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Importing SketchUp Models to Maya

I wrote up some instructions on how I export/import from SketchUp to Maya for someone and I figured should post them up here.


Right now I’m remodeling Hugh’s body to put him into the typical natural pose for better rigging in Maya. I didn’t do that for Chan, and I believe that hurt some of the more extreme arms over the head poses. So now I’m fixing my mistakes with this model.

I can’t wait till that’s done, because when that’s done I’ll be doing some major scene set ups for the final comic. “Finally”, is what I say.

Here are my SketchUp to Maya instructions:

NOTE: These instructions assume that you are using Sketchup Pro. The pro version includes the ability to export to other 3D file formats other than .kmz.

After I’ve finalized my model in SketchUp I prep it for import into Maya:

  • Remove any extra model construction aids.
  • Organized groups into the appropriate hierarchy structure. For the most part I put each element at the same level in the hierarchy, and I’ll move items into any new hierarchies when in Maya.
  • Name all the groups appropriately.
  • Check scale and model units.

SketchUp Export

First things first, know the Unit Scale your model was built with. Go to:

Window > Model Info > Units


In the this case the model is using “Architectural – Inches”

You will need to know this information before moving onto the next step, which is exporting the model to the .FBX format. To do this go to:

File > Export > 3D Model > Options

  • Check “Swap YZ coordinates (Y is up)”
  • and Units: In this example we must use “inches” (because our model is in inches)
  • Click “Okay”
  • This will return you to the Export Model box.
  • Select “FBX (“.fbx)” in the Export Type pull down.
  • Name your model, and where you wish to save it.
  • Click “Okay”


    It might take a few seconds to complete the export process. When done you are now ready to open up Maya.

    Import Maya

    The instructions are for Maya 8.5. Any other version might have a different arrangement in the menu system.

    First you must make sure that your new scene is set to the current working units. You can do this by going to:

    Window > Settings/Preferences > Preferences

    • Select “Settings” in the Categories column.
    • Choose your working units in the “Working Units” section in the “Linear” pull down. In this case we are using “inch”.


      Import the file by going to:

      File > Import

      • Select the .FBX file you want to import. This will bring up the FBX import window.
      • In the FBX Importer window tick the “Scale Working Units” box and select “in” in the “Convert to” pulldown.
      • Over in the right side of menu click “Import”.
      • It might take a while to import all the geometry. The window will disappear when it’s done.


        Additional Clean Up

        When your .FBX file has been imported, you might find that your geometry is has been broken up leaving some vertices unwelded in the places it should be. After import I select each individual object and use this command to merge the offending verts:


        In addition, the import from SU process (as outlined above) defaults all the individual objects pivot point to 0,0,0. Since I’m animating these objects I realign each of the pivot points as needed.

        Important Notes

        A key thing to remember is that you must keep the working units between the model unit, export file and the import settings consistent. If you use meters, keep it meters in all aspects of the export import pipeline.

        I also, can’t guarantee success with this process. This is what has worked for me, and it might not work for you with regards to any working methods outside the realm of the above process.

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        1. JustB

          What if your sketch up export pull down menu only has .kmz? How do I get .FBX?

        2. monsterzero

          .KMZ is for uploading models up onto Google maps. From the sounds of it you might have the free version of SU. .FBX is only available in the Pro version of SU.

        3. I have the pro version of SU, but I cant find .FBX in the pull down menu. I have the Mac version – could that be why?

        4. monsterzero

          MRoald – I don’t know if the Mac version includes the FBX export. That would be a bummer if it didn’t.

        5. MysticPimp

          Actually if you export as .3ds (the only one that works properly for this conversion) and then use the free .fbx converter (
          you can get around the fact that your sketchup pro doesnt have the .fbx conversion.

        6. Tricia

          MRoald – the Mac Pro version should include the FBX export. If you don’t see it, try re-installing the latest version of SU6 and see if that helps.

        7. BigRig

          Thanks for the advice, I tried it and it worked fine. Just wanted to add that MRoald’s problem IS that it’s the Mac version- you need and Windows version to export an .Fbx. I did that, then imported the .FBX file into my Maya 2008 for Mac and it came in clean.

        8. Josh

          Hi there, I’m importing a model of the Sydney opera house and the curved surfaces come out really bad, all the polygons have a hard edge look, I cant seem to get them to look smooth. I have imported other models and most curved surfaces do it.

          Do you know how to fix this ??

          Cheers mate


        9. Kev

          if you are importing into may you can do polygon smooth, you might need to merge vertices,

        10. Brad

          If you export as an obj. it works a lot better. There is no modification you have to do in maya as long as all your faces we built the same way in sketcup (white side out). Ive been using obj. for years and am able to make photo realistic renderings by doing very minimal work.

