If you fancy being an architect but haven't got the skills, Google's Sketchup lets you design anything from a garden shed to St Paul's Cathedral
Have you ever tried your hand at a DIY project that required plans to be drawn up beforehand? If you feel these sorts of plans are the sole province of the professional, we’d urge you to try Google Sketchup.
It’s a free design application that’s intuitive and easy to learn how to use – and it can be used to knock up detailed 3D imagery of almost anything imaginable.
In this article we will explain how to download, install and get started with Sketchup. We will demonstrate the basic tools and show how these techniques can be applied to any design project.
Google Sketchup will work on almost any Windows 7, XP or Vista PC, but it will run more smoothly if the hardware exceeds Google’s minimum requirements: these are a 1GHz processor, 512MB of memory, 300MB of hard disk space, and a graphics card with at least 128MB of memory.
Download and installation
Go to the Sketchup website, click the Download Google Sketchup button and follow the prompts to download the Windows version. There is a ‘Pro’ version of the Sketchup software (see the section headed Sketchup Pro later in this article), but we will be focusing on the features available in the free version of the program.
Once the installation file has downloaded, double-click to launch it and work through the installation wizard to get it up and running. Now double-click the Sketchup icon that has appeared on the Windows Desktop to launch the program.
The first thing to do is choose a template. The appropriate one will depend on the type of project you have in mind. We are going to design a child’s playhouse and for this, the one called Simple Template will do the job.
For this first attempt, we suggest following our example so open the Window menu and choose Preferences. Click the preferred version of Simple Template (metric or imperial measurements) and click OK.
Now open the View menu, point to Toolbars and click to tick the Large Tool Set option: this will put a bunch of extra function buttons in a toolbar down the left-hand side of the screen.
Google Sketchup has positioned a human model in the corner of three axes: she’s five feet seven inches tall and her presence is to aid the sense of scale in the 3D workspace.
An important skill to master in Google Sketchup is being able to view objects from all angles: to do this, click the Orbit button (it has two entwined blue arrows), and then click and drag the mouse pointer around the screen.
Alternatively, use the Pan tool (the hand) to move from side to side along one plane. To get closer to or further away from objects, click the Zoom tool (magnifying glass) and roll the mouse wheel.
Laying the foundations
To start our playhouse we are going to create a square floor. To do this, click the Rectangle tool and draw a rectangle. As you do this, notice that the shape’s dimensions are displayed at the bottom right of the Sketchup window.
An easy way to get the exact dimensions needed to begin drawing an object and then, before releasing the mouse button, type the desired measurements: there is no need to open a new dialogue box or click anywhere special – just type.
Our model is going to be 9ft square, so we type 9’,9’ (don’t forget the comma) and release the mouse button: the rectangle snaps to the correct size. Objects can be resized at any point, so it’s not essential to get the sizing exact from the beginning.
This first rectangle is two-dimensional, running along only two axes. To add depth, click the Push/Pull button (a 3D rectangle with an up-pointing arrow), hover the mouse pointer over the shape and click and drag upwards.
As before, an exact size can be specified by typing in dimensions while the object is selected.
Updating your subscription status