe Photoshop (one that supports bicubic resampling).
  • Crop your image to include only the portion of the image to be used. Doing so keeps your SketchUp file size small, especially if you plan to use the image as a custom texture.
  • Save the file as a high-quality JPEG file.

Understanding raster and vector images and their file formats

In SketchUp, you can import and export raster image files. In SketchUp Pro, you can also export vector images. If you’re unfamiliar with the differences among image formats and the image file formats that SketchUp supports, this section introduces you to the basics.

  • Raster images are made up of square, colored pixels that combine to create an image. Because a raster image has a certain number of pixels, you can usually decrease the image size and still have a good-looking image. However, the more you increase the image size, the more blocky a raster image looks. A raster image’s resolution tells you how many pixels the image has. In SketchUp, you use raster images for textures, backgrounds, watermarks, and so on. You can export a model view as a raster image file to share with a client, create a presentation, and much more.
  • Vector images don’t have a resolution. Instead, mathematical algorithms work behind the scenes to create a vector image. The advantage is you can make vector images as big or small as you like, and they still look good. However, vector images work best with lines, curves, and flat colors. Vector images are useful for creating a set of 2D construction documents, plotting a perspective in a large format, or importing into vector illustration software for further editing.

SketchUp supports several different raster image formats, each of which has its own advantages. Here’s a quick overview of the raster file formats that work with SketchUp:

  • JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): Many applications, computer platforms, and digital cameras support JPEG files, which have the file extension .jpg. JPEG compression can reduce file size to a fraction of other formats, which is useful when you need to email an image or share it on a website. However, compressing a JPEG image discards information from the image, and you can create a blocky or low-quality image if you apply too much compression.
  • PNG (Portable Network Graphics): The PNG format was developed for transferring images efficiently over the world wide web without data loss. Unlike JPEG, PNG compression doesn’t discard data from the image file.
  • TIFF (Tagged Image File Format): TIFF is primarily used for high-resolution printing, and thus, images in the TIFF file format hold a lot of image data but also tend to be large. SketchUp supports as wide a range of TIFF formats as possible, and you should test compatibility with other applications before exporting to TIFF file. 1-bit raster files, or TIFF files with GIF encoding, are not compatible with SketchUp.
  • BMP (Bitmap): The BMP file format was created for Microsoft Windows operating systems primarily as the format used for the Microsoft Windows clipboard and for viewing (especially as wallpaper). BMP does not use compression. Therefore, BMP can be useful for creating temporary files to be further modified in other applications. However, BMP tends to create very large files that are not suitable for archive, web, and email use.
  • PSD: The PSD format is native to Adobe Photoshop. You can only import images in this format. However, PSD files tend to be large, so consider whether exporting a PSD file to JPEG or PNG format first would help improve SketchUp’s performance.
  • EPix: EPix is the native format of Piranesi, which is an architectural painting application designed to work with images generated from 3D models. Piranesi enables you to create stunning renderings from your SketchUp models. To learn more about this application, visit the Piranesi website.
With the release of SketchUp 2016 we no longer support the EPix file format for export.

Tip: Most of the time, you likely want to import or export a JPEG and PNG image. Both of these formats keep file sizes small, can be viewed on any system, and can display lots of colors and details. The JPEG format is slightly better for photos with lots of details and color variations, whereas the PNG format is excellent for images with a more limited color palette than a photo. If you’re printing a high-resolution image of your model, check your printer documentation for the best file format or ask your printing service whether you should use TIFF. If you use Piranesi, you probably already know you want an EPix file.

SketchUp Pro enables you to export to two vector formats:

  • EPS (Encapsulated PostScript): This format is based on PostScript, a graphics description language that Adobe developed as a standard way for graphics programs and print devices to communicate. EPS is widely used in the graphic design and publishing industries.
  • PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format): PDF is the open standard for worldwide electronic document distribution. PDF preserves a source document’s fonts, formatting, graphics, and color, regardless of the application and operating system used to create the document. Also, PDF files are compact, and anyone with free Adobe Acrobat Reader software can view, share, navigate, and print PDFs.

