Terrain using scratch tool

I am a landscape designer, and am trying to work on a model of a city lot that had elevation differences. This is a small city lot, 150 ft long x 80 ft wide. I am trying to use the scratch tool, and smooth tool, but with the smooth toll, I am not sure how to use it without getting pointed volcano looking elevations. I will try to best to explain what I am trying to do. In one corner of my simple rectangle lot, I have an elvation of 0 ft. In the other corner, I have an elevation of 2 ft high. The other two corners are 4 ft high, and 6 ft high. Now, where the houjse sits, that area is flat, so lets say the flat area on my model is with surrounding area around the house that is flat, is 80 ft x 60 ft, and we will call this elevation 3 ft. which will all be the same plain consistant elevation. So, it anyone has any suggestions on how to make this model, I would appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Assuming the ground is essentially flat and slightly sloped (as you describe it), you can use the From Contours tool to create the ground surface itself from an outline and then use the Stamp tool to create a flat, level pad for the house to sit on. See picture:


Thanks Gully,

I am fairly new at this. So, is my first step to create my 150 ft x 80 ft wide lot by using the "create a sandbox from scratch"And if so, after I do that, I know you can make a grid, and type in your grid spacing. Where I am not sure, is how to lift each corner to the proper elevations. Or, do I just draw a rectangle, and than a vertical line off each point to the proper elevation, and than joing those points. Thanks. Sorry about my questions, I am over 50 :smile:

Welcome treeguyster and hi Gully.

There’s and easier way of developing your terrain than from a flat TIN via Sandbox - From Scratch.
Like Gully suggested…
Given what you already know about the overall topography you could easily model the elemental contours and use the Sandbox - From Contours tool to create the initial terrain TIN.
From there you can refine the terrain to whatever you want.

Here’s an example based upon what I gather from your description:
Terrain TIN From Contours.skp SU 2015 (89.0 KB)

What I did was first create the footprint of the lot on the ground plane using the Rectangle tool, then draw a line up from each corner representing the elevation of that corner above “zero.” Then I connected the endpoints of the verticals with lines, making an outline of the lot following the topography. Then I selected the lines and picked the From Contours tool, and SU created the sloped ground surface.

Generally, the combination of From Scratch and the Smoove tool is used to create wavy or hilly topography. Since your lot seems to be pretty flat (while sloping), I chose the From Contours tools instead. The From Scratch tool, which does produce a grid or mesh that the Smoove tool can deform, doesn’t seem to be needed in this case, although others may have a different theory (there’s rarely only one solution to a modeling problem in SU).

Well, that makes you a wet behind the ears whippersnapper next to me, since I am over 60. If your point was that old guys (over 50) have a hard time learning new things, to that I say pish tush. Stick with it.


Thanks Gully,

I am sticking with this, and I WILL learn this eventually.

The young whipper snapper :smile:

Thanks Geo for responding. I clicked on your example "Terrain TIN From Contours.skp, but I only have 2014 Pro, so was not able to open it. When I did my site anaylsis of my property, I took many spot elevations. I wish I would have taken more, since than I probably could have interpolated, and created an actual contour map, whereas I could than use the push pull tool to lift up the sections of the contours, and than I believe the soften tool may have worked. Hopefully I will figure this out soon. Thanks again for your advice

treeguyster, if you had actual contour lines, then you’d really want to use From Contours, whose job is to skin the contour lines, creating the ground surface. The Push/Pull tool is not used for this.


No worries.
Here’s a 2014 version.
Terrain TIN From Contours.skp (89.0 KB)

That presents another attractive option to consider.

You could author a simple text file of the spot elevation coordinates in CSV format.
CSV format means Comma Separated Values

You can create a CSV text file for use in SketchUp with an ordinary text editor, like Microsoft Notepad
Therein the values would be distance units (feet in this example) along the x,y,z axes respectively.

Reference the model I shared…
The coordinates of the four corners of the 80’ x 150’ lot would be written in CSV format like this:


There’s a plugin (free) that will import the CSV text file and create a guide point at each coordinate.
The result is called a Points Cloud. Thus the name of the plugin, “Cloud”
Then it will triangulate the guide points and draw edges (triangles of a TIN)
And finally, it will make faces for the triangles, thus creating the surface of the terrain model.

Here’s the link to the plugin over at the SketchUcation Pluginstore.
You’ll need to register (free and painless) and login to be able to download the .rbz plugin file.
SketchUp Plugins | PluginStore | SketchUcation

Great, thanks so much for the help Geo.

