How to create an environment with Sketchup

I would like students to do a project where they create an unusual environment that they could populate with a variety of objects. Is there a way in Sketchup to create earth forms? For example to make hills and topographic features to then say, render sculptures carved out of the rock in the surrounding area?

You may be getting no answers here because everything you want is possible, but if the teacher is asking how, you feel reluctant to answer.

If you know how to use the program before teaching others it helps. We would happily teach you to be able to do what you ask, but it takes time and third hand teaching is not good.

Sandbox Tools — SketchUp Help

Modeling terrain and organic shapes — SketchUp Concepts Guide (page 23)

Bonnie Roske has some SU books on student projects with SU

Toward the bottom of this page is an image of faces I sculpted into a small mountain with SU native tools So sculpturing is quite possible - if one already knows how to sculpt.

One of the problems here is that although SU is theoretically capable of modeling just about any 3D form in the right hands, you’ve selected one of the most difficult kinds of forms to model. Okay, creating hilly landscapes is pretty easy with the Sand Box tools, but carving specific organic forms is very difficult, and it isn’t really in SUs main wheelhouse, so to speak, which is primarily rectilinear, architectural forms.

You would be wise to reconsider the subject matter your students should take on with SU. Look, humans have been in love with the right angle since there were humans. Why not let them get in touch with their inner architects and engineers and design something a human would be proud to call home instead of some dank Hobbit hole?


Sorry, that doesn’t make any sense to me.

I think the summary of this thread is that if you plan on teaching something, you should teach what you know well. Learning how to make 3d environment on the fly with sketchup to teach it may be risky, as the students are bound to hit issues that you haven’t learned how to solve yet.
There are plenty of tutorials on youtube/internet that you can follow, but I agree with Gully that maybe you should first go with architectural buildings with your students (if you haven’t yet). It’s easier to relate as they can do their own homes and geometric models are easier to learn at first than organic shapes.

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You may enjoy looking over what Project Spectrum is about. Back when SU was owned by Google, it was started after parents of autistic kids began reporting how their kids were using SU as a communication tool through modeling their environment.

Modeling will begin with simple, geometric shapes while the program is being learned, but modeling will morph into something else as time go on. Go for it.

One way to get figures sculpted out of rock would be for the kids to model the terrain, import pre-made models from the 3D Warehouse and intersect the two. Search the Warehouse for models, downloaded as components you can import or look at the Warehouse by searching for models through the Component browser (Window > Components) or File > 3D Warehouse > Get Model.

You can and SHOULD contact Bonnie Roske as catamountain has mentioned. I have used some of the resources she has produced and know that she will offer you advice as a teacher. She also has a workflow or monthly project list for students depending on their grade level. I would believe her input ( as a teacher herself ) will give you the answers on how to move forward and could offer you info. That would fit the needs of the students, I am an adult trying to learn this software’s potential. It is not easy and SHE would be the one I would seek out to help you and your students get off on the right track.

All good comments. I’d also add that you can import terrain from Google and go from there (not just geo-location, but also the terrain which gets placed on a separate layer that you can toggle on and off). A nice way to start modeling.

On one Project Spectrum project, we did File->Geo-location->Add Location to 37°14′06″N 115°48′40″W to place the kids’ models. The terrain is fairly flat, but it was good to see recently that the CIA admit that this area exists and was linked to UFO sitings, something I’m sure a lot of ASD kids got a chuckle out of. :smile:

There’s nothing at that link (Project Spectrum).

I’m looking for free resources.

I don’t need much and don’t want to get too fancy. Basically I just want them to make kind of a fantasy environment. By the way, does anyone know a resource for free Sketchup lesson plans?

The Project Spectrum page has 2 links at the bottom. The University of Utah site has this iStar - The University of Utah.

A library may have some books.

Bonnie has some videos

SketchUp Sage’s resources links.

Note, if you have students download models from the 3D Warehouse, some of those models can be very complex - tons of geometry. Adding too many of those types of models can bog down a student’s computer, making it slow to respond.

Good point and something to look out for.

Any ideas on how I could limit the amount of data students import when using warehouse?

I still haven’t found any good lesson plan sites including the links you guys posted.

Why not just explain the situation to them, in particular how it’s in their own self-interest to import sparingly? Also, be sure to show them how to delete components and purge their models.


How do you purge a model?

Model Info > Statistics > Purge Unused

What does purging do and what components should they delete?

‘Purge unused’ does what it says. It deletes all materials, layers and components that were once created or applied but are currently not in use anymore in the actual model.
These layers would still show up in the ‘In Model’ layers list, so would these materials still show up in the ‘In Model’ materials list and so would these components still show up in the ‘In Model’ component list.
They take up memory but are history. The can be disposed of. Purge unused does that.