The Pencil and Eraser tools

Pencil and Eraser SketchUp

Hello SketchUpers. In this article we’re going to do something practical for the first time. Let’s get into drawing and start to actually create basic a geometery in SketchUp.

One thing to metnion at the beginning is that we’re not going to go through the toolbar items one by one and explain them from top to bottom. Based on my experience, this bring confusion and most of the time, it get’s quickly boring.
What we’re going to do is we’ll start from the most basic and yet fundamental tools you’re going to need to start drawing. Then gradually, we’ll learn how to use other tools that give you additional functionalities in order to work with the basic objects you’ve already created. So everything is going to be based on the previous tools you’ve already learned to work with.

Pencil and Eraser

I think the most basic tools you need to work with in SketchUp are the “Pencil” and the eraser SketchUp “Eraser” tools. I’m sure this reminds you of the first day you went to the elementary school, doesn’t it?

First, we’re going to draw a line on the screen. If you’re not already in the SketchUp workspace, please run the program or create a new file by clicking on File > New. Now go pick up the Pencil tool from the large tool set on the left side of the screen.

Once you’re selected the pencil, your cursor turn into a pencil on the screen. Now, there’s two way for drawing a line with a pencil.

  1. Either you can click your left mouse button and release it and after you’ve dragged your mouse to another location, click again and release the mouse button.
  2. Or you need to click and hold your left mouse button down, then drag your mouse to somewhere else on the screen and then release the mouse button.

Both of these ways have their usage and difference. The first method gives you the freedom of drawing multiple continuous lines that are connected to each other. Every time you click and release the mouse button, SketchUp creates a new point connected by a line to the previous point and remains ready to go ahead and create another line.

This will continue until either you draw a closed shape by connecting the last line to the starting point or you click and select another tool on the toolbar.

The second method is useful when you need to draw or connect two points with a single line. The main difference is that the mouse-down click starts drawing the line and the mouse-up click ends the drawing of the line.

Although the pencil tool is still active but SketchUp stops drawing continuous lines. The result is a single line and if you want to continue, you’ll need to click on the endpoint of the previous line to start drawing the next line.

Give it a practice and you’ll see the difference of these two methods. This two methods pretty much apply when working with other tools like rectangle tool, circle tool and polygon tool, which I’ll explain later on.

Tip 50

The shortcut for activating the Pencil tool is “L” on your keyboard.

Using 3D coordinate lines

One of the main helps SketchUp provides for drawing shapes is by helping you align your shapes and lines to X (Red), Y (Green) or Z (Blue) coordinate lines while drawing them. I suggest you start drawing a new line but this time pay attention to the line color you’re drawing.
Notice that when you’re moving your mouse around and before you put the end point for the new line, the line color changes from black to either red, green or blue and also the mouse cursor locks or snaps parallel to red, green or blue axis.
snap on axis SketchUp
This is how SketchUp shows you that now you’re drawing along a certain axis. For example, when the line color turn red, it means you’re stretching your line along the red axis. This means, your line is now parallel to X axis.
A tooltip will also appear beneath your mouse pointer which says the same thing: “on Red Axis”.

Draw a rectangle with the Pencil tool

I’m sure you know that you can draw many 2D shapes using the Pencil tool. Practically, any shape that doesn’t have curves in their structure can be drawn with the pencil tool.

Drawing a rectangle for example is very simple. Just select the Pencil too and start clicking and dragging along one axis, for example red, and then continue drawing along the green axis. Do this until you turn around and reach the starting point. This will create a closed shape and as soon as you click the endpoint of last line. Once a closed shape is formed, SketchUp puts a “face” inside it.

Take a look at the picture below:

SketchUp automatically creates a face on a closed 2D shape. So when you’re drawing a rectangle with the pencil tool, if you see that no face was created when you closed the last edge, it means that your shape is not a flat shape because you’ve not drawn all the endpoints on a flat plane.

A 2D shape has all it’s corner points and edges on a 2D plane. Remember that we’re working in a 3D space, so this kinds of drawing mistakes could happen if we don’t use the axes as a reference because we’re looking at the scene from a perspective angle. That’s why using the 3D coordinate axes is so important and useful when drawing in SketchUp.

for example look at the picture below. This shape appears to be a rectangle and since all the corners are connected, it’s definitely a closed shape. But notice that there’s no face inside it:

fake rectangle SketchUp

But when you bring your camera down (click mousewheel to activate the orbit tool) and look at the same shape from another angle, you see it’s not a 2D rectangle at all because only two edges of the rectangle lay on a plane and one corner of the rectangle is actually in the air.

bad rectangle SketchUp

Use the Eraser tool to remove things

Eraser tool eraser SketchUp is probably the simplest tool in SketchUp to work with. Whatever you draw might be needed to be removed at some point. To use that, you simply click on the eraser icon on the toolbar to activate it. You cursor changes to an eraser with a little hollow circle beneath the cursor. For deleting a line or an object, you need to put that little circle over the line and left-click on it. Boom! it’s gone! It’s that simple.

Eraser active spot SketchUp
Tip 50

The shortcut for activating the Eraser tool is “E” on your keyboard.

Now there’s a catch. Remember that as soon as you erase one of the lines of a closed shape, like the rectangle we drew before, the face inside the rectangle disappears too. It’s because when you remove one edge of a closed shape, it’s not a “closed” shape anymore. A face appears only inside closed a shape.

Another thing to remember is that you can’t erase a face by using the Eraser tool. This tool only works on edges, lines and solid objects. To remove a face, you’ll need to first select it and then press “Delete” on your keyboard.

But before doing that, you need to know how to select things in SketchUp. Selecting geometries is a tricky job in SketchUp, so stay tuned. In the next lesson, we’ll dive into it and explain every trick you need to know about “selecting” things in SketchUp.

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