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Erik Selin
Erik Selin

3D artist & all that other stuff

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How to import and export between Sketchup and Blender

In this article we will take a look at how we can utilize Blender as Sketchup modelers and export/import textured models between the two programs. We will use Blender version 2.80 and Sketchup maker 2017. To export and import Sketchup files into Blender we will also look at a way to bring .skp files into 2.80 through 2.79 since the .skp add-on is not yet available in Blender 2.80.

How to import a Blender model into Sketchup? The easiest way to get a Blender model into Sketchup is to export using Collada(.dae). Then import the .dae file into Sketchup Maker 2017. This will keep the diffuse texture from Blender to be viewed in Sketchups viewport. You may have to tick “selection only” in Blenders Collada export settings as the only exception to the default export settings.

We will continue to look at different alternatives for bringing files between Sketchup and Blender, with or without textures. Without Collada this can prove to be a much more difficult task than most people might think thanks to Sketchups limited import/export options.

You can download Sketchup Make 2017 here and Blender can be downloaded from here.

How to export Collada from Blender 2.80

Exporting Collada is the simplest and best supported way of getting objects from Blender to Sketchup. Here I will just outline the process given above in a more step by step manner.

To export from Blender to Sketchup Maker follow these steps.

  • Select the objects in your scene that you want to export
  • Go to file -> Export -> Collada (Default)(.dea)
  • Check “Selection only” in the properties found in the bottom left.
  • Browse for a location to save the file.
  • Name the exported file and hit “Export Collada” in the top right.

How to import Collada into Sketchup Make 2017

This is a simple step by step process. Let’s get right to it.

  • In Sketchup go to File->Import.
  • Make sure that you have .dae files visible by choosing it as the file type.
  • Browse for the file, select it and hit Import.
  • Click in the viewport to place the object.

Sometimes I have had issues with textures when importing into Sketchup. It can be a single face somewhere in the mesh missing or a face that does not get textured. It is not very common but it happens. What usually fixes it is if we go back into Blender and just slightly move one or more vertices that is attached to the face just a tiny bit and export again.

This is more common with .obj files but I have had it happen with Collada files as well.

How to export .obj files from Blender

The obj exporter work similar to the collada in Blender. For our intents and purpouses we follow this procedure.

  • Select the object(s) you want to export.
  • Go to file->Export->wavefront(.obj)
  • The settings we need to check are
    • Selection only
    • Include UVs
    • Write materials

The .obj file format can only export one UV-map. This will be the UV Map that is currently selected in the object properties. To check this go to the properties panel and find the object data tab. Find the UV Maps section and make sure that the UV map you need is selected, meaning marked with a blue background. The UV Map set to rendering does not matter in this case.

Name your file and browse for the location you want to save the file. The textures you need won’t come with the export. What you will get is an .mtl file that contains information about the material.

You can open the .mtl file in any text editor and there will be a block of code similar to this:

newmtl wood
Ns 323.999994
Ka 1.000000 1.000000 1.000000
Kd 0.800000 0.800000 0.800000
Ks 0.500000 0.500000 0.500000
Ke 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ni 1.000000
d 1.000000
illum 2

If you look at the first line, this material is called “wood” inside Blender. If there is no line beginning with “map_Kd” at the bottom of each block of code then there is no texture to be loaded in for this material. Add this line to have a texture added.

map_Kd C:\\Path\\of\\texture\\file.png

You can also just use a file name instead of a path if the file is located in the same folder as the .mtl and .obj files. This way you can make a self-contained package.

How to import .obj files into Sketchup

Let’s look at the import procedure for Sketchup using .obj files. This requires and add-on for Sketchup. There are two alternatives that I have tested. One free alternative that does not work with textures. The texture projection seems to get scrambled when importing to Sketchup.

The other alternative is a paid add-on from SimLab that works well with textures intact. However, we have to alter the .mtl file that we get when exporting to have it properly display the texture in Sketchup after import. Let’s take a look at that.

You can find the free obj plugin for Sketchup here and the paid plugin can be found here. It is not different versions of the same plugin. They are both independent and sadly, I got the impression that the free one is not maintained since 2013.

The free add-on can be downloaded from sketchucation. You need an account to log in and download the plugin.

For the simlab plugin you can scroll down the page and find “download older versions”. There you can find a version for Sketchup 2017.

If you are on the latest version of Sketchup, you can just download at the top of the page.

Import OBJ with material plugin

Let’s start by looking at the free plugin. It is called “Import OBJ with materials”. Once you have an account and downloaded the file you get a .rbz file.

In Sketchup, go to window->Extension manager and press install extension and browse for the file.

Once enabled the add-on is installed, go to Extensions->OBJ Importer and choose the “no materials” options. The materials option won’t map the texture correctly. Browse for the .obj file.

When prompted with the question to flip coordinates, press yes.

simLab obj importer

This exporter uses a stand-alone installer. Once installed, restart Sketchup if you had it open during install. If you don’t get prompted when Sketchup start, go to Extensions->SimLab OBJ Importer and press “import”. You will be asked to activate the extension or request a trial. A trial is good for 30 imports or 14 days.

If you request a trial, you will get a license file e-mailed to you that you can use to activate the extension.

Now go to Extensions->SimLab OBJ Importer, choose import and browse for the file. Hit “open” and place the object into your scene.

How to import .skp files into Blender 2.79

There is a .skp file importer for Blender 2.79 that we can use to import Sketchup files. From Blender 2.79 we can then save the file and open it in 2.80 or later.

Apart from the latest version of Blender we will need version 2.79 and the .skp import add-on. These can be found here:

The Sketchup file importer for Blender supports version 2017 or earlier. Later file versions can be re-saved as 2017 .skp files by selecting the correct file format when saving in later versions of Sketchup.

Open Blender 2.79. The user preferences are located under the file menu. Go to the add-on section and press “install from file”.

Browse for the importer .zip file to install it. Enable it and save user settings.

Go to file->import->Import Sketchup Scene(.skp)

Browse for the .skp file and hit “Import SKP”.

Now we can save the .blend file and open it in Blender version 2.80.

How to export from Sketchup and import into Blender using Collada?

In Sketchup Make 2017 we can also export Collada files that we can later import into Blender. In Sketchup, go to file->export. Choose the Collada format and save your file, there are no options.

In Blender go to file->import and use the Collada importer. Just browse for the file and import.

Related questions

If I want to learn Sketchup, where do I start?

The best place to start is probably at learn.sketchup.com

If I want to learn Blender, where do I start?

While I would like to say, right here at artisticrender.com. There are other great resources as well. The beginner series from CGboost for example.

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