SU Pro + Layout for architecture projects


Looking for some practical experience references from Pro users out there.
I have a thorough knowledge (nearly 10 years) of Revit, and AutoCad prior to that. I learned Revit pretty much on my own, on the fly, while beginning to implement it on projects. I am now a sole practitioner planning on beginning to use SketchUp Pro and Layout for my residential and small commercial projects.
I have a fairly solid grasp of using SketchUp as a design tool, but have only begun to watch some tutorials about taking things into Layout. I’m wondering what other’s experiences have been about how quickly one can be up and producing documents using LayOut, especially if you came from the realm of Autodesk products. Also wondering if implementing things such as the templates and workflow of either Brightman or Sonder might be of benefit in terms of organization if I need to begin constructions drawings quickly. Or if you’re using any other templates or plug ins that seem to help with organization.


Hi there,

I’m currently in a similar position, I am creating my first drawing set using the Sketchup / Layout combination.
I wouldn’t say my progress is fast. But I am quite pleased with the way the drawings are turning out.

I use a modified combination of Sonder’s and Brightman’s workflow (I own both books but not the Brightman plugin), as I require drawings to look a certain way while still retaining the freedom of design I want.

I would recommend beginning with Sonder’s excellent workflow as it is relatively simple and easily manageable. Plus if you buy the book you get access to his collection of templates which should speed up your progress a bit.
A full understanding of layers and scene functionality is a must!

I haven’t gone down the full 3D detail route that Sonder has at the moment though. Instead I have made an extensive collection of standard detailing layout groups which I have in my Layout scrap book. So detailing just becomes something similar to Revit 2D detail families or ACAD blocks.

Obviously you have to shift the way you do things, but the transition isn’t as hard as I found the switch form AutoCAD to Revit (I too am a self taught Revit user and am now my offices “Revit Guy”). Once you figure out a few workarounds and accept a few flaws you can get some useful things out of it. I find myself missing some of Revits automation functions but I am finding the process enjoyable and the drawing output to be just what I wanted to see for the most part.

At the end of the day I am developing my process because I want to enjoy what I do. If I had to use Revit for the rest of my career I would be an angry little man by the end of it.
Revit is a great and powerful program but it is not enjoyable 90% of the time.

Good luck! If possible post some of your work when you are finished I would like to see what you come up with.


For our own architectural practice we developed a plugin to generate plans and sections from our SketchUp models to avoid the need of using other cad software.
We developed an extension called Skalp for SketchUp to create hatched sections with lineweights* and rearview projection* from your SketchUp models to use in Layout or export to dxf. Two years we ago we started commercialising this extension, because we believed this was a missing peace for a lot of architects and other designers. If you like to see what people do with our extension take a look at our Facebook page

Lets talk about our own workflow at our firm… we don’t use any special workflow or templates.
We use our own layer system (based on a standard used in Belgium) which we also use to assign our Skalp materials (for the sections) and we create a lot of groups to create solids, but we don’t use a lot of nesting. We don’t create a structure by nesting groups/components like the Brightman workflow. We structure our model with layers. We also made some simple dynamic components for windows, doors, stairs and cabinets. For the rest we use all the native SketchUp tools.

Plugins we use:

  • Skalp: to generate the sections and the plan.
  • Profile Builder 1: to draw profiles like steelbeams very easy (I have also version 2 but I still use version 1 because I only use it for some simple profiles),
  • Stretch by Area: very powerful stretch tool
  • Solid Inspector2 and FixSolid (also a plugin I wrote myself): to fix solids
  • Elevation 45 shadow: to easily set shadows on elevations
  • Thea Render: very fast, easy to setup, but very powerful render plugin.
  • AW Boolean (not public available): Just the same like the SketchUp boolean tools but this one don’t mess up the materials and the layers of the solids like the SketchUp tools do.

* features of the new Skalp 2.0 version, which will be a free update for all 1.x users


I used to be an Autocad user. For many years, I only used Sketchup to create simple 3D models of things already created in AC, either for presentation purposes or to help explain tricky detailing.

Then I started reading about people like Nick Sonder who had clearly gone a lot further. I also bought Michael Brightman’s Sketchup Workflow for Architecture which has become my Bible. For the past 3 years, I have used SU/LO for all my work and I only use AC for looking at drawings that I import into SU.

It’s important to understand that SU is intentionally a light touch program so you will not be able to do all that you can in AC. Text and dimensioning are much less user defined, for example. It’s also important to decide how much drawing you are going to do in full 3D, which is what SU is designed for. In theory, you could draw every nut and bolt but you would never get a project done if you did. So the level of detail and how you plan to present it is critical. It’s useful to remember you will still only be producing 2D output (mostly).

