App review – SketchUp

Let’s take a trip down memory lane back to your kindergarten days. Do you remember playing with Plasticine? Do you remember modelling whatever form your mind thought of? How easy was it to do that?

Now let’s come back to our current time. How many times have you had this amazing form idea and even sketched it all out? With all the parabolas and curves? With all the crazy twists and turns that you can envision? I would like to think that this has happened almost all the time. My final question is, how easy was it for you to create that form using the CAD or Particular software that you use?

If your answer is not ‘EASY’ then we are about to change that …… Introducing SketchUp.

I first stumbled on SketchUp 3 years ago when working on a tented camp project. The headache that we had was modelling the curves of the fabric tents using normal CAD software. SketchUp provided a solution for that problem in such a simple manner.

SketchUp is the one software that I have found gives you complete freedom to model whatever form you would like with a very simple process. Think of it as sketching on your computer screen. Please note that I am not saying that it is the only software that can do free from modelling. I am highlighting the fact that it can do so in such an easy way without the tedious processes and dialog boxes.

Owned by Trimble, a California based company. It is a 3d modelling platform that can be used in any thinkable field, from engineering to aviation to video gaming to automobiles to cinematic use.

So what really makes SketchUp the standout that it is?

For starters it is easy to learn. You can learn how to use the program from a short videos within the program itself. You do not need Youtube tutorials or pointers from another user. For any first timer, you will notice the instructor tray pop to the right of your screen with short videos on how to use the tools. Use of short simple videos instead of text makes it easier to understand the application. The video plays in a window within the tray and thus you can actually follow the video and do the exact same thing on the working space window. Sort of a practical guide on how to use the program.

                                                                                              Image showing the Instructor tray to the right

Once you’ve got the basics the next thing that I find attractive about this program is the simple toolbars that are do not scare you with a million buttons and constant popping up dialog boxes. A rather friendly UI. You can actually customize the toolbars that you would like to appear in your window depending on what you are working on at the moment. I’ve found that two toolbars, that large toolset box and the VRAY toolbars are probably all you need for your modelling works. Yes, it does have a VRAY plugin that works well with your rendering needs and gives some really good images and videos. The large tool set is basically all the programs smaller toolbars put into one. You can actually see both tollboxes on the image above.

If you’ve been doing 3d modelling and rendering then you are aware of the advantage that VRAY rendering gives you. For any first timer on this programme, the VRAY plug-in will have you making SketchUp your primary working software. VRAY is a rendering engine that enhances the quality of images and videos by working on the lighting, shadows, reduction of noise and fine tuning the grains in the image to give you a life-like image or video.

Another big win for the guys over at Trimble is the 3D warehouse. This is an online collection of models previously done by other users. Think of it as your library of objects for use that simply goes beyond what came with the programme. Why is this unique you may wonder? First of all you can choose to create your own unique object or simply sample one of the thousands of items that have been modeled over the years. Users have been creating models for items as basic as cups to items as complex as military tanks and stealth jets for years. You can choose to apply the object as it is to your work or even customize or even add more detail to it. This is probably the biggest object library you will find on the internet. It is growing each day.

Screenshot (32)
Image showing the 3D warehouse

You probably think that SketchUp is a modelling and rendering tool only. If you’re making a model of a house and that particular house will be constructed, you’ll probably need to make layouts for production and approval to send to the contractor. SketchUp has an internal plug-in called Layout that takes your model and creates the various layouts that you might need. SketchUp therefore moves beyond the border of just being a modelling tool, it is the complete package. You can customize the required layouts as you wish. You can detail, do blow-ups, highlight sections, door schedules for fittings and finishes. It simply is the whole package.

SketchUp is also a BIM tool. Trimble are majorly known for their GPS system, their laser rangefinders, Drones, navigation services and mapping systems. They have taken the SketchUp platform and incorporated into their mapping systems and Google earth and in doing so allow you to place your model on its exact proposed location on the planet to give you an exact feel of how it will interact with the environment. How the structure will react to the weather elements on that particular part of the globe. Items such as the sun, wind, rain and even any weather patterns such as floods that you need to plan for. This in whole gives you a complete proper understanding of how your proposed structure will react and what you need to make it adaptable to the area you intend to have the structure located.

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Image showing a model placed in its exact location on Google earth

And for the really big projects, you can work via cloud. That is, multiple people working on the same project file even while maybe on different continents. Changes made apply throughout, including the layouts created.

SketchUp works on the simplest of machines and does not require any heavy specifications. It runs on any windows 7 OS upwards and any iOs x 10 upwards.

Whatever crazy idea you might have right now, SketchUp is my best recommendation to see it come to fruition. Your idea does not have to change because you can’t convert your hand sketches to a digital file. SketchUp helps you see the model in higher clarity and even make it more intriguing. I guarantee you that you will be asking yourself where SketchUp was all your life.


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