Hello Geo and Gully,

I like your idea on my previous question about on each corner, drawing a vertical line with the distance off each corner. I seem to have figured that out. This is an actual landscape design I am working on with spot elevations. I wanted to send you the actual skp file, but it was to large, so this is a jpg. Basically it is a corner lot, and it slopes up back to the garage, which is adjacent to an alley. The lot also slopes up towards the house. I took off the stairs, so this is basically just a plan of the house, alley, garage, sidewalk, and the lot itself. So, do I try to pull up a vertical line off each spot elevation. My reference is “0”, Than, do I just join the tops with lines. Sorry about being a pain with my questions. I thought about using the free hand tool to interopolate between my spot elevations and create contours, but I probably would need more spot elevations. Once again, I appreciate all of your help. Thanks.

It is unnecessary to join the tops. The Sandbox from Contours tool works perfectly with a “forest” of vertical lines.

AutoCad site surveys used to come as 2D drawings with a cloud of spot elevations that were just text objects. I wrote a Lisp macro for AutoCad that replaced these with vertical 3D lines, and, after importing it into SketchUp I could top them with a surface with the From Contours tool.


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Thank you, thank you, thank you. HOLY COW - it worked, this is exactly what I have been trying to figure out. So, I am still pretty new to sketchup, but my guess is that with any modeling I do, I should group it, and than I can line it up with the terrain mesh that you just helped me with. If I need to manipulate the mesh, since what I have are existing conditions, and I may be making grade changes, what is the easiest way to do that.

Now that is a new one to me! :slight_smile:

SketchUp is unusually powerful as a terrain modeler.

In the attached model of your site, I used a few plugins from the Sketchucation site that help with terrain, which are free or very reasonable. This shows a few things you can do with these tools:

thomthom’s Vertex Tools (indispensible)
TIG’s Drape Cpoints and Triangulate

Using just these tools and LayOut for presentation, you can create terrain models of any sort you encounter. I attached a few examples.

city site 01.skp (772.7 KB)

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Thank you for sharing this extension. I am going to evaluate the trial version, and see if I should purchase it. Are there any other videos besides the one that you can download that may go into more detail on how to use this extension? It looks like you can incorporate curves, which would be nice, since I occassionaly have sites that are on cul-de-sacs, and have had difficulty in the past trying to show terrain when it butts up to the cul-de-sac curve.

Hi Treeguyster

Sorry not to get back sooner… the site didn’t notify me of your latest entry, and I forgot to check.

thomthom’s site contains good videos and other information about his plugins, way better than anything I could type up. Be sure to check out the TIG plugins, as well, as they are valuable for “re-topologizing” a site — in other words, a surveyor or developer may give you contour lines on a grading and drainage plan or site plan.

If you use the “From Contours” tool in the Sandbox in SketchUp, it will make a nice TIN (triangulated irregular network) from the contour lines, but a TIN is hard to modify or edit. Using TIG’s or thomthom’s tools, you can make your own regular mesh from the TIN, and that will be much easier to reshape. Didier Bur also made a plugin that works very well, called Terrain Reshaper. Handy stuff for us dirt gals and guys.

Morning guys. So, Anssi, I am using your suggestion again for developing an existing terrain model. I have shot various elevations along the inside perimeter of the serpentine sidewalk, and if you can imagine, my “0” elevation is at the very low right of the the attachment, with my highest elevation being around 72" high behind my proposed pergola. It is kind of a cross-slope situation, with the ground rising front the front of the image, to back of the pergola. Than, it falls from left to right. With my various elevations, I took what I call my base map, grouped it, and than draw vertical lines for each elevation shot. Than, from the contours in the sandbox tool, I created the terrain model of the existing. There happens to be a drain in the foreground. I probably should have shot more elevations. I am developing a patio area with a pergola (the pergola is now its own group). There will be a water feature with a stream which will go under a bride.

So, I than grouped my top view of my sketch up model. I have not used push pull yet on it. I draped it on my terrain model. You will see the top image of my plan, with my plan basically on a flat plane. I have no idea what to do next. I am going to have to have a slight slope on my plan, along with some retaining walls, possible steps. I do not want to follow my existing terrain model, because we will be grading that. Is this even possible to slope my patio plan, lets say 1/4" per foot, and than modify my terrain group. I have tried right clicking on the terrain model, get a few dotted blue triangles, but not sure what to do after that. Sorry about my long confusing post. Thank you