Newest Review: ... you are able to create is also very straight-forward. Icons are there within the interface: 'Orbit' allows you to twist around where you ... more
Member Name: bilbobaginz
Advantages: Loads of actions available, simple, easy, unlimited! 3D warehouse!
Disadvantages: Can bodge on occasion!
Google SketchUp is 3D design software. This review is about using SketchUp in a professional manner, for the purpose of demonstrating internal/external layouts, colour schemes, materials, locations, and ultimately for helping to produce realistic renders of buildings. Clients and planning authorities are the target, for these are the people who need to know what a building will look like before it has been the constructed. Sketchup is free, easy to use, and contains all the tools necessary to be utilised in a proper Architectural practice. I have hence been using it regularly on my placement at an office in Newark to produce 3D mock-ups of various projects - large and small - before uploading snap-shots into a program called Shaderlight (rendering software) and making them look real!
Where to begin? Sketchup is extremely simple and easy to use. When you load it up, you are greeted by a colourful interface of memorable and eventually recognisable icons which when pressed perform different actions. As you would expect, there are icons for drawing lines, producing shapes, colouring objects, measuring dimensions, and creating text. But there are also icons for moving, extending, pushing, pulling, and generally altering things you have already created. The software has a level of understanding - guessing (almost) the places you want to draw things by snapping to edges of existing lines and highlighting parallel pathways - and the understanding (though irritating at times) seems natural to anyone using SketchUp for the first time.
The way you move around/negotiate what you have created within the virtual space/zone with which you are able to create is also very straight-forward. Icons are there within the interface: 'Orbit' allows you to twist around where you click at the radius you're currently at, whilst 'Pan' lets you move up, down, left, right on a set plain within the space. What's great about SketchUp is that it also utilises keyboard and mouse short-cuts which makes it quicker to draft and move around - for instance, when pressing in the middle mouse button, the 'Orbit' action to activated. These short-cuts are inter-changeable in the options.
What I love about the interface, the controls and the icons is their simplicity, and just how easy you'll find it to open up the software and get started without the need to hesitate and work things out. At times it can feel like a game, and it's how detailed and complex you make things that determines the level of difficulty within the game. The heavier you go, the better your model will look and the better output you'll receive - especially after rendering (something I'll explain later).
Detail can be added to your 3D model (produced using the simple tools above) by utilising some of the more complex tools which follow:
TEXTURES/COLOURS: Found within the 'paint bucket' icon is a catalogue of 2D fills which you can apply to flat surfaces within the model. From brickwork to timber, vegetation and metal, everything is covered, and more is downloadable. The fills you select can also be altered manually, the tones and crispness for example, can be changed to suit your particular opinion.
LAYERS: One way to help better organise your model and therefore add greater detail by quickly determining what is what and what needs to be altered, is through building up a network of layers. You can assign certain parts of your model to different key words, and then those key words can be de-activated, and the part of your model classed under them temporarily hidden. This also helps to speed up your computer when the model is becoming cluttered and the computer doesn't have to load them at all.
COMPONENTS: Grouping lines, surfaces, or even whole models into their own component entity allows you to move that now singular item around within the model without interfering with other pieces. You can double click any component and edit it within its own bubble easily. I recommend having every individual section of your overall model as components.
SHADOW SETTINGS: SketchUp has its own shadow package which gives items a silhouette. This silhouette can be altered depending on the time of day you wish to create, or the interior lighting effect you wish to mimic. The shadow settings menu is useful when trying to get your renders picture perfect.
If you go to File, 3D Warehouse, you'll find one of SketchUp's best features. Anything and everything you create can be uploaded to the 3D warehouse network containing the works of all other SketchUp users. Anything and everything you find within that network can be imported (free of charge) into your model and used freely within your space. What's great about this, is the fact it saves you (and everyone else) tonnes and tonnes of time. Using the search bar you type what you're looking for, i.e. 'Small Plant', and with the power of Google's own search engine mastery thousands of 3D items will appear for your choosing. Using SketchUp ion the office, I haven't hesitated, I've imported lots, and I don't feel I've cheated.
One final thing I want to talk about is Rendering. Rendering involves taking (effectively) a screen-shot of your model from the angle you require, uploading it into separate software - and there are many plug-in rendering softwares for SketchUp - altering some settings, adding in lights, surface changes, etc, and letting the software do the rest. The outcome (if the necessary tweaking has been successful) procures a realistic representation of your model - all shiny and real looking - for your client to ponder over. Shaderlight is the plug-in software I use, and I recommend it thoroughly.
SketchUp ISN'T PERFECT. When you start working on comlex models, often you'll alter a line and that will in turn alter another line somewhere behind, and this line will remain in the wrong place until 20 minutes later when you suddenly realise and have to Ctrl Z (undo) fifty times, losing all the work you've completed since!!! Models can start behaving strangely as your machine starts to struggle to cope with the memory level and things can appear odd and out of place. The best advice to combat this is save as often as you can, and set up a regular auto-save function (even though it lags your PC for a second every time it saves) because losing hours of work is NOT fun!
In general, I love SketchUp. When it starts messing up it is usually down to human error, as of course, the program its self is sound. Computers can struggle with the memory load, but this is something you just have to accept and try to work through. There is an unlimited possibility of things you can create with SketchUp, and it easy and fun to do so, that's the bottom line with this product. Oh, and it's free! So give it a go I highly recommend it!
Summary: A professional / recreational piece of software.
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