Editing Topography with Sketchup Sandbox Tools

How do you make rivers where there once were lakes? Or build mountains from plains? How about raising islands from seas, flattening hills, or flipping the world upside-down?

It may sound like a god’s work, but with common domain Sketchup any mere mortal can change the surface of the world.

All you need is:

  1. A computer with Sketchup downloaded onto it
  2. A topographical data file in either a CAD or DEM format
  3. A lot of imagination and some 3-D visualization skills

I would also recommend having some basic knowledge of Sketchup’s standard tools and understanding of how topographical maps work.

For more information on how to use the drape, stamp, or flip edge tools, visit this tutorial website.









  1. Interesting tool and technique! I love how you took a step further! I am surprised to find out about this feature in sketchup and I think it’s definitely worth a try if I get to use the program again next time! Great tutorial!

  2. So cool! This looks so advanced and innovative and you look so professional! I also enjoy the fact that, rather than employing screenshots, you provide a recorded video as tutorial. This is so much more effective than mine 😛 You also give the viewers a very thorough step by step description of the process, which is very helpful as so many tutorial videos nowadays cut away lots of much content to ultimately only make a short and incomprehensible montage. Great job!

  3. I tried using screenshots originally, but then I realized that because the tutorial (a) doesn’t work very well as a step-by-step and (b) is very movement-based, it would make a lot more sense to use a recorded video. Also, I found the screen-capture software application easy to use! It’s interesting what you say about cutting away and making montages, because I certainly worried that this tutorial would be too long or too detailed – and therefore boring. I’m glad to hear that, at least for you, the lack of editing was a good thing!

  4. Eliza,

    I loved your fun (if grandiose) hook about playing god with SketchUp and your detailed video made the case very effectively. Your presentation was very polished and your discussion of the two different approaches to editing contours and triangulated surfaces did a good job of highlighting why you might want to do one or the other. I agree with Wilson that the lack of editing was helpful in allowing you to explain the process in a clear way and walk novice users through not just the how-tos but the what-fors.

    You’ve clearly spent a lot of time with SketchUp and the sandbox tools, and your familiarity shows — it’s great to have an expert guide! A few comments on the process that might help. First, you can adjust the radius of the smoove tool, which lets you target a smaller number of vertices and make more modest interventions in the landscape. Second, remember inferences when editing contours. You can lock an inference to an axis when you draw or move so that your contours stay in the right plane. Finally, you might find it easier than connecting circles to draw a river using the Bezier Curve Tool, which you can download from the extension warehouse.

    These might help, but what you discovered on your own clearly worked. Great job investigating new techniques and sharing them with the rest of us.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this video. I could not find this information anywhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *