I'm using sketchup to create a book cover. I want it to be a wooden cover of about 2 CM thick with 1 CM engraving. It is going to be a bucket-list book.

I've created a wooden cover of the right size, and now I want to have some images on top of that cover. I don't want to print them, but engrave them. I've added a picture of a branch with birds, and traced the entire image by hand. That took pretty long, so I'm looking for a way to automate that process.

Currently my cover looks like this:


I want to add a globe (countries, not the water) to that cover, and just like the birds it must be pushed into the wood. I don't want to trace the entire globe by hand, so I'm looking for a way to import an image and push that without needing to trace it.

I've tried to download a 2d 'world map' from the 3d warehouse, but I am not able to 'push' that into the wood. I simply get a red mark on my cursor if I try to push the object.

How can I automatically turn an image or model to serve as outline for my push action?

  • Do you need a real world engraving? or you are going to make a normal 2d Render and you need to make it look as it is engraved?
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:02
  • @Rafael I need a 2d map. Only the outline without country lines would be perfect, I'm not going to show individual countries. But it is more a 'generic' question, I want to add loads of stuff like that (like surfboards etc.). It should look engraved the way the birds are.
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:03
  • I have only used the free version. Are you using the pro one?
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:15
  • @Rafael Nope, the free version. I'm not a designer this was a random idea :)
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:18

2 Answers 2


Real extruding

If you need a real world engraving, for example to make a 3D print, you must have a clean trace.

3D models need to be extruded from clean shapes with nodes that are not that close from each other, and the shapes need to be closed.

So the options are that you simplify a map in another aplication, probably ilustrator, and try to import from there, but you need the pro version I think. I would remove a lot of the tiny islands that are not that important.

I gave up on importing shapes on Sketchup with the free version some time ago, because I swiched to blender, that makes a good job importing svg. You can later export the extruded shape to 3ds format or whatever format your current version of sketchup can import.

Extruding from bitmaps

This can be done but in blender, and again you can import it back to sketchup.


Simulated extruding

You can use a simple bump map or an displace map on the render engine you are using (if you are using one)

A bump map is a simple grayscale image that gives the height information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bump_mapping

You can use a 3th party render engine like Kerkythea http://www.kerkythea.net/cms/ which is free

A demo version of twilight: https://www.twilightrender.com/ Take a look on the documentation on each program to "conect" the program to sketchup.

If you want to try blender it has all included. https://www.blender.org/manual/render/cycles/materials/displacement.html

  • I've used sketchup once before and thought it would be easy, would you say I'm better off using blender for this purpose? Its just a hobby / one-time scenario to demonstrate my idea to my family, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this.
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:16
  • Yes, probably it is better for this case. I edited my answer to complete it a bit.
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 10:28

To get a carved wooden book cover you have a few options.

  1. Carve a piece of wood by hand - which you want to avoid.
  2. Have a machine carve the wood for you. This can be achieved using CAM (computer aided manufacturing) If you have access to a CNC mill then blender cam can help you do that. Chances are you want to find a machine shop nearby that will do it for you and ask them what you need to provide to get the end result.
  3. Print a wooden cover. Wood based filaments are available for 3d printers, the result is basically a mixture of sawdust and glue, something like a sheet of MDF. i.Materialise is currently making wood based products. This is a demonstration of wood printing at home and has links to purchase the materials.
  • I just wanted to know how to graphically design this, my dad has a very big CAM milling machine. The actual 3d sketch that I'm using to carve the wood is not very graphically interesting though, so I want to use something like Sketchup or simular to generate the drawing.
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 10:14

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