SketchUp introduction

sketchup introduction

Hello and welcome to the first part of tutorial on Sketchup. My name is Alireza and I’ll be your host to walk you through the tutorial of Sketchup program.

This is the first part of our step-by-step tutorial. If you are new to Sketchup, it is necessary that I first give a concise explanation of graphic design programs, their difference and similarities and then I’ll dive into the features of Sketchup along with other basic information you’ll need to start working with this amazing piece of software.

As you may already know, there are basically two kinds of drawing that you can do on a computer. Either 2D or 3D. Now you might have heard or perhaps already be familiar with programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW.
Although they are different in the way they work but these are some of well-known and better to say “industry standard” programs to design flyers, postcards, brochures, logos and so on by drawing mainly 2D shapes. It means, anything you draw or create on your screen by using these programs have only two dimensions: width and lengh.

What is a 3D modelling software

Now what if I you want to build a 3D shape or structure which needs another dimension called height? Well, in that case, none of the aforementioned programs are going to be of any use. In order to create a 3D structure, for instance a building, you’ll need a program which has a three dimensional space to allows you to create “volume” to a 2D drawing.

The most important examples of this kind of software out there are 3D Studio Max, Maya, SolidWorks, Cinema 4D. These are very complex and expensive 3D programs that you can find on the market but the program you’re here for, Sketchup, is both simple to learn, easy to work with and more importantly, it’s free! Obviously, there’s a Pro version of Sketchup which costs a bit of money but the free version gives you almost everything you need to create the most complex structures.

Why did we need another 3D modelling program

Now, you might say, with all that fancy software mentioned above, why did we need to invent another 3D program in the first place? The artists and computer engineers saw the demand for a new 3D modelling program capable of modelling 3D structure with the utmost feel and freedom as to work with a pencil and paper.

It was almost the year 2000 that the original creator of Sketchup, called @Last (which was acquired by Google in 2006) announced a new program that is very lightweight, not expensive, and also capable of creating simple-to-complex 2D and 3D shapes very easily without engaging a lot of computer resources like all those sophisticated software above.

Well, this was the birthday of Sketchp. Although another company called Trimble, continues the development of Sketchup but the whole idea behind the purpose and the functionality of Sketchup remaines the same.

Sketchup Features

I’m sure we don’t really need to go further into the history of this amazing program. What you need is start to get to know the incredible abilities and features of this software.
If we want to point out the main features of Sketchup, we can mention four:
  • It’s very easy to learn and to work with.
  • The user interface is highly customizable.
  • Uses least amount of memory and processor of your computer.
  • The possibility of adding thousands of third-party plugins and extension which extends the capability of Sketchup even more.

Right off the bat, let me tell you that our tutorial will be for Microsoft Windows platform. So if you’re on a Mac, you don’t need to panic because almost 95% of the menu items and tools are similar on both platforms. Now for the start, you can go ahead and download a free version of Sketchup for free by clicking on the following link:

The installation is as simple as any other windows program. After installation is complete, you’ll face the following simple interface as you run the program:

sketchup welcome

Selecting Templates

Now by default, you see the welcome screen which has three drop-down lists. Choose the arrow next to the third one which says “templates”. By the way, you can do the same by clicking on “choose template” on upper right side of the welcome screen.

sketchup template

Choose “Architectural design – Centimeters” because we’re going to go forward with this template during the tutorials. Keep in mind that a template is simply a set of colors, settings and also different measurement units that are going to make the task of designing easier for you.

Now click “start using Sketchup” at the bottom right corner of the welcome screen to enter Sketchup’s design environment.

sketchup design environment

Sketchup Toolbars

The main thing that draws attention is the guy standing on the screen and three colored lines (Red, Green and Blue) stretching accross three different direction. We’ll get into that in the next part.
But for now, just like other software, we have the menus up there and down below, there’s the status bar which is a very useful and handy section on your screen. You’re going to see  important information about the active tools in the status bar while drawing your geometery.
sketchup status bar

Under the menu, you see the “getting started” toolbar. Sketchup calls this “Getting started” because it contains the most basic drawing and editing tools you’re going to need as well as the measurement tools. I’ve to mention some of the tools are missing in this toolbar, because as I said it’s the basic toolbar. If by chance you don’t see this toolbar, just do the following:

  1. Click “view” under menus up top and then click the first item which says “toolbars”
  2. A new window opens up that with a lot of items and checkboxes inside.
  3. Activate the “Getting started” checkbox by selecting its checkbox
  4. Click OK to close the window.
Now you must be able to see the toolbar below the menu bar just like the picture below.
sketchup getting started toolbar

But for the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to use another toolbar instead of this one which already has every tool that “getting started” offers, plus additional tools that “Getting started” toolbar misses. We’re going to need them during the tutorials. So, before going forward, let’s activate that.

  1. Click “view” from the menus and choose “Toolbars” to open the dialogue box.
  2. Deselect the “Getting started” checkbox and activate “Large Tool Set”.
  3. Click OK to apply the changes and close the dialogue box.
Now you must see the following vertical toolbar on the left side of your screen.
sketchup large tool set

This tool set is more complete than the Getting Started toolbar and we’re going to explain and use this one.

Tip 50

A shortcut to avoid going through the previous steps to activate and de-activate toolbars is to right click on any toolbar and from the drop-down menu, you can activate or deactivate any toolbar you want by just clicking on it.

In the next part of this tutorial, “Getting started with design environment” I’ll start explaining the tools and their functionality as well as how to start creating 2D and 3D structures.

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