Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp by qingyunliuliu

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									Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp
If you are a decent 3D modeler, you could design an aquarium filled
with 3D models of sea plants, coral, and fish. To save time, you
could even find most of these models in the 3D Warehouse.
This project will show you a much easier way: using a digital photo
to “paint” the sides of the aquarium. And the file size of your model
will be much smaller than if you filled an aquarium with complicated
3D models.

 For this project, it helps to have some basic knowledge of Google
SketchUp (though detailed instructions are provided). In particular,
it’s important to know how to zoom, orbit, and pan the view. If you
need more information on how to get started, and a description of
some basic tools, please read 3DVinci’s Getting Started Guide

PC users: go to
Mac users: go to

Step 1: Find an Aquarium Picture
The best picture to use for this project is a wide one like the one shown below. (Wider is better because the picture
will be “wrapped” around three sides of the aquarium.) I found this one here: (scroll down the web page to see it).

You can find different pictures using a search engine such as Google Images (go to and click
the “Images” link at the top left). Here are some search terms you can try:
   • coral reef
   • aquarium fish
   • wide aquarium
   • fish tank
To save a picture you find on the Internet, just right-click on it and choose one of the saving options, such as Save
Image As or Save Image to Desktop (options vary with your browser and operating system).

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                                                                              Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

Step 2: Paint the Picture onto the Box
1.   Open Google SketchUp. If your file contains a person standing on the ground near the origin, click the Eraser
     tool and erase him.

2.   The aquarium tank is basically a box, so to start the box, activate the Rectangle tool. Draw a square on the
     ground (in the red-green plane). You’ll know it’s a square when you see the “Square” popup. (The aquarium
     won’t actually keep this square shape for the base; it will eventually be made smaller. But it’s easier to shrink
     a box to fit a picture than to have to make it larger.)

3.   Activate the Push/Pull tool and pull the square up into a box, using the approximate proportions shown

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month               March 2010                                                      2
                                                                              Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

4.   To bring in the aquarium picture, go to the main menu and choose File / Import. Make sure you’re looking
     for image files (as opposed to SketchUp or other 3D model files), and check Use as texture. (The pictures
     below are for PC and Mac, respectively.) Browse to find the picture you saved, and then click Open or

5.   Now the image is attached to your cursor, and we’re ready to paint the front face of the tank. First click the
     lower left corner of the front of the box, then click the lower right corner. The picture is now as wide as the
     front of the box, though the box might be higher or lower than the top of the picture.

     As soon as you click the second corner, the front of the box is filled with the picture. The picture will tile as
     needed to fill the face. If your tank ends before the top of the picture, you’ll see just the lower part of the

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month               March 2010                                                      3
                                                                              Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

Step 3: Adjust the Picture
Now comes the fun part - using texture positioning to adjust the picture to fit the faces of the aquarium. The entire
picture will be wrapped around the left, front, and right sides of the box, but now the entire picture appears only
on the front face. So we’ll adjust the picture so that only part of it appears on the front.

1.   Right-click on the front face of the box (the face painted with the picture), and choose Texture / Position.

2.   What you will see now are four pins; they will either have four different colors, or be all yellow. The two types
     of pins represent the two different ways you can adjust a picture - yellow pins are “free pins” and
     multi-colored pins are “fixed pins.” We want the free pins (yellow), so if you see the multi-colored pins,
     right-click again on the picture and choose Fixed Pins, which toggles off the fixed pins and displays the free

 Fixed pins are usually used for materials like stones, tiles, bricks, etc., when you want to set where the materials
start and end, how large they are, etc. If you’ve been getting the 3DVinci SketchUp projects for a while, one of
the October projects shows how to do this. (If you’re a recent subscriber, you can get all of the projects from the
first six months at

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                                                                               Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

3.   Hover your mouse over the pin in the lower left corner, and you’ll see the popup shown below. You can do two
     things with these pins: drag them to a new location (which drags the picture with it), or click to “lift” the pin
     and place it somewhere else. We’ll do both: first we’ll lift and move the pins, then we’ll drag them.

4.   We want the middle half of the picture to cover the front face of the aquarium. This leaves a quarter of the
     picture on both the left and right sides, which will be wrapped onto the side faces. So click the lower left pin
     (without keeping the mouse button pressed) and move it directly to the right. Click again to “drop” the pin at
     about 1/4 the picture width.

5.   Click to lift the lower right pin, and place it to the left, about 1/4 of the picture width. This places about half
     of the picture between the two lower pins.

