How to Add a Sky to Google Earth

James Stafford, better known at the Google Earth Community as “Barnabu”, has written a cool post on creating a 3D sky for Google Earth at the Barnabu blog. He calls it a “skydome”. He basically created a half-sphere (or hemisphere) using Google SketchUp, and then adds a properly projected sky full of clouds to the inside of the 3D model. He took one of his 3D models, the Turning Torso building, and created a video showing how it looks inside SketchUp. Watch it here:

I took this one step further. I loaded his Turning Torso building , and then loaded his example skydome in SketchUp. Then, I imported my current view from Google Earth (simply select “Tools->Google Earth->Get Current View“). Next I simply outputted the skydome back to Google Earth (by selecting “Tools->Google Earth->Place Model“). Note: there are also two icons in the tool bar of SketchUp which make this easy.
[UPDATE June 25: Check out the GE Sky Part II for an even better solution.]
You can see the results by loading this skydome model which will show the sky model and, if you already loaded it, the Turning Torso building inside Google Earth. Only now you have a sky around the building. You can edit the properties inside Google Earth of the skydome “Model” and drag and move your sky to a new location. You can even change the size as well. You can look up at the sky if you have a SpaceNavigator. The Barnabu’s story explains how you can add different sky images to the dome using SketchUp. Thanks Barnabu!

Other cool things by ‘barnabu’:

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Lauren Steely says:

    Very cool. Now surely there must be a way to set up a network link that sends your current location and returns a skydome placed right above you.

  2. Lauren Steely says:

    Also, I believe the ability to look up at the sky is a new ability in version 4. It used to snap you back down to the horizon when you let go of the Space Navigator.

  3. Lauren, you’re right. The ability to look up and have the view remain looking up is new to GE 4.1. It also fixed the bug where you looked straight up (the sky would go gray before 4.1).

  4. Wow, it’s cool that someone figured this out too. I had experimented with the same idea a while back — but for whatever reason couldn’t quite get it to load efficiently on my end. But that could also be that my machines could use some updating. :*(

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