Workflow Question For Pro building designers - Viewport stacking can be unrealistic:

Often times overlay stacking is completely unrealistic and does not make real world sense. I’ve seen a lot of great work out there by people like @Sonder @gsharp , @bmike @DaveR , @paul.mcalenan @llavebrooks and many more. My question is about overlays in layout and how they can often look unrealistic:

The only realistic viewport stacking option is a dashed line viewport stack, to my knowledge that is it. Now if that statement is correct when using Layout, than this is very limiting when it comes to using viewport stacks and actually making things still look realistic. This leaves very limited options. I’ll explain why in the video below. When you finish the short video, I’m wondering if anyone has any detailed suggestions on this. I’m not looking for manual workarounds that take a chunk of time, the best part about my workflow is that almost my entire workflow is automated, where I never have to dash any hidden objects, etc. Once my scenes are setup as a template in sketchup and layout drawings, I’m done and ready for all future projects with the same contents and need to make only minor adjustments to sketchup and layout moving forward. So if anyone has any suggestions that do not involve TOO much manual work arounds that would be great. You can see in the video how I make a copy of the deck floor, turn it transaparent and hide the other one, that’s a manual work around but it only took me about 1 minute to setup. I’m wondering if there is a better way to look at this then I am. I’d also love to know if anyone has any good suggestions for showing things like deck plans to the builder, perhaps I’m overcomplicating it? If I am, could you please detail why.


Correct but looks bad with dashed stairs (too much going on with stair dashes, looks cluttered):

Correct, looks good. Thinking of it now, I guess if I wanted a overlay outline of just the floor, I could do the same thing where I made a copy of the floor and just make it totally transparent now it would show the floor outline only and still be realistic because it’s a texture applied in sketchup and not an overlay applied in layout… Any better suggestions? Would other designers perhaps remove the walls from the drawing showing only the deck group so floor beams and columns and get rid of the building in the drawing. Looking for different/better ways of showing a deck plan.


Totally unrealistic. It looks like the deck is floating over the building. This is a deck floor set to xray style viewport showing only the deck overlayed in layout. This drawing clearly illustrates the problem with viewport stacking of anything but dashed lines often being unrealistic.

Sorry I don’t have more time to explain. Do you have my book? With all due respect I am running 7 custom homes with 100 + page sets, and they are all very legible working with stacked view ports. I started most of my projects in October and 5 are complete and 2 more will be finished in the next two weeks - just me over 5 months. So, the stacking view port method does work very well in real world practice. You just need the correct method to do so…and it is very simple.


No worries!

I too am quite busy, currently just finishing up my entire workflow for all of my future work. It’s been a challenge. I’ll check your book again but I’ve been through a ton of scenarios. I haven’t seen anything in your book that mentions anything about viewport stacking realism and the problem I’m illustrating. Overlaying solid fill or solid line viewports as I show in the last image is not (always) realistic, meaning there will always need to be manual checking of viewports which I’m trying to avoid and trying to make things automated in my workflow. The problem is anytime an object goes under or above, if one wants to represent those objects on their own viewport in layout, depending on how the viewport is stacked will mean that that viewport will always need to be checked in layout on projects and it won’t 100% of the time look realistic as sometimes it will make objects look like they are above rather than below and there is no avoiding that when it comes to any viewport that is not a dashed line. I could be wrong about that, but I’ve been through a ton of tests and scenarios and not once have I proved that wrong (unfortunately for me). Will check for more ideas in your book.

Thanks for your time.

No worries if you don’t have the time to respond. For anyone else who does:

From Nicks book, stacking viewports. I’m sure his workflow works well for him, but I’m just wondering about solutions on getting over the problem where viewports make objects look like they are below something when they should look like they are above it. In Nicks book he illustrates how to stack a viewport over top of the main sketchup model viewport, if I had a beam in that model and it was supposed to look like it was resting on top of the walls, using his viewport wall hatching vector viewport method, it would make the red beam look like it was below because the viewport is stacked on top. The beam in this image should be on top, but because of viewport stacking other than dashed lines, it looks unrealistic.

So you are talking about a framing plan vs. a floor plan. Floor plans are created with a section cut set at a particular height - typically below a ridge beam, usually between 4-6’ in height. In that image if you wanted the beam look as though it is on top of the framing, you would use the LO layering system or use “Arrange” to move objects on the same layer up or down.

