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How to convert Google Sketchup models to .3ds

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If you have tried to create models for your 3D games, you probably know that many modeling programs out there (like Max) are quite expensive, and have so many features that using them feels like drinking out of a fire hose. One of the simplest modeling programs to use (in my opinion) is Google Sketchup ( It doesn't have a lot of the features of some of the other modeling programs available, but it is more than sufficient for most models you will want to create. There is even a "3D Warehouse" full of Sketchup models available for download (

Only problem is, the free version does not export your model into a common format (like 3ds). So I figured out a way to do the conversion.

The first important piece of information I found, is that the .kmz file format is actually just a .zip file. If you export your sketchup model to "Google Earth 4 (*.kmz)", you can change the name of your file from filename.kmz to and look inside. You will find a model file in there, of the Collada "Digital Asset Exchange" format. It has the extension ".dae".

Once you have your .dae file, you will, of course need a converter to change it to a .3ds file. I found a free converter that will do this for you. It is called the FBX converter tool, on the Autodesk website.

You can download the windows version of the FBX converter from:
The program will install to the following location (unless you specify otherwise):
Program Files\Autodesk\FBX\FBXConverter\2006.11.2\FbxConverterUI.exe

I also saw Mac and Linux versions of the converter (I forgot to grab the links while I was there - you'll have to search the Autodesk site if you aren't running windows).

Now the FBX converter will convert your .dae file into a .fbx file. From there, the FBX converter will let you convert the .fbx file into a .3ds file.

This converter also supports a few other formats, so it could be pretty handy to have around.

Here is the process for converting from .skp to .3ds:

1) Download or create a .skp model in Sketchup
2) In Sketchup, export your model to "Google Earth 4 (*.kmz)
(note: be sure to choose version 4, because the other one is different)
3) Change the extention of the .kmz file to .zip
4) Pull out the .dae file
5) In FBX Converter, convert the .dae file to .fbx
6) In FBX Converter, convert the .fbx file to .3ds

The main problem with this conversion method is that the Autodesk FBX converter is often not able to convert many .dae files (possibly due to large poly counts) :'(.  Fortunately, I found another more complicated method which generally works for cases when the method above doesn't work.  I will outline this other method in my next post.

Another issue I sometimes have when converting models is the materials not being quite right.  When necessary, I use a free program called LithUnwrap ( to edit the materials.  Lithunwrap works great for this, but it does have a maximum number or polys it will load, so there are probably better programs out there for editing materials.

I made an applet that loads a .skp model I converted:
(Use the mouse to rotate the object)

You can get the source code at:
(In this demo applet, the .3ds file needs to be compiled into the jar)

And to show that I actually converted that model, here is the original Sketchup file:  8)

Method #2
(when the FBX Converter doesn't work)

I have found that the Collada importer for Blender is more compatible than the FBX converter for loading .dae files.  Blender is free, making it a good tool to use for converting Google Sketchup (free version) models into .3ds.

How to use this method:

1) Download Blender from and install it.  Pay attention to what version of Python it recommends that you download.

2) Download the correct version of Python from and install it.

3) If your version of Blender doesn't import .dae files, download the COLLADA plug-in for Blender from  Follow the included instructions for installing it.

4) If your version of Blender doesn't export .3ds files, download export_3ds2kex.txt from (requires a free registration).  Rename it to and copy it to the Blender scripts directory.

5) Follow my previous instructions for obtaining the .dae file.

6) Import the .dae file into Blender.

7) Export to .3ds.

Google Sketchup really is pretty easy to use, plus most anything I've looked for is in the warehouse in some form or another (might need to tweak, but it gets you started)

3d modeling is what has kept me from trying to do 3d games so far, but I've been using this for a few days now and already I am doing pretty good.  I was wondering about how to change it to .3ds though since I saw how jPCT doesn't support .skp, and now I know.


--- Quote from: neuropulse ---What SketchUp version are you using?

I ask because I am using 7 and there is no option for selecting the Google Earth version. It does not even show the version.

Also there is an option to export as .dae.  Can I just use that?and skip a step?
--- End quote ---

That simplifies things a bit :D

I need help. I try to open 3ds file in gmax, and it write: Improper file format.
What I need to do?


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