Tips & Tricks

If it took five steps to create a rectangle in Sketchup, I don’t think anyone would use the program. In general, Sketchup is a great performer. It’s fast, and it allows you to do more drawing and less “figuring out how to draw.” But what about when you are pushing it to the limits? What are some things you can do to make Sketchup run faster? And what are things you can learn that will make it easier to create in Sketchup? These tutorials reveal some of the best tips & tricks you can use to make a better model.


Materials are what allow you to apply an image to the surfaces in your model. Here are some tricks for working with materials in SketchUp. SketchUp Materials & Textures If you’ve ever used the Paint Bucket tool (B) in SketchUp, …

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The freedom and flexibility of the various tools in SketchUp are what make it so awesome for modeling. The tools don’t hinder the creative process, and they give you many different ways to manipulate objects. In this article, I’ll go …

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Do you feel like you’ve missed out on the SketchUp 3D Basecamp 2014? I’ve just returned from teaching my first live class at Basecamp, and in this article you’ll learn some of the tips I’ve picked up from the best SketchUp gurus in the world.

If you’re a SketchUp geek like me, 3D Basecamp is the place to be. It is held on a bi-annual basis, and you’ll find some of the best SketchUp users in the world at the conference.

During the opening presentation by John Bacus, SketchUp Product Manager, we learned about the new SketchUp model viewer for the ipad, available here, a new Ruby Debugger plugin, and an extension that can process 3D point cloud data from Trimble 3D scanners.

The conference is made up of a number of presentations and instructional sessions, including some hands-on classes as well. I had the honor of being asked to teach an “Introduction to LayOut” 3-hour class, based on my book, SketchUp to LayOut. It was the first time I had taught live, in person, to a large audience. I was nervous at first, but once I started, everything just fell into place.

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Have you ever been confused about the differences between Smooth, Soft and Hidden Edges? So have I! This article will give you a complete explanation of each edge type, and some examples of places to use them.

Sketchup Edges

An edge is any line segment in Sketchup. It can exist as a single element in a model, or it can be connected to other edges at intersecting points. When you have at least three edges connecting on the same plane, you can have a face. These are the core building blocks of every model in Sketchup.

Everything in Sketchup is either an edge or a face (Except for extra stuff like construction guides, floating text, dimensions, etc). I’m just talking about the geometry here. Even circles and arcs are actually made up of segmented lines (edges). There are no curved surfaces in Sketchup. But Sketchup does provide a few clever tools to give the illusion of a curved or smooth surface.

An edge can be in either one of three states

  1. Visible – This is the regular state of every edge. Self explanitory.
  2. Hidden – You can’t see the edge, and no edge styles will be applied to it while hidden.
  3. Soft – Same as Hidden, but adjoining faces will be selected as one

(If an edge is selected to be both Hidden and Soft, it will act as if it’s soft.)


But what about Smooth?? Smoothing technically doesn’t do anything to the edge, it affects the appearance of faces that are connected to the edge. We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

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I am new to the world of 3D printing. So in this guest article, you’ll hear from expert 3D printer/designer Marcus Ritland from Denali 3D Design. He shares some tips to help you create amazing 3D printed models by designing them in Sketchup.

3D Printing

3D printing is awesome – we can all agree on that. You send a 3D computer model to a machine and out comes a finished part, ready to use as an end product or as a prototype before mass manufacturing. With the rise of personal 3D printers like the Makerbot Replicator 2, and 3D print services like Shapeways and Ponoko, nearly everyone has access to this technology.

But how does one get started making awesome models for 3D printing? Its one thing to make a model look good on the screen, but quite another to make a model that looks good and actually works in real life. The process of modeling for 3D printing is much the same as 3D modeling anything else, but with a few specific requirements. Here are some common problems that I see beginners struggling with and how to address them.

Tips for modeling in Sketchup

  1. Make your model “Solid” in Sketchup to be 3D Printable
  2. Models must be “Solid” to be 3D printable. This is by far the most common problem beginners have when modeling for 3D printing. Here are some examples of Solid Sketchup models.

    Solid, sometimes called “watertight” or “manifold” simply means the model is a complete enclosure. If you were to fill it with water, none would drain out, and the model must not have any extra lines or faces. If you make your object into a group or component, Sketchup will indicate when its solid in the Entity Info dialog box (Window > Entity Info).

