In the spirit of learning by making and diving in head first, we are starting with some relatively easy 3D modeling. This course’s collective projects in the past have revolved around Carleton’s built environment and building histories, and fabricating an interactive reproduction of it in 3D. We are modeling objects this year and will be discussing the theoretical implications of such a project throughout the term, but since the skills required to model in 3D are complex, we will begin practicing in week one.
The 3D software with the gentlest learning curve is SketchUp. Formerly owned by Google (but since sold to Trimble), it puts an emphasis on ease of use and compatibility and the free version is now browser based so you can use any machine to get started. This is the software that many of the early 3D buildings in Google Earth were created with. Despite the user-friendly goals, SketchUp is a powerful program used by architectural and design professionals and will let you start making impressively detailed models very quickly, which can then be exported in a variety of formats.
Getting Started with SketchUp
- Go to SketchUp.com and register for the web only version of SketchUp for Free.
- Then go directly to the webversion of SketchUp at https://app.sketchup.com/app and Take the Tour to get oriented to the interface
We will start by modeling a simple dog house to get a feel for the software. If you’ve never used SketchUp before, I would encourage you to follow the tutorial videos 2-4 of the list here to get a sense of what all the tools do.
NB: This video series was made using a previous version of SketchUp so the window may look a little different, but the basic tools and icons are all the same in the browser based version.
Your assignment is to use the techniques you just learned to make a model of the house you grew up in. Don’t worry about photo-realistic accuracy, just try to get the basic features, colors and textures in place, so that someone who knows the house (your parents, say) could recognize it. If you grew up in a ranch house, then your building should be long and contain only one row of windows, whereas if you grew up in a bungalow or a cape cod you’ll have a taller building with a half or full second row. You get the idea. And don’t worry about the inside! We’re just focusing on the external features for now.
When you are happy with your model, SAVE IT to your Trimble account and DON’T FORGET YOUR PASSWORD
During the next class we’ll set up blog access, and you’ll use these images to write your first post along with some thoughts on your process.
As you model, think about…
- how easy/hard it was,
- what elements particularly bogged you down,
- what compromises you had to make,
- what technique or tool that you wish you had figured out sooner so that you can provide a tip for other novice SketchUp users and share your knowledge.
- Go to app.sketchup.com and log in to your account
- On the home screen, open the saved file so that you can find some views to export
- Use the Orbit tool or the Views presets in the right side toolbar to find some good angles of your beautiful model
- Export several views as PNG images.
Note the other free option is to download as STL, which is the format used for 3D printing — we’ll come back to this later.
- Finally, go to our Google Drive Shared Folder, create a folder for yourself, if you haven’t already, and save your images there.
There are millions of SketchUp tutorials available online (just google SketchUp + what-you-want-to-do and you’ll be overwhelmed with options), but here’s a targeted list of resources to get you started.
- If you haven’t already, download and print out a Quick Reference Card, so that you can start using keyboard shortcuts to switch between tools and get good fast.
- Watch the Getting Started with SketchUp tutorial videos. The first two are particularly useful for exteriors, but the third and fourth will give you more advanced techniques and tool tips, if you’d like to explore further.
- SketchUp has also put out a couple series of videos that let you watch pros at work and give you great advice.
LinkedInLearning (formerly Lynda.com) is a paid service, so not open to everyone, but you can access its tutorials by logging in with your Carleton ID. If you want a more structured course, their SketchUp Essential Training is a great place to start.
Feel free to leave a comment if you’re having trouble, or if you discover something really great, and feel free to respond if you know the answer to a question.