I’ve been using Google SketchUp recently and I’m really impressed with how easy it is to use. It also produces great render image for illustrating building projects.
We’re moving house soon, fingers crossed. The license is finally here and the now builder is cracking on with the works. It’s a long, long story… But now finally a year after we bought the place we can really start to wonder what it might be like to live there.
My wife Ruth and I differ in our approaches to planning the arrangement of our furniture. I’m a measuring type of person, I hate having to guess or make assumptions until I’ve measured it. Ruth is more of a visual, “It’ll fit, don’t worry” person. This leads to some amusing disagreements that often end in me threatening to take out the tape measure and Ruth saying that I should show a bit more faith.
So to try and keep both of us happy I’ve been drawing up plans and Ruth has been penciling in the layouts. We’ve got a great idea for some shelves that I needed to communicate to the builder so instead of spending hours with plans and elevations I thought I’d give SketchUp a go.
It’s fantastic. It’s a simple as that. It’s been years since I’ve done any architectural 3d stuff and I couldn’t believe just how fast and easy it was to get a quick plan in and flesh it out into three dimensions. If only it had existed decades ago when I used to slug away at my powerMac with Archicad version 1. How many months of my life would I have back…
One of the best features is a special rendering mode called “Xray” that is a combination of wireframe and hidden line that is perfect for showing the construction of furniture or anything else for that matter. Perfect for showing the builder just how I want the shelves built.
One thing I learnt very early on was that to build complex models and to make your life easier you need to use two main features.
The first is layers. SketchUp can have as many layers as you want, different types of objects can be put on their own layers that can be turned off or on as needed. This really helps to reduce clutter when you’re drawing and can also be helpful when you’re setting up different shots for rendering. Eg I have a layer just for dimensions and another for furniture and one more for walls and floors.
The second really useful feature is components. Components are groups of geometry that can be replicated throughout the scene. The difference between normal groups and components is that all the duplicate components in a scene share the same geometry data, whereas groups do not. This means that if you update the component, add more detail or change the colour then all the copies get updated too. This is great for managing multiple copies of the same object that you might want to use in a scene, eg doors or windows, chairs etc. Another great thing is that components can load their data from external files which means you can build all your complex objects in their own sketchUp files where they are easy to manage and edit then load them into an other file for creating your scene. Components can also contain other components which can be handy too.
The cool thing about components being loaded from external files is that you can share them and lots of common objects are already available for download from the warehouse. A quick search for IKEA returned 100’s of results. You have to be careful though as some models are built better than others and some are built too well, containing every tiny detail, so you have to keep an eye on things. I’ve now built a bunch of object from around our house so I can see how they fit in our new apartment. Some of them were reasonably complex objects, so building them on their own as a component makes it a lot easier to keep track of everything.
Any way enough talk. It’s free. Go and download it.
Here’s a few of my models.