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Adding Text to a Model

Can you imagine Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, learning how to create 3D models in SketchUp? Hopefully, he’d like the way SketchUp advances his groundbreaking invention — especially the text that moves and (in some cases) updates as you work on your model.

In SketchUp, you can add four types of text, each depicted in the following figure:

  • Screen text: The most basic text in SketchUp, screen text (Callout 1) is fixed to the screen regardless of how you manipulate or orbit a model. Screen text is not attached to any entity. You might use it to label a model as a whole, such as “Bodega model, front exterior view.”
  • Leader text: A leader is the line or arrow pointing to a model entity. Predictably, leader text (Callout 2) has a leader line that points to a specific entity in your model. Use leader text for descriptive text, such as, “Use semitransparent deck stain, color: Riverwood.”
  • 3D text: 3D text (Callout 3) is made of actual edges and faces that become part of your model. You might use 3D text to show numbers on the front of a house or door.
  • Dimensions: When you want to indicate a length, radius, or diameter, use the Dimension tool to create a dimension entity (Callout 4). A dimension entity, which is linked to the line, circle, or arc entity you choose, displays a measurement automatically and updates that measurement dynamically as you work on your model.

You create screen text and leader text with the Text tool (), create 3D text with the 3D Text tool (), and dimensions with the Dimension tool (). For details about creating each type of text, check out the videos and read the sections that walk you through the steps.

The following video introduces how you create screen text, leader text, and 3D text.

Because dimensions are dynamic, they have special properties and work a bit differently from the other types of text. Watch the following video to see dimensions in action.

Table of Contents
  1. Typing screen text
  2. Pointing to an entity with leader text
  3. Placing 3D text in your model
  4. Marking dimensions dynamically

Typing screen text

Screen text is so-named because it remains fixed to a point on your screen as you draw and orbit your model. You create screen text with the Text tool (), which you find in the following parts of the SketchUp interface:

  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Construction toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tools > Text on the menu bar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

To create and place screen text, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Text tool (). The cursor changes to an arrow with a text prompt.
  2. Click a blank area where you want the screen text to appear. In the example, that’s the upper-left corner of the drawing area.
  3. Type your text in the text entry box that appears, as shown in the figure.
  4. To complete the text entry, click outside the text box, or press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X) twice.

To edit screen text, select the Text tool or Select tool and double-click the text. Or context-click a text entity and select Edit Text from the menu that appears.

You can change the text properties, such as font, size, and so on, for individual screen text entities or all the screen text in your model:

  • To change a single entity’s text properties: Context-click the text entity and choose Entity Info. Change the text color using the swatch on the left. Click the Change Font button to choose a different font, style, or point size. You see the Entity Info dialog box on the left in the following figure.
  • To change the properties of all the screen text in your model at once: From the menu bar, select Window > Model Info. Select Text in the sidebar on the left. In the Screen Text area on the right, click the Fonts button to adjust the font, style, or point size. Click the Select All Screen Text button and then click the Update Selected Text button. Use the color swatch to set the default text color. You see the Model Info dialog box on the right in the following figure.

Pointing to an entity with leader text

Leader text contains characters and a leader line that points to an entity. Text leaders are tied to the model, and by default, as you rotate the model, you can still see the text as long as the arrow is visible. As you move and adjust surfaces, the notes attached to those surfaces adjust with them.

You create leader text with the Text tool (), which you find in the following parts of the SketchUp interface:

  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Construction toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tools > Text on the menu bar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

To create and place leader text, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Text tool ().
  2. Click the entity to which you want the leader to point. (See Callout 1 in the following figure.)
  3. Move the cursor to position the text. The leader line grows and shrinks as you move the cursor around the screen. To start over, press Esc at any time.
  4. Click to place the text. A text entry box appears with default text, such as the name of a component (if the ending point of the leader line is attached to a component), or the square footage of a square (if the ending point of the leader line is attached to the face of a square).
  5. (Optional) To change the default text, click in the text box and type new text. (See Callout 2 in the figure.)
  6. To complete the leader text entry, click outside the text box, or press Enter (Microsoft Windows) or Return (Mac OS X) twice.

Tip: Double-click on any face, while in the Text tool, to display the area of the face as a Text entity.

You can edit the following aspects of a leader text entity:

  • Text properties: Editing text properties (font, size, and so on) for leader text works almost the same as for screen text; see the screen text section earlier in this article for details. To change the default leader text properties in the Model Info dialog box, simply use the Leader Text section instead of the Screen Text section.
  • Leader style: The default leader style is Pushpin (see the bottom example in the following figure). A Pushpin leader is aligned in 3D space, and rotates with your model as you change your view. You can change the leader style to View Based (see the top example in the figure) or Hidden. A View Based leader retains its 2D screen orientation, so it doesn’t rotate as you orbit your model, as shown on the right in the figure. See Softening, Smoothing, and Hiding Geometry for details about hidden geometry.
  • Arrow style: The default arrow style is a closed arrow. For the arrow style, you can choose None, Dot, Closed, or Open.

To edit the leader line and arrow style for a single leader text entity, context-click the entity and choose an option from the Leader or Arrow submenu. Or context-click and select Entity Info to open the Entity Info dialog box, where you can edit each option.

