SketchUp 102- Groups and Components

Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp to the electronic version of chipboard. In a previous post I covered the basics of SketchUp, you can read that here Sketchup 101.

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Since that post, I’ve had numerous requests to provide more info on using SketchUp. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the basics in a bit more detail. I know some may be saying, “What the heck, this is basic info who needs a post on this?” There are plenty of resources/manuals available for SketchUp, however, I believe my perspective affords insight into real world implementation as an architect (whoa, settle down, those were big words). Keep in mind, there are people learning the software for the first time every day, so if I can make it a bit easier for them than I’ve done my part helping the world visualize in the third dimension!

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With any luck I’ll continually add to my SketchUp resource and hope that others can benefit from it. Note that this post is based upon Trimble SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

With that I bring you SketchUp 102, Groups and Components! When modeling in SketchUp, make use of Groups and Components, they will become your friend. Go back and read that sentence again. SketchUp is inefficient if Groups/Components are not used, especially when trying to select entities. So what is a Group vs. a Component:

Group: a combination of several objects together into one ‘piece.’  For example you can create a window that is comprised of a frame and a piece of glass. You can than make a group out of the two ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

Component: a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well- however, there is the option to make any one, or several of the components ‘unique’ such that their editing does not alter the other copies- perhaps a future post on that topic. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.


1. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You’ll also have the option of naming the Group/Component.

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2. Groups and Components can be edited by double clicking them. If you have Groups/Components nested within each other, you’ll have to double click the appropriate amount of times to get to the Group/Component you wish to edit.


Window Assembly Example:

Window 1:   I’ve created a window frame and sheet of glass, each of which is composed of separate faces and planes. Notice when you try and select it only one line or plane is highlighted (keep in mind you could hold the shift key to make more than one selection, however that’s not the point of this example).

Window 2:   The window frame and sheet of glass have each been made into separate Components. Notice when you try and select it the entire frame/glass is highlighted.

Window 3:   The window frame and sheet of glass have been composed into a single unit and a Component created out of the two pieces. Notice when you try and select it the entire assembly is highlighted. Materials have also been applied to each of the window assembly Components.

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Group Example: Edit a Group and all copies of that Group remain as they were.

The window Group (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Group has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Group:

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I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window Group on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that only that window Group is updated, none of the Group copies update:

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Component Example: Edit a Component and all copies of that component update, regardless of flipping the copy about the horizontal/vertical axis, or mirroring the copy. Keep in mind, any copy of a Component can be edited and all copies of it will update.

The window Component (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Component has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Component:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 bI’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window component on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that all copies of the window component update automatically, even the window that was flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis:

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While this window is a simple example of Groups/Components, it’s evident that this is a powerful feature for modeling in SketchUp. For example, I’ve worked on numerous Multi-Family projects and my method is to create the individual units off to one side and then assemble the building from the units, which are Components. This makes it much easier to work on, units are able to be flipped and mirrored as need be and I only need to create one of each unit type:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using Groups/Components while modeling with SketchUp. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with Groups/Components- i.e. you can nest Groups/Components within each other, you can make Groups/Component unique, etc. However, you’ll also realize how efficient using Groups/Components will make your modeling. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for using Groups/Components in SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use Groups/Components SketchUp.



Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

  1. Once again, nice article, Keith.

    I usually recommend that groups never be used, only components. If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating distinct objects, why not make them re-editable instances? And third party software, particularly rendering packages like Maxwell, only respect material applications via components.

    Fortunately, SketchUp itself provides no simple way other than the menu item to create groups. But they are also responsible for maintaining “G” as the keyboard shortcut for components! (My memory is a little grey, I think this all happened ages ago when they upgraded groups with a new component feature and migrated the keyboard shortcut to sway everyone to the new method.)

    The only use for groups I might consider is huge collections of components with similar design strains within the same model, such as might be used for several building design options. Although I’d still probably make them components, it might be useful to create a collection that was uneditable so you knew it wouldn’t propagate to other instances. For myself, I quickly forget what is what and scramble things. That’s no problem if everything is a component.

    I can’t wait until you cover component disproportional and -1.0 scaling factors and material application! 😉

    • Thanks for reading and the comments. Perhaps a guest post by you for component disproportions and -1.0 factors 😉

      I assume you’re talking about Maxwell materials on a group as I know Maxwell will render SketchUp materials on a group. Good bit of info to know as one day I’ll master Maxwell.

      I use groups for things such as the existing massing of a home. Only one instance and it won’t change…mainly I do this from habit. Perhaps I’ll try to break this habit.

      Side note- first use of SketchUp many eons ago… spent one day teaching myself it via a residential reno/add project… I knew nothing of groups or components… resulting model was a cluster mess of lines and planes…NOT FUN!

  2. “Thanks for reading and the comments. Perhaps a guest post by you for component disproportions and -1.0 factors”

    Your writing and graphics are sublime, I am not worthy.

    What I meant to say was the ability to paint one group in different materials. It’s possible to paint window glass, for example, with different levels of transparency if you let the inside glass material be the default material. I don’t think you can do that with groups exported to Maxwell since it only recognizes them as a simple collection of objects. At least I experiences some issue with transparency and lighting one time and found that what I thought was a component was actually a group borrowed from 3D Warehouse.

    Your use of groups is mine also. But weeks later, I forget and it always gets me into more trouble than it is worth. And “G” is so easy.

    I, too, revisit old models and wonder what I was thinking. I sometimes say that having a corrupt file or hard drive can be the best thing that ever happened. Re-drawing sometimes takes 1/10 of the time and produces a more refined and modular result. SketchUp has a weird tendency to let you connect lines and planes within a component to those outside. If you move it, they all stretch accordingly or shift layers. For this reason, I often displace a component 200′ on an axis into deep space, fix it there, and then move it back.

  3. Groups! Sometimes a draw a single line, group it, then edit the group in order to create and object just because it’s easier to select a single line then, say, 4 lines and a surface.
    Any interest in trading models for the purpose of dissecting to see how we do things differently or the same?

      • I’ll stick some stuff in a Dropbox folder and send you an invite. info@….? or p.m. me with another email. I love sharing.

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