Google SketchUp Cookbook: Practical Recipes and Essential Techniques

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As the first book for intermediate and advanced users of Google SketchUp, this Cookbook goes beyond the basics to explore the complex features and tools that design professionals use. You'll get numerous step-by-step tutorials for solving common (and not so common) design problems, with detailed color graphics to guide your way, and discussions that explain additional ways to complete a task. Google SketchUp Cookbook will help you:

  • Use SketchUp more efficiently by taking advantage of components and groups
  • Learn new techniques for using Follow Me, Intersect, and constraints
  • Go beyond simple textures with tools such as texture positioning and Photo Match
  • Create animations and walkthroughs, and explore design scenarios by using layers and scenes
  • Learn how to use styles to customize your presentations
  • Combine SketchUp with the 3D Warehouse and Google Earth

Google SketchUp Cookbook is ideal for architects, engineers, interior designers, product designers, woodworkers, and other professionals and hobbyists who want to work more efficiently and achieve true mastery of this amazing tool.

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1. Making Multiple Copies


This chapter covers the various ways you can make linear and rotated copies by using the Move and Rotate tools. If you've done any basic work with SketchUp, you might already be familiar with the concepts in this chapter. Keep reading, however. Even some experienced users don't know all there is about how to copy, which is a fundamental and important concept. (Plus it never hurts to review some basics.)

As you probably know, the Move tool is used to move objects, and the Rotate tool is used to rotate objects. For both tools, when you press the Ctrl/Option key, you will make copies. For linear copies, you can adjust the spacing and number of copies, and for rotated copies, you can adjust the angle between copies and the number of copies. For both kinds of copying, you can make these adjustments as many times as needed while the tool is still active. Keep in mind, however, that after you start a new Move or Rotate action, or activate a new tool, you can no longer adjust the spacing, angles, and so on.


2. Following Paths with Follow Me


The Follow Me tool is used to extrude a 2D face along a 2D or 3D path. In other design applications, this is sometimes called sweeping or driving. Follow Me is an incredibly useful tool for making such architectural details as moldings, parapets, railings, and fences, as well as circular objects such as cups, vases, and spheres. (It's also quite fun to watch Follow Me in action.)

The basics of Follow Me are pretty easy to understand, but there are some little-known tricks you can use to make your designing easier. In this chapter, you'll learn the best ways to use Follow Me, how to set up Follow Me paths relative to Follow Me faces, and how to take advantage of groups and components in order to prevent changes to other objects. You'll also learn how you can use a circular path to lathe all sorts of round objects, and how to create 3D Follow Me paths.

Before using Follow Me, you need to have these two things in your model:

A Follow Me face, which will be extruded along the path. This must be a single face (not divided by edges) and must be 2D.


3. Intersection Edges: Cutting and Trimming


When you want to use objects to trim or cut other objects, you use the Intersect tool. This tool calculates where two or more objects intersect or overlap one another, and draws edges along these intersections. These intersection edges define the area or volume to cut.

Along with the Follow Me tool, the Intersect tool was introduced back in version 5 to much fanfare. Prior to Intersect, users had to manually trace intersection edges. For example, if you needed to cut a roof to accommodate a chimney, you would use the Line tool to trace edges between intersection points (Figure3-1).

Figure3-1.Figure 3-1

The problem with manual tracing is that, as in the preceding example, you sometimes have to orbit all the way around to find all the edges to draw. Missing or forgetting edges, such as the ones along the bottom of the roof, is easy too. Not to mention, for complex models, manual tracing can be quite tedious, particularly when you use round objects: "round" objects in SketchUp are actually composed of short linear segments, so you have to draw intersection edges along each small segment.


4. Advanced Intersect and Follow Me Techniques


The Follow Me and Intersect tools are used together frequently to create complex 3D objects. Follow Me is used to create individual objects by extruding a face along a path, and the Intersect tool is then used to get edges where the Follow Me objects meet themselves or other objects. After these intersection edges are created, trimming is easy.

This chapter offers some advanced techniques for using them in tandem as well as separately. Specifically, you'll learn to do the following:

Create temporary faces for a Follow Me face

Make round corners

Create lathed shapes

Quickly create a complex roof with a uniform slope

Create "dummy" Follow Me paths when the existing path is not easy to select

Extend Follow Me paths to make intersecting and trimming easy

Use Intersect to create a 3D Follow Me path

Before using these tools together, it is important that you understand how to use them individually. If you haven't already, read Chapter2 and Chapter3 before continuing.

You want to round a sharp corner, but the model contains no face on which you can easily draw a Follow Me face.


