Tracing and Extruding Footprints in Sketchup

The Extruded Footprint technique is used to digitally recreate real-life buildings in the Sketchup program. This Geo-modeling method works for buildings that have vertical exterior walls with flat or sloped roofs. The method captures a birds-eye satellite image of your building and set this 2D image as the base in Sketchup. Once the base is set, lines can be drawn along the edges of the building. The building can then be extruded vertically.

The Extruded Footprint technique is often used as a substitute to photo-matching. Photo matching requires clean photographs displaying two sides of a building. When these types of photographs are unobtainable (e.g. when trees are blocking the edges of the building), the Extruded Footprint technique is used.


  1. Open the Sketchup application and Geo-locate your building under the File > Geo-Location > Add Location tab.
Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.57.22 PM

Figure 1 – Geo-locating the pyramid

2. Change your view under the Camera > Standard Views > Top tab (or hit Command 1). This view will show your building from a bird’s eye perspective and allow you to set your axis.

3. Under Tools > Axes,  set your axis lines, ensuring that they line up with the edges of your building (if you’re building is rectangular).

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.37.57 PM

Figure 2 – Setting the axis

4. Apply the X-Ray view under View > Face Style > X-Ray. This will make everything transparent, allowing you to accurately trace the borders of your building.

5. Outline the base of your building.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.42.07 PM

Figure 3 – Outlining the base of the pyramid with the rectangle tool

6. Draw out any other necessary lines before extruding your building vertically.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.43.04 PM

Figure 4 – Drawing the edge lines of faces of the pyramid

7. Extrude your building’s footprints to the correct building height. Use either the push pull tool or the move tool to adjust the height of your building. For greater precision, enter the exact height of the building into the unit box at the bottom right of the Sketchup.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.43.40 PM

Figure 5 – Extruding the footprints of the pyramid to its height

8. Finally, with the paint bucket tool, apply textures to your building. The exact texture of the building is sometimes available in the “Colors In Model” section.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 2.47.18 PM

Figure 6 – Applying textures to the pyramid

The two links below also run through the steps of the extruding footprint technique:

For a video showing the extruding footprint technique in action, see below:

This video is part 3 of a series of videos where every aspect of the technique is covered. To see more this user’s Sketchup videos, click here.




  1. Great job in investigating further about a technique in sketch-up. I did not know about this feature until I saw this tutorial. It is easy to understand and also easy to follow. The screenshots and sample video help the tutorial to be more engaging!

  2. Malekai,

    Your tutorial on the extruded footprint A1:I19 is very clear, easy to follow and well illustrated. Modeling a pyramid was a great choice, although I wonder about the accuracy of that photo — is it really off center like that or is it just the angle of the photo?

    I especially liked how you stepped through not just the necessary steps but also the pro tips that make the process easier like switching to X-Ray view, and always explained why you are doing each step. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

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