Exporting a raster image

To export the current view of your SketchUp model as a raster image, follow these steps:

  1. Select File > Export > 2D Graphic. The Export 2D Graphic dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your image.
  3. (Optional) In the File Name box, type a name for your image file. By default, the image file has the same name as your SketchUp model.
  4. From the Export Type drop-down list, select a raster file type. Your options are JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, or (for SketchUp Pro) EPix.
  5. (Optional) Click the Options button to open the options dialog box for your selected file type. The options for each file type are listed in the following sections. Click OK to save your options and return to the Export 2D Graphic dialog box.
  6. Click Export and your file saved in the location you selected.
  1. Select File > Export > 2D Graphic. An export dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your image.
  3. (Optional) In the Save As box, type a name for your image file. By default, the image file has the same name as your SketchUp model.
  4. From the Format drop-down list, select a raster file type. Your options are JPEG, PNG, TIFF, or (for SketchUp Pro) EPix.
  5. (Optional) Click the Options button to open the options dialog box for your selected file type. The options for each file type are listed in the following sections. Click OK to save your options and return to the export dialog box.
  6. Click Export and your file saved in the location you selected.

JPEG options

When you export an image in JPEG format, you have the following options, as shown in the following figure:

  • In the Image Size area, keep the Use View Size checkbox selected to output your image at a 1:1 scale. Deselect the checkbox, and you can type a custom width or height in pixels in the Width or Height box. If you type a width, the height value adjusts to maintain your image proportions. On Mac OS X, you can click the chain icon to unlock the aspect ratio and type a custom value in both the Width and Height boxes.
  • In the Resolution area (Mac OS X only), you can select a resolution for your image. The resolution determines how many pixels per inch the image contains. The lower the resolution, the smaller the file size but the blockier the image may appear. For displaying an image on-screen, 72–144 pixels/inch works well. For printing, increase the resolution to 150–300 pixels/inch. To change the resolution in Microsoft Windows, SketchUp Pro users can open the image in LayOut and adjust the resolution using LayOut’s image-editing tools.
  • In the Rendering area, the Anti-alias check box is selected by default. This option tells SketchUp to smooth jagged lines and pixelated artifacts in the exported image. Deselect this box if you don’t want to use anti-aliasing.
  • In the JPEG compression area, use the slider to indicate how much compression you want to apply to your image. More compression creates a smaller file size but can degrade the image quality, and less compression produces a better quality image but a larger file.
SketchUps Export JPEG Options dialog box in Microsoft Windows
SketchUps Export Options dialog box in Mac OS X

PNG and TIFF options

When you export an image in PNG or TIFF format, you have the following options:

  • In the Image Size area, select how you want to size your image. The options are identical to the Image Size options for JPEG files.
  • In the Resolution area (Mac OS X only), you can select a resolution for your image. Again, the options are identical to the Resolution options for JPEG files.
  • In the Rendering area, you can turn off anti-aliasing if you like, which smooths jagged edges and artifacts. Just deselect the Anti-alias checkbox. If you want the model’s background to appear transparent, select the Transparent Background checkbox.

You see the options dialog box for your current operating system in the following figure.

SketchUps Extended Export Image Options dialog box for PNG and TIFF files in Microsoft Windows
SketchUps Export Options dialog box for PNG and TIFF files in Mac OS X

BMP options (Microsoft Windows only)

When you export a file as a BMP, you can adjust the image size and turn off anti-aliasing. The options work just like the Image Size and Anti-alias options for JPEG files.

EPix options

When you export your current model view to an EPix file, you have the following options:

  • In the Image Size area, select how you want to size your image. The options are identical to the Image Size options for JPEG files.
  • In the Resolution area (Mac OS X only), you can select a resolution for your image. Again, the options are identical to the Resolution options for JPEG files.
  • Select Export Edges to maintain the drawing area’s edge rendering style. However, if your current SketchUp style doesn’t display edges, the edges won’t appear in the exported EPix file.
  • Select Export Textures (it’s selected by default) to show textures applied to your model in the exported EPix file. To export textures, your model style must be in Shaded with Textures mode.
  • Select Export Ground Plane to create a ground plane in the EPix file without modeling a ground in SketchUp.

The following figure shows the options dialog box for your current operating system.

SketchUps Export EPX Options dialog box for EPix files in Microsoft Windows
SketchUps Export Options dialog box for EPix in Mac OS X

Exporting a PDF or EPS vector image

In SketchUp Pro, you can export your models as 2D vector drawings in either PDF or EPS format. However, a few model features or details may be lost or change in the export process:

  • Graphic features that rely on raster images, such as textures, shadows, smooth shading, backgrounds, and transparency, can’t be exported to PDF and EPS vector files.

    Tip: If you want to create a raster-based PDF that preserves textures, try printing to PDF from SketchUp instead of exporting a PDF vector file. Or, export a raster image file instead of a vector image file. For details about printing in SketchUp, see Printing Views of a Model in Microsoft Windows or Printing Views of a Model in Mac OS X. For details about exporting raster images, see the earlier section, Exporting a raster image.

