Better Text Boxes in SketchUp


We like SketchUp for its ease-of-use and flexibility– it allows us to test theories and make changes in real time while screen sharing with our clients. However, one SketchUp features that doesn't suit our process is the 3D text tool. Once text is created, SketchUp turns each character into a group of lines and faces, so the text can no longer be edited. You can't go back to change a word or correct a typo. So we created an editable text box, using SketchUp's dynamic component features.

The 3D Text tool is a native feature of SketchUp. It let's you choose font, has a full set of capital, lowercase, and special characters, and creates 3d-extruded solid geometry. The downside is that once created, the text can't be changed.

Artboard 2

The 3D text tool uses a dialogue box to choose font, size, and type in the desired message. Then SketchUp created 3D shapes for each letter. The screenshot above shows the text dialogue on a Mac.

Our dynamic text box doesn't have as many options, but the text can be changed at any time.

Artboard 1

Our tool only includes one font, no lowercase letters, and a limited number of special characters, but it can be edited on the fly! The dialogue box also has a couple of features we've found wanting from SketchUp's text tool: Variable character spacing and width options, and a text direction selector. Above is the component options dialogue on a Mac.


No need to install a plug-in to make this text box work. Here's how to add them to your model:

  • Download the textbox component straight into your model from the SketchUp 3D Warehouse, or
  • Download it and insert it through SketchUp's component window (Desktop versions of SketchUp only).
  • Then, with the text box selected, open the dynamic Component Options window (found in Window menu, or by right clicking on the text box)
  • Here, you'll find a dialogue containing inputs for the text to display, along with the text direction, character spacing and width.

Technical details:

Edges are hidden for better model performance and better viewing from a distance, and characters are offset above the surface they are placed on to avoid z-fighting. Under the hood, the dynamic text is based on a component created by SketchUp user pcmoor. We used the concept in our dynamic evidence marker components, and liked it so much that we repurposed it for this tool. We're excited to use this component to label streets, addresses, and key dimensions such as roadway lane widths. We often do this type of labeling as a separate process in 2d layout software such as Adobe InDesign, so this tool will smooth our workflow, and make it easier to iterate and share our models with collaborators.


Joel Newman is a Senior Designer at Fat Pencil Studio