I found SU easy to get to grips wit the basics and very intuitive. Using it at the higher levels takes a lot more effort but it is worth it, I think. If you are using it professionally, you have to use Pro and make full use of LO. LO is like Paperspace in AC but more adaptable. Having what is effectively Paperspace and Modelspace in two separate packages seems odd to an AC user but you quickly get used to it and begin to realise what else you can pull into it that you cannot easily in AC.


Thanks for all of your feedback. Really appreciate it. I’m sure it’s mostly a hesitancy on my part - partly because of I’m not familiar with Layout, but also because I’m going to have a hard time finding time to work this first project in (as my daily profession is currently not specific to architectural practice). The Revit template system that we developed at the last office I was at was really nice, and all that initial set-up (that I didn’t have to do to get a project going!) is really what I’m going to miss.

benoldays and simnoncbevans - it sounds like it really can be a toss up between Brightman and Sonder in terms of workflow. It seems that you can get most of what you need out of either of their philosophies. It also sounds like, over time, most people develop their own standard libraries (details, notes, etc). Guess I’ll do a little more reading about both and pick one.

Guy - yes, I’ve heard about Skalp - just came across it the other day in a forum thread somewhere - and it was one of the many plug-ins/extensions that intrigued me. Thanks for your other suggestions though too - will try to take a look at them to see what they’re about.

If I can get some stuff going rather quickly, I’ll try to get back and post progress.



And 2017 is really a new user experience for AutoCAD users.

I’d recommend everyone that previously quit on Layout to try 2017 version again:

  • Dimensions are now truly associative;
  • AutoCAD exports are really working now with only minor flaws.
  • Auto-text tagging is the same, but still handy.

I’d say that with the right blend of 3D modelling and 2D drafting inside Sketchup+Layout, you are now able to do better and faster arch projects in SU+LO than in CAD.

It requires practice though, but results are way better.

With the new CAD export from Layout or Skalp I believe you can keep a great workflow with CAD too if you like.


Please help if you can.

A key handbrake on an Architectural solution is a workflow for multiple team members collaborating on a project (at the same time) - anyone found a good way?

We are an Architecture office of 18, looking at Sketchup and Layout as an end solution for design and documentation, and as an alternative to Revit and Archicad.
We currently use Sketchup at the start of design and move to Autocad later.
The key and serious impediment to adoption of SU LO end to end is how a team can collaborate on a building at the same time.
Autocad has x-ref functionality and I believe Revit and Archicad also allow all team members visibility of other team members’ work. We often have 4 or 5 people woking on a job
We have not found a way to approximate this in SU LO.
We have explored using ‘sub-models’ - part of a building - and allocating these to different team members and inserting them as linked models and updating them in the ‘master model’. However, if sub models need another part of the building as context this then requires tedious purging of building elements from each sub-model every time an update needs to be communicated in the master model or other sub models. The more people on the job, the more unworkable it becomes.
It is ironic that Trimble Connect is all about collaboration between other consultants, yet within SU collaboration does not seem workable.


We created some years ago a plugin (internal for our office) to make it possible to work together on one model with multiple users. We even showed it at 3DBasecamp in Boulder as a proof of concept. It’s on our to do list to make this more generic for all SketchUp users and make a real extension of it. I worked with a central folder with all building groups and components (not nestted at that time). You could unlock groups for editing. If you unlock a these group(s) stayed locked for the other users. There was a function to update your model, all modified groups where then reloaded with the edited groups, new groups where inserted and deleted groups where deleted.


Sounds great. So everyone could work in the model and see all of it as of the last update, but bits could be locked down for different users?
Regrettably I can’t wait for it to get to the top of your to do list.
I think you would have a very demanded extension - such a thing would make Sketchup usable for a whole new segment of professionals. I would pay at least $100 US, and since it is inherently enabling larger practices, that’s $100 per license.
I hope I can find a work around.
If you have any suggestions…


Yorg - yes, what Guy’s team has developed sounds much like what can be done in Revit, with multiple users being able to access a central model simultaneously. It can be a beautiful thing…and if someone forgets to do things, can also be a headache (especially when that someone else leaves the office for the night!). I had my workarounds though…:grin:


Guy, can you tell me a little more about this?
Did you use the native capability of Sketchup to import a model and reload it or save it out, using a particular workflow, or was it more involved?


No we didn’t use the standard SketchUp import of a model and reload. We wrote code to manage all of this fully automatically. The code also managed who edit the group / component. It was also possible to only work on a subset of the model to keep the working model size small. You also could create different skp files from the same project all with different scene setups.


You have to publish this one Guy.

It’s been a long need for sketchup.


