Zoom, Orbit, Pan in SketchUp

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In this part of the SketchUp tutorial, I’m going to show you how to rotate around the scene, pan across the scene and zoom in/out in SketchUp by using your mouse.

This is a necessary skill you need to dominate in SketchUp environment because you’re going to work in a virtual 3D space. When you create a 3D structure, you’ll need to go around every side of your object to work with different edge or face on a different angle.

There are differet tools for zooming, pannig and orbiting in SketchUp but if you follow this article, you’ll find that all of them can be done just by using your mouse button and shift key on your keyboard. So stay tuned:

zooming in and zooming out

If you’re looking at a cube in a 3D environment and you want to get closer and look at it from a nearer position, all you can do is to move the camera closer the the object. This is called Zooming in SketchUp.

To zoom in (get closer to the object), all you need to do is use your mousewheel and rotate it forward. Zooming out is simple now. Just rotate your mousewheel backwards. This will tell SketchUp to move the camera closer to or farther from the object.

Remember that the position of your pointer on screen is very important for zooming. When you zoom in, SketchUp will get closer to wherever your mouse pointer currently resides in. This might seem a bit confusing in the beginning but it actually give you the freedom and possibility to zoom to different areas of your scene, just by repositioning your mouse pointer and rotating your mousewheel in.


There are two separate tools for zooming in/out on the toolbar that you cannot do by mouse. These can sometimes be very useful when you already have many objects in your drawing:

Zoom Extents: click on this to zoom out to see all of the object in the scene. This will give you the maximum extent possible to see all structures on the screen.

Zoom Window: by clicking on this tool, SketchUp will change the mouse pointer to a magnifier which allows you to select a specific part of the scene by dragging a rectangle on the screen. When you release your mouse button, SketchUp will zoom to the area inside that rechtangle.

Orbit command

If you want to go around an object or structure and practically rotate around your target object, you need to activate Orbit tool. As I mentioned before, your mouse is capable of doing this without activating the tool.

orbit SketchUp tutorzine.com

For rotating around in your scene, just press and hold down your mousewheel and drag your mouse to the left or right. You’ll see that your point of view will change according to where you drag your mouse to.

Pan command

Imagine you’re looking at the front of a building. What if you want to just slide your view from one window on the left side of the building to see another window on the right side? This is when “Pan” tool is used.

You can easily spot the Pan tool by looking for a hand on the toolbar. As I mentioned, panning is another action you can do with your mouse so you don’t need to click on this tool.


Panning is very similar to Orbiting but with a little difference. You can pan by pressing and holding down your mousewheel while also holding the Shift key down on the keyboard. Once you do this, your mouse pointer will turn into a hand which means you’ve activated the Pan tool.

pan SketchUp tutorzine.com

Using mouse to perform all the actions above gives you an advantage over clicking on zoom, orbit or pan tools on the toolbar.

Imagine you’re working with pencil tool and suddenly you need to zoom to another part of the scene or maybe you want to slide the view a bit to the right to see another corner of a big object while keeping the pencil tool active so that you can quickly continue drawing additional lines.

By using mouse shortcuts for these three actions, you always have your active tool in hand while temporarily switching to zoom, orbit or pan tool. Once you release your mousewheel, you quickly switch back to your previous active tool.

Now that you know how to zoom in and out, pan and orbit around things in SketchUp, let’s get involved with drawing tools in the next part.

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