5. Roofs: Constraints and Inferences


Inferences in SketchUp are those colored dots and dashed lines, and helpful text boxes, that appear while drawing, such as On Red Axis, On Face, Midpoint, and so forth. You can use inferences to ensure that you are drawing lines in the correct direction (red, green, or blue), starting a line at the right place (on an edge, endpoint, or midpoint), or drawing an object on a face. In addition to those basic uses, inferences also can be used to constrain objects, either to another object or to a direction. Constraining means you are forcing an object to have a certain geometric characteristic, such as a direction or start point.

To master SketchUp, understanding constraints is a must. You know the basics: a red preview line means a line will be drawn parallel to the red axis, and so on. You may even be an old hand at Shift-locking, aware that pressing and holding Shift while a preview line is red keeps the line in the red direction. But have you used double constraints or tried using the arrow keys? In this chapter, you'll learn about these and many more powerful ways constraints can help you work more accurately and effectively.


6. Groups: Protect and Defend


Groups are SketchUp's way of "sealing off" geometry, protecting one or more objects from affecting other objects and from being affected by other objects. A grouped set of objects also has the advantage of being selected as one object with one click, eliminating the need for dragging selection windows.

Many users are not clear on when to create a group and when to create a component. Geometrically, the two types of objects behave the same way: they are selectable as a single object, they are "sealed" from other objects, and they can be changed only when open for editing. As a general rule, these objects should be made into a group rather than a component:

Objects that need to be kept separate from other objects

Objects that will be used only once (will not be copied)

Objects that will eventually be exploded (such as objects used only for cutting or trimming)

Components are covered at length in Chapter7, in which their advantages and many uses are discussed.

To create a group, you first select the objects to include in the group. You can then either choose EditMake Group from the main menu, or right-click on one of the selected objects and choose Make Group from the pop-up menu.


7. Components: Efficiency in Repetition


An essential feature of SketchUp, components can greatly increase your modeling efficiency as well as keep your file size as trim as possible. Components are geometrically similar to groups in that they are "sealed" and protected from other geometry and are selectable as a single object. Because components offer additional features, however, you can do much more with components than with groups.

If you're unsure about when to use a component versus a group, the general rule is that groups are mainly used for keeping objects separate from other objects, and they generally do not repeat. Components are the better choice for the following objects:

Objects that will be repeated at least once in the model

Objects that will be saved into their own file

Objects that have specific alignment or insertion properties

Objects that will cut faces, such as windows and doors

2D objects that are to always face the camera

The best-known feature of components is that they can be used for repeated objects; if you edit one, all copies of that component change as well. Components can also cut faces, align to specific faces, and always face the camera. Using repeated components, rather than copying faces and edges, can greatly decrease your file size, because SketchUp has to recognize only one set of geometric objects, and needs only location and size information for each component instance.


8. Painting, Materials, and Textures


At first glance, materials seem a simple feature of SketchUp: Click the Paint Bucket icon, choose a material from the resulting window, and click a face to apply your choiceeven a second-grader can do it. But SketchUp materials have capabilities far beyond simply applying paint to faces. For instance, there are shortcuts to painting multiple faces at a time, you can edit a material's size and color, and you can make changes to a material on just one specific face. In this chapter, you will learn about the more complex aspects of materials, such as editing, positioning, translucency, and alpha transparency.

You want to find materials or images to use in your models.

Look in the Materials (or Colors) window for local materials, and then search on the SketchUp website or in the 3D Warehouse for additional materials.

The Materials window (called Colors on the Mac) houses the folders of materials currently on your system. To access it, choose ToolsPaint Bucket, or click the Paint Bucket icon, or choose WindowMaterials. Within the Materials window, you can find all colors and materials used in a particular model in the In Model folder (the Colors In Model folder on the Mac). To open this folder, you can use the drop-down menu or click the house icon (Figure8-1). Windows permits you to edit materials found in the In Model folder only; no matter what your system, it is the best practice to edit only materials in In Model and not the "source" materials found in the other folders.


9. Modeling with Digital Photos


Continuing the discussion of painting and materials from Chapter8, this chapter focuses on using digital photos to paint faces in your model, adding photorealism and saving modeling time.

Using photos to paint faces can reduce the number of geometric elements you need to create. For example, you can take the time and effort to model geometrically accurate windows on the side of a building, or can you simply paint the face with a photo of the side of that building. (If you don't have an actual photo, a rendering works well, too.)

In addition to saving modeling time, using photos this way can greatly reduce file size. For this reason, Google encourages 3D Warehouse contributors to use digital photos on their models whenever possible. Many of the models in the 3D Warehouse are photorealistic, as are many 3D buildings in Google Earth. Some of these models represent extremely complex structures but are modeled in simple geometry painted with photos. To see some examples, open Google Earth with the 3D Buildings layer turned on, and explore any large city. Many buildings are plain gray, but a large number are painted. (For more information, see Chapter13.)


