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Viewing a Model

As you create a model in 3D, you need to view it from all sides. In SketchUp, you orbit, zoom, and pan all the time as you draw:

  • Orbit: When you orbit, you move around, above, or below your model. Orbiting is like flying around your model Peter Pan–style.
  • Zoom: Zoom in to focus on a specific area as you draw, and zoom out to see more of your model.
  • Pan: When you pan, you move left, right, up, or down.

Tip: Because you use these tools frequently, SketchUp enables you to switch to each one temporarily, using a three-button scroll wheel mouse. (You learn the mouse shortcuts later in this article.) If you do much drawing in SketchUp, a three-button scroll wheel mouse makes modeling easier than modeling without a scroll wheel or with a one-button mouse.

To see how these tools work, check out the overview in the following video, or read the upcoming sections for steps that guide you in using these tools.

In addition to the navigation tools, SketchUp includes several standard views, which you find on the Camera menu. In the following figure, you see how a model looks in each of the standard views: Top (Callout 1), Bottom (2), Front (3), Back (4), Left (5), Right (6), and Iso (7).

Tip: When you use the standard views or the more advanced features of the navigation tools, remember that SketchUp uses the concept of a camera to represent your view. As you switch and modify your view, it’s as though you’re looking through a camera.

SketchUp’s Camera menu also has three perspective options, shown in the following figure, that change how you view your model:

  • Parallel Projection: In this view, lines appear parallel in both 3D and 2D space. This view is also known as an orthographic view. When you print in this view, line length has a scale (for example 4’ in SketchUp = 1" on paper). (Callout 1)
  • Perspective: In this view, lines vanish to a horizon, so certain items appear closer while other items appear to be far away. Entities are not to scale. This is SketchUp’s default view. (Callout 2)
  • Two-Point Perspective: Illustrators often use two-point perspective to draw 3D buildings and concept art. In SketchUp, choosing this view aligns your perspective so that the view has two vanishing points. (Callout 3)

Tip: SketchUp can simulate what it’s like to walk through a model and look around. This technique is often used to present a completed model. You can also save specific views as scenes, which you can then animate. See Communicating Your Designs for details. If you’re looking for ways to hide geometry or view hidden geometry, see Softening, Smoothing, and Hiding Geometry.
Table of Contents
  1. Orbiting around a 3D model
  2. Panning side to side and up and down
  3. Zooming in and out
  4. Changing the field of view
  5. Setting a standard view
  6. Choosing your perspective
  7. Returning to a previous view

Orbiting around a 3D model

Orbiting enables you to view geometry from the outside. To rotate the camera about a model, activate the Orbit tool (), which you find in the following areas of the SketchUp interface:

  • Camera > Orbit on the menu bar
  • Camera toolbar (Microsoft Windows)
  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

Tip: You can temporarily activate the Orbit tool while in any other tool (except the Walk tool):
  • On a three-button mouse: Click and hold the scroll wheel.
  • On a one-button mouse: If you use Mac OS X, press and hold the Control and Command keys while clicking and holding the left mouse button.

To orbit using the Orbit tool, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Orbit tool () or press the O key.
  2. Click anywhere in the drawing area.
  3. Move your cursor in any direction to rotate around the center of the drawing area.

Beyond basic orbiting, the Orbit tool can do a few other tricks:

  • To center a model in the drawing area, double-click in the drawing area.
  • To roll the camera on its side as you orbit, press and hold the Ctrl key (Microsoft Windows) or Option key (Mac OS X). This suspends the Orbit tool’s built-in sense of gravity, which keeps vertical edges pointed up and down.

Panning side to side and up and down

When you pan, SketchUp’s camera (your view) moves vertically or horizontally. Here’s where you find the Pan tool ():

  • Camera > Pan on the menu bar
  • Camera toolbar (Microsoft Windows)
  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

Tip: You switch to the Pan tool temporarily while you’re in another tool:
  • On a three-button scroll wheel mouse, hold down the scroll wheel and the left mouse button.
  • On a one-button mouse or trackpad, press and hold the Control, Command, and Shift keys simultaneously while holding down the mouse button.
  • On any mouse, if the Orbit tool is selected, press and hold the Shift key.

To pan using the Pan tool, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Pan tool () or press the H key.
  2. In the drawing area, click and drag the cursor in any direction.

