3D Coordinates in SketchUp

3D axes status bar sketchup tutorzine.com

In this part, I’m going to explain what to expect from Sketchup and will talk about important elements on Sketchup’s interface. Then we’re going to get familiar with the “Three Coordinate Axes” in Sketchup and the most important use of it in drawing 3D models. At the and, we’ll also see the functionality and the importance of using Sketchup’s status bar.

What to expect from Sketchup

Obviously, you know that Sketchup was mainly built with the idea of using it for constructional engineering. So you must remember that anything you build in Sketchup is going to look like a fundamental sketch or drawing of your desired home or building.

sketchup raw tutorzine.com

That’s to say, although Sketchup is very powerful in applying textures and transparency to the 3D shapes and surfaces (textures for walls, roofs, glass, carpet etc) but in order to produce a sophisticated and photo-realistic render of the final project, we’ll need to utilize third-party plug-ins.

rendered 1 sketchup tutorzine.com

There are many plugins that are specifically designed for creating a naturalistic image of the models and environments you design in Sketchup which will add lots of rendering and lightroom options into this program. So keep in mind that we’re not going to expect Sketchup to be able to do all these visual effects by itself.

Interesting Figure

Now let’s get started with the first item that we’re going to get familiar in this article. You might be surprised what the first item is and I bet you can never guess.

YES! that’s right. It’s the girl (or might be a guy) who’s standing in the middle of the scene!

No, I’m not joking. Later, when you get familiar with the measurement tools later on, you’ll see that this guy’s is almost 170 centimeters tall and since, as I mentioned before, the main use of Sketchup is to create buildings and constructions, this figure is a good reference for your eyes to compare objects you are creating inside a room like a table, bed, cabinets, stairways etc. 
stacy sketchup tutorzine.com

The intersting point is that no matter from where or what horizontal angle you’re looking at your scene or to the objects you’re building, this guy will always turn around to look at you!

Keep in mind that you can easily delete it if you find him/her distracting. Selection is a tricky topic in Sketchup that we’ll get into in a later article but for now, remember that a single-click on anything will “select” that thing in Sketchup. Once you’ve selected this guy by clicking on it, you can hit Delete on your keyboard and remove it from your screen. For now, we’re going to keep our friend there on the scene.

Three-coordinate Axes

In order to draw in a 3D space, you need to understand a very important concept. If you look under our lovely character’s feet, you’ll see he’s standing right beside three lines (axes) with different colors that start extending in different directions from a common meeting point of three lines or better to say the “point of origin”.
You’ll also notice that these lines are solid when extending to the right and dotted, when extending to the left side of the point of origin.

This is called “three coordinate axes” and you can find it in any 3D program. Although the look and feel is slightly different among them, but the main purpose of it is to show you three main directions you’ll need in order to draw a 3D structure.

In real world we call them Width, Length, Height and in Sketchup, for easier reference, we have three lines with different colors for them:

Red = Width (X axis)
Green = Length (Y axis)
Blue = Height (Z axis)

These lines show three main directions in a virtual 3D space.

We’ll see later that these colors are changeable in preferences dialog box but I suggest not change them because you want to get used to the defaults as a standard way of identifying the main axis in Sketchup’s drawing environement.

It takes a bit of time to understand this coordinate system but for now it suffices to know, whenever you are going away from the “point of origin” on the solid red axis, the amount (distance) between you and the point of origin is going to increase on the positive side of the X axis. Now if we go along the left side, on the dotted red axis, the distance is going to increase on the negative side of the X axis. This is true for all three axes.

We’ll see later, how having a solid understanding of the positive and negative direction along the axes can help us drawing a flawless structure by using the measurement tools.

The Status Bar

Another thing is the status bar area at the bottom of the screen. As I mentioned before, you’re going to see important hints or information while working in Sketchup. The thing is you’ll see different information appearing there, as you hover your mouse over different tools on your toolbar.

Sketchup will show you a short instructional tip about how that tool works and what you should do in order to select, edit, manipulate, or create things with the tool in hand. These hints will be very useful at the beginning but later, when you get used to the way each tool works, you’ll rarely refer to it.

for a test, just hover your mouse over any tool on the “Large tool set” on the left (we’ll call it simply “Toolbar” onwards). You’ll see that Sketcup displays different pieces of information, depending on which icon your mouse cursor is on top of.

Not only that but when you start drawing with a tool, Sketchup will show you in status bar, what you need to do next to complete the series of actions, in order to draw a 2D or 3D object. So, every now and then, I’ll refer to the message that appear there as we go forward working with different tools, but make it a habit to use these short instructions because it makes learning the tricks of working with tools much faster for you.

Next, I’ll explain how to set some of the things up in preference dialog box before starting to draw objects and also how to set and use “trays” in Sketchup interface.

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