8 Tips for Scaling in Sketchup

The scale tool is a great function in Sketchup, allowing quick resizing of objects while retaining proportions. Most of us use the scale tool on groups and components, but you can also scale anything in Sketchup, including any number of entities in a selection.

The Scale Tool


The most common way to manipulate shapes in Sketchup is to use the push/pull tool. By extruding faces, your model can start to take shape fairly quickly. But what if you wanted to stretch out something proportionally without having to manually place each object?

That’s where the Scale Tool comes in.

To use the Scale Tool, pre-select the object or objects you’d like to scale, then press (S) to activate the Scale Tool. You’ll notice a yellow box appears around the objects you selected and a bunch of green “handles” that you can click and drag to resize your object. Try dragging the different handles to learn the basic functions of the Scale Tool, then try some of these tricks.

  1. Hold CTRL to scale from the center.

    Sketchup Center Scale ToolWhen you use the Scale Tool, the point opposite from the handle you grab will remain fixed, and everything will scale in relationship to that point. If you wanted to scale the object equally from both sides, you can hold the CTRL key while scaling and Sketchup will reference the center point of the object. I use this when I need to resize a floor joist, and I need both ends of the joist to move the same distance. Instead of push pulling both ends, I just scale about the center of the joist to get it done faster.

  2. Draw circles by diameter.

    When drawing circles in Sketchup, you have to define the size of the circle by its radius. Sometimes you only know the diameter though, and if it’s a number like 23 5/16″, it takes a little brain power to figure out how to divide that in half to arrive at your radius. Instead, draw the circle and type in 23 5/16″ as the radius. Then, select the circle and activate the Scale Tool. Scale the circle down to a value of 0.50 while holding the CTRL key so you keep the center of the circle in the same place (See tip #1 above, lol).

    Your circle will now have a diameter of 23 5/16″

  3. scalecircle

  4. Use guides to scale to specific dimensions

    You can scale objects by typing in a number into the VCB like with most Sketchup tools. The only thing is, the number is a unit of ratio, not length. 1.0 is where you start out, so if you scale to a number lower than 1.0, the object gets smaller. If you scale it to anything greater than 1.0, it gets bigger. So 0.50 would make it half the size it started out as, and likewise, 2.0 would make it double the size that it was.

    Most often, you are trying to scale something to a specific height or dimension, so we need to have a reference point to help us. You can reference an existing point in your model, or you can create a guide using the tape measure tool before you scale the object. The Sketchup Inference system will snap to your guide as you scale.

    UPDATE (5/12/13) – I learn new things every day. Marcus Ritland from www.denali3ddesign.com pointed out to me that you CAN actually specify a dimension when using the scale tool. So I could just type in 36″, and the cabinet would scale the overall height to 36″. AWESOME! Thanks Marcus.

  5. Scale faces, Sketchup will take care of the rest.

    You can scale individual faces in Sketchup too. Sketchup will automatically resize connected entities in order to keep everything in tact. Try creating a cylinder, then scale one of the round faces. Everything stays connected and Sketchup will even subdivide the faces in order to keep everything together.

  6. Scale by Selection

    Scale by SelectionScaling groups and components seems to be the most common way I use the Scale Tool. Sometimes I forget that I can scale pretty much ANYTHING in Sketchup, just by selecting it first. This is great when I’m modeling a concept cabinet layout and need to quickly change the height of a cabinet. I can open the cabinet group and just select the upper portion of the cabinet. When I scale it, the toe kick height never changes because it was not part of my selection.

  7. Scaling Groups/Components affects everything inside

    This isn’t really a tip, but more of a little characteristic you should be aware of. When you scale a Group or Component (without opening it first), everything in that group will be scaled. This includes materials! If you are using textured materials in your model this may be an issue for you. If you are not using materials or are just using solid colors this shouldn’t matter.

    You can avoid this from happening by opening the group or component and selecting the entities within that component and scaling them directly. When you scale faces directly (not from outside a group/component), the textured materials will scroll along that face while you scale, similar to how the push/pull tool works. Of course, if you are scaling objects that are inside a component but don’t want the other instances of that component to scale too, you can’t do that. Which brings me to my next point…

  8. Scaled Components don’t affect other instances.

    One great thing about the Scale Tool is that it doesn’t affect any of the other instances of that component, as long as you don’t “open” the component first. So you don’t actually have to make any changes to the internal structure of the component in order to scale it. But remember that if you do make changes to the internal component later, the scaled component will still show the changes, but in proportion to the scale you set it at.

    The other tool you can apply to a group/component without “opening” it is the paint bucket tool. When you do that, you are overwriting the “default” material for that group/component. So all faces that have the default white/purple color scheme on the interior and exterior faces will inherit that material. If you open the group and manually apply materials to faces, they will override the default material.

  9. Look for the green handle even if you can’t see it.

    Hidden Scale Tool Handle- When you’re trying to scale a part of your model, there are many times when you might have something else in your way. This might prevent you from seeing the green handle that you want to grab, but you can still grab it! Just hover over the area where you think it should be and it will pop up when your mouse is in the right spot.

    You can also create a custom keyboard shortcut to hide the other parts of your model while working in a group or component.