Zooming in and out

In SketchUp, as in many other programs, you can zoom in for an extreme close up, or zoom out to see the bigger picture. As you draw a 3D model, zooming in can help you align edges and faces more precisely, whereas zooming out enables you to see your overall model or re-orient yourself so you can find a different part of your model to work on.

SketchUp also has two specialized zoom tools, Zoom Extents () and Zoom Window (), which you learn about later in this section.

In the SketchUp interface, here’s where you find the Zoom tool ():

  • Camera > Zoom on the menu bar
  • Camera toolbar (Microsoft Windows)
  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

Tip: To zoom while using another tool, such as the Line or Move tool, you need a scroll wheel mouse. Scroll up to zoom in or down to zoom out. When you zoom by scrolling, SketchUp uses your cursor as the zoom’s center point.

To zoom in and out, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Zoom tool () or press the Z key.
  2. Click and drag up to zoom in; click and drag down to zoom out. When you zoom by dragging the Zoom tool cursor, SketchUp zooms in or out from the center of the screen.

Note: The zoom speed depends how far your geometry is from the Zoom cursor. When geometry is farther away, SketchUp zooms quickly. The zoom speed feels slower when your geometry is relatively close to the Zoom cursor.

To instantly make your whole model visible and centered in the drawing area, click the Zoom Extents tool () or press Shift+Z. You find Zoom Extents in the following corners of the SketchUp interface:

  • Camera > Zoom Extents on the menu bar
  • Camera toolbar (Microsoft Windows)
  • Getting Started toolbar
  • Large Tool Set toolbar
  • Tool palette (Mac OS X)

To zoom in on a specific rectangular portion of your model, use the Zoom Window tool. (You find Zoom Window in the same places where you find the Zoom and Zoom Extents tools, with the exception of the Getting Started toolbar.) To zoom in on a portion of your model:

  1. Select the Zoom Window tool ().
  2. Click and drag to make a box appear around the area that you want to zoom in on. When you release the mouse button, everything in the box you drew fills the drawing area.

Changing the field of view or focal length

A lesser-known Zoom tool feature is changing the field of view, or how much of your model you can see. Because your view in SketchUp is like looking through a camera, you can adjust the field of view in degrees. Alternatively, change the focal length using millimeters, as you do in a camera.

Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with the field-of-view concept, think of it this way: Humans have a field of view that’s about 180 degrees in front of them. If you narrowed that field to 90 degrees, you’d lose your peripheral vision.

To adjust the field of view or focal length, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Zoom tool or press the Z key. You can also select Camera > Field of View from the menu bar.
  2. Type a value in degrees or millimeters, respectively. For example, typing 45 deg sets a 45 degree field of view; typing 35 mm sets a focal length equivalent to a 35mm camera. Or, to visually adjust the field of view, hold down the Shift key while dragging the Zoom tool.

Tip: Wider fields of view are useful when working inside a room, where you might want to see more of the room as you draw. The following figure shows the same room at two different fields of view. In the top figure, the field of view is 35 degrees. In the bottom figure, the field of view is 75 degrees.

Setting a standard view

You can immediately change the drawing window to any of the standard views by selecting Camera > Standard Views and selecting your desired view from the submenu. Your options are as follows: Top (Callout 1), Bottom (Callout 2), Front (Callout 3), Back (Callout 4), Left (Callout 5), Right (Callout 6), and Iso (Callout 7). See an example of each one in the following figure.

Tip: To keep the standard views only a click away, display the Views toolbar. See Customizing Your Workspace for details.

Note: Iso stands for isometric. In a true isometric view, which is common in technical or mechanical drawings, a 3D object is drawn in 2D space from a specific angle, so that the angle between each drawing axis is 120 degrees. However, in SketchUp, the Iso camera view is not the same as an isometric projection, in which objects along the x, y or z axis are in proportion. SketchUp’s Iso view simply shows your whole model from a standard angle.

Tip: To quickly align SketchUp’s point of view it's top-down with the axis centered, context-click a drawing axis and select Align View from the menu that appears.

Returning to a previous view

SketchUp remembers your views as you move from one to the next. To return to the preceding view, select Camera > Previous. After you return to a view, you can move to a later view by selecting Camera > Next.

Tip: To keep the Previous command handy, display the Large Tool Set toolbar or the Camera toolbar. (See Customizing Your Workspace for details.) You can click the Previous tool to move backward one view at a time.

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