I downloaded Google’s SketchUp just to check it out. I was actually thinking of doing some landscaping (figuring out what trees and shrubs to plant and where to plant them on a little piece of barren land I own). But I got a bit distracted and since I want to create a clothes rack of some sort, I thought I’d give it a go.
It was a lot easier than I expected, and even though I do have some experience modeling in 3D, I’m sure pretty much anybody can do this.
I used Google SketchUp 7.1 and Indigo renderer (optional, only if you want to render – you need both Indigo (trial) and Skindigo for SketchUp)
So I drew a simple sketch by hand (on paper) first and made some measurements and wrote them down.
Then I installed the Indigo plugin and application (that’s pretty straightforward and you only need this if you want to photo-render).
Then I started SketchUp (selected the “Product Design and Woodworking – Millimeters” template) and started drawing.
Basically, you draw rectangles:
Then you “extrude” them (or “push/pull” the faces as SketchUp puts it) to create 3D objects:
What’s important to note at this point is the “Length” input on the bottom bar. You don’t have to click in it, you can just type at any time.
So, while you’re pulling a face from the rectangle, you just type 18 and hit Enter and you will have pulled the face away by 18 millimeters. Same with all other dimensions:
One important thing to note is the SketchUp lets you select by face, edge, or by dragging around elements you want to select. But, when creating furniture, you want your objects to act as real-life elements (you want doors, table-tops and shelves, not a collection of rectangles and edges).
So, you create “components”. You select the 3D object you’ve just created, and make it a component (also give it a good, recognizable name):
Once you’ve created a component (let’s call it “shelf bottom”) you can duplicate it (Copy & Paste and click to position it / or Copy & Paste in Place, which puts it right over the old one) and move it around with the “Move” tool. Pay attention to how you can move around in 3D by pointing your mouse in the right direction (I found it quite intuitive) and also pay attention to snapping between components (that will greatly help you position objects in relation to each other).
Keep adding more, rotating, moving and snapping them together:
Editing components is pretty easy: double-click and you’re in edit mode. Now you can push/pull or move edges or faces around. Still, you have to remember that editing a component will edit all instances of that component on stage. You can right-click and select “Make Unique” if you want to avoid that, or, better yet, explode it and create a new component.
You can also use “Dimensions” (Tools -> Dimensions) to create dimension figures. Just zoom in and out and click the endpoints of what you want to measure.
Keep creating and duplicating components until you get what you want and remember a few tips:
1. Keep you components properly named
2. Pay attention to snapping when editing, moving or rotating. You can “stick” two pieces of furniture together just by dragging from the right corner when moving.
3. Remember editing one component will edit all components on stage.
4. Remember to always type dimensions while working: create a rectangle “320″ in length, then pull one of the faces by “18″ then make it a component, copy & paste, move it upwards by “200″, then copy&paste, rotate it by “90″, etc, etc.
I won’t get into the rendering part, you can check out the documentation for Indigo at their site and also the faq at the forums. But it’s all pretty simple. A few steps and you get something like this (granularity can be improved by letting it render for longer, these are 5-6 minutes worth of render time):
This was just a little guide based on my first attempt at using SketchUp. Hope it helps. I think you can go further with furniture creation, with more advanced techniques here (watch out for “construction guides” and some cool youtube videos).
Want to see it turn to actual furniture? Check out Turning SketchUp 3D Furniture into Real Furniture