Google Sketchup


Very easy 3D program to create custom shapes, buildings, materials etc.

Brings the art of 3D CAD design & drafting to beginners and children for their educational benefit.

It is free!

You can transition to Sketchup Pro 7, get even more horsepower in a 3D CAD program and the learning curve will be minimal because nearly everything you learn in the free version transfers to the Pro version. Cost of Sketchup Pro is $495, which is very reasonable for such a feature-rich 3D program.

Sketchup exports models to dedicated photo realistic rendering programs such as Artlantis Studio.

There are many add-ons available


The program is addictive and you will spend many hours in front of the computer screen.

The 2D features are minimal, but does not concern me. It is primarily a design tool.

Full Review

Google Sketchup. This is a free download off the Google website. This is an incredible program for a wannabe architect, a child with design and graphics interest or just for you or you kids to play around with.

Google Sketchup is primarily a 3D program that allows you to create lines, objects, extrusions and much more right in the 3D window.

You start by opening the program and it prompts you to open a standard template, for example Architectural, feet and inches. This is probably where you will want to start. The program will open with a window, which is in 3D. You will also have a wide variety of tools available for your use in the tool bar on the left side of the screen.

You will mostly create 2D objects with the pencil tool or use the rectangle, circle or polygon tool to create more complex forms quickly. As you draw your line you get visual feedback as to the length of the line and direction. Once you close the shape it will automatically be colored for the next step. It is easy to edit the shape by erasing with the erase tool or fill-in with the paint bucket.

Next the real fun begins by manipulation of the polygon shape you have created. You can extrude it with the extrude tool, create complex shapes by using the follow me tool with a straight or curved line, move the shape and resize it with the move and resize tools.

You also have the ability to quickly change your viewpoint with the tools across the top of the screen for elevations, perspective etc.

During the construction and analysis of your design, you can explore your model with an assortment of pan, orbit, view, walk, look around and camera tools.

Open the Shadow Settings box and you can change the time of day and the darkness settings of the shadows.

You also have the ability to create, extrude and do all sorts of fun things with the text tools too.

There are many more features that you can explore yourself and the possibilities are almost limitless.

In Closing

I can't say enough about the features and output of this program. I have been a dedicated user of Graphisoft ArchiCad for 15 years and although ArchiCad has more features and abilities, it has a much steeper learning curve and is considerably more expensive. If I had a child that expressed any interest in design and/or drafting I would immediately turn to Sketchup 7 and set the architect within them loose.