How to Create Street Maps Using SketchUp

Written by jennifer meyer
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How to Create Street Maps Using SketchUp
You can also scan a map into your computer to use as a reference. (Thumbtack in a map image by Nikolay Okhitin from

Google SketchUp allows the average computer user to model buildings and locations three dimensionally with a minimal amount of previous modelling experience. Although the program is often used for home remodelling projects, it also works well for creating 3D maps of streets or even whole neighbourhoods. Such maps may be as rough or as detailed as you would like. In the end, it all depends on how much effort you wish to invest in it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Internet browser
  • Google SketchUp
  • Image editing program

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  1. 1

    Open your computer's Internet browser and go to an online mapping program such as MapQuest or Google Maps. Enter an address around the area you wish to map into the field at the top of the screen and click on the "Search" button. Use the measurements on the resulting map to determine the dimensions of the street map you wish to make.

  2. 2

    Press the "Print Screen" button on your keyboard and open an image editing program such as GIMP or Photoshop. Begin a new project. Go to the Edit menu and select "Paste." Your program will paste a captured image of the map onto your project. Use the Crop tool to cut away any borders so that all that remains is the map. Save the map as a .JPG.

  3. 3

    Open SketchUp and begin a new project. Select the "Rectangle" tool from the menu at the top of your screen. Click on the point where the X, Y and Z axes meet and draw a rectangle, using the dimensions of the map you want to create, along the horizontal axis. You can draw a rectangle by clicking at one point and holding the mouse button down. Then drag the mouse button away from that point and release the button. A rectangle will form between the points where you clicked and released the button.

  4. 4

    Right-click on the rectangle you just drew to select it. Go to the Windows menu and select "Materials." Click on "Create Material" from the resulting pop-up menu. Click on the "Use Texture Image." Find the image of your map on your hard drive and select it. Click on "Open."

  5. 5

    Find the dimensions field directly under where your image file is listed. Click on this field and enter the dimensions of your rectangle. This way the image and your rectangle will be the same size. Close the Materials window.

  6. 6

    Click on the "Paint bucket" icon in the main toolbar. Click on your rectangle. It will now have an image of your map on it.

  7. 7

    Select the "Line" tool from the main toolbar. Click and drag the cursor to create lines. Do so around each road and building on the map. Creating polygons, as rectangular shapes, with the line tool will create new faces on your rectangle that you can then manipulate.

  8. 8

    Select the "Pull/Push" tool from the main toolbar. Click on one of the buildings. Enter the height of the building in feet using the following format: the number of feet and then an apostrophe. Press "Enter." The building will become three dimensional, popping up to the height you entered. Do this for each building. Set the height for each road, as well, but add a minus sign in front of the measurement. This will depress the roads into the ground.

  9. 9

    Use the Line tool to draw any additional detail onto the faces of the buildings. Be as rough or as detailed as you like. Use the Push/Pull tool to manipulate the detail, either extruding it from the face of the buildings or depressing it.

  10. 10

    Right-click on the original rectangle with the map image. Select the "Paint bucket" tool. Choose a grass green colour. Click on the rectangle. Repeat for every surface on your map, choosing colours for each building and road.

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