Setting North location

I am using Sketchup Make 2015. (I haven’t upgraded to 2016 because the Visualiser renderer does not work with 2016).

I am looking for an extension or a method to change the location of the North direction, to change the way shadows are drawn.
The “Solar North” extension is basically what I need but it requires Sketchup Pro, which I do not have.

I would rather not rotate the entire model.
Is there an extension to change the North location that works with the free Sketchup Make?
Or a method to accomplish the same?
I assume there is a parameter stored somewhere in a Sketchup drawing file. Is it for example possible to change this manually? (just thinking out loud … :slight_smile: )

Kind regards

The Solar North extension accesses the parameter and modifies it. It isn’t accessible in Make or the extension would work in Make. I think the option is to rotate the model.

If I look at an skp file in Notepad, I can see the ‘NorthAngle’ parameter in the file, but the value is binary, so I can not change it directly without messing up the file (I assume).
Could I change this parameter with Ruby?
I can not program in C so using the Sketchup SDK is not really an option for me.

I’m not a Ruby expert but it would seem to me that since the existing plugin for setting north angle is a Ruby script. Since it doesn’t work in Make, maybe that’s a clue.

What’s wrong with just rotating the model? You can rotate the model axes to make it easier to draw, too.

Of course if you’re using SketchUp for your business, you should be using Pro anyway and then you could use the extension.

A skp file is not text and I would not attempt to edit anything there using a text editor such as Notepad.

Yes, the north angle can be set using Ruby. It is in the active model’s ShadowInfo object. I don’t have a copy of Make installed, so I can’t test to see what would cause the Solar North extension to be Pro only.

Yes, maybe rotating the model is the simplest option after all.

I don’t use SU for business. In fact, I am not using it myself. I am asking this for my daughter who uses Sketchup as a hobby. I am sort of her ‘helpdesk’ :wink:
She mainly draws houses and interiors in SU, just for fun.
She is still a student… in children care … :slight_smile:
Here you can see a few of her designs. Click on the ‘Projects’ tab:

Ah… Very good. She’s doing a nice job. Keep encouraging her and being her help desk. :wink:

@DaveR. Yes, I will. Thanks! :slightly_smiling:

@slbaumgartner. Steve, Ok, thanks for confirming that. This might encourage me to start playing with Ruby a little bit. I have programming experience, only not in C or Ruby …
If I get a taste for Ruby maybe it will allow me to do other useful things in the future.

Thanks both for your prompt reply!

Just throwing in my bit, have you looked at geo locating her models as that changes the sun position a lot.

If you are feeling daring, try this:

Set up a simple model with shadows visible (View menu).
Open the Ruby Console window and enter this:


See whether the shadows jump to a new angle or if you get some sort of error.

Edit: @Box also raises a good point: why would you want the solar direction to be unrealistic for the location of the model? It makes more sense to geolocate the model to where you want it and then use the shadows window to fiddle with month and time of day.


@slbaumgartner Thanks Steve! I will try that this evening at home.I will let you know how it goes.

@Box I seem to have read somewhere (though I might be wrong) that geolocating your model only sets the location of the model but not the compass orientation …

Technically yes. But it gives you a real world position for your models so the shadows are accurate to the location.
Try geo locating a fresh model to your house. It will give you an image of your house.
Now build your model following the outline of your house.
You can change axes to suit but the basics are there.

That is true: the green axis still points north in a geolocated model. But, again, why not rotate the model instead of the universe? I fear you might be clouding your daughter’s understanding of what causes shadows and what real-world orientation means.

When modelling buildings you really do create difficulties for yourself if you try to model a rectangular structure to an oblique angle. That is the idea of the north angle tool, you can preserve axis directions that are sensible for modellling and outputting “drawings” while shadows are displayed correctly. This approach is shared also by the BIM applications I use.


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Hmm, I see your point. I was thinking of rotating the entire model after completing it so as to do shadow studies, but that might be a poor workflow…

@slbaumgartner Steve, this works like a charm!
I turn on Shadow and as soon as I change the NorthAngle parameter in the Ruby console window (using the above statement) the shadow changes accordingly, also in the Visualiser render window.
This is what I was looking for. Thanks a million!

I am also going to experiment with the geo-location though, to see if I can choose the orientation at will.

@Box I just added a geo-location to my model, but the North remains ‘fixed’ to the models green axis. I can move and rotate the geo-location but the model still determines the North.
Its maybe a good idea to position the geo-location to the model as you like, then define the North using Steve’s Ruby statement: Sketchup.active_model.shadow_info[“NorthAngle”]= 15.0
An error of a few degrees doesn’t bother me.

This works for me! :slightly_smiling:
Thanks all for your input!

You may have misunderstood. Geolocating a model sets a latitude (which affects shadow length) and longitude (which affects shadow timing) but the local solar north remains fixed to the green axis. To skew the solar north you have to change it by itself.

@slbaumgartner Steve, yes that was pretty much what I remembered having read somewhere (see my earlier post), though I was inspired by Box’s post to give it a try anyway.

I am really a SU novice. As said, assisting my daughter with her SU designs.
I work as a mechanical design engineer. I use Pro/Engineer WildFire for 3D CAD solid modelling. That said, Sketchup seems to be a fun tool to use. I hope my daughter needs a lot of my assistance in the near future so I have an excuse to play more with Sketchup … :wink:

That rotates the solar nth…but is there anyway to have the same model with multiple scenes each have a different Solar Nth setting…as now it seems this is global and the only way to do this is to rotate the entire model in relation to Solar nth to get the most favorable shadow cast on my four interior section/elevation scenes (views)?