SketchUp Pro 2013: A closer look at LayOut

LayOut in SketchUp Pro has always existed to help you quickly and easily turn SketchUp models into compelling, communicative drawings. When we first released LayOut several years ago, its features put it firmly in the “presentation drawings” category of tools; it was equal parts layout, illustration, and slide software. Our users liked it, but they wanted it to do more—they wanted it to replace their bloated, complicated CAD systems, too. The live link between SketchUp models and LayOut model viewports has always been perfect for developing construction drawings that can evolve along with your designs.

A couple of versions ago, we decided to fully commit to making LayOut into the application that so many of you have been asking for. We added dimensions, vector rendering, and the ability to snap to points in your model viewports. We added DWG and DXF export, and configurable dashed lines. We made LayOut even faster, made it easier to move elements around precisely, and made lines editable—our Line tool may be the most intuitive vector drawing instrument around. Some of our users began to use LayOut to do complete sets of construction drawings.

For SketchUp Pro 2013, the improvements we made fall into three categories: a big, new feature, annotation refinements, and usability upgrades that make LayOut faster, smoother and even more pleasurable to use. Let’s take a look at these in order:

Pattern Fill: Hatching for materials, poché and other applications

Glance at LayOut’s updated Shape Style panel and you’ll notice a major addition: Pattern Fill. In response to our pro users’ (vehement) requests for the ability to add areas of hatching to their plans, sections and elevations, we built a feature that does that—and more. Simply building a Hatch tool with a limited library of symbols would have satisfied the request, but it would have been a single-purpose answer to the problem.

This drawing is 100% LayOut in SketchUp Pro 2013. Notice the dot screen patterns used to indicate the ground cover and to poché the walls.

Patterns in LayOut are simple raster images—usually PNGs—that can be any color, and can include an alpha channel for incorporating transparency. Most of the patterns we’ve included are single-colored lines with transparent backgrounds. This allows you to use any background color; just pick one from the Fill color well in the Shape Style panel. It’s a pretty flexible system that allows for an infinite number of combinations.

Almost all of the patterns we included in LayOut have transparent backgrounds. To add a solid color behind a patterned area, just click the Fill button in the Shape Style panel.

The new Pattern Fill panel acts as a browser, but it also provides two other important pieces of functionality: Rotate and Scale. These are pretty self-explanatory, but they mean you can orient and size any pattern to whatever is appropriate for your drawing.

LayOut in SketchUp Pro 2013 ships with over a hundred example patterns, but adding your own tileable images (or ones you find online) is dead easy. You can create a pattern tile in any other graphics program. We used a combination of LayOut and Photoshop to create ours. Making patterns that tile seamlessly can be a little tricky, but we’ll be posting a tutorial in the next few weeks.

A sampler of patterns in the new LayOut. You can also add patterns you make yourself or find elsewhere.

Patterns are stored in folders on your system, just like materials, components, styles and plugins are in SketchUp. We organized the ones we made for this release into four main categories:

Material Symbols represent common graphic notations for construction materials; they’re what most people mean when they refer to “hatches”. We built two dozen of the most common ones for this version, including old favorites like Steel, Cast-in-place Concrete, and my personal favorite, Earth Compacted Fill.

Geometric Tiles include rectangles, circles, hexagons and other shapes, arranged in common patterns like running bond, herringbone and checkerboard. We imagine that these can be used to represent anything from brick, to paving, to kitchen and bathroom tile, but of course you can also use them more abstractly if you like.

Site Patterns is a category we created to include the kinds of things you might use in a site drawing: Trees arranged into rows, in plan and in elevation. Parking spaces, both at 90 and 60 degree angles. And, as a bit of a joke, something Aidan calls “Mown Lawn,” in four attractive shades of green.

Tonal Patterns are things like dot screens, parallel lines, and sketchy edges. If you’re old enough to remember the beautiful drawings architects and illustrators were able to make with Zip-A-Tone and other, similar products, you can imagine the potential for these. Tonal patterns work alongside linework in drawings in ways that fields of solid color can’t. Your pochéd sections cuts will never look the same.

