How to Import a DWG File into SketchUp

DWG to SketchUp. It’s a thing, and it’s important. If you want to understand how to import a SketchUp DWG file, this article reveals exactly how to import a DWG file into SketchUp, so you can confidently use it inside SketchUp and speed up your workflow. Read on for a clear explanation of everything to do with SketchUp DWG converters and SketchUp DWG import.

What are DWG Files?

What, exactly, are DWG files? And does SketchUp open DWG files? A file with a .DWG extension is simply an AutoCAD Drawing Database file. These files store metadata and 2D / 3D vector images for use in CAD programs, compatible with a wide range of  3D drawing and CAD programs including SketchUp. These files make it really easy to transfer drawings between programs, giving you the opportunity to make detailed models from simple CAD floor plans and build your own wireframes.

Importing CAD Files into SketchUp

First of all, let’s look at the CAD entities that SketchUp can and can’t import.

When you import CAD files into SketchUp you might encounter a couple of issues. First, your size / scale might not import correctly, especially when you’re not sure which measurements were used to make the original CAD file, Two, the lines in a CAD file might not connect to make SketchUp faces, leaving you with lots of little gaps to fix.

You can’t import hatching, text, dimensions, XREFs and Proprietary ADT or ARX objects. The CAD elements that can be imported via a DWG file are:

  •  Arcs and circles
  • Objects that have a thickness
  •  Raster image
  • Faces and 3D faces
  •  Layers
  • AutoCAD region
  • Spline
  • Lines and supported Line Styles
  • Nested blocks
  • Materials
  • Point
  • Ellipse
  • Polyline-based solid objects

Here’s how to prepare a CAD file for modelling in SketchUp:


  • Check the size of the CAD geometry you’ve imported – you can check using an entity whose measurement you know, then use the tape measure tool to check it. If it’s wrong you can use the Tape Measure tool to scale the whole model correctly.


  • Ensure your CAD geometry is a single group. If the SketchUp model includes geometry before import, it groups your imported CAD geometry automatically.


  • Line up your floor plan with the SketchUp drawing axes using the Rotate or Axes tool.


  • Delete any extra layers and put your CAD group on a fresh.


  • Context click the group to lock it. This is your reference for making your SketchUp model.


  • Change the edge styles according to your taste, or turn off profiles in the Styles browser to keep all your lines the same width.


  • Make scenes to toggle your layer visibility. Make a couple of scenes with visibility as the only attribute you save per scene. In scene 1 make the CAD group layer visible. In the second scene, hide it.

Next, we’ll look at getting .DWG files into SketchUp.

How to Import DWG Files with SketchUp Pro


Here’s how to import .DWGs into SketchUp Pro:


  1.   Open SketchUp, then open the SketchUp model you want to import your .dwg or .dxf file into.
  2.   Choose Select File – Import to see the import box.
  3.   Go to your CAD file on your hard drive.
  4.   Chose AutoCAD Files (*.dwg, *.dxf) from the drop-down list and pick the file to import.
  5.   Click Options to see the Import AutoCAD DWG/DXF Options box.
  6.   Click OK and Import to begin the importing process.


There are also some optional things you choose to do, or not. You carry these out after step 5 above, and before step 6:  


  • In the Geometry area, you can choose a variety of preferences. When you choose Merge Coplanar Faces it tells SketchUp to take out triangulated lines from planes automatically. Choose Orient Faces Consistently and SketchUp will analyze the direction of your imported faces and make them all face in the same direction.


  • You can choose Preserve Drawing Origin via a check box to put your imported geometry at the origin defined in the .dwg or .dxf file. When you don’t select the box, you place the imported geometry near to SketchUp’s origin.


  • When you want to import your geometry at the right scale, something that’s often vital, select the unit used in the CAD file via the Units drop-down, then pick Model Units, Inches, Feet, Yards, Miles, Millimeters, Centimeters, Meters or Kilometers.


It’s good to know you can also drag and drop your files into your drawing area in SketchUp. The import box appears automatically once you’ve dropped the item.


How to Import DWG Files without SketchUp Pro


Does SketchUp open DWG files? Yes, it does. DWG import is a feature of SketchUp Pro. But there’s a cool little work-around for importing .DWGs without SketchUp Pro, in older iterations of the free version, for example, the free version of SketchUp 7. Here’s what you do:

  • File-import
  • Choose the ACAD (.dwg) file type from the dropdown menu
  • Select the .dwg file you want to import
  • Click ‘close’ when you get the import results message
  • File-save as, saving your file under the name you want as a SketchUp .skp file
  • Open the file in SketchUp – bear in mind once you save your file as a .skp you won’t be able to open it in an older version of SketchUp. You’ll see a warning box to remind you about this.  


SketchUp Import Plugins


There’s a variety of SketchUp plugins/extensions supporting a number of import operations. The SketchUp DWG plugin from TECLA Software, called TECLAsoftware Import DWG, depends on the Teigha File Converter for importing DWGs, and the A1 Hart Convert DWG Layer Names to Materials SketchUp DWG plugin cleverly converts DWG file layer names to materials in SketchUp.


Get Started with SketchUp


Now you know how to achieve SketchUp import DWG in a number of different ways. Did you know you can download the free version of SketchUp Pro here, and test-drive the magic for yourself on a FREE 30 day trial basis? You can also tap into a huge collection of tutorials and learning resources to help you on the journey.

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Elmtec have been the UK distribution partner for SketchUp since 2010, and service a network of UK and Irish resellers. We have over 22 years’ experience within the digital design community.

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