SketchUp: “The Easiest Way to Draw in 3D”

Scrolling along the list of tools we’ve discussed in 391A over the course of the semester, I stop on one called “SketchUp.” Clicking through the link, I arrive at the homepage of the website proclaiming this tool to be “The Easiest Way to Draw in 3D.” At first glance, I am unimpressed. It seems no easier or more difficult or more clear than any other 3D drawing site that I have ever been on (which are few and far between) and scrolling down the page, I find it hard to believe that any of this is quick to do (I tend towards perfectionism in these situations). Skeptical, I decide to try it out.

Downloading: Easy. Click download, click and drag application to application folder. Find application in said application folder, click open. Easy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 3.56.09 PM

Next Step: On SketchUp Downloading screen, click “Start Learning Sketchup Now.” Clicking the link brings you to a page full of helpful links and tutorial information with a video. I start the video and for a second everything is quiet. Then a pleasant female voice tells me how to set up my SketchUp and tells me to draw a rectangle. She is very clear about letting me know that in order to draw a rectangle on SketchUp, I need to click and release and click and release again to finish the rectangle.

She then goes on to talk about the various manipulation features: pan, zoom, and orbit. She points out easy button locations and then tells me the creators of SketchUp made my life easier by adding mouse shortcuts and off I go to find my misplaced computer mouse. After locating the miscreant mouse, I return to learn about the Push/Pull button. This feature pushes and pulls my rectangle into a tall prism, then into a rather squat prism, and finally into a shorter than tall but taller than squat prism.

The next step is to draw another rectangle on the side of my rectangle which I then push inward into my prism to make a prism-shaped whole. On and on this tutorial goes until we’re done playing around and suddenly I’m building a house!

She talks me through directional red, blue and green lines as well as red and green dots on the edges of rectangles and the cool midpoint and straight-line features available for those of us who are utterly incapable of straight-line making on our own. At the conclusion of the video, we have built a house complete with a chimney, a couple of steps, a door, and a window and I am ready to try it out for myself.

Trial Run:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 4.25.13 PM

Let’s start with selecting the proper icon. I picked SketchUp, but maybe that’s just me.

Step One: Select my template. Suddenly my screen is full of blue sky, green grass, and a white-haired male wearing sunglasses standing in the middle of the field. I think he is supposed to be my instructor. First I highlight him in blue dots, after which I slowly erase him jacket piece by jacket piece. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I want to build a house. So undo, rehighlight the man, and DELETE.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.19.41 PM

Let’s begin.

Challenge one turns out to be finding the rectangle tool. Having located the tool, I draw my rectangle only to click and drag instead of properly clicking and releasing. It makes no difference, there is a rectangle on my screen. I select the Push/Pull tool and I pull the rectangle up to make a wall and then I push it away to make it smaller and then I push it away on the front face, but wait. I must have pushed it too far, because now it is gone. Ctrl-Z brings it back.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.23.13 PM

I am feeling creative. Using the polygon tool, I draw a series of hexagons on the surface and push and pull them into and out of my wall. Then, as an experiment, I overlap a couple of them and an interesting thing occurs:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.25.20 PM

Do you see that? Please tell me you see that.

Having mastered the basics, I delete the perforated wall in preparation for building my house (and as a side note, Ctrl-A does not work to select things unless you have already selected the selection tool).

With a little trial and error, I have come to this end product:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.36.24 PM


I am far from being a master, but I think that their claim to ease of use holds some merit.

My final conclusion based on this exploration is that this 3D drawing software is very much aimed at architects and drawing models of houses and buildings. As such, I think this is a wonderful tool because I have always wanted to design my own houses but unfortunately lack the skill to do so. However, as an all-round 3D design software, I believe this particular variation lacks in some areas and I will have to keep looking.

If you would like to try SketchUp for yourself visit their website for the download!

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