Using SketchUp to Make Printable Templates for Cutting Complex Pieces
I like being able to create plans with fancy details such as fancy shelf brackets or curvy legs for dressers and tables, and being able to create a template makes cutting the design element a whole lot easier. I learned how to create printable templates in SketchUp years ago and it has changed the way I can create easy to build furniture plans!
SketchUp is a super-easy program to use, and this is not a how-to on the basics. There are so many great tutorials and videos on the basics that I probably couldn’t do it any justice but a working knowledge of the basics is all you need for this tutorial. The original post where I found the information is here, and it is from 2012. I figured it could use an update since a couple of the programs listed are no longer current but they do work in the latest version of SketchUp!
Plugins and Files
There are a few plugins and files that will need to be downloaded in order to create full size templates:
- gk_Postscript_Plot (a free plugin for SketchUp)
- Ghostscript This is the program that will read the postscript file from SketchUp.
- Ghostview This is the program that will enable the postscript file to be viewed and then converted to a PDF.
- CutePDF Writer This program will convert the postscript file to PDF in Ghostview.
I know, it’s a lot but it works and I’ve been using each of these for years without issue!
If you do not want to go through the trouble of downloading Ghostscript, Ghostview and CutePDF Writer, the postscript can also be converted to a PDF online through any PS to PDF converter for free.
Click the link above, then click Download to save it to your computer (don’t worry about the “file type not supported” message). I usually save it in the Downloads folder on my computer where I’ve created another folder with SketchUp stuff. Go to the Extension Manager in Sketchup (Window> Extension Manager) and click Install Extension. Navigate to the folder where the plugin was saved, and click Open. It should automatically install the plugin.
Download the free version for your computer – for example, I run Windows 64-bit so I downloaded that version. Double click on it, it will install automatically.
Download the file to your computer, then double click it to install it automatically.
Same thing – download to the computer, then double click it to install.
Now that all of the necessary components are installed, we can create a template in SketchUp. In this example, I’m using a curved shelf bracket. I drew it in my model, then copied and pasted the bracket (or whatever the template will be i.e. a table leg, chair back, etc) into a new separate file. I like to keep all of the components of a model in one folder, so I will save the template in that same folder. After saving, click Camera > Standard Views >Front. Then click Camera > Parallel Projection.
Next, click Tools > GK Postscript Plot.
Choose the paper size… I choose Letter. If the template is larger than a standard sheet of paper, there will be registration marks so that the sheets can be taped together. The other sizes are A4 (for plotters) and Ledger.
GK_Postscript_Plot will save to the same folder as the model.
Converting to a PDF
To convert the file to PDF, open Ghostview. Open the PS file in Ghostview.
Click Print and change the “printer” to CutePDF Writer. Click OK then save the file as desired. (Note: nothing has to be done with Ghostscript because it translates the PS file so that Ghostview can see it and convert it.)
The PS file can also be uploaded to an online PS to PDF converter without having to use Ghostview or CutePDF Writer then it can be downloaded as a PDF. (I like having the other programs on my computer and use them without uploading/downloading anything further.)
If you have any questions about how to create printable templates in SketchUp let me know by leaving a comment below… I will do my best to help!