SketchUp Make 3D Modeling Software

a 3d printer building a human head in orange plastic

 Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

SketchUp is highly popular 3D modeling software that can be used for architectural renderings, animations, and 3D printing

SketchUp began life at @Last Software in Colorado as an architectural rendering tool. In 2006, Google purchased the company and began folding SketchUp into its plans with Google Earth. 

SketchUp came in two versions, SketchUp and SketchUp Pro. The regular version was free but only allowed users to export models into Google Earth. SketchUp Pro ran around $495. Students and educators could obtain a free license for SketchUp Pro after verification.

Google later set up the 3D Warehouse, where users could exchange 3D models. Although Google did some experimentation with extensions, the tool remained mostly suitable for architectural renderings and Google Earth. 

In 2012, Google sold SketchUp to the navigation company, Trimble Navigation Limited. Trimble maintained the free/pro pricing model. SketchUp Make is the free version of the tool, and SketchUp Pro runs $695 as of this writing, with an educational discount available for students and teachers. 

SketchUp Make comes with a free trial of SketchUp Pro, so users can try before they commit to the purchase. SketchUp Make users can make 3D models, but SketchUp Make is highly restricted in the ability to import or export models. SketchUp Make is licensed for purely non-commercial uses. 

The 3D Warehouse and the Extension Warehouse

The 3D Warehouse is alive and well with Trimble's version of SketchUp. You can find it online at In addition, Trimble set up the Extension Warehouse for downloading extensions that expand the functionality of SketchUp Pro. 

The 3D Warehouse contains multiple architectural elements from famous buildings to individual pieces of furniture, but participating users have also uploaded templates for 3D printable objects. 

In addition to Trimble's resources, SketchUp users can download and upload items to Thingiverse, which is a popular exchange site for models designed for 3D printers. 

3D Printing

In order to print to most 3D printers, users will need to download an extension compatible with STL format, but SketchUp is a popular choice for 3D printing enthusiasts. so there are also a large number of tutorials and other materials to help you get started. 

What We Like
  • Free download

  • Easy to learn

  • Integrates with 3D Warehouse

  • Compatible with many models in Thingiverse

What We Don't Like
  • Free version is very limited

  • Difficult to fine-tune modeling

  • Rendered output may not be what you were expecting 

Do not expect SketchUp Make to compete with professional products like Autodesk Maya. SketchUp is nowhere near this level of sophistication. However, SketchUp does not require years of constant use to master.

Creating a model for an architectural rendering or 3D printer is relatively easy.  

SketchUp Make is a great tool for beginners or anyone looking for a simple way to make simple 3D objects. It's ideal for students in areas like interior design, where 3D models would enhance their presentations. Being able to download models from the 3D warehouse makes it easy to get started.