SketchUp Order Of Operations?



Greetings ~ I have been working to learn SketchUp. I’ve watched videos and tried a few designs. My mind has not made the leap from 2D drawing to 3D sketching and I struggle with what I call Order Of Operations. This might be called Work Flow in SketchUp speak. So, my first question: in designing a small project in SketchUp, i.e. a dining room sideboard, what are the general order of operations to consider?

Second question: how would the order of operations be different for a large project such as a house?

Thank you!


I think about and teach that work flow thing. Order of operations is a good term for it, too. I can speak to drawing the sideboard because furniture is most of what I drew in SketchUp. I would use the same basic approach for drawing a house, too but I wouldn’t be surprised if others share different approaches.

So first, it depends upon the level of detail you’re after. Most of the time I’m drawing to joinery level for plans such as for this lowboy built by Philip C. Lowe.

I would start by drawing and placing the legs. Front left leg first, make it a component, Move/Copy and Flip along to make mirrored copies. In the case of the piece, I started with much simpler legs so I could quickly get the rest of the parts drawn. I wen back and shaped the legs later. Then I draw the rest of the parts to fit in between. If the legs are properly placed, and I draw the rest of the parts in situ between them, they have to be the right size. No joinery is drawn until after I have all of the parts drawn. Every part that would be made in the shop would be a component even if there’s only one of the part in the model. When there are mirrored parts such as the sides or the left and right vertical dividers between the bottom drawers, I draw one, make it a component and copy it to make the other making sure it gets flipped. The same applies for all the internal parts.

The only parts that get drawn separately are things like the drawer pulls, hinges and other hardware but I make those components to save and insert them when I’m ready for them. Setting the component axes and origin to a logical place in the component makes them basically a simple drop in place and leave them operation.

After I have all of the parts in the right locations and I’ve confirmed the dimensions I’ve got, I go back and detail the joinery. I’ll use various methods to reduce time spent so for example I’d get tenons drawn on the sides and use those tenons to cut the mortises in the legs or I’ll draw the dovetail pins on the drawer fronts and use them to cut the sockets on the drawer sides.

Hopefully that gives you some idea.


Thank you for the reply. You surprised me in your order; starting with the legs. Nothing wrong with it (especially since it works), it just surprised with me.I worked this up today. Pretty basic but I learned a lot. The beginner video #4 gave me some new clues, so I started it with the top and worked my way down. CuMSideboard1.skp (202.1 KB)


Nothing wrong with that but for me the top just gets in the way. And generally I use the legs as references for positioning the top.


A good deal depends on whether you’re designing something on the fly as you model it or are simply modeling an item for which the dimensions are all reasonably well known. If the former, DaveR’s method sounds good. If the latter, my personal preference would be to model the pieces separately as components and then assemble them after. As Dave has pointed out, the assembly context can get in the way while you’re working on the details. In any event, you can enter any of the component instances at any time and tweak it or remodel it entirely.

If you are designing as you go, you might consider working back and forth between an assembly model and individual detail parts as you go, depending on whether features are constrained by the assembly or are solely defined at the detail level.

You may find it convenient to think of a model structure as a hierarchy made up of components (and or groups). Details–say, parts cut from a single piece of material, go at the bottom rung. Above that are, depending on the complexity of the model, one or more levels of subassemblies and the top assembly, with each subassembly representing some coherent grouping of parts that are logically handled as a unit.



Thanks ~ your hierarchy sounds helpful.