The scale tool is a great function in Sketchup, allowing quick resizing of objects while retaining proportions. Most of us use the scale tool on groups and components, but you can also scale anything in Sketchup, including any number of entities in a selection.
The Scale Tool
The most common way to manipulate shapes in Sketchup is to use the push/pull tool. By extruding faces, your model can start to take shape fairly quickly. But what if you wanted to stretch out something proportionally without having to manually place each object?
That’s where the Scale Tool comes in.
To use the Scale Tool, pre-select the object or objects you’d like to scale, then press (S) to activate the scale tool. You’ll notice a yellow box appears around the objects you selected and a bunch of green “handles” that you can click and drag to resize your object. Try dragging the different handles to learn the basic functions of the scale tool, then try some of these tricks.
If you are used to working in a 2D program like AutoCAD or if you’ve ever used Photoshop, you probably understand the basic principles behind using layers. Most people start using Sketchup expecting layers to perform the same way, but quickly find out this is not the case. This article will help you understand how layers work in Sketchup, and also show you why groups & components may be a better way to organize your model.
I should use Layers, right?
When modeling, there are two main things you want to have control over: Organizing the structure, and toggling the visibility of the different entities in your model.
Structural organization in Sketchup is handled using Groups, Components and the Outliner window. Groups and components allow you to take any number of edges and faces and place them in an imaginary protective “shell”. This shell allows you to move and manipulate a collection of entities at the same time, and the contents of a group or component become protected from other entities outside of their group.
Traditionally, the term “layers” is used in 2D programs for both structural and visual organization. You can turn layers on or off to control visibility, but they also provide a way to separate objects from each other by assigning them to separate layers. So naturally, when someone comes into Sketchup for the first time, they expect Sketchup layers to behave the same way. Layers actually have a very specific purpose in Sketchup, but it has no effect on the STRUCTURE of your model.
Whenever you start a new Sketchup model, you make decisions about the level of detail (whether consciously or sub-consciously). What drives those decisions is usually a combination of the size of your model, the amount of time you have to create the model, and the overall purpose of your model. In this article, we’ll look at a Rubik’s Cube and a couple of different approaches to modeling one.
Rubik’s Cube Level of Detail
A Rubik’s Cube is a clever puzzle, popularized in the 80′s, that consist’s of 26 colored cubes that are interlocked with each other. You can rotate each of the 6 faces of the cube to rearrange the individual colors. Once scrambled, the point is to arrange the cubes so that each face of the cube has a unique color on it.
I thought it would be cool to model a Rubik’s cube in Sketchup, and it struck me that there were a number of different ways I could approach the project. They would all technically be a Rubik’s Cube, but the amount of detail put into each model would vary greatly.
With any Sketchup model, the objective is to create a digital representation of something that effectively communicates our ideas. In order to evaluate whether or not we are successful in our objective, we need to first define what it is exactly we are trying to communicate.
Creating accurate models in Sketchup is so easy with the built in Sketchup Inference System. You might not even notice it, but Sketchup will lock references to different points and lines in your model to help you align your geometry. In this post, you’ll not only learn the basics of the Sketchup inference system, but you’ll learn some advanced techniques for using the inference system as well.
What is the Inference System
It’s not something you can configure, or turn on and off. It’s a core part of the functionality of Sketchup that makes the program so easy to use. Learning how to use and interact with it is really easy. Learn a few of these tricks and take full advantage of the robust inference system built into Sketchup.
The inference system is basically a system that locks your cursor in inference to any point, edge, axis, face, guide or imaginary line.
Are you a Sketchup noob, looking to jump right in and start creating amazing 3D models? Before you skim over the help menu or spend hours watching video tutorials, learn these few tips and you’ll be modeling in no time.
Sketchup: No Instructions Needed
Most people know that Sketchup has the reputation of being the easiest way to learn 3D modeling. So easy, in fact, that a lot of people (including myself) jump right in without reading any sort of manual or help file and try to start modeling. We just choose a tool by looking at the icon and guessing at what it actually does.
Hmmm, this rectangle looking thing must create a rectangle… Clicking on the screen, you quickly discover how to draw something. Woo hoo! You then click on the button with the red arrow on it (push/pull) and extrude your first 3D shape in Sketchup…
To be able to jump right into a program like this and actually be successful at creating something is an incredible accomplishment for the developers who create and maintain Sketchup. But I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people out there who start out with Sketchup, but never take the next step and learn a few tricks that keep them on the right track. They quickly become frustrated when things don’t act the way we expect them to in Sketchup. We learn bad habits, or we spend so much time doing things that are actually really simple once you know a few tips.
Sketchup recently released a brand new STL exporter plugin at Basecamp 2012. It is a free plugin, and is useful for people who need to convert their Sketchup file into the more universal STL file type. In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through the steps to installing a plugin in Sketchup.
For a quick install, it’s as simple as this:
- Download the latest Sketchup STL plugin
- Remember what folder you downloaded the file to, or copy the file to your desktop temporarily. Open up Sketchup
- Go to
WINDOW --> PREFERENCES --> EXTENSIONS
- Click Install extensions
- Select the file you just downloaded
- Done! You’ll find a new option in the
FILEmenu labeled “Export STL”
Sketchup’s Open Source Projects on GitHub
Sketchup is hosting the STL plugin on GitHub. GitHub is a place where you can host programming scripts in order to collaborate with others. The STL plugin is Open Source, meaning it is a project that invites anyone to contribute to its development. If you’re not familiar with GitHub, it can be a little confusing at first glance is you’re just looking to download the plugin. I’ll walk you through each step.
I’d like to talk a little bit about GitHub, and the Sketchup repository over there. If you’re looking to just download and install the exporter, skip down to Step 1.
You can find the main GitHub Sketchup repository at https://github.com/SketchUp. This is where all of the official Sketchup Open Source projects are hosted. Currently, there are two projects; Sketchup-STL and Sketchup-developer-tools.
On the Sketchup-STL project page, you’ll see a number of files such as LICENSE, NOTICE, README.md, etc. This is the area for programmers that are contributing to the development of the script. It keeps a log of the updates that are made to the files. You don’t really need to pay attention to this, although it’s fun to poke around and look at the actual programming code that makes all this stuff work. What you want to do is download the latest release of the plugin.
After coming back from the Maker Faire in NY, one thing that really surprised me was how popular 3D printing is becoming. These days, you can purchase a 3D printer for under a thousand dollars and actually print out a real object from your digital model. I’ve been learning a little bit about 3D printing at the AS220 labs, but I have yet to purchase my own 3D printer. Regardless, I wanted to show you how easy it is to use Sketchup to create a simple bracket that you can print out on a 3D printer.
Rapid Desktop Prototyping
While at the Maker Faire, I had the honor of meeting many of the Trimble team members who develop Sketchup. They had a few 3D printers set up at their tent so they could show people how you could model something in Sketchup, then print it out instantly on the 3D printer. At one point they were presented with an engineering challenge.
The man in charge of connecting everybody with Wifi at the faire had a problem. He was looking to mount a piece of hardware to a round pole and looked to the Sketchup guys to come up with a solution. They were able to model something quickly in Sketchup, and print it out for him so he could mount the gear to the pole. The first prototype actually snapped during a stress test, so they just made some modifications to the design and printed out another one. How cool is that?
Creating a simple bracket in Sketchup is easy. In this tutorial, we’ll model a base plate with two arms. Now, unfortunately, I don’t have a 3D printer so I won’t be printing this out. I know, that’s lame. But you can use the same concepts in the design of this bracket to make any custom bracket for your needs.
Sketchup Tutorial – Custom Bracket
Draw the Base
Starting with the Rectangle Tool (R), Click once to start the rectangle, then move the mouse out and click again to finish the rectangle. To specify a precise dimension, type in
Remember, you can also type in your dimensions right after your first click when you start the rectangle. It’s your choice. I like to do it after because sometimes I’ll accidentally move my mouse as I’m typing in a number and it will clear whatever I just typed in.
Extrude the Base
Using the Push/Pull Tool (P), extrude the rectangle into a 3D object. Click once on the surface of the rectangle to start, then pull up. Click again to finish. Type in
ENTERto specify the height at 1/4″.
Learning how to effectively use groups is one of the most important things you should know about Sketchup. The Outliner provides a way for you to keep track of all the groups you have made in the model by assigning a name to them, and viewing the hierarchy of how they are organized.
Groups provide organization
If you are making any type of complex model in Sketchup, you should be using groups to separate the parts of your model. Not only does grouping quarantine geometry from the rest of the model, but it also allows you to hide other parts of the model you aren’t currently working on, increasing your processing speed.
Components are very similar to groups, except that each instance of a component is an exact replica of one another. If any changes are made to one component, all copies of that component reflect those changes as well. Groups are independent from one another, meaning that once you’ve created a copy, you can edit one of them and the changes do not affect the other instances of that similar group. Each one is independent from the next.