You are missing quite a bit in the process. You should look through the book, and more importantly see how the sample SU file and sample LO files are organized.

Have fun,


@Sonder I don’t use any section cuts in my floor plan views, it is not only faster this way, but I now get to see everything instead of hiding objects unnecessarily in my floor plans. This method doesn’t work for me. I can achieve the same floor plan look results in a fraction of the time and not have to hide anything on that level. I find this a lot faster personally.

“You are missing quite a bit in the process.”

I think there might be some assumptions being made about that. To me it’s pretty simple to understand. Any viewport that rests over top of a main sketchup drawing viewport will hide objects. That is the illustrated problem.

I don’t believe I’m missing anything, I’ve got quite a bit of experience doing these tests and making an automated workflow, but I could be wrong still… I’ve tried what you’re saying, that method does not work all the time and therefore requires manual checking. It is not as easy in my tests to simply move a viewport up or down, there are some scenarios where a viewport simply cannot be moved based on other viewports stacked for a drawing…

I’m not sure how you show all your openings, windows etc without a section cut, but that’s great that you can. I honestly think your process of not using section cuts is the problem. If you are using vector or hybrid rendering with section cuts, that is exactly what it does - lets you see everything below where the items in section are not. So a vector or hybrid render of a section cut of walls laid over the another raster, vector or hybrid view port will only hide those items that are within the section cut. You then establish your scenes in SU to correspond to the layering you want to see in LO. My structural engineer does this since they are doing framing plans. The method I use works every time the same way since it is all based on using the same templates in SU and LO for every project, so I don’t understand the “does not work all the time”.

Good luck with your process though. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat! I can’t really help you though.

So a vector or hybrid render of a section cut of walls laid over the another raster, vector or hybrid view port will only hide those items that are within the section cut. You then establish your scenes in SU to correspond to the layering you want to see in LO.

That makes sense. You’re right, it’s really all about how one displays there own plans. Again, my illustration here in this post, is wondering how in some situations, viewport stacking can make objects look like they are below the stack, when instaed they should look like they are above. I guess it’s only a problem for the people who have workflows that are diffeerent than yours than. I like a lot of your workflows, but there are some methods I’ve created that produce beautiful drawings in way less of the time and it’s because of this that I perhaps stay with my methods and not eveyrthing recommened in your book. Getting to figure out my workflow has been tough, but in the end it’s saving me time.

Thanks for your input. Really I guess this post just describes how this problem I pose just depends on ones workflow. For me I want to save time and still produce great results, either person will have problems, I guess it’s whichi problems would you rather have more or less haha…

I haven’t seen the video nor read everything. Not much time honestly, but if you want to represent the beam which is above the section plan, why not create a reflected plan view?

If you want you can even do that, convert into vector, change to any kind of linetype and color, and stack on top of your plan.

I haven’t read Sonder’s books, but I guess I’m with him. Stacked viewports work…

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Thanks for the suggestion!

I recently wanted to do what I think you’re describing: Ceiling plan (a scene in SketchUp with a section plane looking up at the ceiling) is rendered as dotted lines stacked on top of the regular floor plan. How do you mirror image that scene for that viewport in Layout?

A bit hard to understand what you mean exactly. Could you elaborate a little bit with what you’re trying to accomplish?

You just grab the Layout viewport from the left or right and scale it -1.

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First let me clarify some jargon, at least the way I was taught. A “true” Ceiling Plan is what you get if you cut a section in SU and look upward at the ceiling; simple and pure. A “Reflected Ceiling Plan” was easier to draw in old hand drafting days, and the more common convention used in practice: It’s information about what’s on the ceiling or above the floor plan section plane dotted in on top of the floor plan looking down on a conventional floor plan. It’s also been described as if the floor was a mirror reflecting the ceiling.

I suspected it should be that simple. Once you’ve got two differently created viewports like this, is there a great way to manage aligning the contents of one viewport with the other? As I understand it so far, there’s just one reference point to move around and work with (yuck).

A very small apartment refurbishment construction documentation drawings for floor and ceiling plan. This one could fit the same page inside Layout so I think it’s good to display here:


Those are stunning!! Great work!

Bravo! Perfect example of plan and reflected ceiling plan.

It’s very easy to align them. Even if viewports might not match as they will be dependent on how you save your scene in Sketchup, walls will match. In our case, our section cut faces for the floorplan will also show up on the ceiling plan, so it’s easy to reference one with the other. Just try it. It will be easy to figure out.