  • When other geometry hides text and dimensions, the text and dimensions appear on top of the geometry in the exported file. When edges of the SketchUp drawing area clip part of a text or dimension entity, it’s not exported at all.
  • Some text may appear in a slightly different font in the exported file.

To export your current model view to a 2D vector image, follow these steps:

  1. Select File > Export > 2D Graphic. The Export 2D Graphic dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your image.
  3. (Optional) In the File Name box, type a name for your image file. By default, the image file has the same name as your SketchUp model.
  4. From the Export Type drop-down list, select a vector file type. Your options are PDF or EPS.
  5. (Optional) Click the Options button to open the options dialog box for your selected file type. The options for both PDF and EPS files are the same, although in the following figure you see the dialog box for EPS files. The following list explains each option. Click OK to save your options and return to the Export 2D Graphic dialog box.
  6. Click Export and your file saved in the location you selected.
In SketchUp for Microsoft Windows, the EPS and PDF Hidden Line Options dialog boxes offer the same options

When you select PDF or EPS as the format for your exported 2D graphic, you have the following options in the Hidden Line Options dialog box that appears:

  • In the Drawing Size area, you can size or scale the exported image. Select the Full Scale checkbox for a 1:1 scale. Use the Width and Height boxes to set a size and unit. To use the Scale options instead, your model must be in Parallel Projection mode or a two-point perspective and you need to select a standard view from the Camera > Standard Views submenu. The value for In Hidden Line Output indicates how the exported geometry is sized, and the In SketchUp value is the actual measurement of the geometry. For example, you might enter 1 inch in In Hidden Line Output and 4 feet in In SketchUp to create a 1:4 scale.
  • In the Profile Lines area, leave the Show Profiles checkbox selected if you want lines displayed in profile to appear thicker in the exported vector file. When you deselect Show Profiles, all the lines have a consistent width. When Show Profiles is selected, you can leave Match Screen Display (Auto Width) selected to let SketchUp determine the width of profile lines. Deselect the Match Screen Display (Auto Width) option, and you can set a width manually in the box to the right of the checkbox.
  • The Section Lines options are only available when you export section slices, as explained in Slicing a Model to Peer Inside. These options aren’t available when you export PDF or EPS files.
  • In the Extension Lines area, leave Extend Edges selected if your model style uses edge extensions and you want them to appear in the exported file. If you plan to import your vector image into a CAD program, you may want to deselect the Extend Edges option, because some CAD applications have problems recognizing endpoints and intersections when a file uses SketchUp edge extensions. When Extend Edges is selected, the Match Screen Display (Auto Width) checkbox is also selected by default. When selected, the extension line width in the exported file matches what appears on-screen in the SketchUp drawing area. Deselect this option to set a custom width in the box to the right.
  • Select Always Prompt for Hidden Line Options to automatically display the Hidden Lines Options dialog box whenever you export a PDF or EPS file.
  • When exporting a PDF file, select the Map Windows Fonts to PDF Base Fonts checkbox to tell SketchUp to map any font it can’t find to a PDF base font.
  • Click the Defaults button to restore the options in the Hidden Line Options dialog box to their default settings.
  1. Select File > Export > 2D Graphic. An export dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your image.
  3. (Optional) In the Save As box, type a name for your image file. By default, the image file has the same name as your SketchUp model.
  4. From the Format drop-down list, select a vector file type. Your options are PDF or EPS.
  5. (Optional) Click the Options button to open the options dialog box. The options for both PDF and EPS files are the same, and the following list explains each option. Click OK to save your options and return to the main dialog box.
  6. Click Export and your file saved in the location you selected.
In SketchUp for Mac OS X, the EPS and PDF Export Options dialog boxes offer the same options

When you select PDF or EPS as the format for your exported 2D graphic, you have the following options in the Export Options dialog box that appears:

  • In the Image Size area, select the Match View Size checkbox if you want the width and height of your exported image to correspond to the on-screen dimensions. When Match View Size is deselected, you can enter your own width or heigh value in the respective boxes. By default, SketchUp maintains the image’s aspect ratio (so entering a width changes the height and vice versa), but you can click the chain icon to enter custom values in each box. Note that changing the aspect ratio distorts your image.
  • In the Image Scale area, you can set a scale if your model camera is set to Parallel Projection and you select one of the standard views from the Camera > Standard Views submenu. The first measurement, labeled In Image, is the measurement of the exported geometry. The second measurement, labeled In Model, is the actual measurement of the object in real scale. For example, you might enter 1" inch in In Image and 4’ in In Model to create a 1:4 scale.
  • In the Line Quality area, enter a value in the Line Weight box to set a value for all profile line weights.
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