Move Parts From One SketchUp Model to Another

In a good SketchUp model anything that is a distinct piece of wood in real life is a component. (Click here to read about why components are so important). With components, you rarely need to draw anything more than once; a component is a single entity that you can copy and reuse. You can even make left and right mirror images of the same part.

Earlier today I was working on a model and realized that the part I was about to make (a pyramid shaped door pull) existed in another model that I created a few months ago. It would save  time if I were able to take a copy from one model and plug it into another.

Lucky for me the folks who created SketchUp provide a mechanism to do exactly that. Here’s how it works; any component in a SketchUp model can be saved as a SketchUp file. If you think about it, this is how the 3D Warehouse and the Components window work. Models in the warehouse become components when you place them in the model you are working on. Why not save components as models so you can easily reuse them?

Saving a component as a model is ridiculously easy when you realize that it is possible. You can either right-click with the cursor above the component, or do the same thing through the Components window. In the Components window, find the thumbnail image of the component and right-click over it. One of the options that appears in the context menu is “Save As …”. Click on that and a file browser opens. Navigate to the folder on your computer where you want to save the component.

SketchUp uses the component name as the file name, and saves the file as a .skp file. All you need to do is press the Save button. If you work on similar models on a regular basis, it pays to spend a little time organizing where you save these files so you can retrieve them later on. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you have to wade through hundreds of files in “My Documents” to find the part you need.

Another feature of the Components window that isn’t obvious is that you can open a secondary pane in the window. In the upper right corner of the components window is a little icon; either a plus (+) or a minus (-) sign above or below an arrow. If the plus sign is showing the arrow points down and a click on the icon opens the second pane below the first. With both panes open, the arrow points up and a click on the icon closes the secondary pane.

In either window, you can navigate to any folder on your system, models in the 3D Warehouse or the “In Model” components. (click on the little house icon to display  “In Model”. The icons on either side of the Search box let you find models (aka components) that aren’t in your model.

To retrieve a component you saved as a model, click the icon to the right of the search box and select “Open or create a local collection …” from the drop-down menu. A local collection is simply a folder full of stuff somewhere in your computer or on your network. When you click on that, a file browser opens. The only downside to this is that the browser stops at the folder level; you can’t see what components are in a folder until you select it.

When a folder is selected, SketchUp models saved in that folder will appear in the Components window. At that point, all you need to do is click on a thumbnail and drag a component into the model space, just as you would if you wanted to drag in an “In Model” component.

As soon as the component is placed in the model it appears in the “In Model” collection in the Components window and it behaves as any other component does. If you edit it in the model you’re currently working on, those edits only affect the instance of the component in that model, not the component in the folder you got it from.

savecomp5There is another option in the menu that appears when you click the “Details” icon to the right of the search box. When you have the “In Model” components displayed in the Components window and click on “Save as a local collection …” a similar file browser opens that also goes to the folder lever on your computer.

When you select a folder, SketchUp will save every component in your model as a separate .skp file in that folder. It’s a handy way to save all the parts of a model in one step. Later on (assuming you can remember the name of the folder and where you put it) you can access those components and put them in a new model.

— Bob Lang


What do you think?