Sketchup Pro 6

Sketchup Pro 6

Creating basic 3D objects is easy in SketchUp, but creating detailed, realistic models still takes a little practice.


Google and 3D software - sounds like an odd couple, doesn't it? But with Google's SketchUp Pro 6, you don't have to have Pixar-class skills to build just about anything in 3D. SketchUp Pro 6 doesn't have the steep learning curve found in heavy-duty 3D software such as Autodesk's Maya and Maxon's Cinema 4D. Then again, it doesn't have all the power (or the huge price tag) of a full-fledged 3D package either. But SketchUp Pro 6 is perfect for creating quick conceptual designs of everything from new products to buildings and room interiors.


SketchUp Pro stands out because it's a very intuitive modeler. You can quickly draw standard shapes like rectangles or circles and arcs, or draw with a freehand tool. When you first sketch a shape, it appears as a flat 2D object. Selecting the Push/Pull tool and clicking and dragging on the shape gives it 3D depth (for instance, a 2D rectangle suddenly rises to become the form of a building). You can move shapes around, extend and shorten them, rotate them on any axis, and group them together. Snap-to properties, end-point detection, visual grids, and a tape measure tool help you line things up and get proportions right.


To take your models beyond mere blueprints, you can color their segments with the Paint Bucket tool, or apply one of more than 100 material textures - for example, red bricks in a wall, certain style of shingles for a rooftop, or grass and pavement on the ground. SketchUp Pro can also cast shadows according to the time of day you set. A simple animation tool lets you take snapshots of a scene from different viewpoints and then animate the world from one view to another. It's not so easy to create a precise 3D walkthrough of an environment (say, a house), but the tool works well for simple 3D flybys.


No other software makes 3D so easy, but SketchUp Pro still has a learning curve if you want to create models that go beyond simple block or cylindrical shapes. For best results, you should expect to go through Google's online tutorials and then put in several hours of trial and error. Fortunately, if you don't develop your own modeling chops, you can always connect to Google's 3D Warehouse and download hundreds of existing models that other SketchUp users have posted. The site is well stocked with scores of models for buildings, trees, cars, furniture, and people, so you can put together complex scenes without doing a stitch of modeling yourself.


Google also offers a free version of SketchUp, which includes the modeling and animation features. It's fun to play with for a while, but if you have real work to do, you'll want the extra features of the $495 SketchUp Pro. For starters, the Pro version includes a Layout application that lets you present your work on custom-designed presentation boards that can incorporate 2D artwork and photos you import, and that can be printed or saved as a PDF file. You can also export models into many 3D file formats (to import into other 3D programs), or as vector-based 2D images. Pro also lets you build or match a model to a reference photo, and texture models with photos, so you can make billboards, murals, and other signage. You can add 3D text in Pro too.


The bottom line. In the future, we'd love the ability to set up precise 3D walkthrough animations, along with support for posable 3D characters (perfect for making quick storyboards). But even without these improvements, SketchUp Pro is already a dream for architects, interior designers, and conceptual designers who want to build in 3D without the extreme complexity of most 3D apps.


PRICE: $495
REQUIREMENTS: 400MHz G4 or Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4 or later, 128MB RAM, 80MB disk space
Intuitive modeling tools. Free models via 3D Warehouse. Relatively inexpensive. Universal binary.
Simplistic animation features.





+ Add a Comment

Mark Borok

The non-pro version of Sketchup does allow you to export 2D vector images, just go to the print menu and save as PDF. It is also incorrect that only pro allows you to match or build a model to a reference photo; the "photo match" feature is available in the free version.

There is no need to buy the pro version unless you are actually a professional architect. The current version of Sketchup also includes "sandbox", a basic terrain modeling tool that was previously available only in the pro version.

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