    Another way to define solid: Every edge in your model must be bordered by exactly two faces. If an edge has less than two faces bordering it, there is an adjacent hole, and if there are more than two faces touching an edge, there is an extra face that needs to be deleted.

    The most common errors (and the corresponding solutions) are:

    • Stray edges (just delete them)
    • Holes (trace an edge to fill them)
    • Internal faces (delete them)


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I am currently in Boulder, CO attending my first ever Basecamp conference. We just finished the first day of the conference, and I wanted to give a run down on what happened at today’s events, and share some of the announcements made at today’s session.

Trimble remains committed to the Sketchup community


Ever since the acquisition of Sketchup by Trimble, there has been a ton of speculation over what their intentions were in taking over the software. Today, we got to hear from Sketchup Product Management Director John Bacus and Trimble Vice President Bryn Fosburgh about the acquisition and their plans for Sketchup.

One thing is very clear. Trimble remains committed to the Sketchup community and plans to continue offering a free version of Sketchup. However, there were some hints that in the future there may be greater differences in the functionality of the free version when compared to the Pro version. But don’t expect any major changes any time soon.

Trimble plans on continuing to develop Sketchup as a leading 3D modeling program, with more attention given to the architectural community. But at the same time, they want to expand upon their existing support platform enabling third party developers to create specialized plugins and extensions. They also plan on using Sketchup as a platform for their existing specialized 3D modeling software packages, as well as allowing Trimble to expand into additional markets with other specialized 3D modeling software.

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Usually, I’ll create step by step videos showing how to do something in Sketchup. This time, I thought it would be cool to just record my screen as I created a small addition using Sketchup. It was entirely unplanned, so you’ll see some things I tripped up on, but in general you’ll learn a little bit about the methods I use when creating residential structures in Sketchup.

How to build a (real) house in Sketchup

When most people start out with Sketchup, they usually begin by building a house. They start with a rectangle, push/pull it up, add a ridge and move it up to make a roof. Then they might add some windows and doors to make it look more realistic. But what if you wanted to build a structure in real life? I hollow box isn’t really going to provide you with any real valuable information. In this case, you can use Sketchup to build a house in the same way you’d build it in real life; one board at a time.

I wanted to create a video that showed you exactly how I would approach a project like this in Sketchup. I hit record, and just started building. I didn’t hit pause when I made a mistake, I just went with it. I wanted to show you where I tripped up. And I hope you can give me some tips on how to improve as well! I’m always interested in hearing about different ways people do things in Sketchup. You can view the video at the bottom of this post.

Now remember, just because you have a scalpel, it doesn’t make you a brain surgeon. The same applies here. Just because you have the tool to build it, doesn’t mean you understand all the building codes required in your area. Always consult with a professional when designing any construction project.

Click the model below to navigate the model in 3D right in your Browser. Create your own account at Sketchfab to upload your own models.

7 tips for drawing Residential Framing

  1. Create the “ground” first

    Before you do anything, (yes, even before you delete Susan), create a rectangle from the origin. Make it about twice as big as your expected working area, and turn it into a group. You don’t need to push/pull it or anything. It’s just there to help you navigate easier. It provides a flat reference point for using the tape measure tool and it keeps you from accidentally zooming in past your model.

    Have you ever been zooming in to a small detail on your model, and accidentally moved your mouse pointer off of the detail and zoomed WAY past it and gotten all screwed up? Having a “floor” in place will prevent some of that from happening. Sketchup zooms progressively based off of what you’re mouse pointer is hovering over. The closer the camera is to the object your mouse is over, the slower the zoom increment. The further away the object is, the faster the zoom rate. So by having a false floor group directly behind where you’re most commonly zooming, it will prevent some of those accidental zoom spikes.

  2. Make a flat floor plan for reference

    If you have some fixed dimensions you’re working with, now is a great time to just create a 2D floor plan (separate from the rectangle we made in tip #1). I like to create a rectangle of the largest dimension I’ll need, then “cut out” the other dimensions from that. Use the tape measure tool to create reference points and intersections. Then use the line tool to draw where the walls are. Save this floor plan as a group. Then, build your floor structure on top of this floor plan, using your lines and dimensions as reference points.