  10. When you get really good at the Scale Tool, see if you can pull this off. Let me know if you have any other great Scale tool tips. Leave a comment below.

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About Matt Donley

Sketchup user since 2007, I launched MasterSketchup as a way to help other people learn this fun program. My goal is to create easy to follow tutorials that help make 3D modeling more accessible to anyone interested in learning. You'll find many of my videos and tutorials featured on the official Sketchup Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages.

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17 Responses to 8 Tips for Scaling in Sketchup

  1. Joe Ravia Rabuku says:

    Mr Donley,

    Iam relatively new to this program…and i work with VectorWorks program. Is there a way to import drawings directly from Vector to Sketch-up? if there is..I’d appreciate your assistance. As for now I have to go thru Auto CAD the to Sketch up.

    Anyway..thank you very much for the tips and tutorials….best program ever…just another thing..this Lumion program…any help on that from you…??

    Thanx very much..and hope to hear from you soon…oh..Regarding the feedback thing..please send it over…I’d like to comment..!!

    • Matt Donley says:

      Hi Joe,

      Not sure about VectorWorks, never used it. And I’m just starting to experiment with rendering software so I don’t have any recommendations on that yet. Wish I could be more helpful :(

  2. riek says:

    Waauw, Matt!
    Thats a tutorial!!!
    You did a great job, well explained, good slow filming,
    with al the necesarry details .
    Thanks, your doing great !

    And now something about textures…
    :-)
    greetings, rik (flanders)

  3. Kenneth Andreasson says:

    Hello Matt!
    I appreciate your tutorials. I, myself, have been using Sketchup for several years now, but still there are some details that you bring up for me to learn. You mentioned that you don´t work whith “step by step” methods. Well, I don´t think that matters. We have all developed different skills in learning Sketchup, so I think there´s something for everybody in your tutorials.

    By the way, I am a teacher and I am working whith children in ages of 10 to 16 years old, learning them how to use Sketchup. So, I also struggle whith beeing appropriate in my teatching.

    Regards Kenneth Andreasson
    Sweden

  4. edwin concepcion says:

    hello Matt,
    I’m Edwin from the philippines and I’m using sketchup for quite sometime now and I’m having
    a problem about how to make a face underneath a hellical staircase, I try to use the follow me tool
    but to no avail, hope you can demonstrate that to me. thanks and more power.

  5. Eddie says:

    Matt,
    I learn something every day!!… Thanks for taking the time share.

    Eddie

  6. charley says:

    I would like to add a feature people may not be aware of. You can mirror objects using the scale tool. Select the group or component make a copy, select the middle green grip one one side and push into the group. Type -1. Niw you have a mirrored object.

    • Matt Donley says:

      Hi Charles,

      That’s a great tip. I actually do that a lot I should’ve added that to the list. Another method for mirroring is to right click the object and select “flip along” and select the axis you want to mirror. Sometimes I can’t see which axis I’m supposed to flip along so, like you, I use the scale tool while holding the CTRL key to mirror.

  7. Craig Marcus says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for all of the useful information that you provide. I have a pretty basic question about the scale tool. One of my biggest frustrations when using it, is when I want to scale the overall dimension of an object (e.g. stretch or shrink it along one dimension), but when I use the scale tool to do this, it not only scales the overall object, but the thicknesses of some of the parts of that object (which is usually undesirable). A simple example would is this: I make a quick drawer box by making a cube, say 20 wide x 15 deep x 6 high. I then use the offset tool and define a 1/2″ offset on the top plane, and push the inner rectangle in towards the bottom, which creates my 1/2″ thick drawer sides. If I then decide that I want the drawer 30″ wide instead of 20″, and I scale the whole drawer box component that I just made, 2 of the sides get thicker than 1/2″ in the process. Is there a method to scale the overall width of something like this without changing the thicknesses of pieces of it ? I also tried this same excercise by constructing the drawer box from separate components (e.g. 2 sides, a front, a rear, and a bottom), and then grouping all of those into one component. But scaling that results in the same change in thickness when stretching the entire box.

    Thanks for any advice you can provide !! Know how to do this would make sketchup alot more useful in my daily work…

    • Matt Donley says:

      Craig,

      You’d be interested in learning about Dynamic Components if you have Sketchup Pro. You have full control over that with dynamic components. It gets confusing really easily though. But basically you can set constraints on sub-components, and you have to set reference points in order for it be oriented properly. But it’s possible. If you don’t have Sketchup Pro, the only way to do it is to open the group/component and resize each part individually, and move the rest.

  8. Jeff says:

    Very nice tutorial, and equally nice video production.

  9. Stephen says:

    Very nice tutorial, the scale tool is a great tool, the mirroring method for instance..
    The only pain for this tool was, for me, 90% of the time when scaling an object I don’t really need the texture to be scaled. I did not know there is a trick that can still scale an component without scaling the texture, thank you so much Matt, nice one :D

    although that trick only works for the component is made or grouped before putting the texture in. If I already added the texture to my object, and then make the object as a group at last, the trick won’t work anymore..even thou I tried to use plugin to remove all textures in that group, and add texture back to it again, when scaling all faces it still scale or stretch all the textures…

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