        11. Ged

          Hi there,
          Is there anyway so i can import a .kmz file format into Maya 8 or 7.5?
          These .kmz files have UV texture assigned to them. Also i have an issue with 3dxml file formate. Same question.
          Thanks guys

        12. monsterzero

          You might want to try a program called Deep Exploration. I don’t think it handles kmz files, but perhaps you can save the kmz into another format.

        13. Kenny Bones

          Hi, do Maya seem to handle Sketchup models better than other apps? I’ve tried to export a simple house from Sketchup to Cinema4d and Zbrush with verious results. The model look OK after the import (in Cinema), but when trying to do the UV layout, I get all sorts of weird behaviour every time, even on the same model. Looks like Sketchups exporting creates variations in the model for every export and that no export creates the exact same model. Which create a huge annoyance for me. Also, I’ve only got BodyPaint 3d of Cinema 4d, so I don’t have all the polygon tools needed to do further cleaning.

          So my question is, does Maya and Sketchup work pretty good together? So good that I can model my buildings and stuff in Sketchup and then export it to Maya, do some tweaking and then set up the UVs accordingly without bugs? Sketchup is truly terrible when it comes to Exporting. Can’t even figure out why they even have such a feature in the Pro-version that people PAY for and it doesn’t even work. I know that it’s because Sketchup handles 3d in a different way and ignores a set of basic 3d rules that other, real 3d apps need. And therefore, lots of shit happens when exporting. But there should be a way of exporting only edges or something? And then completing the model in Maya or something? I always get some strange issues with polygon shares more than one face or some shit. I get this error in Cinema 4d and it automatically selects these faces that crash my model. When I then go to delete it, I get huge holes in my geometry with missing faces. Stupid. Also, Sketchup trangulates everything. But I’ve tried saving my model in Sketchup v3 format, open Atlast Sketchup V3, import and then export to 3ds. It seems to export alot better than V6. I don’t get as much errors, but still. In Cinema I have then option to untriangulate everything ang create ngons if it instead. This makes it much easier to set up the UVs but then again, when relaxing the UVs, the UVs twist in a strange way sometimes. Seems as though this also is random based on how Sketchup did the exporting. Phew.

        14. monsterzero

          I not sure that Maya is any better than any other app with regards to importing meshes. In general, I’ve also learned that if you build items in Sketchup as you would in Maya you’d get better results. Its about building methods. Sketchup allows people to build very complex meshes that might normally be done in a different “more efficient” way in Maya. It sort of comes down to modeling building practices. Once I figured that out, I got really clean architectural models to import into Maya.

          That said, importing “character models” is another story. Here’s where you get into complex ngons. I’ve learned that you can maintain ngons when importing, but they can’t be convex/concave at all. Maya can make convex/concave ngons, but the import doesn’t support it and just converts them to tris. I would love to know of there’s a better way to do that myself, i.e. a tolerance setting.

        15. Antonio

          PROBLEM…….when j export from sketchup to maya whith all texture, in maya j dont have the texture ! why?

        16. My SketchUp users always tell me of the people on blogs and forums not knowing of our SketchUp 3D conversion system, so let me make it more publically known.

          For the last 11 years we have provided all the defacto and most complete implementations of all key file formats for high-end production Maya users. We created the first set of independent, fully implemented SketchUp bidirectional converters. They are the most refined and well developed to date:

          When combined with PolyTrans-for-Maya (, you will get native and built-in SketchUp Maya, including support for texturing, hierarchy/components, materials, etc.

        17. Jared

          Is it possible to export a maya model and import it in sketchup.

        18. monsterzero

          Jared, yes. The comment above is a good place to start. But you can do geometry with the .DXF export.

        19. Ken

          I’ve followed your directions except everytime I do it, I get this error message and nothing gets imported:

          Error: Unsupported operation on Mesh Vertices
          The plug-in has detected mesh nodes with unsupported operators that affect the vertex count. The following nodes will not be processed:
          Warning: These meshes were cleaned from their degenerate polygons:

          Not sure if my model is just not exportable. I’ve followed your directions as they are. Any advice?

        20. Ken

          Sorry ignore the above comment. The model from sketchup loads into Maya fine. The problem now is I can’t see it in my workspace, only when i render. Apologies if this is a novice question. Any advice?

          • Paul

            Hi, I have exactly the same problem as Ken – my sketchup file imports to maya fine, but it’s not visible in the workspace. It’s definitely there though, as it shows up when I click render! Did anyone ever manage to find the solution to this? Any help much appreciated.

        21. This was so helpful! You saved my day. All the other options for importing skp into maya kept causing crashes. This worked perfectly.

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