Wow, sounds great!


Hi Kevin Krol,

I’ve been self employed as an Architectural Consultant since 1991. I’ve been using SketchUP-Pro since version 3. DataCAD since version 5/6 & SPIRIT off & on since 2012. I created a YOU-TUBE CHANNEL for architectural software that might assist you, see link:

For me, I’ve always needed traditional CAD software in conjunction with SU-Pro, as I require 2D CAD in the initial design process. I don’t get on well with SU-Pro for this initial start, as traditional CAD is far too easy & quick to use, especially when a project needs existing building survey work to be drawn up first for alteration works or extensions.

Subject to the project in hand, projects can migrate over to SU-Pro via DWG export. If your old school with SU-Pro, then drawing stuff long hand is o.k. However to make lighter work for you, there are a plethora of extensions to automate these processes, as SU-Pro does not have any parametric abilities in plain form.

I guess in largeness it depends on how easy it is to create a model & extract plans elevations/sections from your traditional CAD software. A contributing factor when your self employed is costs, I’ve never indulged myself in buying any AUTODESK products, simply because I feel they’re just too pricey for my budget compared to the architectural software I currently use. I was drawn to SU-Pro, as 3D is too easy to use. I therefore find myself using CAD+SU-Pro as a cost effective resolve. Competitive architectural CAD software has come a long way since I started, I can see one CAD product I’ve my eye on getting a lot better with model creation & plans extraction & equally an extension called PLUS-SPEC to turbo charge SU-Pro with parametric solutions.

Eventually one may rise above the other for singular use, but until then, CAD+SU-Pro is a good combination to suite the various projects I undertake.

Over & out,


I feel exactly the opposite. Sketchup is able to cope with conceptual processes 10x faster than CAD in my own practice. It really depends on what you do with it. All my initial 2D plans are built with sketchup + LO and slowly become 3D in a nice workflow that Sketchup allows and CAD would break.

2D then just comes into play at such a deep level on construction documents and that’s where CAD is most useful in my opinion.

Even so, I opt for building all my 2D data in Sketchup and LO and though I loose a bit more time than in CAD, I can have an incredible and coordinated 3D+2D asset in the end of the process that helps me much in construction.

But, it required me to build my own workflow which is full of workarounds and tricks to bypass Sketchup’s limitations. Being confortable with them is not for all…


Clayton & JQL-
Thanks for your input. I’ll check out the YouTube channel when I have some time.
I’m also old school enough that I tend to do almost all conceptual and early schematic/space planning work by hand - onion skin over a quick 2D print out of building footprint. I guess it’s the way I was taught which, in the early-to-mid 90’s was still the standard (arch school computer lab only had 6 workstations, which were always bogged down by someone leaving at the end of their allotted time with a rendering processing). That being said I have used AutoCad to do work early on. The last firm I was with had migrated completely to Revit, except for a scan few who either resisted learning or were doing government contract work (which was still required to have all disciplines in .dwg format). I’ve begun to do more mass modelling in SketchUp, and often will use it if I can’t seem to find a take off point when I’m sketching by hand.
And I too, am all about budget programs. Since I left corporate architecture, all my software has been open source, including CAD. Purchasing SU Pro will be the first time I’ve paid for software, but I think it’s time, and I want the features.


It’s also a good moment to buy it. Sketchup 2017 and in particular what’s related to Layout 2017 is really a leap forward from 2016.

For people using Layout it’s a must and I’d invite people who have previously felt Layout was lacking, to try it again this time.

Dimensions and DWG export, were greatly improved, and that means a lot for this conversation.


You’re doing this workflow wrong (in my opinion).

What we do here is that we export the sub model’s components from the main model and into a folder called XREF.

Nobody works directly in the models inside XREF.

Then we create new models and import the models from the XREF folder that are needed into that new model.

We lock the components we are using as reference and work only on the components assigned to each one of us.

We can reload the locked components anytime we wish and we can save our own working component using the context’s menu “save as” function.

It is very manageable but requires coordination effort. This is something that should be adressed nativelly by Sketchup thoguh and definetelly Trimble connect is still not the answer.

What’s incredible is that if Trimble connect would start from there, it would strategically be very benefitial as the Trimble Connect process would be useful in a broader scenario, more people would be willing to use it and ultimatelly the paid service would eventually get more people.

At the current state, Trimble connect is only helpful to coordinate with outside teams like consultants, clients and contractors, not with where most of the real work happens which is inside our own architectural team members.


Yes. Thank you for sharing that.We came to this solution after some brow addition the xref manager plugin seems to fill another gap together with this workflow.
Agree this is a key mistake in their collaborarion toolset - Trimble connect is only part of the picture.