10. Modeling with Exact Dimensions


When SketchUp was first introduced, the idea behind it was that you could produce great-looking computer models representing your rough sketches, rather than scratch out your designs on the back of a napkin. Whereas most conventional CAD applications require you to know the exact sizes of all your model's objects, in SketchUp you can design "by eye."

What many SketchUp users don't take advantage of, however, is that the application also enables you to create entire models using exact dimensions, despite its deceptively simple tool set, meaning you can use SketchUp as a start-to-finish design tool. (SketchUp Pro provides even more sophistication with LayOut, an application that enables you to produce fully annotated and dimensioned drawings of your SketchUp model.) In addition, if you're handed a model that was created without regard to scale or dimension, SketchUp enables you to easily resize the entire model or only selected objects within it.

All of SketchUp's editing and drawing tools can be used with exact dimensions. You can enter a dimension's value before or after the tool's operation is complete, and you can enter new dimensions, repeatedly if necessary, to change the results after the operation is complete. After you start a new object or activate a new tool, you can no longer enter new dimensions for the existing object.


11. Presentation: Showing off Your Model


You've worked hard on your model, and now you want to show it to a boss, a client, a friend, or the whole world (if you upload it to the 3D Warehouse). It's easy enough to hand over your .skp file and walk away, but if you really want to knock their socks off and show them exactly what you want them to see, it's important to understand SketchUp's model presentation tools: layers, scenes, shadows, and sectioning. (Styles are also important, and they are covered in Chapter12.)

Although some of these tools are not used exclusively for presentation, each can play a role in showing your model in exciting and interesting ways. When you understand each of these tools and learn ways to combine them, you'll become an expert at communicating your designs.

The tools and techniques described in this chapter are available in the Free and Pro versions of SketchUp. SketchUp Pro users also have the benefit of the LayOut program, which is an application for presenting 3D models in a 2D format. LayOut has advanced features for view presentation and annotations such as dimensions and callouts. If you are not a Pro user, read about LayOut on SketchUp's website, and you may be convinced to become one.


12. Displaying Your Model


You know the basics of changing the way your model is displayed: You routinely change the face display from Shaded to Hidden Line to X-Ray, as well as turn off edges and profiles when appropriate. You may not know that you can control even more display aspects, such as default face colors, backgrounds, watermarks, and edge styles. Showing your model in a variety of styles enables you to tailor your model display to your personal taste. And, if you work for a company, you can establish your own standard styles for presenting designs to clients and colleagues.

In this chapter, you will learn how to change, create, and save your own styles, combine features of various styles to create new styles, produce attractive watermarks, use sketchy edges, and use styles as part of an animation.

You want to remove some edges from the model display.

Use the Eraser tool or the Soften/Smooth Edges window to hide or soften edges.

Hiding all edges in your model is easy (deselect Display Edges and Profiles in the Edge page of the Styles window); but what if you want to remove the display of only certain edges in your model? There are two ways to "blank" selected edges: hiding and softening. Hiding edges simply removes them from the display, while softening smoothes the corner where the edge was, resulting in a single face.


13. 3D Warehouse and Google Earth


The potential for seamless integration between SketchUp models and Google Earth is what prompted Google a few years back to buy @Last Software, the original creators of SketchUp. Google wanted a simple, intuitive content engine to produce the models that would populate Google Earth, and SketchUp fit the bill. By creating the 3D Warehouse, Google then made it easy to share your work with the world. Google Earth and the 3D Warehouse often work in tandem: You can georeference a SketchUp model by importing location data from Google Earth, and place that same model in the 3D Warehouse for all (or for specific people) to see.

This chapter takes a closer look at these two resources. Recipe13.1 through Recipe13.7 cover the various ways you can use the 3D Warehouse, how you can place your own models and collections there, and how to control the privacy of your work. Recipe13.8 through Recipe13.13 move on to Google Earth, teaching you how to georeference a model, place a model in Google Earth, remove or replace location data, and download specific models found in Google Earth.


14. Dynamic Components


Dynamic components are the major new feature of SketchUp 7. In essence, a dynamic component is a component that has attributes: features that can be adjusted, toggled on and off, moved, replaced, resized, and so on. A simple dynamic component could be a box that you click to change its color or click to open and close the box top. A more complex example would be a dining set in which you can adjust the number of chairs, choose various finishes and table tops, scale to adjust the length, and then see the calculated price for the current configuration. Another common type of dynamic component is one that self-copies when scaled, such as a fence that will adjust its number of pickets to accommodate the fence length.

Dynamic components are free and available for all SketchUp users to download. However, only users of the Pro version can create their own dynamic components and change attributes of existing ones. For this reason, and because creating dynamic components is a topic that requires an entire book of its own, this chapter covers only the basics of where to find dynamic components, and the various things you can do with them.



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