Stop Doing This With Your Sketchup Site Models

Featured image_ Stop Doing This With Your Sketchup Site Models

In this article, we’re going to be going over what not to do with your Sketchup site models! The 3D warehouse can be a great resource for downloading models, but sometimes topographic models aren’t used in the most effective way. We’ll show you a few different examples and explain how you can turn them into better topographic models. If you’re looking for a more detailed tutorial on typography, check out this one. Otherwise, let’s get started!

Sketchup Site Model Tip #1

In this first example, you can see that the model was created by using survey information from somewhere else and extruding each topographic line up. This can be a good method when physically modeling something, but it can become a bit distracting in a computer model. It’s important to step back and realize that at the end of the day, topographic contours are a tool used to communicate site information. They don’t actually exist. And if the contours were done at a different interval, they’d be completely different. Use them to get what you need and to generally inform your design, but don’t let the literal lines take control.

Sketchup Site model 1

If your site is already like this, how do you fix it?

Delete Faces. Select the top face of the topography and copy it over to another area of your model. Delete the faces. Delete the lines that formed the outline of the extrusion so you are left with just the contour lines.

delete faces from Sketchup site model

Draw > Sandbox > From Contours. Select the contour lines. Navigate to “draw” in the menu bar. Select “sandbox” > “from contours.” This will create a more realistic representation of the actual topography.

create contours from Sketchup site model

Sketchup Site Model Tip #2

Another example is having the land be too flat. In this model, there are sharp lines with a very geometric slope in the center. To fix this, just soften the edges and corners to make a smoother transition.

Sketchup site model 2

Round Corners. Select the lines where the corners of the slope meet. Click on the “Round Corner” plugin. Change the value of the offset to about 2 feet. Hit enter. Now you have a much smoother transition between the flat land and the slope.

round corners of Sketchup site model

Sketchup Site Model Tip #3

A common modeling method is creating your own topography by triangulation or using a grid. We’re going to show you how to smooth out those lines for either method.

Sketchup site model 3

Soften Edges. Select all of the faces. Make sure your default tray is open by going to “window” > “default tray” > “show tray.” Also, make sure “soften edges” is selected. In the “soften edges” section of the “default tray,” use the slider to soften the edges. Most of the lines become dashed lines which means they are now hidden.

soften edges of Sketchup site model

Erase. Hit “E” to open the eraser tool. Hold “ctrl” while scrolling over any additional lines you want to hide.

erase lines on Sketchup site model

The model looks a lot better already, but we could still smooth out the topography even more.

Copy. Select only the topography from the model and copy it off to the side. You may have to make the topography a “component” if it isn’t already.

Draw Rectangle. Hit “R” to open the rectangle tool. Draw a rectangle underneath the topography, connecting opposite corners.

draw rectangle under Sketchup site model

Scale. Select the rectangle. Hit “S” to open the scale tool. Hold “ctrl” and drag the rectangle outward so it is just a bit bigger than the area you are going to cut through. Right-click on the rectangle and select “make group.”

Move. Hit “M” to move and “ctrl” to make a copy. Press the “up” arrow key to lock to the blue axis and type “2*30.” Hit enter. Now you have 30 planes that are equally spaced 2 feet apart over your topographic model.

multiply planes over Sketchup site model typography

Intersect Faces. Select all of the planes and topography. Right-click and select “intersect faces” > “with selection.” Delete the planes. If there are any strange intersecting points, just use the eraser tool to hide the lines.

intersect faces of Sketchup site model

Explode. Right click on the topography and select “explode.” Right-click on a piece of the topography and click “select” > “all with same material.” Hit delete. You may have to do some cleanup and delete a few stray lines.

Draw > Sandbox. > From Contours. Just like we did in the first example, you can now create a smoother topography by selecting the contours and going to “draw” > “sandbox” > “from contours.” You can always delete any extra lines that may interfere with your architectural model.

final Sketchup site topography

If you’re looking for more tips for your Sketchup site models, check out our full list of tutorials here! What tutorial do you want to see next? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Hacking!


  1. allstarcarpetandtiles June 24, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Great tips. I’m bookmarking this page. Its a great resource to keep. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hamzakhan17826 May 19, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Ok sure, I will follow your steps before going to do exams. I hope your article will help me more.

  3. karlmistos May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely share this with my classmates at de la salle zobel.

  4. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

    Hello there and thanks for your information, I have certainly picked up allot new info from right your post. You are also provided information about best tips for exam,Which is very helpful to me and other people also.

  5. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  6. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  7. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  8. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  9. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  10. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  11. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  12. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  13. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  14. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  15. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  16. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  17. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  18. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  19. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  20. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  21. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  22. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  23. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  24. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  25. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #


    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.


  26. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  27. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

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