For the sake of this article, we will be talking mostly about groups, but you should understand the differences between the two. However, the bounding box system acts the same whether it is a component or a group, so I don’t need to differentiate between the two in this context.
Groups – A collection of faces and edges within a model that are isolated from other parts of the model.
- Anything protected in a group cannot by affected by any geometry outside of that group.
- To manipulate faces or edges within a group, or to add geometry to a group, that group must first be “activated” by double clicking on it.
- If you draw a shape on something that is in a group, it won’t “stick” to the object unless you open the group first.
- Groups can contain “loose geometry”, guides, section planes, dimensions, text, or other groups.
- Groups can be manipulated as an assembly. (Move, rotate, scale, paint, copy, etc)
- Groups have their own independent 3-axis from the rest of the model, and it can be reoriented
- Copies of groups are independent from one another. Once a copy is made, any changes made to one instance of that group do NOT affect the other copies of that group.
Components – Similar to groups, except that each copy of a component remains identical to its original. Any changes made to an instance of a component are automatically reflected to each instance of that component.
- If you want to make an instance of a component unique from its counterparts, you can right click it, and select “Make Unique”.
Most of us know about the 3D warehouse, where you can upload your Sketchup models and share them with the world. But what if you wanted to upload you models not so other people could download them, but so they could interact with your model right from their browser?
Showcase your 3D models with Sketchfab
If you noticed in my last post, I had embedded a model of a house I built in Sketchup. The cool thing was that you could actually interact with the model by orbiting and zooming around. And it works REALLY well.
How did I do this? I uploaded my model to my account on Sketchfab. Once you upload, your model will show up on your dashboard, and you can copy and paste the embed code onto any website. The great part is that the end user does not need to download any special plugins. Since Sketchfab is built on WebGL technology, they only need to have a modern browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Sketchfab embed example:
Here’s the new Iphone 5, as modeled by Mestaty. Just click and drag the model to orbit. Scroll to zoom, and middle mouse button click to pan.
Sketchfab offers a free account that allows you to upload 10 models. For about $12/mo, you can upgrade to Pro and Sketchfab will host up to 100 models for you. The thing I really like about Sketchfab is how simple it is to use. Everything just works!
How to upload your model to Sketchfab
- Create an account on Sketchfab Go to Sketchfab and create your own account. Currently, you can login with your existing Twitter or Google account, making the setup that much easier. (I used my Google Account to login with. It’s nice because as long as you’re logged in under your Google account, you’ll never have to fill out a username and password when you go to Sketchfab.)
- Download the Sketchup Exporter/Uploader Sketchfab has an Uploader plugin for Sketchup, thanks to a Sketchfab fan, Alex Schreyer. This makes it very easy to upload your model to your Sketchfab account right from the file menu in Sketchup.
If you have Sketchup Pro, you have Layout. It’s the companion software package for Sketchup that helps you prepare your model in 2D perspective views for printing out on paper. One of the most common tasks you’ll have to do for Layout is prepare your model for importing. It’s easy, and it’s best to spend a little more time in Sketchup to configure your scenes before you even open Layout.
Prepare Scenes in Sketchup FIRST, then import into Layout
Layout does have some built in camera tools, allowing you to “open” your imported Sketchup model right from Layout and orbit the model. But you just don’t have as much control as you do from Sketchup. So as you’re planning out your Layout document, think about what types of views you’ll want to get, then open your model in Sketchup to find those views and save them as scenes.
When you are using Sketchup for architecture or construction, you’ll find there are many views you need to capture from each model. Make sure you label each scene as you create it so you can reference the name when selecting it in Layout. These are some typical views I like to configure, then save as scenes in Sketchup.
- Modeling View – This is just a scene to save my default modeling settings. As you start configuring your other scenes, you’ll want to go back to modeling and this scene will get you back there fast.
- Top View – Bird’s eye view from directly over head. You can just select the preset top view button in Sketchup. Don’t worry if the view is not rotated correctly. You can easily rotate it in Layout.
- Perspective View – I like to put a nice 3D “Sketchy” perspective view right on the front page of the drawings. I usually crank the field of view up to 60 to get a nice perspective view.
(Camera --> Field of View --> 60)
- Elevation views – Most of the pages will be elevation views. (Elevation views are the perspectives as if you are standing directly in front of something, looking straight at it.) You’ll typically have multiple elevations in a drawing set.