Peter Follansbee, SketchUp
Comments 4

A Chest of Drawers Using SketchUp Match Photo

A while back, I saw an intriguing piece of furniture on Peter Follansbee’s website. It was a photo of a chest of drawers at a museum somewhere, can’t remember where (see it here). I thought enough of the design that I began creating it in SketchUp. I did not have any dimensions of the original. “No problem,” I thought; I’ll just draw a quick, basic version of it on graph paper, determine the overall dimensions which look right; then create a close representation of it in SketchUp. But, I then lost interest in this idea.

Fortunately Peter built a version of the chest of drawers (hereafter referred as “COD”) and in one of his construction blog posts, he gave it’s rough dimensions. After Peter finished building it, I remembered a seldom used feature in SketchUp called “Match Photo.” I wondered if I could use Match Photo to create an accurate model. With a photo of the finished COD and the dimensions, Match Photo should be able to help me make a model, or could it and how hard would it be? Using this SketchUp feature led to the completed model shown above and below.

The reason for this post is to point out this seldom used feature within SketchUp. When I mention Match Photo, most people don’t know about it, have not used it, or have just a basic understanding of how it works.

Match photo is especially helpful when few dimensions are known. In a furniture design, some dimensions are not all that critical. For example, how far some of the moldings extend outward does not need to be exact, but should be close. Some dimensions are important for the overall scale and proportion. Match Photo helped be in both instances.

The Follansbee COD in SketchUp using Match Photo. Note the black lines of the SketchUp model.

What is Match Photo?

This feature enables the SketchUp user to import an image and then align the origin and three axis so they match the imported photo. With at least one known dimension, you can adjust the 3D field of view to be in scale with the object in the image. Above, note that the green, red and blue axis align with the COD. I then drew a basic box which represented the overall shape of the COD. This box is separate from the photo, but as you can see above, SketchUp blends the two within the workspace on your computer screen.

You can see that this was not a perfect match. Despite knowing approximate height and with of the COD, my 3D model is not quite as wide as Peter’s finished furniture. Match Photo is available in SketchUp Make 2017 and SketchUp Pro. I don’t think this feature is available in SketchUp for Web.

Once I had the overall size established and the COD image imported into SketchUp Match Photo, I could zero in on specific parts and determine their approximate size. For example, I first determined the width of the legs below the base molding. A close look at the photo above shows the black lines I drew on top of the photo which helped me determine size of the side panels and there are lines showing spacing in the upper cabinet. The process was to first draw the lines and then measure them. This was a great exercise to understand the abilities of Match Photo.

Front view.
Note the turned elements throughout the design.
As is typical with my SketchUp models, this one is fully detailed.
There are extensive moldings.
The drawers are an unusual design.

I studied photos from Peter’s website to better understand how the COD was built. Peter’s photo documentation during construction of this chest was extremely helpful in making my SketchUp model mostly accurate. I came away from this exercise with a better appreciation of Peter Follansbee as a woodworker of national importance. His blog is one which is always on my must read list.

More About Match Photo

See the video below and the link below for part 2…

Match Photo, Part One

See this link for the second video on Match Photo.

See my updated SketchUp model page by clicking here.

This entry was posted in: Peter Follansbee, SketchUp


During the week, I work in the flooring industry. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Bill Whitman says

    As usual, I always learn from your posts. Comprehension is slower though. This is an interesting and handsome piece although I would think more useful (although complicated) if drawers were split in the middle. In time, I would think moisture would become a huge enemy of easy operation. I think I will admire from afar.

    • My concern with the drawers is the cross grain orientation of the complex moldings on each drawer front. But the original has survived for decades so what do I know. 🙂

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