How to Use the Sandbox in Sketchup

Written by darrin koltow
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How to Use the Sandbox in Sketchup
(Jupiterimages/ Images)

When you first open the 3-D design program SketchUp, you see several tools for creating simple structures like boxes and cylinders. But SketchUp also has tools to create more complex structures, including terrain. One set of tools for making such shapes is the Sandbox set of tools. With these tools you can make terrain for your house models or other structures. It's best to have a fast computer when working with large terrain objects because of the number of calculations SketchUp must perform.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Click the "Windows" menu then click the "Preferences" item.

  2. 2

    Click the "Extensions" link in the left pane then click the "Sandbox" checkbox in the right pane.

  3. 3

    Click the dialogue box's "OK" button to close the box.

  4. 4

    Click the new button with the grid icon that's appeared on the left part of the toolbar above the drawing canvas. This is the "From scratch" tool which lets you create a new terrain structure that's not based on a prior structure.

  5. 5

    Type "5'" to tell SketchUp you want each square in the grid to measure 5ft. by 5ft.

  6. 6

    Drag on the ground plane to grow the grid. Create a grid that's roughly 10 by 10 squares. Grids too large easily deplete processing power and take too long to manipulate. Grids that are too small can't produce a plausible terrain.

  7. 7

    Click the mouse to complete the grid.

  8. 8

    Right-click the grid and click "Explode." This separates the grid into its component edges

  9. 9

    Press the "Space" bar to run the "Select" tool

  10. 10

    Click one or two squares or edges to select them.

  11. 11

    Click the toolbar's "Move" tool then drag to move the parts you selected. The unselected parts will not move, resulting in a choppy terrain that you'll smooth shortly.

  12. 12

    Press "Space" to release the "Move" tool then click the mouse and drag over a few parts of the terrain to select them. Release the mouse to complete the selection.

  13. 13

    Click the button with the red arrow and grid on the upper toolbar. This selects the "Smoove" tool which makes terrain portions surrounding those you move, move also.

  14. 14

    Click near the top of the terrain to define the base point of the smoothing operation.

  15. 15

    Drag slightly up or down. The terrain portions you selected will move. The terrain surrounding the selection will also move, causing the terrain to smooth out.

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