18 April 2009

SketchUp Saturday

Anyone who's ever stumbled upon this blog before knows that I am a very loud proponent of Google's modeling software, SketchUp. I have been working in it for more than a year and I've become pretty proficient. I never took a class, I just jumped in and figured it out by trial and error. But that's just how I operate and I realize that that's not the approach for everybody.

At the same time, I believe very firmly that anyone can learn to use this software. It's not just for designers and architects. SketchUp is a go-to solution for every space planning and visualization problem out there. In the hands of an expert, SketchUp can generate a set of plans a builder would use to construct a house. In the hands of the eventual owner of that house; he or she can use it to preview furniture plans, figure out where to put a garden, or decide which sofa to buy.

With all that said, I realize that diving into new software can be a daunting prospect for some people. I never bothered to look when I was in the early stages of learning SketchUp, but YouTube is full of SketchUp training videos. Here are the first three lessons that Google came up with themselves.

So there are the first three official videos from Google. Google being Google and the Internet being the Internet, YouTube is also full of very informative, user-generated how-to videos. YouTube is well-organized and you can work your way from novice to pro in a matter of days with these videos.

My friend Eric started producing his own training videos that are specific to kitchen designers and he finished another one yesterday. His videos are particularly well-produced and he has many more coming. As he builds his library though, you can take a look at what he's already produced by going to SketchUp Training Blog. Here's a preview of Eric's lesson on designing a kitchen with the help of Google's 3-D Warehouse.

See? It's no so daunting. Download a copy of SketchUp and start playing around with it. At the risk of sounding like a total geek, it's fun.


  1. Paul, how coincendental that you post this, as just the other day I came across it online (at least I think it was) however did not download it namely due to FEAR....smiles.
    In the mean time my Son loaned me a Program called 3D Home Architect/Version 9(Home Design Deluxe www.encoreusa.com)which he claims to be easy to work with and is fun as well.
    Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Guess I shall try both.

  2. Great work there with SU. While, I am not a SU user - I do work with 3D modeling quite a bit. If fact, it's probably about 50% of my work.

    Thanks for posting this.

  3. Hah! No decision necessary if you ask me. Google's SketchUp the only readily accessible (and free) modeling software that has actual manufacturers components and finishes in it. I tried playing around with one called Punch right before I came across SketchUp, and next to SketchUp, Punch is an unnecessarily complicated mess. SketchUp uses the same, intuitive shapes and controls to draw a whole house that it does to draw a drill bit or a car tire. I love to hear your take on them after you try both Brenda.

  4. Give it a shot SDS. I was an Auto Cad and 20/20 devotee when I found SU. SketchUp figures into at least half of the models I make any more. Interestingly enough, you can save a SketchUp model as a .dwg and import it into AutoCad. You can also import a .dwg or .pdf into SketchUp directly. SU lends itself to that kind of hybridization really easily.

  5. Paul. Yes, I've tried SU a little bit - but for my work, I use Chief Architect. I can import manufacturer specific sketchup models into my models.

    I was brought up on AutoCAD, but stopped using that 10 years ago after I found Chief....

    I also can export as a 3D dwg or dxf, also 3DS and others....while at the same time - I can produce an accurate model from which I can derive 'live' working drawings. I'm a Chief user now for 11 years.

    mrsben....3D home is similar to Chief. You can also look into Chief's home design software - just as easy to use, and fully capable of modeling with 2D detailing.
    Check that out here.

  6. I'd never heard of chief Architect until you mentioned it. It looks like a great program, but SketchUp has the advantage of being free. There's a $495 pro version of SketchUp and the only difference between the free version and the pro version is that Pro has the ability to produce full-size, dimensioned building plans. The free version scales and measures with pinpoint accuracy and has full access to the gazillion items in the 3-D warehouse. SketchUp's a general purpose modeling software and it draws houses as easily as it draws clock works. I have drank the Kool Aid in a big way on this one!

  7. I tried Sketchup and was able to do quite a bit quickly, but I got quite frustrated at not being able to figure out how to snap my objects to axes. I know I could figure it out with enough time, but a few training videos later, I still didn't have my answer so I put it on hold. I don't have any compelling 3d experience though -- just a 20/20 class once upon a time. I decided to give Chief Architect a whirl -- I downloaded it this week but I haven't tried it yet. We'll see.

  8. Rachele, That's funny you should mention snapping. That was always one of my frustrations too. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to snap something to a line or a wall. The secret is in SketchUp's inferential geometry. That's a complicated-sounding but really simple idea that underlies SketchUp. It's all a matter of how you grab something. All it took to figure it out was to see it done once. It was a real Aha moment that had me kicking myself afterward for not seeing it on my own. My friend Eric put this video together that explains it really well. http://sketchup.idc-industries.com/2009/03/placing-cabinets.html


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