To change edit the leader line and arrow style for all leader text entities, select Window > Model Info. In the Model Info dialog box, select Text in the sidebar on the left and use the Leader Lines area to select your options. Remember to click the Update Selected Text button at the bottom to apply your changes. (Although the button refers only to text, you need to click the button to update the leader, also.)

Placing 3D text in your model

The 3D Text tool generates geometry from text that you type. Create 3D text when the text isn’t a label but part of your actual model — such as house numbers, an engraving, or meaningful initials that decorate a room.

Here’s where you find the 3D Text tool () in the SketchUp interface:

  • Construction toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tools > 3D Text on the menu bar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X only)

To create 3D text, follow these steps:

  1. Select the 3D Text tool (). The Place 3D Text dialog box appears, as shown on the left in the following figure.
  2. Type text in the large text field at the top. If you need to cancel and start over at any time, press Esc.
  3. (Optional) Modify settings in the Place 3D Text dialog box. You can choose a font, regular or bold text, and an alignment. To change the height, type a value and unit or use the default units. Leave the Filled checkbox selected to create faces for 3D text. Uncheck the Filled checkbox to create 2D text outlines (just edges). Leave the Extruded checkbox to create extruded (push/pull) 3D text and enter a value in the Extruded box to size the extrusion precisely. Uncheck the Extruded checkbox to create 2D text.
  4. Click the Place button. SketchUp switches to a move operation with the 3D text and the move tool.
  5. In the model drawing area, click to place the 3D text. (See Moving Entities Around for details about placing geometry with the Move tool.) On the right in the following figure, zoom in close, and you can see that the house numbers are made of 3D geometry.

Tip: To create engraved text, enter a negative value in the Extruded box in Step 3. After you place your text, explode the group. (Context-click it and select Explode.) Then select each line and press Delete.

Marking dimensions dynamically

With the Dimension tool, you create dimension entities: finite lines with length information that enables you to quickly and effectively communicate key model dimensions. Dimension entities move and update automatically as you create your model.

The Dimension tool () hangs out in the following areas of the SketchUp interface:

  • Construction toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tools > Dimensions on the menu bar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

Before you create a dimension entity, it’s helpful to know a few basics about how the Dimension tool works:

  • You can start and end a dimension at any of the following points: end points, midpoints, on-edge points, intersections, and arc and circle centers. As you hover your mouse, the SketchUp inference engine helps you identify these points.
  • You can take dimensions in one of several planes. You can pull a dimension string into the red-green, red-blue, or blue-green plane. You can also align a dimension to the plane of the edge that you’re measuring. Radius and diameter dimensions are limited to the plane defined by the arc or circle. After you place a dimension in a plane, you can move the dimension only within that plane.
  • You can create a dimension entity for the length of a line, the diameter of a circle entity, or the radius of an arc.

To create dimensions, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Dimension tool (). The cursor changes to an arrow.
  2. Click the starting point of your dimension.
  3. Move the cursor along the entity you want to dimension until the inference engine highlights your desired ending point.
  4. Click the ending point of your dimension.
  5. Move the cursor perpendicular to your selected entity to pull out a dimension entity, as shown in the figure. You may need to orbit in order to place the dimension entity in your desired plane. Remember that you can hold down the mouse scroll wheel to switch temporarily to the Orbit tool.
  6. Click to place the dimension entity.

Tip: To take a dimension of a single line, simply click the line and move the cursor.

After you create a dimension, you can edit its placement, the text appearance, and a few other properties. Here’s a quick look at your options:

  • Toggle a radius or a diameter. Context-click a radius or diameter dimension and select Type > Radius or Type >Diameter from the menu that appears.
  • Reposition text in a linear dimension. You can align text centered in, outside the start of, or outside the end of the dimension. The red dimension in the figure is centered.
  • Change the dimension entity’s color. Click the color swatch in either the Entity Info or Model Info dialog box to select a new color.
  • Change the font properties. You can change the font and choose regular or bold text. Select a font size in points or use a height measurement instead. All the dimensions in the following figure have different colors and fonts.
  • Align the text to the dimension or the screen. By default, the dimension text is aligned to the dimension. The radius dimension on the pie shape shows the screen alignment.
  • Choose an endpoint style. By default, the dimension end point is a slash. You can change it to a dot, closed arrow, open arrow, or none. The radius dimension shows a dot. The diameter shows open arrows. The cube shows the default slash style.

To change these attributes for a single dimension entity, select the dimension with the Select tool, context-click your selection, and choose Entity Info. You find all the preceding options in the Entity Info dialog box that appears.

To change these attributes for all you dimensions, or to set new default options, choose Window > Model Info. In the Model Info dialog box, select Dimensions in the sidebar on the left. After selecting the properties you want, click the Select All Dimensions button to do just what the button says. Click the Update Selected Dimensions button to apply your changes.

Warning: You have the option of changing the text and entering a dimension manually. If you do so, the dimension no longer updates dynamically. To identify broken dimension associations, open the Model Info dialog box and click the Expert Dimension Settings button. In the dialog box that appears, select the Highlight Non-Associated Dimensions checkbox. Any broken dimensions associations are highlighted in red.
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