New to SketchUp for 3D printing, only experience Tinkercad

Hi all,

I’m a first-time poster and happy to see such an active forum!

To keep it short, I’m a hobbyist woodworker/designer/maker just getting into SketchUp, and would love to be able use the software for creating/modifying models.

My only experience designing for 3D printing has been in Tinkercad. Any advice for moving from that workflow into SketchUp?

I’m using the free (web) version of the software on the web though I’m probably going end up upgrading to the pro version to use on my Mac and have access to the extension library.

Is it worth trying to print from the free version, or will I just get frustrated without the solid tools? Are there any necessary extensions to get once I get the pro subscription?


First, don’t try to make SketchUp work like TinkerCAD. They have different workflows. Typically people get frustrated when they try to force one tool to work like the one they already know. Spend some time going through the instructional materials at Also look at the Square One video collection on the SketchUp You Tube channel.

Second, SketchUp is a face modeler and it represents arcs and circles as collections of short edge segments and curved surfaces as small faces. That’s generally not a problem but you need to understand that’s the way it works.

Third, SketchUp is primarliy intended for architectural modeling. It has a small face limit. For 3D printing I find it better to model with units set to meters and treat millimeters as meters. It doesn’t matter as far as exported .stl files go but it helps prevent issues with tiny faces.

Learn about making solid components and groups. In simple terms every edge in a solid component or group must be shared by exactly two faces. No fewer and no more. That means no stray edges, no holes in surfaces, and no internal faces. Also make sure that the white front faces are out and the blue back sides are in toward the printing material. Faces have no thickness in SketchUp.

If you think it likely you’ll go with Pro I would suggest that you make the leap sooner rather than later. The UI is different enough between them that you may find that to be a challenge. Or maybe you won’t.

Here’s an example of something I modeled in SketchUp.

and the 3D printed thing.

U-Joint 3D Printed

U-Joint 3D Printed

FWIW, I find SketchUp and LayOut to be great for designing woodworking projects and creating shop drawings.


Dave already gave a detailed reply! Here are a couple of extra thoughts…

I don’t know Tinkercad, so I watched this video:

It is basic, but gives an idea about how you approach SketchUp differently. His channel might be good, in that it covers both tools. The ‘guy’ he deletes a couple of times is actually Temple Grandin. It is temping to add a comment to the video…

If you are fairly sure you will get Pro at a later date, and you want to use solid tools sooner than that, you could get a Sketchup Go subscription for now. That would let you have the extra tools in the web version, and if you have a recent iPad version you could use that as well. When you, hopefully, want to switch to Pro, you pay the difference in price for the remaining time of the subscription you already have. So for example (these are rough numbers not taking into account tax), if you paid $120 now to get Go for the next 12 months, and in 6 months you upgrade to Pro, the Pro subscription would renew 12 months after you started Go, but it would only cost $115 to get Pro for those last 6 months. You still have $60 worth of credit from paying for Go, and the 6 months of Pro would be $175. Hence the difference being $115.

1 Like

Wow, thank you both, Dave and Colin, for such prompt and detailed replies! I know many young people now (like my kids!) are using Tinkercad on Chromebooks and 3D printing in elementary school, so I imagine there will be an upcoming generation looking for more user-friendly software like SketchUp they can use as they get older. I hope they develop some more sustainable printer filament in the meantime! :wink:

My primary use for SketchUp will be as a woodworker, as well as for some home renovation and landscape design projects, but the 3D printing capability would be a bonus.

I’ve gone through the SketchUp campus fundamentals course (adapting it for the free web version) and its practice module, so I feel I have the basics down, and I’ve watched some of the web content you mention, but I want to do a deeper dive.

You mention scaling up into meters, Dave. Would you scale down to millimeters within SketchUp before you sent it to your slicer? That’s done with the scale tool, correct? Also, when importing .stls to edit, do I need additional extensions to handle cleaning up more complex models or do all the native tools work well enough?

I do think, Colin, I may start with the web/iPad paid subscription for a time, as I have an iPad Pro and using the stylus is nice. I hope Trimble continues to support and develop the software for folks who like to 3D print. I know many woodworkers like myself use their printers for a lot of jig and tool making.


There is also a SketchUp for Schools web version. A lot of schools are using it and having their kids model for 3D printing. I have several school teachers as students who use SketchUp with their students.

SketchUp is excellent for both of those. My primary commercial use is for woodworking. I do plans for woodworking projects for a bunch of clients. If you look at my profile there’s a link to an online album of a variety of SketchUp models I’ve made.

I’ll send you a PM with some additional information.

You would use the scale to scale the model down but there’s no need. STL files, by their nature, have no units. Leave the model in meters in SketchUp and export the .stl file. Import it as millimeters in your sliver and it’ll be the correct size. This is running on my printer right now. The overall model is 212.1 meters by 191.7 meters by 8.0 meters in SketchUp. In the slicer those numbers are in millimeters.
Screenshot - 5_4_2024 , 1_26_05 PM

STL files are triangulated. Every single vertex is connected its neighbors to form triangles. Often those triangle lie in the same plane which means in SketchUp those edges wouldn’t be needed. The STL importer in SketchUp Pro has an option to merge coplanar faces which reduces the number of edges in the model. There are extensions that can helped to further simplify the geometry but maybe just softening and smoothing edges is all that is required.