Using Sketchup for Architecture Design Workflow

sketchup for architecture design workflow

This post is inspired by a request from one of our viewers! Mike asks, “what is your general workflow?” Today we’re going to give you a peek into what our workflow looks like when we use Sketchup for architecture. It typically depends on what the end product is going to be, but this will give you a general idea of how we transform a conceptual idea into a finished design.

Using Sketchup for Architecture

1. Get the program. When working with a client, the first step is to make sure you get a program from them. This will let you know what rooms they want done, the sizes and functions of the room, and the total square footage you will be working with. It is typically given to the architect or designer. For more information on programming check out Steven Parshall’s book Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer.

2. Begin massing. Start by making squares to represent each room and color code them based on function or size. Begin to stack the rooms in relation to each other. Try to stay abstract here. The tendency is to start thinking about the arrangement of these blocks as a building instead of simply a relationship of spaces to each other. Focus more on the flow of the spaces during this phase rather than architectural details, that part comes next.

Massing in Sketchup for architecture

3. Begin to think architecturally. Save your massing studies as a separate file and use another file for adding your architectural details. This way you will always have your original massing studies to go back to. Start to consider how the shapes will translate into architectural features. You might want to start thinking about how each space shape gets adjusted (but maintains the same area). You may add cutouts for windows and doors, or space for balconies and railings. If you’re looking to add curved shapes, check out our tutorial on how to create curved objects in Sketchup!

Adding architectural details in Sketchup for architecture

4. Refine measurements. Once you have you general massing and architectural details done, go back and refine any measurements to make sure they are realistic.

Refining measurements in Sketchup for architecture

5. Sketch details. You may want to print out your model and sketch over it to work through ideas and experiment with finishes or details. You can also do this digitally in Photoshop, it all depends on what works best for you. Maybe you want to take this time to do a quick hybrid rendering and present it to your client to see if you are on the right track.

6. Add Doors and Windows. The final step is to go back and add even more refined details like door frames and windows, trim, and molding. You may do this as you go along, or you can wait until the end. The more you practice and gain experience, the easier it will be to do this step along the way.

Door detail in Sketchup for architecture

When using Sketchup for architecture, it’s important to remember not to get caught up in the small details. You don’t want to focus so much on one detail that you lose sight of the end product. This part of the design process is meant to work on bigger ideas like the overall layout and how each room relates to another. Once you have that figured out, then you can move on to smaller details.

A Note on Using Sketchup for Architecture Drawings

When you are in the preliminary design phase, using Sketchup for architecture is a great way to get ideas out and experiment with different design elements. However, when it comes to construction documents, it can be difficult to use Sketchup to get 2D drawings (you’ll need to use LayOut). We personally prefer to use BIM software if you’d like to take a crack at creating 2D construction drawings from Layout make sure to check out Michael Brightman’s The SketchUp Workflow for Architecture.

What does your workflow look like when using Sketchup? 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 #

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  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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