- Integration with Google Earth and Google 3D Warehouse
- It is free
- Includes advanced features
- Lacks "life-like" rendering ability
- Difficulty in modelling some complex forms
In an effort to expand it's ever increasing internet empire, Google purchased SketchUp in 2006 and has helped make it into the simple user friendly piece of software that it is today. While a "pro" version of SketchUp is available to those willing to spend some money, the free version of the software should be more than adequate for people wanting to get their feet wet in three dimensional modeling software.
If you are unfamiliar with 3D modeling programs, do not let that deter you from downloading this software. SketchUp is simple enough for the novice but is powerful enough the architect. Unlike other 3D software, SketchUp uses planes to create models instead of masses. That means every model in SketchUp is actually a series of planes connected together. Because SketchUp is so simple, it tends to have difficulties modeling more complex curved forms. However, for someone who just wants to "unlock the architect within," SketchUp is a more than capable tool.
When you first open up SketchUp, you are greeted with a very simple user interface that includes a drawing, modify, and view toolbars among others. Beginners should first experiment with these basic tools. First, try drawing a few lines to make a plane. Then, extrude that plane into a three dimensional shape. You can quickly see how easy it is to create within SketchUp. For those wanting to become more advanced in this program, many tutorials are available on the internet.
Although easy to use, SketchUp offers users a wide array of more advanced features including texture mapping, creating contours, and model placement in real time locations. These tools allow users to create models that look remarkably true-to-life. Google has also integrated its SketchUp software with Google Earth, which allows users to view aerial photographs anywhere in the world. In many larger cities in Google Earth, aerial views also include 3D models of buildings that have been imported directly from SketchUp. Google also offers a "3D Warehouse" where users from around the world create models of just about everything imaginable to share with the world. Google 3D warehouse includes everything from existing buildings to furniture to cars that can all be downloaded and imported into your SketchUp models. Using elements from this website can help you build a model extremely quickly since most of the work has already been done for you.
Some users might complain that SketchUp is too simple. Indeed, it is not as nearly complex as other 3D modeling software like 3D Studio Max or Form Z and cannot produce the quality of renderings created from these programs. People must keep in mind that SketchUp is meant to be loose and "sketchy." Although SketchUp uses exact dimensions and textures to created true-to-life buildings and environments, it was not created to produce life-like renderings--hence "sketch" being in the name of the program. If this is a problem, many companies offer plug-ins for SketchUp that will allow lifelike renderings to be created, which is a useful tool for those in the design profession like architects and interior designers.
SketchUp is the perfect tool for novices and design professionals alike. While it may lack a certain amount of sophistication that some users may desire, SketchUp certainly makes up with its ease of use and its quick ability to produce accurate, true-to-life three dimensional models. Google has done an excellent job at integrating SketchUp into its other available software and has made SketchUp into a must have program for anyone who wants to visualize something in three dimensions. So, if you have any desire to create your house or just to play around in 3D, Google's SketchUp can truly unlock the architect inside you.