Better annotations make better drawings

LayOut’s Label tool lets you quickly and easily create a note with a leader line that automatically sticks to whatever it’s pointing to. It’s a simple concept, but there were a few things we did to make ours work a whole lot better:

Curved Leader Lines: It was recently pointed out to me that the reason architects use curved callouts is so that they can be easily differentiated from the straight linework in the rest of their drawings. That makes a ton of sense, so we set about making it easier to create curved leader lines in LayOut. The old way involved no fewer than five clicks. The new way takes only two. If you want the line to curve, just click-drag when you’re creating it.

Creating a callout with curved leader lines is simple. Just remember to click-drag your mouse button when you’re placing an endpoint. Double-clicking an existing leader line with the Select tool lets you edit it at any time.

Improved Arrowheads: Most of the time, your leader lines terminate in an arrowhead. And most of the time, that arrowhead is a solid, black triangle. And in previous versions of LayOut, the only black arrowhead looked like it had eaten too many pastries. By astoundingly popular demand, we’ve added a slimmer, trimmer option, available in classic black and more discrete white. We also improved the alignment of arrowheads to make them look better when their leader lines are angled or curved.

Dashes in Dimensions: In the new version of LayOut, you have the option to add a dash to your non-metric dimensions. The difference between 8’ 6” and 8’ - 6” on a small printout with tiny type is anything but trivial.

Usability Improvements: Faster, smoother, and more efficient

There’s a lot to be said for making software more usable. This is less about features and more about tweaking, fixing and otherwise improving little things that add up to making LayOut a better application:

Copy Array lets you use keyboard modifiers to easily make multiple copies of entities, all at once, just like you can in SketchUp. Since our developers coded this feature into our test versions a few months ago, I’ve used it almost every day.

Speedier Vector Rendering means significantly less time waiting for LayOut to vector-render the contents of a model viewport. You should consider using vector rendering whenever you’re dealing with crisp linework in a document that will be printed or exported at a large physical size.

Better Zoom is probably the thing you’ll notice first. We increased LayOut’s maximum zoom level by a factor of ten, from 1000% to 10,000%. When you’ve got a lot on your page, and things are small and close together, being able to zoom in farther is a godsend. You’ll see.

We increased LayOut's maximum zoom by a factor of 10. Now you can zoom in far enough to select and edit the smallest entities on your page.

Numbered Pages in the Pages Panel is a handy tweak that makes it easier to print or export specific pages in your LayOut document. No more counting down from the top of your Pages panel to figure out it’s page 43 that you want to export to PDF.

Faster Screen Redraw should make LayOut feel snappier, especially as your document gets more complex. Every time you zoom, pan or move an entity on the page, the tiny elves in your computer have to re-draw the picture on your screen. For 2013, our engineers optimized the code that controls how fast this happens.

Posted by Sandra Winstead, LayOut Product Manager

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Greg Palmer said...

I think the changes for LayOut are tremendous. Are there any changes to Sketchup Pro itself?

John Bacus said...

Thanks, Greg- we're super excited here, too! Check out the "Introducing SketchUp 2013" post for more announcements about SketchUp.

Michael Stubbs said...

I used sketch up for a very long time and I love it! I was not very pleases by the change from Last to Google and I am /as very curios what the change from Google to Trimble will bring to the user. The Layout improvements seemed to my very nice the old page format limits DIN A3 hopefully are also solved?
The introduction of the plugin Warehouse is a tribute to the hundreds of great ruby developers out there!Hopefully Trimble will gratify them properly!.
And what else... Well I will update when there will be real improvements: Multicore support, Overall speed improvements dealing with big models!, More rendering features ( reflection materials, bump etc.)

lovejamie said...

I can't actually believe these changes I am rushing back to the office to test's like my list of peeves was answered point by point - long time coming with the hatching but extremely well received....thanks

sketchupguru said...

The new developments in SketchUp Pro/ LayOut play perfectly into my plans to market SketchUp Pro as a replacement for CAD.

Andrew Walters said...

It all sounds great and i can't wait to download an upgrade.