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Sketchup can be categorized as a communication tool. It allows people to take their ideas and communicate them to others in the form of a visual model. Sometimes I struggle with how to share my models with other people in a way that communicates exactly what I want to show them. In this post, I will show you how to take 2D screenshots of your Sketchup model using a free program called ScreenHunter.

Exporting a Sketchup Model as a 2D Image

Sketchup image
Even though Sketchup is a 3D modeling tool, sometimes we just want to export a 2D image of our model to share with other people. It’s a quick way to show someone a part of your model. It’s great if you are working on a design for a client, or if you are collaborating on a project with a team. An image allows you to isolate a specific part of your model and capture a perspective that you can share with your partners and discuss.

Why create a 2D image of a 3D model?

  • You can share your model with people who don’t have Sketchup, or don’t know how to use it.
  • Viewing an image of a model on a mobile device is easier, and uses less bandwidth
  • Posting to forums and social sites like Facebook is easy
  • It gives you the control to deliver a specific perspective view of your model
  • It eliminates people from looking at other parts of your model that weren’t drawn to scale, or were intentionally inaccurate to save time

Sketchup has a built in 2D export utility, but there is a better way! I like to use ScreenHunter, by Wisdom Software (ScreenHunter info from Wisdom Software ). It’s a Windows program, sorry Mac users.

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Sketchup has always been known as an easy to use 3D modeling tool. With its intuitive interface, it has claimed the motto “3D modeling for everyone.” With the recent acquisition of Sketchup by Trimble, Sketchup is no longer under the Google umbrella. Many people have wondered why Google sold it. But to answer that question, you must first understand why Google bought it in the first place.

Google’s quest to model the world

Google has an ongoing, ambitious goal of mapping the world. This vision is delivered via Google Maps, and Google Earth. The two programs share many similarities in the way they show maps and satellite imagery. While I don’t want to go into great detail about the features and differences between the two programs, the main distinction is that Google Maps is a web based application, and Google Earth is a program that gets installed on your computer.

In 2004, Google announced that it had acquired Keyhole Corp, a digital mapping company. The technology from Keyhole is what became the beginning of Google Earth and Google Maps.

Fun Fact – If you go to www.keyhole.com, it refreshes to the Google Earth website.

Google Earth started out as a 3D model of the globe, with 2D satellite imagery pasted continuously on the surface. Even though there was some terrain data integrated into the 3D part of Google Earth, the images were still pasted flat to the surface. Therefore, if you were to fly over a city, all the tall buildings and land features would appear flat on the ground.

3D buildings in Google Earth


In 2005, Google started to extrude the outlines of buildings in order to create a rough 3D model. There were no textures applied, and a lot of the building details were lost. All the buildings had the same grey looking surface. It lacked realism.

Google realized they would need to do something else in order to take their 3D model of the world to the next level. At the time, the only way to create a realistic model of a building was to manually create each one. It would cost way too much to hire people to create all these models, so instead Google looked to the community to create the models for them.

Enter Sketchup.

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If you’re a carpenter or contractor, you’ve probably heard of Fine Homebuilding. It’s one of leading magazines for residential construction professionals. I had a subscription for many years when I had my own construction company. The thing I loved about the magazine was each issue was packed with real tips on how to approach real carpentry challenges.

They go beyond the basic stuff you’d typically find in a DIY type magazine, and they teach you not only the best way to do something, but WHY it’s the best way to do it. Matt Jackson is the Sketchup guru over at Fine Homebuilding, where he publishes video tutorials and articles on how to use Sketchup to design and plan construction projects.

The Digital Jobsite Blog

Matt runs the Sketchup blog over at Fine Homebuilding, appropriately named “The Digital Jobsite Blog.” And with a tagline “Where the boards are straight, the weather’s great, and there really IS a board stretcher!” it describes the Sketchup workspace perfectly. (For those of you who are not carpenters, it’s the #1 all time favorite prank to pull on the “new kid” on the jobsite to tell them to go fetch the “board stretcher”. Which usually leads the poor lad on a wild goose chase asking everyone where the board stretcher is, until he realizes there’s no such thing!) Yes, I fell for that one on my first day too!

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