Printing templates from SketchUp - how I did it

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Eric The Viking

Established Member
19 Jan 2010
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Bristle, CUBA (the County that Used to Be Avon)
This is how I got an exact template to print from SketchUp this morning, so I could stick it down to a piece of ply and cut it out... I have no idea if this works for all versions of SU, nor what happens with the new Web version, but it might be helpful to someone.

It works in SketchUp 13.0.4812 running under Wine in Xubuntu on a fairly low-horsepower computer - it's best to close any unnecessary processes and applications, as, depending on how your printer and printer driver works, your PC might need to make and send large temporary files to the printer. AND the process might take quite a while for a complex drawing.

I'm printing to an ancient HP LaserJet 5, partly because mine handles A3 paper and partly because I know 1:1 is exactly 1:1 at 300 DPI. Modern printers should be just the same, but if yours scales a bit, I recommend XY Mosian's GK PostScript Plot, which is a Ruby plugin for SketchUp. It's probably easier than this quick'n'dirty process, anyway.

To make sure you understand the steps, practice on a VERY simple 3D object, such as a rectangular box or a cylinder or, say, an octagonal prism. You need to put the "section cut" in a sensible place before you start.

I've tried to make this a pre-flight checklist. I'm covering all the steps necessary for me, and although this is a long document, it's simple just to run through it.

There are two parts to the approach:
(1) getting the shape, and only the shape to display in SketchUp,
(2) Printing the shape undistorted at 1:1 (actual size).

1. Defining and displaying the template shape in SU

1.1 In SketchUp, make a "Section Plane" that's the correct a slice through the model, from which you want to make a template. Do this from Tools/SectionPlane:

There are plenty of tutorials on-line about this, so I won't go into it here. I recommend the SketchUCation web site, which has excellent video tutorials, especially those from Dave Richards.

1.2 Once you have your Section Plane defined, you need to display it correctly in SketchUp. That means undistorted (no perspective), and ideally only showing outlines. Not showing solid-colour faces means SU doesn't try to send surfaces to the printer (it just sends lines), so the file is much smaller and the printer doesn't waste a lot of ink/toner and horsepower trying to print something that doesn't matter. This also reduces printer-out-of-memory errors!

Here are the settings I use: Firstly to show only the edges (lines) in the model, in the right way. Make your settings like these:

In the main part of the View Menu, make sure Section Planes are OFF, but Section Cuts are on

1.3 Use the Zoom Extents button on the toolbar to just show the part you need. For a complex model I make sure I've made components out of everything, and just look at the component I want, hiding everything else. This prevents SketchUp from trying to get unnecessary stuff onto the page. I recommend Dave Richards's tutorials on Components - they transform the value of Sketchup if you don't use them already.

You need to be looking at the right bit of the image, in the right way. That means Parallel Projection, and looking straight at the model (at right-angles to the shape you want) Use these settings on the camera menu:

That's it for setting up SketchUp itself. The final bit is checking the printer settings (from inside SketchUp).

2. SketchUp's printer settings
This is pretty simple. I do a sanity-check on the printer itself, using the Print Setup dialog (from the File Menu):

Then use the main File -> Print menu with these settings:

The crucial bits here:
  • Scale is 1:1,
  • Use Model Extents
  • Do NOT use "Fit to page"
The page size will be filled in automagically. In this case, my 9"x7.1" template from the original picture will fit on A4, so the other three pages aren't printed. The template is only 5" wide, but the section plane boundary (or a guideline somewhere) makes it wider. Either way, it works!

That ought to be it!

Have to dash - I'm supposed to be cutting out plywood...

E. :)

PS: It's always quite a good idea to include a circle somewhere on your template - if it prints as a circle (not distorted), then the rest should be in correct proportions. Always check dimensions though - this probably isn't foolproof!


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Thanks for the mention Eric.
May I put forward a suggestion, to anyone interested. Add centre marks to circles, and parts of circles within the Sketchup model. They are suprisingly difficult to find on a printed drawing.
OOPs and another, using GK PostScript Plot, arcs are printed as a series of edges. If this happens in 'normal' printing, or if using GK PostScript Plot, then increase the circle edges before drawing. This slows things down a bit, and may increase file size but helps when cutting out.
Thanks for the general printing guide.