North Direction

My understanding is that the green axis is the North axis. My question is: when you manually add a geo-location to your model, does the north angle deviate from the green axis, or are all the sun angles adjusted in relation to the green axis. For example, I have manually added my latitude and longitude, but the shadows are not as they should be, or at least not what I expected.

My apologies if I have posted this incorrectly or in the wrong place. The Community interface looks way different than I have seen before and is a little confusing. Thank you.

Hello. Have a look at the Solar North plugin from the SketchUp Team. That should help you. I’m not sure about the green axis pointing North. You can try adding a geo-location and then if you know where North is, adjust it with the Solar North plugin.

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As Vahé says, apply the ‘Solar North’ plugin (if available for SketchUp Make).

Manually adding just your location isn’t enough. You can always use ‘Add Location’ through SketchUp’s menu ‘Location’. That will bring in your location, correct north angle and time zone.
You can delete both imported groups (Terrain and Snapshot) if not wanted.


Here’s a perspective view illustrating the Default Axes and Directions.
Note the orientation of the orange True North Axis is aligned with the Green +Y World Axis.
The Geographic Coordinates of a Geo-located model are coincident with the World Axes Origin.

Manually geo-locating a model does not move the direction of true north away from the +Y solid green axis.

There are four parameters you must set to display shadows that accurately portray the real world.

Geographic Orientation — Relationship of True North to the model.
Geographic Location — Latitude and Longitude
Time — Year, Month, Day, Hour and Minute
UTC Offset — The difference between local time and the Coordinated Universal Time standard.

Check your model settings against what they should be in the real world.
You’re welcome to share the file and we’ll have a look, if you have difficulty sorting things out.


Well there are a few more things that can be mentioned on this topic:

  • if you add your location by model info > geolocation > add location and follow the automated process of taking a google maps snapshot, your north angle will deviate a little bit from the green axis.
  • this will not happen if you manually type lat & long; in that case, green is north.
  • SketchUp doesn’t always correctly adjust the time zone, and doesn’t correct for DST either. For example in the Netherlands it sets time zone to gmt +0, when in fact it is gmt+1 in winter and gmt+2 in summer. Correct this in your shadow settings window.
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George -
Your perspective illustrates how I understand Sketchup’sNorth orientation, and knowing that North is always along the green axis keepsme oriented when I orbit around a model. My confusion I guess is: why do folks changethe direction of North using the Solar toolbar? I am missing something in that regard.

Thanks, Phil

(Although not George) …
Some (or even a lot) of SketchUp’s operations make use of its system axes irrespective of having changed the drawing axes to different directions. So you may want to benefit from the system axes but then the shadows would be wrong.
You can either rotate your model (disadvantage with some tools) or only adjust solar north.

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I am grateful for this thread, but am still a little confused.

I started a model of a house I am going to be building without first geolocating it and adjusting the orientation to true north. So the’Y-axis’ (green axis) is pointed straight up and right at the front door of the house (i.e. it is aligned with the standard front view of the house).

Once I set the underlying geolocation of the model, however, true north is somewhere between the green and red axes (for discussion sake, let’s say at N 37.5 E). I would have just rotated the to sit right on the aerial, but I have already set up several views that I am using to produce a set of plans in Layout.

How can I (or maybe a better question is ‘can I’) rotate my model to sit at the proper orientation on the aerial without having to rework all of my views and the work I’ve done to this point in Layout?

If the short answer is NO, you’re better off redoing the work, that is OK. I’m really just looking for the fastest approach to fixing my screwup.


Well, as usual there are several different approaches.

One is to maintain the house as a model file separate from a site model. A whole long discussion could come out of that.

Another is to accept the green axis as North and rotate the house model to the right angle to fit the site. For best results, the entire house should be a group or component. Each group or component has it’s own set of axes which you can set and reset with the Axis tool. That way when you edit the house, what is front/back, left/right is relative to the house’s coordinate axes, not the North axis.

Or you could get the get the Solar North plugin mentioned above to set north to something other than the green axis, and rotate the imported site information to align with that while leaving the house where it is. The same deal about grouping the whole house should also probably be done.

I can think of a couple of options. If you need to show the house on the imported image of the lot for some of your views, you could do one of the following.

Unlock and rotate the terrain images to align with the house.

Rotate the house model to align with the terrain imagery and redo the scenes as needed–you can align the camera to faces on the house to make that easier.

Copy the house model to a new file with the terrain imagery and rotate the house appropriately. Use this file for any views that show the terrain imagery and use the other model for the rest of the work where the terrain won’t really be seen.