July 23, 2007 Justin Chin

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.