SketchUp - Turn a photo into a to SketchUp file? WOW!

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Forum topic by Milo posted 07-31-2012 12:45 PM 1175 views 2 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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869 posts in 3342 days

07-31-2012 12:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip resource

Hey guys,

How many time have you seen a piece of furniture and think, “Boy, I’d sure like to make that…”

I just got this in an email from Popular Woodworking, and was blown away. I have read about how you can do this kind of thing by hand, taking a photo and calculating the size of a piece of furniture to recreate it, but after reading this article I think it brings a whole new meaning to the words “Boy, I’d sure like to make that…”

Take a look at this article. Hope you like it as much as I did!


-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

4 replies so far

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3121 days

#1 posted 07-31-2012 01:22 PM

Wow, thanks for that. I’m going to play with it.
Great for reverse engineering.

View jdmaher's profile


430 posts in 2602 days

#2 posted 07-31-2012 03:27 PM

Having performed this exercise several times, let me warn you that it requires painstaking exactitude. That is, it’s a pain!

The problem is that the photos available are never straight-on front or side views – even when I do take them myself. All the fussing about with trying to get the image adjusted to compensate for photographic distortions is, I believe, wasted effort.

I’ve had better luck just importing a nearly front view photo, and scaling to only the longest dimension. Then, I establish ONE horizontal and ONE vertical reference line. After that, I just use the photo for reference and start sketching what I want to build.

Its great to use Sketchup’s ruler to measure things out, but I then apply design judgement when I transcribe that PROPORTION to my sketch. If the base of the photographed piece appears to be 38.373% of the total height, then – trust me – its supposed to be a 60/40 split. I get the apparent proportion from the photo, then draw the sensible proportion in my sketch.

I do NOT save all those reference lines from the photo; just the ONE vertical and ONE horizontal. Any more is just too confusing and winds up being effort accomodating the photo, which is not my goal. I want to focus on the piece that I want.

I rough out the shell, longest dimension first (e.g., vertically), then the corresponding 2D axis (e.g., horizontal), then the least visible dimension (usually, depth). As soon as I’ve got the shell, I “turn off” the photo and get to work detailing my design, including alterations fron the original that appeal to me.

Sketchup’s built-in precision is a siren song; don’t let it entice you to crash on the rocks. I recommend that you make rough drawings to play with design proportions and see what you like.. That is, use Sketchup to draw a sketch.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10117 posts in 4075 days

#3 posted 07-31-2012 03:45 PM

That’s a very clever way to process a picture!


-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3342 days

#4 posted 07-31-2012 08:37 PM

Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. I had not doubt that it would be an exacting process. NUTHIN’ in SketchUp is easy to me!

I was just blown away by the idea so much though that I had to share it. ;)

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

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