Google Sketchup Pro 7

Google’s 3D sketching software SketchUp offers a great way to lay out an initial design for a 3D scene or artwork.

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Google Sketchup Pro 7

Pros

  • Dynamic Components use and authoring, Interact tool, texture enhancements, Layout 2, Style Builder, custom metadata and report generator, free for standard version.

Cons

  • Price has jumped for Pro version, limited animation, screen becomes cluttered easily.

Bottom Line

Google Sketchup Pro recently jumped in price, but while it may not be quite the bargain it once was — and while some of its functions are clearly more for CAD than digital content-creation — there’s still much here for 2D and 3D artists.

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Google’s 3D sketching software SketchUp offers a great way to lay out an initial design for a 3D scene or artwork. Illustrators and digital artists can use the free version for occasional work, then take their sketches into Photoshop and Illustrator to create artwork. Animators and 3D artists — and illustrators who use it regularly – should look to the paid-for Pro version, which offers 3D output to professional 3D suites, project-management tools and client-presentation functions.

3D geometry is created easily, by selecting faces and using a ‘push/pull’ tool for extruding surfaces. It works like a simplified version of Carrara’s Dynamic Extrusion tool, and is as useful for rapidly creating objects. Various rendering styles are available, from rough sketches to a blue-pencil look, while there’s also enhanced support for Dynamic Components.

These can be used to create objects that are ‘aware’ of their purpose. This can be seen when scaling a staircase or stack of boxes – if the object uses dynamic components, the individual blocks that make up the stairs or boxes will increase in height or dimension, keeping their form rather than becoming distorted.

This effect is possible because to change the individual components, you have to adjust their attributes directly. Dynamic Components can be used in scenes in the free version of SketchUp, but you’ll need the Pro version to create them.

The Components Attribute dialog makes this task straightforward: a menu of predefined and custom attributes can be added either individually or as a group to your components. Within the dialog, you can allocate values to attributes, or insert formulas using the spreadsheet-style selection menu.

In fact, the whole dynamic component workflow is a bit like using a spreadsheet. This is welcome, if not unique to Sketchup – something similar to this intelligent design can be seen in Amapi Pro, but the use of formulas to control position, rotation and scaling makes it possible to animate the dynamic geometry.

Such animation can be activated using the new Interact tool, which takes advantage of behaviours applied in the Dynamic Component dialog. It’s not full timeline animation, but it’s useful. Textures have been enhanced too, and can now be tied to Dynamic Components, so that they don’t distort when geometries are scaled.

A Combine Textures feature can create a single texture from several co-planar faces, removing edges between faces and so reducing overall polygon counts. Textures can be set to be anti-aliased and swapped out for smaller versions at different viewing sizes. This produces a smoother look, and also uses less memory.

Sketchup Pro 7 introduces custom metadata, so that you can add part numbers and the cost of the real-world materials your objects represent. There’s an export facility for such data, to create spreadsheet reports for quantities and materials tracking. This is useful for product and building design, rather than Digital Arts readers.

Also shipping with Pro, the Layout 2 presentation application offers new drawing, manipulation and editing tools, and the ability to set different edit and output quality, for working on high-detail models without sacrificing performance. You can now import from 3D Warehouse’s repository of .SKP models directly into SketchUp, which was especially helpful after the application crashed when importing a dynamic door from the desktop into an older model.

The Pro version recently jumped in price, but while it may not be quite the bargain it once was – and while some of its functions are clearly more for CAD than digital content-creation – there’s still much here for 2D and 3D artists.

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