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                                                                                Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

6.   Now we have to place the two upper pins directly above the lower ones. We will use “helper” lines when
     placing these pins, but the picture is a bit dark and these lines will be hard to see. So here’s a trick to make the
     picture a little lighter: from the main menu, choose View / Face Style / Monochrome. (On my Mac, this
     switched the picture to all-white, instead of just a lighter version of the picture. If this happens to you too, go
     back to View / Face Style / Shaded with Textures and use the picture as is.)

7.   Lift and move the upper right pin until it is directly above the lower right pin; you’ll see a dotted blue helper
     line. This pin can be placed in the middle of the water, below the top of the picture, as long as it’s higher than
     the tallest coral.

8.   Finally, move the upper left pin and click when you see two helper lines: one from the lower left pin and one
     from the upper right one.

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month                March 2010                                                        6
                                                                             Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

9.   Now comes the dragging part. Take any pin, and click and drag it (keeping the mouse button pressed) until
     you reach the closest corner of the front face of the aquarium.

10. Drag the other three pins to their corners, so that the front face of the aquarium is filled with the picture
    between the pins.

11. If you switched to Monochrome view before, bring back the normal colors of the picture by going back to the
    main menu and choosing View / Face Style / Shaded with Textures.

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month               March 2010                                                     7
                                                                           Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

12. To get out of texture positioning mode, right-click on the picture and choose Done.

     Now the front of the aquarium looks like this:

Step 4: Paint the Side Faces
We could paint the left and right side faces by importing the same picture and adjusting the pins, but it’s much
easier, and more accurate, to start with the face that’s already painted.

1.   What we’re about to do is “sample” the picture on the front face and apply it to the side faces. To sample a
     material or texture, first activate the Paint Bucket tool.

2.   This opens the Materials window (PC) or Colors window (Mac), but we don’t need to use this window.
     Instead, press and hold the Alt key (PC) or the Command key (Mac), which turns the cursor symbol into an
     eyedropper. Then click the front face of the aquarium.

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month                March 2010                                                    8
                                                                             Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

3.   Now that you’ve sampled this material, click the left side face to paint it with the same picture. It wraps
     around the front corner perfectly.

4.   Because we used a square as the base of the aquarium, the depth of the tank (not to be confused with its height)
     is much larger than it needs to be. Look closely at the picture on the side face, and you’ll see the seam where
     one picture ends and another one starts.

5.   We’ll adjust the aquarium’s size to match the picture, but first sample the front picture again and paint the
     right side face. Here also the front corner wraps perfectly, but there is a seam along the side face.

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month               March 2010                                                      9
                                                                               Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

6.   Use the Push/Pull tool to move the back face of the tank forward, stopping when you reach the seam on one
     of the side faces.

     Unless you were very exact when you placed your yellow pins, the widths of the picture on each side face will
     be a little different. For instance, the picture on my right face above looks OK, but I can still see a seam on the
     left side.

7.   If you have a seam, or if your picture extends past the face, you can adjust its pins. In my example, here are
     the pins I get after right-clicking on the left face and choosing Texture / Position:

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month                March 2010                                                      10
                                                                             Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

8.   The two pins on the right side (along the front corner of the aquarium) are already in the right place. But I
     moved the two pins on the left to match the edge of the picture. (Your pins on the left side might already be
     in the right place.)

9.   Here’s how my picture looks after dragging the pins to the corners of the face, then right-clicking on the face
     and choosing Done. The picture on this face is a little stretched out, but nobody will be able to tell.

Step 5: Complete the Aquarium Model
The painted tank looks pretty neat, but an actual aquarium has a few more objects. There are a million ways you
can build an aquarium from this box, but here’s how I did mine.

1.   I activated Push/Pull and pressed the Ctrl key (Option on the Mac), and pulled the top face up a little.
     (Without Ctrl or Option, you would just continue the tank itself.)

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month              March 2010                                                    11
                                                                             Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

2.   Using Push/Pull again and pressing Ctrl/Option again, I double-clicked on the bottom of the tank. This pulls
     down a set of faces that are the same height as the top ones.

3.   I then used Push/Pull (without Ctrl/Option) to pull out the sides and front of the base. Again, double-clicking
     repeats the pull or push distance you used previously.

4.   I used Push/Pull with Ctrl/Option to pull down a cabinet base, and painted all of the new faces with materials
     or solid colors.

3DVinci SketchUp Projects-of-the-Month              March 2010                                                    12
                                                                             Making an Aquarium in Google SketchUp

5.   For a slightly more realistic look, I erased the top face of the tank topper, and painted the top of the “water”
     with a water material.

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