Building 3D models using gCADPlus and SketchUp

In order to show clients a photo-realistic impression of your design, consider the possibility of exporting an image file from gCADPlus, inserting it into the free version of SketchUp (Make) and then building a 3D model based on the graphic. Some suggestions on how to go about that are set out here.

What can be achieved?

gCADPlus to SketchUp 3D modelling landscape designs. We export a JPG file from our landscape software making sure that the image file has close to 10,000 pixels across. The image is then loaded into SketchUp 2016 Make and scaled such that the image is full size. We then place SketchUp entities on top of the image file (that’s on its own layer) and push/pulled to create the model.

This gallery shows some images of gCADPlus designs moved to SketchUp as image files and 3D models developed.

Some movies showing some of the issues involved

Print fixed scale This movie provides an overview of the steps to take in order to create a SketchUp model of a gCADPlus design.

gCADPlus to SketchUp If you intend to build a 3D model in SketchUp based on an image file exported from gCADPlus it’s a good idea to scale the image.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  Make a SketchUp model of a fire pit.

gCADPlus to SketchUp Develop a full SketchUp landscape presentation based on a exported image file from a gCADPlus design.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  Tip: In SketchUp, work on individual components. Move to a layer when the shape takes on 3D.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  Use elevation data to help build SketchUp models – case study #1, part 1.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  Add materials to a model – case study #1, part 2.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  Once a design created in gCADPlus has been ported to the SketchUp environment and the model built, it is possible to create several scenes and finally export an animation.

gCADPlus to SketchUp High quality rendering with the Kerkythea plug-in. Assign materials, place plant symbols and export from SketchUp to Kerkythea.

gCADPlus to SketchUp  A gCADPlus user was faced with a ‘ Group Code’ error when exporting a gCADPlus design to SketchUp. The base for the drawing came from an architect who was working in AutoCAD 2019. We show that by switching off some layers, copying just the information needed into a new gCADPlus drawing it was possible to overcome the group code error and get the required data to SketchUp ready to build a landscape model.

gCADPlus to SketchUp Tip: The database describing SketchUp models differs markedly from those 3-D models created in applications such as AutoCAD and MicroStation. These CAD tools use a complex mix of Coons patches, ruled surfaces, surfaces of revolution and so on to describe their 3D model. SketchUp has a much cleaner and faster method of recording the model geometry than other CAD tools because it uses triangular meshes to describe the model. As a result, SketchUp can be used effectively on quite modest computer equipment.

Step 1. Export a suitable image file from gCADPlus

We recommend printing your design to a PDF writer such as CutePDF or BullZip, open the resultant PDF in Acrobat Reader, set the view to Full Screen Mode (Control + L is the shortcut) and copy a screen grab to the clipboard. once that’s done, paste the clipboard contents into IrfanView and save the resultant file as a png image file. An example is shown below. The image was 1500 pixels wide.

Start SketchUp

The next step is to start SketchUp, choose an appropriate template (units mm or decimal feet) and import the image. Here is the above image pasted into SketchUp.

Image in SketchUp 2017

Scale image

Now use the measure tool to scale the drawing appropriately.

Print fixed scale How to scale the image in SketchUp.

Save the SketchUp file and start a new SketchUp file. As shown in the YouTube movie below, create the model based on the image file exported from gCADPlus.

How to configure SketchUp (Make) ready for model creation

We will enhance SketchUp by adding some tools to to enable smooth model building.

Start SketchUp and add the following PlugIns to SketchUp:

  1. Weld (automatically adds the Weld Setting plugin)
  2. Path copy
  3. Sandbox
  4. Sandbox bonus tools (
Configure a SketchUp template

Make a template suitable for your units – either mm or decimal feet for the US Imperial environment.

Add components (vegetable area, furniture, low poly 3D plants etc.)

Window > make sure that the Default tray is showing.

Need to make sure that layers show.

Move the image to layer image.


Landscape CAD drafting settings We first experimented by using Tools > Export raster generating  jpg, bmp or png files. Using the maximum resolution possible in the gCADPlus tool did not produce an image of sufficient resolution suitable for model building in SketchUp.

Here is an example of the use of the rasterize option. The maximum resolution allowed in gCADPlus rasterize is 10,000 pixels wide


Here is the image in SketchUp Make. The image is not crisp enough to work with.

Image in SketchUp

The result is much better when the drawing is printed to PDF and a screen grab made of a full screen view.

gCADPlus to SketchUp

Now in SketchUp

Good for SketchUp

Build 3D geometry