Does the new version of layout include automatic page numbering and a spell checker?

John Bacus said...

Hi Andrew,

Unfortunately, this release of LayOut does not include automatic page numbering, nor does it add spell checking in the WIndows version. We do support the Mac OS X system-wide spell checker for Mac users.

These are commonly requested features, and I hope we'll be able to offer them in a future release. For a deeper discussion on this subject, you may want to swing over to our official Feature Request forum ( ).


Morteza Taheri said...

Does the new version of layout support copying and pasting shapes/lines (section slice)form Sketch Up into layout.
I'm having hard time with it, when i paste the section slice the box is empty.
Advice would be much appreciated.

Christophe said...

To Michael Stubbs,

You said "the old page format limits DIN A3 hopefully are also solved?"

Maybe I don't understand, but from the beginning (SketchUp 6 + Layout beta), I work on A2, A1, A0 formats. You just have to define page dimensions and save as template...

Pitman Cabinetmaking said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AF arquitectos said...

You have no ordinate dimension for use in architectural plans, it is important

dobbin said...

Is it possible to change the line type (dash etc) and the line weight of lines from my sketchup model?

LeftAngle said...

Trimble is moving much faster with development of this very useful program. I have only one concern. I use a Mac and prefer it over Windows. I had to buy the Windows version of Pro because Mac runs window, but not the other way around. Mac is still less complicated to boot up, so I have a tendency to use the free version of Sketchup on the Mac side and only switch over if I need to.

All this new posturing sounds like there'll be major differences between the free and pro versions, making my job more difficult. The option of buying a separate license for the Mac is out of the question, so I'm wondering if Trimble is also changing the outdated rule of "one system, one license" as opposed to "one license, any system".

What say?

HCLA said...

what a disappointment!!!! I don't use Layout so aside from updating the icons (why bother?), there's absolutely NOTHING new with this release. No reason to upgrade from 8

John Bacus said...


Sounds like SketchUp Pro already gives you the features you need for your work, so I can appreciate you may not choose to upgrade. You're certainly free to use SketchUp Pro 8 for as long as you like.

Out of curiosity, what sorts of things would you have preferred to see included in SU2013?


John Bacus said...

Hi LeftAngle,

Typically, I don't find that folks are switching operating systems quite so rapidly as you describe when running SketchUp... unfortunately I can't offer a cross-platform license to you today. I can see how having one would streamline your workflow.

Our Feature Request forum ( would be a good place to talk this idea through in more detail.


Dwight Marshall said...

It says the patterns are Raster not vector.. So we have to output as hybrid?
New Sketchup looks great.. thanks. I produce 15 sets of drawings a year and this will definitely help.. No more waiting 15 minutes for a vector rendering of a section! Dwight in New Orleans

John Bacus said...

Hi Dwight,

Patterns are rasters, but they render at very high resolution— they should look just like vector renderings.

You don't need to do Hybrid rendering to see hatch patterns, though- they will work with any of the model rendering techniques (Raster, Hybrid or Vector).


barry milliken said...

The main problem with Layout is that scrapbook objects are still dumb. I'm no fan of parametrics for most physical objects, but for notational objects, Layout is limited to standard dimensions.

See my full post at

Clint Ormond said...

I have used sketch up and layout for several years to mark up asbuilt drawings. I don't have access to the cad files but often we get PDF plans with layers. I am a little disappointed that layout cannot import the pdf with the layers in tact. I have to convert the drawings to images that always loose resolution and the layers, leaves a questionable scale, heavy line widths, and adds several steps and allot of time when I have to export as a pdf anyway. I cannot imagine a more universal document format than pdf so why isn't it compatible?

Anthony Sarno said...

Love the new features, tweaks, and improvements. Here's one I am sure is on your radar.

The ability to rasterize text after for easy resizing would be fantastic.

Victor said...

I'm in the middle of a big construction document package (Layout) for a large custom house. I'd like to upgrade but am worried about how it will interface with my current project. Can I upgrade with no worries and continue with the package in the new version? I sure hope so...the new features sound real good.