You may or may not have read my article on building a chicken coop here on Home Fixated. Whether you’ve taken a look at it or not, it was designed using free 3D CAD software. Affectionately known on the interwebs as “Google” SketchUp, it remains one of the few companies Google has ever sold after it bought them up. I don’t know what Google’s problem was with it, but it’s still a great free CAD tool that can be adapted for homes, furniture and even chicken coop design. But learning the ins and outs of the project can be tough on your own. Use these (formerly) Google SketchUp tips, tricks and resources for getting the most of this Google cast-off and design your own projects for free!
Pay for It, Or Get SketchUp for Free
The best part about this software is that it’s free. If, however, you’re a professional architect, designer or engineer, or you’re just rich enough to drop $500 on a 3D CAD program, then you’ll want to download SketchUp Pro. For the rest of us who want free stuff and a really cool program for all of your building projects, you can download the free SketchUp right here.
Practice with SketchUp Makes Perfect
You’re not going to get good at SketchUp unless you start pushing buttons and drawing stuff. It’s a good idea to just test out each icon just to see what they can do. While familiarizing yourself with the program is good for getting started, it’s not going to help you much if you don’t know how everything really works. Take a glance at the SketchUp User Guide and browse through the basics. If you’re up for some light reading, you can always read the guide cover to cover—it’s only 390 pages long.
SketchUp Video Resources – Watch and Learn
I can’t even begin to tell you half of the details about SketchUp’s workings in this short article. But what I can do is tell you to watch the videos. There are a ton of tutorials designed to help out beginners, novices and pros alike. Visit the Trimble training website here to read and watch their lessons on using SketchUp and SketchUp Pro.
Always Create Components
By layering each component of your project, you can easily edit or manipulate small sections (such as a staircase or wall) without having to go through a lot of trouble. Creating components allows you to not only easily move objects around, it also allows you to easily break apart the components themselves to make changes in the design without having to start over from scratch. After you select and save the component, you can edit it at any time by clicking Edit/Component/Explode. Just be sure to remove your component away from your main project or it’s going to be tough to manipulate each piece without destroying your other work in the process.
Google Sketchup Tips – Prebuilt is Best
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you want a wheel, just download one that’s already prebuilt. The same goes for cabinets, stairs, bookshelves, couches—you name it, there’s probably already a prebuilt model of it online. Take a look at Trimble’s 3D warehouse and you’ll find everything from soccer stadiums to shower heads that you can use for your 3D or 2D drawing.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
I like to use the tape measure tool to create my lines, fix components or to create guidelines. The tape measure tool can be used to create a dotted line that components will stick to or lines will follow. This takes all of the guess work out of creating your next project accurately. After you’ve created a dotted line to follow, simply click the eraser button and get rid of the line. You can also toggle on/off the guidelines display so you can still keep your reference lines if you need them later on.
SketchUp Reference Card
Nothing is more annoying than dragging your mouse all over the screen just to switch back and forth between tools. SketchUp has a bunch of short cut/hot keys that you can use to simplify your tool search. The reference card also has a list of the tool bar menus and other great to have at hand information. You can find the printable reference card here and print out the correct card for your OS and download version.
Copy Paste is Your Friend
Why create the same thing more than once? Just select the object you want to copy and hold the CTRL+C to copy and CTRL+V to paste just like you would with any other document. But you can also make quick copies a more efficient way. First, select the object. Now use the move button to move the object. Tap CTRL on your keyboard and you just made an instant copy you can move anywhere you like. Hit CTRL as many times as you wish to make copies of any object so you can move them wherever you need them.
As you might guess, these no-longer Google Sketchup tips, tricks and resources barely scratch the surface of what the program can do. My best advice is do what I did; download the software and just start playing with it. Whether you’re a Sketchup noob or a pro, if you have tips and tricks, please share them in the comments below.